Within seconds I could hear defeat of his voice.

It was a strong contrast to our conversation via Skype only a week or two prior. Before, he was energized; loud and clear with his intentions. But this time, my friend and colleague spoke in a low, melancholic tone. His body language wasn’t much better. We had planned to talk about a forthcoming project, but it just wasn’t happening. The poor guy had something weighing on his shoulders.

“I need to talk about something very important to me,” he said. He began by reiterating his extraordinary success with the company where he worked. Not only had he done well, but the projects were of high priority and very gratifying. He was influencing the people and projects that mattered. I was pretty confused. He had everything going for him!

But now, he said, things had changed.

A new VP arrived and his priorities caused great concern within the company. He shifted the company’s efforts to a series of compliance projects and, for such a large job, he looked straight at my “high performer” colleague. The VP pulled my colleague from his current work and redirected him to the new projects.

This is when the sadness and dissatisfaction started to seep in.

The compliance work required a whole new set of strengths, none of which the “high performer” possessed. To make matters worse, my colleague was not even vaguely curious or passionate about compliance work.

To put it frankly, that sucks. But it sure is common!

Leveraging What Works

Over the years, I’ve found that grounded, rational adults recognize that work is not a game of Candy Land. There are aspects of it that are more gratifying than others.

I’ve found that if we play to our strengths 60% or more of the time, we’ll evaluate our work experience favorably. If we are acknowledged and championed for our strengths and greatest assets, we’ll define our work experience as favorable. But if it falls below 60%, dissatisfaction will settle in and, if not addressed, people will either detach from the work or seek greener pastures.

And are you ready for this one? The Gallup organization found only 20% of employees regularly playing to their strengths. This is further complicated by a challenged economy that breeds uncertainty, and uncertainty makes us less confident in being choosy. We are much more likely to settle for what is immediately available. I don’t know about you, but that’s a little bit depressing.

You’ve got to know what your greatest assets are. It’s time to reacquaint yourself with them. Identify your greatest assets, keep them front and center, leverage their potential to create real change, and have a lasting impact. Do work that requires your personal assets, take on projects that complement your strengths, and seek opportunities where you can apply the best version of you.