It’s the lightening round at the end of the game. You still have one chance to pull out the win. The words fly onto your screen from right and left: banana, go-cart, rose. How do you decide which word to choose? How do you know when to push your button and win the game? It’s simple–you remember the clue! In this case, the game is Jack Attack, and the clue is “FRUIT.” Does that make it easier to know which word to pick with your game buzzer? Of course it does! You choose “banana.”
I recently had the pleasure of re-discovering a book I bought in 2001, while managing a team of developers at Microsoft. It’s a book about finding our strengths and focusing on developing them instead of trying to mitigate our weaknesses. The book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, reveals the human development research conducted to prove that, while we humans are highly adaptive, we really excel in our development by refining the talents and strengths we innately possess. It’s like our own personal version of the Jack Attack if we can Remember the Clue! Our “clue” is that which we already possess–the talents and strengths born with us into the world! When in doubt, simply refer to what your strengths. Do you know what your strengths are?
Back in 2001, I believed (like many of the managers around me) that my job was to “develop” my team by improving the areas of their greatest weakness. We called these gaps “areas of opportunity,” but nothing could be further from the truth. We rewarded those who could master the most skills and tasks, and did little with developing innate gifts. It’s a tricky topic, because as managers, we want our employees to succeed. We know the terrain of our company and we help them navigate that terrain by encouraging them to learn new skills, improve their performance and get results. The problem is that all of that management theory is built on an erroneous assumption: the assumption that each person’s greatest room for growth lies in his or her areas of greatest weakness. We even ask about this during an interview, as if planning ahead to know the challenges we will face in managing this person. The simple fact is that we can name our weaknesses far more easily than we can name our strengths. How do we break this conditioning when the true areas of opportunity lie within those strengths my employees already possess?
Fortunately, you are reading this blog! You are learning how important it is to shift your attention back to your strengths, rather than spend time “working” on your weaknesses. If you do not know what your strengths actually are, there are assessments you can take that will help you to identify your top 5 strengths (and beyond). Once you have identified these, your task becomes simple, use your Super Powers everyday in as many situations as possible. Focus on the positive aspects of who you are–who you were born to be–and watch yourself thrive. this doesn’t mean that you will give up on learning new skills in areas of weakness, but it does mean that your primary focus on your professional and career development will be on ways to maximize your talents.
Can you imagine an organization built on the assumption that each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength? That is an organization that will thrive! You don’t have to wait for your entire company, group or even your team to change. You can change yourself right now! You can look at all the choices you make everyday about your career, your professional development and your future, with new eyes. It’s simple . . . just
Remember the Clue: Use Your Strengths!
If you are looking for some help with this area of your development, please consider contacting me, Laurel Ross, for a free 30-minute consultation to discuss how to find your strengths and use them!