Know Your Strengths. “Most Americans do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject matter knowledge, which is the wrong answer.” ~Peter Drucker
Most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths. Instead, guided by our parents, our teachers, our managers and psychology’s fascination with pathology, we become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives trying to repair these flaws, while our strengths lie dormant and neglected.
Most people have crazy misconception that the way to grow and become the most that you can be is to ‘fix’ your weaknesses. However, on further thought you come to realize that all you have are strong weaknesses. And a weakness is a weakness no matter if strong or not.
In spending time and energy working on the weakness you have neglected giving your strength the focus it needs to be really useful; so you end up with weak strengths which are not very helpful. Instead, you should focus as much time, energy and resources on building up your strengths, and learn how to manage around your weaknesses.
In the book “Sink, Float or Swim” by Scott Peltin & Jogi Rippel they write: The important thing is that you learn as much about your strengths as you can. Knowing how to use your strengths to your advantage will set you up for success. A key to winning is to know your strengths and then to use them mercilessly against your opponents. For example: ‘Martina Navratilova was a brilliant serve and volleyer in tennis.
It’s not that her ground strokes were awful, but without coming to the net, she probably would have never won most of her Grand Slam titles. In contrast, Chris Evert recognized that her greatest strength was her amazingly consistent ground strokes from the back of the court. By using this strength, Evert won more than half of the tournaments she entered. These are two outstanding tennis players, two totally different strengths, two legendary successful careers.’
Arguments Against Focusing on Strengths: Scott H. Young wrote; there is too much emphasis on strengths, and suggests instead we should focus on things that we are passionate about. Scott makes the point that whatever we are good at may not align with what we are passionate about.
Marcus Buckingham in the book ‘Go Put Your Strengths to Work’, addressed such an argument by saying that strengths must include knowledge, skills, and talent, and true talent (defined as the natural-born abilities) energizes you when you do it rather than drain you from the effort. Some experts don’t quite agree with Buckingham’s explanation, but instead, they believe strength and passion are two independent qualities.
Only when strengths align with passion is when you get the fullest experience of the work, and that’s when passion guides us to the strengths that we should most focus on. Also, Steve Pavlina believes that you should work from your strengths but improve on your weaknesses. His argument is based on the importance of having balance in your life. Balance doesn’t mean doing all things equally well, but instead, balance means doing activities in proportion to how much they add value in your life.
How To Find Your Strengths: There are a number of personal traits tests that can give us some idea what our strengths are, but before any of these tests are taken, it’s important to realize that there is no good or bad strengths. People’s strengths are neutral; there are positive ways these strengths can be applied as well as negative ways. Understanding your true strengths require sincere honesty and knowing that good or bad only has meaning when it’s based on how the strengths are applied.
The ‘Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)’ test is an effective one which categorizes people from a total of 16 personality types. The ‘StrengthsFinder 2.0’ is another traits test and is attributed to Donald Clifton’s study from surveys conducted on over 2 million people worldwide through the Gallup Organization.
‘StrengthsFinder 2.0’ has identified 34 different themes that each person has at some level, and their tests help identify your top five traits. In addition, the psychologist Martin Seligman has identified 24 character strengths, which are new criteria in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
In the article “Ambitious Manager’s Should Work Harder to Fix their Serious Weakness than to Build on their Strengths” by Brad Smart writes: Don’t bother trying to fix your weaknesses and instead go with your strengths; but for ambitious managers must fix their serious weaknesses or your career will plateau! Over the years I’ve worked with some super talented people who simply could not control their negative treatment of people. For example, ‘one management executive was given 2 years to improve his performance, but he got worse:
He had the nasty habit of publicly humiliating his people and peers, using biting sarcasm, insults, etc. He ran the most profitable division, almost single-handedly, but was fired. ‘ One day, the CEO took Peter aside and said, “Pete, you’re brilliant at running one division, but 16 out of 18 peers told me they’d quit if you are promoted to President. So, you’re fired!”
In the article “Don’t Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths” by Sam Davidson writes: Lots of productivity and personal growth gurus will tell you that you need to spend time on your weaknesses so that you can turn them into strengths. What a waste of time. If you’re not great at something, then outsource it. Spend your time building-on your strengths and become the best you can.
In fact, take your best strength and become the best person you can be at it: Actually, become the best in the world at it. You only have so much time. It’s better to be the best at something than okay at everything.
We’ve been trained to focus on our weaknesses. At school, it’s not how many questions you got right: its how many you got wrong. At work, chances are you spend more time fixing your weaknesses than growing your strengths. Want to make the shift? Marcus Buckingham, well-known motivational speaker, says: “Focus on your strengths, not weaknesses.” Buckingham says focus on identifying one’s strengths at an early age, and develop the unique traits that every individual possesses.
The transition to Buckingham’s suggested approach has proved to be arduous for corporate America. The majority still think that ‘plugging the weaknesses’ will help them succeed. People tend to focus not only on their own weaknesses but also on the weaknesses of others. “Parents dwell on a child’s ‘F’ in algebra rather than praise an ‘A’ in English. In a one-hour performance review, supervisors spend two minutes discussing strengths and 58 minutes discussing the ‘areas of opportunity’ or weaknesses with employees,” Buckingham said. It may sound elementary, but a quick glance around the business world indicates that many companies have yet to grasp this simple concept of putting people’s strengths to use.
That’s because the business world — and the world at large — is obsessed with weaknesses and finding ways to fix them. A recent poll that asked workers whether they felt they could achieve more success through improving on their weaknesses or building on their strengths. Fifty-nine percent picked the former. It’s a pain to work on weaknesses: Who wants to spend energy trying to move from slightly below average to slightly above?
Try focusing on your strengths instead. Make what you’re already good at an even greater asset. After all, if you want to make a difference at your company, it’s your strengths that will lead the way. Of course, it’s more challenging to move from well above average to even more above average, but you’ll enjoy it more since your strengths are things you likely already take pleasure in doing: Don’t worry about having too much of a good thing…
“There are a whole lot of things I stink at. I just make sure I don’t have to do them to be successful.” ~Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
“Your job (as a manager) is to make the strengths of your people more effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.” ~Peter Drucker