Fame, Fortune, Power, Glory… Leverage Your Strengths-Talents: SWOT Yourself… Become Indispensable…

If you think a weakness can be turned into a strength, I hate to tell you this, but that’s another weakness~ Jack Handy

Strength is the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity. Talents are naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. Talents, knowledge, and skills– along with the time spent practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base– combine to create your strengths.

Most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths. Instead, guided by parents, teachers, 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. According to Marcus Buckingham, 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 person possesses. 

However, a  majority of people 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, for example; parents dwell on a child’s ‘F’ in algebra rather than praise an ‘A’ in English. In a one-hour job performance review, supervisors spend two minutes discussing strengths and 58 minutes discussing the areas of opportunity or weaknesses with employees. 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: 59% picked the former. Most people have the crazy misconception that the way to grow and become the most that you can be– is to ‘fix’ weaknesses. In spending time and energy working on weakness you will come to realize that all you have is strong weaknesses: Weakness is weakness no matter how strong.  Instead, focus as much time, energy and resources on building up your strengths, and learn to manage around your weaknesses…

In the article Strengths or Weaknesses: Which Should You Improve?” by Al at 7P writes: It’s a classic question: should you work on improving your strengths, or should you work on addressing your weaknesses? But, as much as we want to improve our weaknesses to avoid failure and loss, it’s really our strengths that help us win. Being well-rounded might be a good quality to have, but in a competitive situation, the winner is defined by whoever can best achieve a specific goal.

Victory depends on doing certain things extremely well, rather than doing a lot of different things merely at an acceptable level. Great will win over mediocre. People will choose impressive over acceptable. However, Scott H. Young wrote, that there is too much emphasis on strengths, and suggests instead we should focus on things that we are passionate about. Scott’s point is that whatever we are good at may not align with what we are passionate about.

However, Marcus Buckingham 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. Others believe that strength and passion are two independent qualities. Only when strengths align with passion is when you get the fullest experience of the work. Steve Pavlina says 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…

What’s a SWOT analysis and why bother? A SWOT analysis is a subjective assessment, which is open to interpretation, e.g.; what one person sees as strength, another may see as a weakness; and, what is an opportunity for one, may be perceived as threat for another.

Both perceptions may be valid. Treat a SWOT analysis as an investigation tool for use in your quest to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that they may create. But along the way, the SWOT process will probably raise more questions than it answers, but that is part of the journey. SWOT stands for:

  • Strengths: Things that you are good at or things that you do well. There are many types of strengths…
  • Weaknesses: Things that you are not so good at or things that you don’t do so well. There are many types of weaknesses…
  • Opportunities: A favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances in which you operate that creates a chance to achieve something of value…
  • Threats: An unfavorable or disadvantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances in which you operate that creates potential damage that hurts
    your progress or limits your ability to achieve something of value…

In the article “Improve Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses—huh? by Lotus Leadership Institute writes:  Most people in authority positions have been high achievers throughout their lives, and they continue in the quest to be better. What we hear most often from clients from all sorts of organizations are requests to improve on the things they aren’t good at– to build up what is currently lacking, their weaknesses. While it is certainly important to improve on weaknesses, it’s the opposite practice that might better improve one’s ability to be a great leader.

Are we saying that you should take what you are already good at, and get better at it? The answer is yes. The data from extensive global research in leadership development clearly suggests that its people’s strengths that distinguishes them in an organization: Essentially, being so good at doing certain things that people will forgive or not even think about your weakness. Why does this work?

The most important leadership skills are interrelated. If you are already a good communicator, you can work on being compassionate or improve your ability to resolve conflict; thereby improving other leadership skills and making you an even better communicator.

Think of it this way, if you are good distance runner, you could further improve your ability to run by lifting weights, running short sprints… doing related, complimentary skills that improve your
overall athletic ability and make you an even better runner. You are still focusing on your strength, but improving it by improving other aspects of yourself.

In the article “Know Your Own Strength” by Andy Kanefield writes: Understanding the strengths of people in the organization plays a critical role in organizational performance and success. But knowing strengths, and knowing what to do with that knowledge are two different things. Socrates has suggested that the ‘beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.’ For our purposes, we will define strengths; as the intersection of what you’re good at with what energizes you. As we know, those who serve in leadership roles often excel at many work tasks.

At the same time, those tasks may drain them of energy they need to focus on strategic business leadership. Just think of the energy expended in creating or poring over the minutia in financial reports. It may energize some leaders, but more often than not, it can be a process that drains leaders. It’s important to know your strengths, but where is your personal intersection of excellence and energy?

Of course, a corollary is to know your weaknesses, but where is the intersection of where you excel and feel drained? What don’t you do well? However, in addition to knowing yourself, you must also know the people on your organizational team. This means three things:

  • Do you know the strengths of the individuals on your team? What is each person’s intersection of excellence and energy?
  • Do you know how those strengths relate to yours? Do your strengths complement those of your key managers?
  • Do you know how the strengths and weaknesses of the people on your team synthesize into team strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths and weaknesses don’t exist naturally, only talents and non-talents exist naturally. It’s only when you rely on a non-talent that you create a weakness for myself. Likewise, if you don’t rely on your talents, they never become strengths. In other words, you are ultimately in control of your strengths and weaknesses.

According to Jay Niblick; you may be born with talents and non-talents, but you are in charge of whether or not those talents and non-talents are used to become strengths or weaknesses. When you allow your success to depend on your talents, you create strengths. When you allow your success to depend on your non-talents, you create weaknesses. Think of talents and non-talents like two boxes. The first box contains a gift (talent) and the second box contains trouble (non-talent) and is marked Pandora’s Box.

Regardless of the contents, however, each box only contains potential. The first box is only potentially good, the second only potentially bad. Nothing happens until you actually open the boxes. The most successful people don’t have any more talent than anyone else, and they are just as flawed and imperfect as the next person. But, they just have fewer weaknesses because they are very aware of their non-talents and they do a damn good job of not depending on them.

According to Paula Durlofsky; a good way to identify your strengths is to ask yourself a series of questions such as: Do I accomplish my goals (small and large) in timely manner, am I curious, do I desire success and achievement, am I compassionate, do I enjoy caring for other people, do I embrace change, can I control my emotions, do I enjoy learning new things, can I accept criticism without being defensive or angry, am I generous and kind? It’s a sign of strength to be aware of your weaknesses, know them, manage them, and accept them. Self-awareness gives us the ability to be fully aware of our strengths, our
inherit talents, and the courage and ability to manage and accept our weaknesses. When this reality is achieved we acquire the necessary insight to reach our maximum potential!

Management’s job is to make the strengths of their people more effective and their weaknesses irrelevant. ~Peter Drucker