StrengthsPosted: December 2, 2011
Welcome back from the holiday, and back to work, and TGIF! This week I wanted to talk about strengths, and the importance of becoming aware of, and leveraging your personal strengths.
In today’s society it is common for people to focus on overcoming weakness instead of embracing strengths. It starts in childhood, and continues on into many professional workplaces. In school when grades are given, most parents (77% of them in the U.S*) focus on a student’s lowest grades, and believe that those are the areas that deserve the most time and attention. That very statistic popped into my mind when I saw that “C” in science on my son’s report card in the midst of all A’s (which, by the way, I never had the science gene either!).
Instead of taking the time to help a student develop more in the areas that they have shown strength, we spend that time combating weakness. We all know, however, that someone who was not good with numbers in early education, will likely never be a great accountant, just like someone who is a poor writer, will probably never write a novel. Yet, we are all forced to spend time in the areas that we are poorest to obtain an “education.” Just think how different things would be if instead of spending all the time getting tutored and studying to pass your calculus test (which you still only got a C on), you spent your time focused on honing your strength?
So much of our culture idolizes the “one-in-a-million” stories where people triumph over their lack of natural ability, you know the “Seabiscuit” type stories where hard work and determination conquer all. Many people adopt the attitude that if they try hard enough and work hard enough, they can accomplish anything. Honestly, we can’t all accomplish anything we want if it’s not in our natural skill set, but we can all be the greatest at what we already are. Shaq is a great basketball player, but did any of you see the movie Kazaam? No matter how hard he tries he will never be a great actor (and might I mention how happy I am that he didn’t keep trying for an Oscar). To quote the Internal Consistency Blog, “Overcoming weaknesses is great for story telling because it demonstrates perseverance, determination, and passion. However these qualities don’t have to be married to overcoming obstacles.”
I’ve seen this mindset play out at the workplace in the lives of some of my clients. Take Melissa for example. She is a star director in her company known for delivering on time, with great results and solid relationships. Oddly, she didn’t feel like a “star.” She felt like an imposter, a failure. She had been promoted to a director overseeing an area of which she had no interest and literally, no “strength.” Because she was a great leader of people, she was able to lead, but her passion fell very short and she kept trying to fall in love… hard to do that with a weakness. Once she accepted that she was NEVER going to have strength in and passion for QA, she felt liberated! She stopped beating herself up as a “failure” for not loving QA, and was able to focus on another area where she could truly leverage her strength in building solid relationships… business development. And, not surprisingly, her results far exceed what she was able to do in QA.
Shifting your focus and energy to your strengths can be a powerful movement. Not only does investing in strengths make for a more positive workplace and happier life (people who focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general*), but it can help us be more resilient. I know that one of my strengths is “Adaptability,” and when hard times hit me, I know I can use adaptability coupled with my other strength, “Positivity,” to accept the change and look for a positive Plan B. My strengths help me move through and past the rough patch.
In full disclosure, my other three strengths are “Learner,” “Empathy,” and “Connectedness.” No wonder I have strength in and love coaching so much!
I strongly urge you to really think about what your strengths are and take action in developing them. I also want to encourage you to embrace the strengths of others, your friends, your children, your co-workers, what are they really great at bringing to the table, and how can you encourage them to do that more?
What is your biggest challenge with overcoming weakness or developing your strengths? Please share your stories and thoughts with me in the comments section, and please be sure to link us to your blog/facebook/twitter!
Enjoy the weekend. I think I’ll be leveraging my other strength in cooking up a storm!
*From Strengthfinders 2.0 by Tom Rath, a book I frequently use with my clients, and recommend to you as a resource for finding and developing your strengths. You can buy it here: http://astore.amazon.com/wwwglasstalec-20/detail/159562015X