Improving Our Strengths or Weaknesses?
Your strengths are like the gas pedal of a car, the more you press it the farther you go. Similarly, the more we are living in and improving our strengths, the farther we go in life.
But be careful!
If growing and using your strengths is like pressing the gas pedal, your weaknesses are like having the hand brake pulled while the car is trying to accelerate. No forward progress!
So what do we work on? Improving our strengths or our weaknesses?
Many argue that the key to success is improving our strengths. They say improving our strengths can take us from great to extraordinary, and that is when we can truly succeed. They argue that improving our weaknesses usually takes us only from bad to average—and that will not take us anywhere significant.
And I agree! Working on our strengths will take us farther than improving upon our weaknesses.
However, there seems to be a problem with this argument. It is apparent to most of us that people succeed because of their strengths, and usually fail because certain weaknesses derail and sabotage those strengths.
For example, one of my strengths is strategizing (that’s my #1 strength from Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0). One of my weaknesses is over-commitment. So my failure does not come from not being able to strategize well, but from my lack of time to strategize because I am over-committed.
Similarly, I see leaders who are great at project management, but they are terrible at caring for people and building relationships. Their success comes from finishing great projects, but that success is consistently derailed because their weakness is an inability to relate to others!
So should I work on strategy or over-commitment? Should the leader above work on project management or relating to others?
How about you…should you work on your strengths or the weaknesses derailing them?
BOTH…and here is how to do it:
Consistently search for where you are strong and weak.
- Character issues – ex. love, forgiveness, integrity, humility, discipline, attitude, etc.
- Habits – ex. listening, organization, exercising, etc.
- Personality traits – ex. creative, positive, thinker, doer, peaceful, analytical, etc.
- Emotional abilities – ex. controlling anger/frustration, fear/courage, ability to know what others feel, etc.
- Knowledge/Experience based skills
Daily discover and clarify what your STRENGTHS are.
- Literally write those down. The book Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath is one great tool.
Aggressively work on those strengths & live in them!
- “Aggressively work on” – Read about them, attend seminars, talk to mentors/coaches, etc.
- “Live in your strengths” – Find a job/career/life journey that focuses on your strengths (example: if one of your strengths is analyzing, become a strategy consultant. If you enjoy and are good at painting, become a painter.)
Daily discover and clarify what your WEAKNESSES are.
- Write them down.
- More importantly, consistently ask people you trust what they see as your weaknesses.
Find which weaknesses will stand in the way of your strengths.
- This is a KEY STEP: I believe all character issues, many habits, and many personal traits can stand in the way. Many poor skills can as well. You decide! As you prioritize what to work on, give most emphasis to those areas that are limiting your strengths from shining bright!
Aggressively work on those weaknesses!
- If a weakness detracts from one of your strengths, attack it vigorously. In some cases it may even become strength. In the least, remove it from being a stumbling block.
I know so many leaders with amazing strengths. But these strengths have been hijacked by terrible weaknesses. This is true for most of us. I know it is true for me!
We keep pressing the gas pedal but go nowhere! The hand brake pulled, our efforts are futile.
So here is my advice –
Know your strengths, grow your strengths, and live in your strengths.
Then, search and find the weaknesses that hijack your strengths and relentlessly improve them.
PS – If you know someone who may benefit from this blog, please consider sharing!
Reading: This week I am reading the book Head, Heart, & Guts, by David Dotlich, Peter Cairo, Stephen Rhinesmith.