Last week worked with a range of PhD and post doc researchers from a variety of disciplines. The people I was working with were asked to complete a portrait of personal strengths for the ideal interdisciplinary researcher. Having gained considerable insight into my own strength deployment inventory (SDI) on a week long course during my EngD I found this fascinating. My group decided that flexibility and adaptability were the most important factors and that risk taking and competitiveness were at the opposite end of the scale.
My own strengths lie in the blue corner of the SDI triangle giving me an altruistic-nurturing leadership style. I was amazed at how much I could identify with my actions or past behaviours when it was spelled out in front of me in this manner. The most useful insight it gave me was being able to identify the types of people I worked with and how I could interact with them in a way that would be most appropriate to play to their strengths. I would highly recommend engaging with the SDI process at some point whether in either a professional or personal context.
The second thing it highlighted to me was how far away from my comfort zone the PhD/EngD process was. The SDI recognises that we have the ability to use all of the strengths listed but we are more satisfied using certain ones. When we have to use the strengths we are less comfortable with, especially for prolonged periods of time (such as writing a thesis), this can be really difficult for us.
The writing up process proved the point of being able to use the other strengths I have. But it also made me realise that just because you can do something I should do. The highly analytical and task-focussed nature of the thesis put me as far outside my comfort zone as you can get. This not only affected my mental and physical health (through lack of sleep) it affected my relationships with those around me, something which I value highly.
If you rely on just one or two strengths repeatedly they can be overdone and annoy people, so there is an element of finding the right balance of your skills. However now I have proven to myself I can use those strengths, I hope my working life can have more of a balance moving forward.