No matter which stage of your career you’re at, consciously playing to your strengths is crucial to ensuring success and ultimately, loving your job.
You might think most people do this naturally, but consider how many of us face frustrations and disappointments that are either a direct or indirect result of constantly striving to fix our weaknesses.
One school of thought espouses addressing your weaknesses head-on and working to eradicate them by picking up skills or changing your mindset. However, while some weaknesses can be resolved by simply upskilling or reskilling, others might require a concerted effort that could end up diminishing your strengths in the process.
Instead, focusing on your inherent strengths and further cultivating and leveraging them while accepting or managing your weaknesses, might yield better results.
TRYING TO ADDRESS EVERY WEAKNESS MAY NOT BE WORTH THE EFFORT
Some organisations have learnt the hard way that focusing on employees’ weaknesses or problem areas can be detrimental to both individuals and organisations. Many spend an inordinate amount of time and money trying to shore up employees’ weaknesses in order for them to fit into particular job roles. Once again, a reasonable amount of upskilling and reskilling is perfectly acceptable, but if the exercise gets to a point where a substantial amount of employees’ time and energy is being expended on fixing weaknesses rather than capitalising on their strengths to add value, it might be time to take a different approach.
Most of us are at our best when we use our gifts rather than when we try too hard to fix our deficits.
For instance, why should a strong individual contributor with no aptitude for formal leadership be made to contort him or herself into a people leader? Instead, his or her strengths might be better utilised in cultivating thought leadership within the organisation and influencing others informally.
ACKNOWLEDGE AND MANAGE YOUR WEAKNESSES
This doesn’t mean you should ignore your weaknesses. We recommend coming up with smart ways to manage them.
For instance, you could join forces with someone else based on complementarity. Your weakness could be someone else’s strength. Why not join forces? However, ensure that your strengths can benefit the other party just as much as their strengths have the potential to benefit you. Successful partnerships are usually symbiotic.
IDENTIFY YOUR STRENGTHS
Strengths go beyond specific hard skills. They cover intrinsic traits and talents such as agility or empathy.
If you’re not sure what yours are, you are not alone. Studies show that many of us take our strengths for granted, so asking others for feedback could be extremely useful. The process should involve a variety of people both at work and outside work – family members, friends, former and current colleagues, former teachers, etc.
Of course, you could use psychometric tools, but talking to people who’ve interacted with you personally and professionally over a period of time helps you gather a more in-depth understanding of yourself from objective external sources who’ve had a real-world experience of working or living with you.
Ask them not only what they think your strengths are, but also for specific instances where those strengths were used in a way they considered meaningful.
You can add your own observations to this list and crystallise it according to themes that come up most often.
TRANSLATE THE KNOWLEDGE INTO ACTION
With this information you could do several things:
1. Put your strengths into play in your current position. During performance evaluation discussions, you could also draw your assessor’s attention to these to give them a better idea of how they could capitalise on your strengths to achieve organisational goals.
2. If there is little scope for your best skills to come into play in your current job, you may want to consider doing something different.
3. As you begin looking for a different job, consider these strengths before you decide to whom you’ll send your resume. Find out if the job scope and the company would allow you to do what you do best.
Ultimately, knowing your strengths could help you decide how to better deal with your weaknesses. Can you use any of your strengths to bypass or overpower them? Perhaps you should just channel your energies into what you do best and delegate other tasks in order to achieve the best overall results.
Studies show that long-term job satisfaction and fulfilment hinge heavily on finding the best-fit job vis-a-vis a person’s strengths, so don’t hesitate to begin the process of discovering yours.