You'd think that if you had a superpower, you'd know it. But while comic book superpowers like x-ray vision and super-strength are pretty hard to miss, experts contend that real-life superpowers often go unnoticed.

Why? Not because most people aren't gifted with at least one incredible talent -- something they can just naturally do better than the vast majority of other people -- but because when something comes to us easily from the start, doing that thing feels effortless. And if something is effortless, it can't really be that meaningful many of us erroneously reason.

Or as executive coach and author Whitney Johnson recently put it on the HBR blogs: "we often undervalue what we inherently do well... When a boss identifies these talents and asks you to do something that uses your superpower, you may think, 'But that's so easy. It's too easy.'

This is a loss both for companies, who often fail to capitalize on their employees' greatest strengths, and for individuals, who are putting in more work than they need to accomplish much less. So how do you get over this mental hurdle and connect with your natural superpower? Johnson suggests asking yourself three simple questions:

What exasperates you?

When something comes easily to us, we often find it highly annoying when other people can't manage to do the same thing competently. Therefore, your pet peeves can be a useful flag marking your individual superpower.

"I'm weirdly good at remembering names, for example, and often get annoyed with others who don't. I have a terrible sense of direction, however, and probably irritate other people who intrinsically sense which way is north," Johnson offers as an illustration. ​

What compliments do you dismiss?

"When we're inherently good at something, we tend to downplay it. 'Oh, it was nothing,' we say -- and maybe it was nothing to us. But it meant something to another person, which is why they're thanking you. Notice these moments: They can point to strengths that you underrate in yourself but are valuable to others," instructs Johnson.

What do you think about when you have nothing to think about?

Bill Gates recently argued that you're most likely to become a world-class performer at whatever activity you used to do for fun when you were a teenager. Johnson makes a similar point. If your brain can't stop thinking about something whenever it has a quiet moment, it's a pretty good sign you have a natural obsession with the topic. And as Gates points out, where there's obsession, skill usually develops.

If you're a boss looking to better leverage your team's superpowers, check out Johnson's complete article for case studies and more tips for leaders.

What's your personal superpower?

Published on: May 14, 2018