Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Developmental discussions with your manager, if they happen at all, mostly involve talking about shortfalls in performance and what can be done to address these “areas of opportunity.” I have seen this countless times in my years working in HR, and now as a Coach, I challenge this approach and instead focus on strengths of the client. Lately, I have been reading books about strengths-based psychology and the following quote nicely summarizes a key point that I have taken away:
“The best advice is not to focus on your strengths and ignore your weaknesses, but, rather, to focus on your strengths and find ways to manage your weaknesses.” — p. 148, Now, Discover Your Strengths
For most of us, a fact of life is that we have aspects of our job that we don’t like to do, but we know have to be done. We do still need to develop these skills to the point that they prevent failure in our role, but if we don’t enjoy doing them, they will never be an area of strength. By finding ways to manage your weaknesses, such as partnering with someone whose strength matches your weakness, you will have more time to devote to further develop your strengths.
Before we can focus on developing our strengths, we first have to understand what they are. This involves identifying your natural talents, which are a source of strengths. The book “Strengthsfinder 2.0” describes this concept through the following equation:
Talent X Investment = Strength
I find it useful to see this as an equation, because if one part of the equation is missing (talent or investment), you won’t be able to develop a strength. First, you need to have a natural talent in an area before it can be nurtured into a strength. Second, you have to invest in this talent, or it will never become a strength. By investment, it means practicing, developing skills and gaining knowledge in the area of your talent.
If understanding your own talents or the talents of others is something that you would like to explore further, I recommend reading the following books and taking the StrengthFinder 2.o online assessment (a code to complete this assessment is included with the purchase of the first 2 books listed):
- Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.
- StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath
- Go Put Your Strengths to Work, by Marcus Buckingham
If you have taken the StrengthsFinder Assessment and would like to share your results, or have any other input about working with your strengths vs. weaknesses, please do so in the comments section below.