Live strong and prosper Owning your strengths and weaknesses, and letting others know them, is key to financial and emotional fulfilment, finds Kirsten Levermore
“The team doesn’t need from you some vague willingness to ‘do whatever it takes’. It needs you to understand your strengths and weaknesses in vivid detail and then take it upon yourself to figure out how to navigate towards the strengths and away from the weaknesses.” – Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work
Soccer player Wayne Rooney is England’s leading goalscorer of all time. He has kicked, headed and nudged more than 250 England, Everton and Manchester United goals, mostly from centreforward. A specific set of strengths is needed to play from this position: a high degree of stamina, decision maker, creative, team player and a natural connector. Unfortunately, say many critics, Rooney has not always been in a position that plays to his strengths. Many managers wasted him by playing him on the wing. Playing in that position requires an entirely different set of strengths. The former England captain struggled on the wing, just as he shone in the middle.
The work example
Playing – or not – to your strengths can be career defining
Sally Bibb, consultant, coach and author of The Strengths Book (LID Publishing), is a prominent advocate for embracing an individual, team or organization’s strengths. “So often people hear from new companies, ‘We want you to be your whole self at work.’ But what,” Bibb asks, “does that mean in practice?” Would you make an accountant submit graphics to marketing? Or, if an IT technician happened to be a great communicator, would you consider assigning them public-facing projects, or sending them to conferences to speak about your business? People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their work (Sorenson, 2014; Minhas, 2010). And, when strengths are factored in at the recruitment stage, salespeople at Standard Chartered Bank brought in 40% more revenue between three and six months than those hired in the traditional manner (HR, 2014). “It makes sense emotionally, as well as financially,” Bibb offers. But how does a person, or organization, identify their own strengths, let alone share them?
Find your strengths
Ask yourself: what did I do recently in work, or at home, that I really enjoyed doing? What is it about me made that thing so enjoyable? That is a strength.
Strengths Things you are naturally good at Things you love doing Things you are energized by Values Motivators Things you can’t not do
Examples of strengths include communication, competitiveness, kindness, thriving under pressure, bravery and being a good listener.
Weaknesses that matter
“Too often,” notes Bibb, “companies sideline ‘weakness’ as a ‘development point’ or, worse, rebrand ‘weakness’ as ‘problem’ or ‘difficulty’.” And this, The Strengths Book says, can be a dangerous – and limiting – label. “Being human is important, and having weaknesses is a part of that. The key is deciding whether or not you want to do something about them.” It is with this in mind that The Strengths Book asks you to reflect on the things you’re not so good at, to which you’re not naturally inclined, or don’t enjoy doing. You are then asked to highlight the ‘weaknesses’ that you actually want to change, and consider how you might go about that. It’s a freeing experience. And besides, Bibb points out, weaknesses aren’t actually that important to success: “Many studies have shown you’re far more likely to be successful if you focus on improving your strengths than on trying to develop all of your weaknesses.”
Dialogue Q1 2018