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Playing to Your Strengths – and Managing Your Weaknesses

We dream of having a clean house – but who dreams of actually doing the cleaning? We don’t have to dream about doing the work, because doing the work is always within our grasp; the dream, in this sense, is to attain the goal without the work.

~ Marcus Buckingham

 

How much have you spent on personal growth books, videos, training, speakers, and more to try to improve something you felt you weren’t good at in your business? Maybe it was marketing, sales, personnel management or public speaking. For most of us, trying to improve our weak areas in operating our business or managing our department is looked at as what is expected in leaders. Whatever the area, we feel as if we are required to do battle with what we don’t do well.

As it turns out, the majority of people around the world feel this way. In their groundbreaking book Now, Discover Your Strengths, authors Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton say that across all ages and cultures, people are more concerned about their weaknesses than their strengths. We believe that our weaknesses matter more in holding us back than our strengths matter in advancing us.

That’s nonsense, say the authors—widely held nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. In their provocative theory, they suggest that the better strategy is to play to your strengths, building upon your core talents, and work around your weaknesses. You can work to add skills and knowledge to increase your performance in any area, but unless you are building upon one of your innate talents, your efforts won’t produce exceptional results—some results, yes, but not dramatic improvement. I believe working on your weaknesses gives you incremental growth and working on your strengths gives you exponential growth.

“Unless you have the necessary talent, your improvements will be modest,” write Buckingham and Clifton. “You will be diverting most of your energy toward damage control and very little toward real development.”

The expression “damage control” is their term for trying to minimize your weaknesses—the areas where your lack of talent actually get in the way of your performance. I believe you need to work on your weaknesses to the point where they are not a detriment to your career – and not much further!

“Managing Around” a Weakness

Instead of trying to overcome your weaknesses by brute force—and at the expense of putting the same energy into growing your strengths—they offer five strategies for what they call “managing around” a weakness:

  • Get a little better at it. In some cases, your weakness is only moderately impeding your peak performance in other areas. If so, then maybe damage control is the right solution.
  • Develop a support system. This is the proverbial string tied around the finger to remind you of something. Whether it is time management systems for those with a talent for adaptability but not discipline, or a scheduled walk in the park for disciplined folks who neglect self-care, you can often blunt the effects of your weaknesses through such structured inputs.
  • Study your prospects. If your skills tend toward the analytical and away from such talents as wooing clients or dealing directly with confrontation, then you may not want to spend a lot of time in sales. But when you do need to sell something—such as one of your ideas—approach the problem analytically. Rather than agonize over your lack of salesmanship, study your prospects, dig into what makes them tick and what ideas they’ve accepted in the past, and let your enthusiasm for your ideas do the talking.
  • Find a partner. This may be the best approach for small business people and “solo” practitioners. Go into partnership discussions with a clear-eyed understanding of the strengths you bring, and the strengths you need from your partner. Don’t be shy about your strengths—the whole point of this is to create a world in which you get to do what you are really good at. And be open-minded about what a partnership looks like. For some solo practitioners, an administrative or virtual assistant, a marketing consultant, or a bookkeeper could be all the partnering you need.
  • Just (Don’t) Do It. The last option, say Buckingham and Clifton, is just don’t do the things you are weak at. In a corporate setting you might get away with this, particularly if you are a high-performer in the areas of your strengths. If you’re a small business owner and your organizational chart tends to have “me” written in most every box, not doing something may not seem like much of a choice. But keep it as a goal and continue to work toward the day when you can contribute to your business exclusively from the place of your highest strengths.

What are your strengths? How have you “outsourced” your weaknesses to the benefit of your company or team? Share with us!

For information on leadership, Hiring the Golden Unicorns, Emotional Intelligence & Negotiations, Strengthening your Inner Genius, or any of our programs, call us at 682.200.1412 or go to http://www.apexmastery.com/