Always Focus on Strengths, Not Weaknesses
I recently attended the annual conference for the Society for Human Resource Management in San Diego. One of the keynote speakers was Marcus Buckingham who presented overwhelming evidence that trying to overcome or improve on one’s weaknesses may be counter-productive. Focusing on what we don’t do well only weakens our confidence, enthusiasm, creativity and overall performance. Worse still, we don’t get that much better for all the effort. Thus, the term “weakness”! Instead, our attention should focus on expanding upon strengths and working around weaknesses . . . that’s where the real gold is in improving overall performance. Of particular interest to me was how Buckingham characterized a strength: it is not only something that one has been successful at or exhibits a facility for, but it is something that is also personally energizing, something that is so engaging that the individual might lose track of time when doing it.
Buckingham suggested that each of us make two lists: a Love It list and Loathe It list. The Love It list would contain those activities about which we both show some talent and feel energized after doing. The Loathe It list would capture those activities that sap our passion and energy, irrespective of how good we are at doing them. It’s no surprise that individuals should build their careers around those things they love doing. What is a surprise is that Buckingham advises companies to revise their performance management systems away from improving upon weaknesses (what are often called “opportunities for improvement”) and, instead, work to expand on employees’ strengths and help employees work around their shortcomings. Good stuff!