Focus on your strengths, focus on success

Curt Liesveld, renowned learning and development senior consultant for the Gallup organization, often explained to leaders, managers, and employees that “you cannot be anything you want to be, but you can be a whole lot more of who you already are.” 

Conventional wisdom has alleged, for many years, that your weaknesses represent your greatest opportunities for development. Employees have long focused on fixing weaknesses to increase chances of success. But recent research suggests that this long-standing advice may not be the best coaching. In fact, when leaders, teams, cultures, and individuals focus on strengths, they have a better chance at winning than if they focus on improving deficiencies. This same research shows that empowering, successful cultures are those that engage employees and capitalize on individual capabilities.

Earlier this year, CNBC published an online article by Author, Motivational Speaker, and Management Consultant Marcus Buckingham entitled “Three Simple Things You Can Do to be Successful at Work.” Buckingham believes that employees should seek out activities that they receive great satisfaction doing—the things that fill them up and strengthen them intellectually as these tend to be the things they are most effective at. He goes on to explain that when we are involved in an activity using our strengths, it feels natural to us, and we are more inclined to experience accomplishment.  Employees should determine what their natural tendencies are, where their natural skills and advantages lie, and cultivate those.  “Learning is like new buds on an existing branch,” says Buckingham. “If you want to win, if you want to excel, if you want to stand out, you’re going to have to take the few unique things about you that are beautiful and powerful, and take them seriously, and turn them into contributions.”

Buckingham also notes that things that drain our energy, though we may excel at them, tend to inhibit our learning. Brain science indicates that we shut down our capacity to learn something new from the experience because we have a very low energy level to complete the exercise. 

Staff members should nurture and promote what they do well so they can maximize their contributions and continue to feel good about what they’re giving and receiving every day.  Here is some advice on how best to put your strongest qualities to work for you:

1. Identify your strengths, name them, and concentrate on them.
Employees are encouraged to solicit input from others and identify the core strengths that make them unique, valuable, and passionate about their work. 

There are robust ways to discover your unique talents, abilities, and ways of thinking by talking with your manager, mentors, peers, or a career coach. Try them all and see what works. Online options such as Myers Briggs or Gallup Strengths are available and can be helpful in naming strengths.  Self-understanding and self-support is key. Concentrating on your strengths brings a better sense of fulfillment and forward progress.

2.  Don’t compare yourself with others, but approach people who inspire or even challenge you for your growth.  It’s a whole new world and we have so much to learn from each other; explore the sides of yourself that you may not even think existed. Consider aligning yourself with people you may feel competitive towards and give yourself permission to learn.

3.  Offset your development areas by capitalizing on the strengths of others.
One of the greatest values of having a team and coworkers is the variety of perspectives, talents, and skills to get the job done successfully. While we cannot be experts at everything, we typically are surrounded by others who have the know-how to get things done successfully. Learn from those around you.  Capitalize on the strength of others, and while the work is ongoing, use the experience as an opportunity for observation and personal progress.