We are often told to focus on improving our weaknesses. It has become a widespread misconception that we need to spend all our time and energy towards improving our weaknesses, instead of sharpening our strengths.
It's a reflection of our culture as a whole: we often look at what is wrong with the world instead of focusing on what's going well. Watch the news for a few minutes and you'll see that the negative stories far outnumber the positive. However, flipping this natural tendency—away from focusing on weakness and toward cultivating strength—can create a competitive advantage for organizations looking to develop their employees.
Create a Culture Where Strengths Thrive
Gallup created the science of strengths. Gallup has studied thousands of work teams and millions of leaders, managers, and employees for more than five decades to understand a clear assessment of their skills and abilities. What they have found is that there’s significant upside to developing people's innate strengths, versus trying to fix their weaknesses.
They found that people who use their strengths every day are 6x more likely to be engaged on the job, and teams that focus on their strengths are 12.5% more productive. To harness this finding, work on focusing on what you're already naturally talented at—and continue to develop your skills from good to great.
Successful Entrepreneurs Play to Their Strengths
Entrepreneurs naturally want to do everything themselves, which can be a very counterintuitive trait. The wise ones are acutely aware of their strengths and know how to optimize them. They also recognize areas where they are weakest, and build teams of experts to handle those tasks for them. An entrepreneur who is great at selling understands that their time isn't well-spent running payroll or scheduling social media posts—they focus on their strengths and outsource their weaknesses. Improving your weaknesses happens at a slower rate, like investing in a low interest growth account. It’s going to take a long time before it starts paying dividends.
According to Psychology Today, studies have found that leaders who focus on the strengths of employees benefit from lower levels of staff turnover, higher levels of productivity, more satisfied customers, and greater profitability. You want to encourage individuals to work at their strong suits, because it can lead to greater job satisfaction, higher levels of confidence, creativity and agility at work.
Don’t Just Completely Push Your Weaknesses Aside
“I sincerely believe in ‘play to your strengths.’ One could become mediocre when he or she focus on weakness - but focusing on strengths only can take people to excellence.” - Sivakumar Palaniappan
The argument and key take away here shouldn’t be that you brush aside your weaknesses completely—but focusing on your weaknesses exclusively will make your progress slower. Improving your weaknesses can ultimately consume a lot of your energy, time, and attention away from excelling in your career. Be aware of your weaknesses, seek help from someone who excels in that area, and put a plan in place to address the gaps in your skills.
“I agree you should always focus on your strengths, but I also think you should not forget about your weaknesses, spend your time wisely, but don’t fall for that easy way out by saying: hey, it’s not my strength…[and] shirk and delegate to others.” - Rogier van der Maas