Build on your strengths to minimize your weaknesses

Adopting A Strengths-Based Approach

Knowing what your strengths are and focusing your efforts on understanding and then building on these is the first step to improving performance and delivering better outcomes. And the most successful businesses, teams and individuals do precisely this whether they are considering business strengths or personal ones.

So, this might sound self-evident. But if this is the case, why do reports suggest that so many of us instead spend as much as 80% of our time working on our weaknesses or those of our business, service, or project, rather than focusing that time on understanding and building on our areas of strength?

In my experience, there are two main reasons for this:

The first is that there is tendency to follow the oft quoted advice of legendary American Football coach Knute Rockne to “Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.” But isn’t the best way to understand and build on our strengths first? If we spend most of our time and resources on this, won’t we achieve better outcomes and at the same time identify ways of overcoming our weaknesses, or at least reduce the amount of time and effort we need to focus on addressing these? And isn’t focusing on strengths far more energizing and motivating?

The second reason is that we probably don’t have an accurate picture of what our strengths are? We might think we are focusing on strengths that are in fact not. We may believe that our customer service is excellent, or that our project is achieving desired outcomes or that our colleagues perceive us to be a sympathetic listener. But is that actually the case? Do we really know what we are good at and why? Are we basing our decisions on the right information?

So how to overcome these barriers to enable you to adopt and gain the best results from a strengths-based approach to decision making? Here are some constructive tips:

1. The first step is to accurately identify your strengths:

  • Projects, services, and businesses can review the data that you hold to shine a light on where you do well. You should also ensure that you draw on the input of customers, staff, and other key stakeholders, as this will be crucial to gaining a full understanding. But be careful: who is interpreting the data? Does the data fully measure what you do well? Ask yourself, do you need more information?
  • Individuals can take time to reflect for themselves and can also ask for feedback from friends, family, and colleagues. But for an independent and dispassionate view, you might want also to work with a coach or mentor, who may take you through a strengths review.  

2. Visualise

“A moment’s insight is worth a lifetimes experience” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Once you understand your strengths, it is helpful to take the time to visualise how building on these can drive more successful outcomes moving forwards. Can we use our strengths more? If we do what will this look like? This is energizing for individuals and teams and helps you to develop positive and creative visions for the future that can shape and underpin your future decisions and actions.

3. Take action and measure impact

“Genius is the idea. Impact, however, comes from action” Simon Sinek.

Use your understanding of your strengths along with your vision for the future to drive future planning, decisions, and actions. Consider what outcomes you want to achieve and what is needed to enable this. And of course, address how you will track, monitor, and evaluate your progress towards your chosen goals.

4. Don’t stop! Continue to ask yourself – what are our/my strengths and how can I/we build on them?

What do I do well?

When am I at
my best?

What energises
me?

What do people value about me?

Why do people come to me?

What do we do well?

When are we at my/our best?

What do people value about us?

Why do people come to us?

Why do people think we are good?

Understanding and then building on our strengths, works for individuals and at a collective level. If you don’t already do this, try to four steps outlined above and see what results. You may be surprised.

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