Career Woman

How to identify your professional superpowers


Ever heard of William Moulton Marston? Chances are you haven’t – yet he’s had a bigger impact on workplace culture and the perception of women than his low profile suggests.

And what’s unique about Marston’s achievements is that he fought for what he believed in on so many levels at once.

On a technical level, he is noted for his invention of an early lie-detector machine 1915. It was an early indication of his scientific approach to human behavior.

On a psychological level, this study in human interaction developed into more rigorous form of interpersonal understanding: his DiSC system for analyzing and categorizing individual human traits helps us better know ourselves and each other. These traits are the superpowers by which our colleagues recognize our professional fingerprint, and which may secretly determine the way that we behave at work and how we’re perceived.

In his private life, Marston bucked trends by sharing his life in a polyamorous set-up with two strong women: his wife Elizabeth, and partner Olive Byrne. Elizabeth and Olive would continue to live together for nearly four decades after William’s premature death.

Perhaps most surprising is the pop culture level, where Marston – inspired by his partners, and by Byrne in particular – found cult fame as the original creator of Wonder Woman, under the pseudonym Charles Moulton.

Marston himself was thus a living embodiment of how our talents and character define us without necessarily constraining us. Like Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, and the women with whom Marston lived, the strengths that others recognize in us can manifest in many creative and professional forms. Rather than restricting us, identifying these skills can help us to make the most of them – and to figure out what makes us tick when dealing with other people.

You can use his DiSC system to help identify and work with these talents. DiSCbreaks human motivation down into four main directions: dominance (D), influence (i), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C). Between these points exist twelve stand-out character types, to one of which each of us broadly belongs.

With names like ‘The Challenger’, ‘The Winner’, and ‘The Seeker’, it’s easy to see where Marston’s psychological research overlaps with his fascination with superheroes. This word cloud tool from OnStride empowers you to figure out which of Marston’s archetypes you best fit.

Think about the words you’ve heard others use about you in the past. What have they written in your references, or how have they commented on your ideas in meetings? They needn’t be all positive words, though for the most part that’s how the word clouds work.

Write them down – single and two-word descriptions. Add to them some of the words you would use to (honestly) describe yourself. The kind of thing that shows up again and again in interviews and in your personal statement.

Now run through the word clouds until you find the best match for what you’ve come up with.

For example, if you came up with words like ‘momentum’, ‘pioneering’, or even ‘over-confident’, it looks like you can call yourself The Risk-Taker. Your primary attributes from the DiSC compass are Influence and Dominance. ‘Dominance’ may sound a bit frightening, but it’s neither a good nor bad thing – it’s what you make of it. Teams need bold voices to lead and shake up the status quo.

But you might not always be aware that this is what you’re doing. Recognizing that you’re a Risk-Taker can enable you flag up those moments when you’re about to take a reckless leap – and work with others to maximize the potential and minimize the risk.

Perhaps less imposing words have come up. Have you identified yourself as ‘patient’, ‘rational’, ‘reserved’? It’s possible you’re The Technician.

It doesn’t mean you can (or should) fix up the company’s IT hardware. The Technician (as opposed to ‘a technician’) can save the day when it comes to policy, infrastructure, and problem analysis, too. It’s not always the sexiest work, so you might benefit from working on speaking up when you think the group is overlooking something important.

Spotted your superhero alter-ego yet? If not, get to work that self-analysis, and you’ll soon be on the way to living a fuller (double) life!

About John Cole

John writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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  1. Pingback: How to identify your professional superpowers – G. John Cole

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