If I had $1 for each time someone says to me they’ve been asked to work on their perceived weaknesses…well, we all know how that story ends.
One of the most challenging things to do as a leader can be to motivate people. We all want our people to perform at their best and in my experience, doing so does not usually begin with highlighting people’s apparent weaknesses.
At one point or another, most of us have probably been told to work on our weaknesses. Can you recall how you felt afterwards? Such feedback does not spark most people into action but instead, leaves them feeling inadequate, negative and thinking they are not good enough.
I’m a big believer in mindset playing a huge role in getting your people to not only meet but exceed expectations. What people do with ease, what they are naturally gifted in and good at, are generally the areas that they perform best in. In other words, their strengths. As leaders, we should really be focusing on people’s strengths and working with our team members to support them to get even better at these strengths. Now, wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?
Take a business owner for example. They may be incredibly gifted at their specialty, let’s say they are a graphic designer. Unfortunately, when it comes to their bookkeeping and accounting skills, their mind just doesn’t work that way. So would it be helpful for this business owner to stare at an accounting program for hours on end in an attempt to ‘figure out’ what they need to do? Or is it best for this person to focus on what they do best — designing amazing looking brochures, leaflets, booklets and wowing their clients — and get support from a bookkeeper to handle their accounting needs? The answer is pretty clear.
Let me ask you this important question:
If you had the opportunity to become even better in the areas you consider to be your strengths, what would this mean for you?
Everything we do requires energy so why spend your working life focusing on areas that don’t fill you up? We all have areas we aren’t as strong in - even the most gifted people in the world have these. Too many people utilise valuable resources and spend a lot of time trying to get a little bit better at their weaknesses. Yes, being aware of our weaknesses is helpful and there is nothing wrong with improving ourselves but it’s important to re-consider how relevant our weaknesses really are in our work and lives. With more thought, you may find they’re not really all that relevant at all!
There are many areas where we’ll spend our lifetime learning more, and continually improving.
Take technology for example — as things are always rapidly changing, it’s important to stay abreast with technology. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and list five other areas you wish to gradually work on. Writing these areas down, including what small steps to take and over what timeframe, will not only keep you accountable, but help you visualize what these improvements might look like along the way. Now, for your strengths, jot down your answers to these questions:
- What are your key strengths?
- What is it that you enjoy about these areas/tasks?
- What things could you do to develop your skills further in these areas?
If you’re struggling, ask others for their observations. Even if you feel you know what your strengths are, consider asking others anyway. You may be surprised at what others feel you are skilled in! Typically, when we are good at things, we don’t even give them a second thought.
Bottom line: unless you’re going into an area you know very little about and need to learn fast, focus on your strengths first, second and third.
Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and career transitions, mentoring and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose.
Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746.