Focus On Your Strengths
It’s the question we all hate when faced with it at interviews: What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?
I dislike this question and think it’s rather unfair — from both sides of the equation. As an interviewer you are unlikely to get a truthful answer, but rather “I’m too organized” or “I’m sometimes too efficient and get my work done too quickly that I have a lot of time to spare in the afternoons”. As the interviewee we know we should be selling ourselves, so to highlight our fear of public speaking, our lack of leadership experience or our fear of looking stupid isn’t something we’re likely to do, in all honesty.
Focus on your strengths
During my last two years in the workforce I noticed a shift in goal setting at the company I worked for. They were less focused on “fixing” our weaknesses and instead focused goal setting around our strengths. Hey there’s a novel thought! Allowing people to shine and excel by doing things they were good at was far better (individually and for the company) than putting everyone largely out of their comfort zone. The end result with the later approach is the company as a whole ends up being average. This company became very good at stressing the importance of differentiating between talents and skills.
It is this differentiation between talents and skills that I am trying to apply to my non-work life for setting goals and to keep me moving in the right direction.
Talent versus skill
There is a real difference between talent and skill. A talent is something you’re inherently good at, something you’re just born to do. A skill, on the other hand, is something that is learned. Anyone can learn a skill but to be good at it, enjoy it, and do it effortlessly requires talent. And even though a talent is an innate ability to do something, you still need to work at it in order to improve the skill aspect.
As an example, I think I have a talent for arts and crafts. I haven’t had any formal lessons but I love drawing, painting, and making crafty things. It’s just easy for me and I get many compliments on the work I have done. I wouldn’t have known I was any good at it without giving it a go first and I’m finding I’m getting even better at it the more I practice. As another example, I am not a talented athlete. I dislike running with a passion and I don’t particularly enjoy the little activity that I do participate in. I can learn to run, I know I can, but it’s a skill that I’m really not willing to invest my time in.
Why you should focus on your strengths
A lot of the personal development sector is about identifying and improving on your weaknesses; and although that can be a good thing, it’s important to know why you’re doing it. Is it something that’s right for you? Does it fit in with your lifestyle? Or are you doing it because that’s what all the personal development gurus are saying you should be doing? And who decided your “weakness” was a weakness anyhow? If you’re working on this so-called weakness because you truly want to then that’s brilliant! Certainly keep going. But it’s also extremely important not to neglect your strengths along the way.
There is a lot to be gained from focusing on your strengths. By doing things you are naturally good at and enjoy doing you can build self confidence, efficiency at a particular task, and a reputation that makes you the go-to person for your particular activity. You can also get the feeling of empowerment and get more enjoyment out of life when you do things that interest you and that you’re good at.
When the company I worked for shifted to focusing on the employees strengths it got stronger and had a greater deal of employee satisfaction. There were certain people that were fantastic public speakers and were always called upon to give presentations to clients or even internal training seminars – they loved it! Those same people were never asked to crunch numbers, do trend analysis or generate reports — that work went to those of us who loved doing that and who were good at it.
Take a minute and look at what you are currently working on in your life. Do the activities you are spending the most time on align with your strengths? Are they things you enjoy doing? Are they resulting in happiness for you? Are there other things that you would rather be doing or pursuing?
It’s important to take stock periodically of what you’ve committed to in your life. Delegating or relinquishing those commitments that don’t add to a balanced lifestyle will free up a lot of time so you’re able to do things that can have a positive impact on your day-to-day life. Everyone is good at something so start working on discovering one of your many hidden talents.
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Photo courtesy of: jillhudgins