By Chris Simmons
A classic question confronting all of us at some point – or many points in our life, is do we improve our strengths or seek to be well-rounded and address our weaknesses? Conventional wisdom contends there are good arguments on both sides, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Winning requires a competitive advantage over your opponent(s). Investing time improving a weakness is a crime as it robs one of time better spent improving what you do best – your strengths.
Years ago I was a paratrooper in the famed 82nd Airborne Division. This unit has one job: to begin deploying combat forces to any location in the world in 18 hours or less. I was with “The Division” during the Grenada invasion – we were “wheel’s up” in just 12 hours. In contrast, a traditional division (one with tanks and other heavy vehicles) requires weeks, if not months, to deploy. What the 82nd Airborne does is called “strategic projection.” Its single strength is to be able to fill the sky with parachutes – anywhere in the world – tomorrow. Nobody does it better.
Management guru Peter Drucker was the first modern writer to advocate a strengths-based focus. His position was that higher levels of performance cannot be built upon weakness. In sum, it takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetent to mediocre than from good to great. Drucker and followers like Martin Sigman insist that building lives around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn’t, is the core of effective professional development. An individual’s highest life success and deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using our strengths.
Renowned Psychology professor Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi, noted for his work in the study of happiness and creativity, insists that ultimate happiness comes from doing things at which you excel. He contends that achieving “balance” in your life doesn’t mean doing all things equally well, but rather prioritizing those activities in proportion to the value they bring to your life.
There is no single, best way to identify your strengths. There are numerous personal traits that prove useful in proving insights, among them the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Wonderlic, StrengthsFinder, etc. That said, never lose sight of the fact that strengths are inherently neutral – there are no good or bad strengths. The application of these strengths, however, can be applied in good or bad ways.
4 Steps To Keep Your Weaknesses From Becoming Liabilities
- Develop it/them only to an “acceptable” level.
- Partner with someone with whom your weaknesses are their strengths.
- Use your strengths to overshadow your weaknesses.
- Focus only on those weaknesses that directly undercut a strength (e.g., a writer who can’t spell)