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I can’t remember when I first heard someone talk about their superpowers. Perhaps within the last 5 years, so it’s a relatively recent notion for me. 

But when I heard them say it, it made immediate sense to me. The sense that each of us has some sort of extraordinary strengths that we’re often not aware of. Something that makes us special. And surprisingly, something that we often unaware of and/or don’t leverage in our lives.

Dede Henley defined superpowers this way in Forbes—

A person’s super power is their particular genius: the specific, unique and specialized skill that they bring to the workplace. It is their secret sauce.

A super power isn’t a skill but a perspective, a mindset, a way of working that enhances everything you touch. It’s unique, like a thumbprint, part of your brand. It is that quality that causes others to say, “You know who would be great for this…?” or “We should go to so and so. They would know exactly what to do here.”

I think the hardest part though is discovering what your superpowers are. And not what you think they are. Often, because we often lack self-awareness, we presume the wrong things. 

Again, from Dede’s article, I’ve modified these slightly, but here are three questions she suggested you use to help identify your superpowers—

  1. What unique contribution do you bring to the projects, conversations, and meetings you attend?

  2. What do people often come to you, and only you, for?

  3. What would be missing if you were to leave your team, your group, or the company?

Not only think about these questions but ask a few trusted colleagues or mentors what they think your superpowers are. You might want to tell them what you think they are—as a conversation starter and see where it goes.

Another great way to discover your superpowers is what people say when you’ve been away for a while or when you’re gone. Leaving a team, a group, a division, or the company. Usually in your last week. You’ll hear things like—we’re sorry to see you go and we’ll really miss your _____. Filling in the blank might just be one of your superpowers. So, think back over your career at what folks have shared when you’ve left for a short time or permanently.

Then aggregate all of the views and look for common threads. I’ll bet you’ll find your superpowers in there somewhere.

Over time, I’ve realized that I have several superpowers as an agile coach and consultant. I thought I’d share them as an example for you. 

First, it’s my experience. I have over twenty years of experience and am in my 60’s. I have the persona of a seasoned expert in the agile space, which breeds confidence in those around me.

Second, it’s the fact that I remain calm at all times. There is little to nothing that I haven’t seen and I don’t get flustered with stressful situations. While I may be unsettled on the inside, on the outside, I exude calmness and confidence.

Thirdly, it’s my passion for agile. I’ve been teaching, working, coaching, etc. in agile contexts for 20+ years. Yet, I still get REALLY perky about it when explaining it to a new client or student.

In this article/podcast by Suzanne Gibbs Howard and Sara Kalick, they bring up the perspective that every superpower has a shadow side that we ought to be aware of.

For example, here are the shadow sides to my three superpowers:

  1. Experience—people can often write me off as being old-fashioned or not tuned into the latest strategies and approaches. I have to be careful to demonstrate that I do “keep up” and actually set some trends myself.

  2. Remaining Calm—it’s often happened to me that folks think I’m disengaged or don’t care when there’s an emergency. I have to occasionally uncalm myself to meet people a bit in the chaos to show empathy and connection.

  3. Passion—while passion is generally good, I can appear to get too passionate about everything, which generalizes the impact. So, I’ve learned to temper it and only use it sporadically, for impact and emphasis. 

But don’t let your shadow side deactivate your superpowers. They’re something to be aware of, but not dominate or negate.

But superpowers are not just for you.

As a leader, you should be identifying, amplifying, and leveraging the superpowers in each member of your teams.

As the above 3-questions for each of your team members to hone in on their superpowers. And discuss the notion with them individually. It’s a wonderful metaphor for understanding, activating, and acknowledging your team members.

It also provides some positive language you can use when coaching folks too.

A final word. As with anything, we need to approach our superpowers with awareness, humility, and respect.

Don’t get full of yourself and overly rely on your superpowers. Remember, there is always some form of kryptonite out there that will humble you. Respect your superpowers and leverage them for your good, the good of your team, the good of your organization, and the good of humankind 😉

Stay agile (and super) my friends,



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