Previously published on Forbes
You may not have X-ray vision or control over the elements, but you do have a superpower. Maybe more than one. Your superpower is the thing you provide that’s incredibly valuable and also just who you are — you don’t have to remind yourself to be this thing. You might be the one who listens and listens and then neatly summarizes the big idea of the conversation. Or perhaps you’re the one who picks up on what no one is saying but everyone is thinking and feeling. Or maybe you take really complex information and make it digestible for everyone.
If you haven’t ever really noticed your own superpower, it’s probably because this is something you do every day without even thinking about it. You just never knew what to call it. But it’s there, and people count on you to engage your superpower when it's needed to save the situation.
In a culture that teaches us to be humble, or at least not braggarts, it can sometimes be challenging to claim your superpower. We’re told not to “toot our own horns” or get a “big head.”
But your superpowers are not bragging. They are the essence of who you are and the gift you bring to the world.
So, what’s your superpower at work? Here are three questions you can use to help identify your superpower. You might have to ask your friends or family to help you with this.
- What unique contribution do I bring to the projects, conversations and meetings I attend?
- What do people rely on me for?
- What would be missing if I were to leave?
You might identify with more than one superpower, but it helps to think about them in the context of your work and, specifically, what you bring to your team. Keep in mind, superpowers don’t necessarily conform to roles. There’s no reason someone in the tax department can’t be creative or the team leader can’t be playful. And while it might be easy to think of some strengths as better than others, they’re all valuable to a team.
I tend to think about superpowers as being something you came into the world with; they have been with you all along. For this reason, we don’t use big, fancy words for superpowers. Instead, we use words that could describe a child as well as an adult. But I’ve included the grown-up word in the list below, in case that feels a little more comfortable for you.
Superpowers: Choose the Three That Are Most Like You
- Caring: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. To see another’s perspective as valid and worthy of consideration. With antennae up, you pick up on the needs and emotions around you, even when no one is saying anything. (A grown-up word for this might be Empathetic.)
- Optimistic: The quality of being hopeful and confident in good things happening. Optimism gives hope and purpose to others when they need it most.
- Forgiving: The ability to let go of negative emotions and make room for others to be flawed and fabulous — in other words, human.
- Thoughtful: The ability to take the time to understand a problem and walk your way around various solutions to find just the right one.
- Curious: Able to generate many ideas, focus on the most promising ones and get them into motion. Curious people aren’t afraid of embarrassment or failure.
- Determined: High levels of tenacity and focus. Determined people don’t give up. When everything around you is falling apart, you respond with determination, courage, persistence and strength.
- Bright: You see things others don’t pick up on. And you can paint a bright future for others. (A grown-up word for this might be Visionary.)
- Playful: Having an effortless ability to integrate fun into work.
- Kind: Being generous and considerate with others.
- Persuasive: Your ability to persuade others — to win them over to your point of view and inspire them to action — is grounded in your relationship with that person and in your own integrity.
- Observant: The simple act of slowing down enough to look around and assess what you see. Being observant allows you to pinpoint problems and issues and their solutions early on.
- Creative: A gift for frequently coming up with new ideas and solutions. You inspire others with your creativity.
- Loyal: Unswerving and faithful — to people, a company or an ideal.
This idea of naming your superpower is rich. As a challenge, I encourage you to engage with your superpowers with humility, acknowledging them as your “gifts” while also acknowledging that everyone has gifts. You are not special. You do have remarkable gifts that can save the world.