How many of us wrestle with the question of whether to spend time working on making our strengths ‘stronger’ or eliminating our weaknesses?
For some, the answer might be easy, and for others a struggle.
I mean who wants to think of themselves as being weak in any area? It’s tempting to want to invest the time and work on making that weakness a strength in our never ending quest for perfection.
I’ve wrestled with the strength vs. weakness time investment question for a good chunk of my life, and it wasn’t until my Leadership Coaching program, and a lesson on strengths, that I finally made up my mind.
What I realized is that it’s time to double down on my strengths and accept my weaknesses for what they are – a part of me.
What resonated and also helped me come to terms with my answer was that the lesson never actually even referenced weaknesses, rather, ‘lesser strengths’. I know those are just words, yet words can make all the difference.
We are all unique, and part of that uniqueness is having our own set of talents, gifts and strengths that help us dominate on the field in our own way. Furthermore, those lesser strengths help guide us towards playing our game in a way that leverages what we are best at to achieve the outcome we desire.
Now let’s dig deeper into the value of leveraging our strengths, and how by investing in them we can take the game – for ourselves and our teams – to a whole new level!
As part of my Leadership Coaching program, all of my cohort members were required to take the Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. Through a series of 170+ questions, this tool provides a rank order of 34 strengths. These strengths are broken down as follows:
- Strengths 1-10: Core Strengths
- Strengths 11-24: Supporting Strengths
- Strengths 25 – 34: Lesser Strengths
This assessment has existed for quite some time – now version 2.0 – and is backed by over 30 years of scientific research and has been taken by over 17.2 million people. I say this not to convince anyone to take it, but to underscore the point of its significance and that its not some 5 minute quiz on the back of some magazine.
For a bit more context, here are My Top 5 Strengths:
- Competition – measure progress against the performance of others; strive to win first place and revel in contests
- Relator – Enjoy close relationships with others; find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal
- Achiever – have a great deal of stamina and work hard; take great satisfaction from being busy and productive
- Futuristic – inspired by the future and what could be; inspire others with their visions of the future
- Learner – have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve; the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them
Now that you have a bit more of a background, I want to throw out a few more stats that I found very interesting and that compelled me to focus on maximizing my strengths for the future rather than try to bolster my weaknesses.
We are kind of unique snowflakes after all…
- The chances of someone having the same top strengths (StrengthFinder) in any order is 1 in 278,000
- The chances someone has your top 5 strengths (StrengthFinder) in the exact same order is 1 in 33 MILLION
- Leverage your unique strengths and make an impact!
Even if we don’t chose to work on our weaknesses, they are often top of mind...
- Studies show it takes 2.8 seconds to go from talking about a strength to a weakness – don’t be too hard on yourself though, it’s how our brains are wired
Leverage your strengths to obtain a better quality of life…
- People who focus on using their strengths are 3x more likely to report having an excellent quality of life and are 6x as likely to be engaged in their jobs – find a job / career / role that plays to your strengths!
Build Your Strengths & Dominate On Your Field of Play
So if I convinced you its time to double down on your strengths too, or perhaps just peaked your interest, let’s talk about what we need to do next!
Determine your strengths
I know this sounds obvious. Yet, I can honestly say some of my top 10 strengths were surprising!
Sure, it was great to see some things I was strong at that I didn’t know before, however that also means I wasn’t necessarily investing the time to build and leverage them to make a bigger impact.
Whether you choose to take a strengths assessment (there are more than just the Gallup one which I took) or not, invest some time to really think about the things you are naturally talented and strong at doing. More than likely, those are your core strengths – build them up make your presence felt!
Lead with your strengths
Whether you are a formal or informal leader on your team or in your organization, anchor your leadership style with your strengths rather than trying to emulate some other leader that you may respect. Be you!
When I captained my high school football team, I was far and away the quietest and most soft spoken player on the team, however I led by example in the weight room and during drills during the off season, and embodied commitment and hard work.
These attributes fueled my leadership style during that season of my life. I wasn’t going to be the hair on fire, speech giving, helmet slapping leader… I didn’t try to be. I leveraged what worked for me to help the team get to where we needed to go. Leverage what you are best at, and lead!
Build your team
I don’t want to pretend that lesser strengths / weaknesses don’t exist. We need to be aware of our blind spots. However, rather than investing the incredible amount of time it would take to make those weaknesses a little less weak, use a fraction of that time and build a winning team instead!
Build up championship-caliber partnerships and teams to:
- “Make up” for a lesser talent
- “Take over” where one player leaves off
- “Enhance” what one player already possesses
Put in the work!
One concept we talked about that might have hit me most of all was the reality that what we are talented at may never become a strength, and the reason why was simple yet powerful (and should come as no surprise).
You MUST put in the hard work to turn a talent into a strength!
My instructors laid out a simple formula (might have been from Gallup too) that we should all take to heart:
Strength Building Equation:
Talent x Investment = A Strength
Put in the hard work, make the investment, and don’t let your unique talents go to waste.
Understand the dark side of your strengths
I’ll end with one more lesson that I hope will be as powerful for you as it was for me. It really goes back to a little of what I talked about last week… everything in moderation.
While I’m not advocating dialing back any of your strengths, we do need to be aware of how they may impact those around us – especially when they can create a negative impact.
Gallup notes how each strength can create a barrier, therefore we need to be dialed into how we are leveraging our strengths to ensure we are only driving progress forward vs. inadvertently setting ourselves or our teams back.
To solidify this a bit more, let’s look at my top 5 strengths and how they can create barriers if I’m not careful:
- Competition – sore loser, not a team player, puts down others, self-centered, confrontational
- Relator – lives in a clique, crony, has an inner circle, plays favorites
- Achiever – unbalanced, brown-noser, overcommitted, can’t say no, burns the candle at both ends, too concentrated on work
- Futuristic – dreamer, “Fantasy Island”, out in left field, lacks pragmatism
- Learner – a know it all, lacks focus on results, learns a lot – produces little, bookish
Not as positive as above, huh! Again, don’t let this hold you back from using your strengths to their fullest potential – just be aware of how they affect others.
Embrace Your Strengths & Build a Better Future!
We all have so much potential to do great things – it’s beyond inspiring and exciting. What’s more exciting (and sometimes scary) is that there is no right way or single way to make our potential a reality.
As you embark on another week, I challenge all of us to make some extra time to go deep on our talents and strengths – what really what makes us, “us”.
Unapologetically embrace those strengthes and and let them guide you on your path to greatness.
There will still be numerous roadblocks and challenges along the way, yet by leveraging the most talented parts of who we are, I truly believe we will be best prepared to break down those walls and create meaningful opportunities out of each and every challenge.
Flex your strengths and get after it!
Discussion Question: How can you leverage your strengths to tackle your biggest challenge of the week?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."