As we’ve learned through this series, an “ability” is a hardwired, natural talent that we’re born with. It speaks to the things that seem to come naturally to us; the things we do with relative ease. We all do things that we are not talented in. We’ve built up skills to help us with these tasks but, even with strong skills, these tasks take longer and create more stress than tasks that play to our abilities.

In this series, we looked at what the Highlands Company calls the “Personal Style” abilities:

  • Generalist/Specialist,
  • Introversion/Extroversion, and
  • Time Frame Orientation.

These abilities are very transferable between jobs. We saw how the difference between Specialist and Generalist deeply impacts the way we approach work and teams. We also saw how Introversion and Extroversion not only indicated what energizes us but also whether we process information verbally or not.

Then we looked at how Generalist/Specialist and Introversion/Extroversion combined to create the distinct patterns of People Influencing, Performer, Renaissance Person, and Professional/Researcher. Finally, we looked at how our Time Frame Orientation, whether short-, mid-, or long-term, mixes with the various personal style attributes.

We moved on to looking at the five Driving Abilities in detail:

  • Classification,
  • Concept Organization,
  • Idea Productivity,
  • Spatial Relations Theory, and
  • Spatial Relations Visualization.

These are the abilities that compel us to use them. If they do not find expression in our life they will cause dissatisfaction.

Among the things we discovered was that people high in Classification like chaotic work environments and people high in Concept Organization are naturally talented at organizing thoughts. We also saw that people low in both Classification and Concept Organization may make the best executives and managers since they tend to be very effective decision makers. We also looked at how these two combined to create four distinct problem solving patterns: Consultative, Diagnostic, Logistical/Analytical, and Experiential.

We learned that Idea Productivity had to do with the quantity of ideas our brain continually generates, not the quality, and how that can impact our ability to concentrate. We also saw how Spatial Relations Theory and Spatial Relations Visualization deeply impact the satisfaction we get from the work we do.

An important point about abilities is that they do not determine whether you can or cannot do a task. The Highlands Company has identified 8 factors that affect your work and life:

  • Abilities,
  • Skills,
  • Interests,
  • Personal Style,
  • Family,
  • Values,
  • Goals, and
  • Career Development Stage.

All of these combine to help you complete a job. But when you’re working in line with your abilities, it’s as natural as breathing—you just do it. But when you’re working outside of your abilities, it’s like someone with asthma or emphysema breathing—you have to think about each breath. It’s not that you can’t do things outside of your abilities; it’s just that it you’ll expend much more energy doing them.

Abilities are not influenced be education or experience. They remain constant throughout life. Skills, on the other hand, are learned and can get rusty without constant use.

As we’ve seen, understanding our abilities can help influence all aspects of the fundraising cycle: cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship. They also can give clues as to why donors—and co-workers!—behave as they do!

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