Strengths are often not what you think.
Strengths are often not what you think here is a story to explain why. In high school, Karen joined the cross-country team. Shee participated in that sport year after year until she graduated. The only problem — Karen was painfully slow! I don’t mean that she was just an okay-runner. Karen consistently came in minutes after all the other runners.
The first year she joined the team, team members and parents alike laughed at Karen’s snail-like pace. Those closest to her urged her to try a different sport. But Karen kept running. Her running improved somewhat over the years, but Karen always managed to come in last.
But a funny thing happened when Karen was in Year 12. Karen became the team captain. It turned out that while running was not her strength, leadership, a positive attitude, teamwork, and perseverance were her strengths. The coach and the team recognised this. From that moment on, when Karen would finally lumber across the finish line behind everyone else, her team and the crowd would stand to their feet and cheer, celebrating Karen’s real strengths.
What Is a Strength?
A strength is a skill or an ability that you’re good at. A strength is something that comes naturally to you. Usually, you enjoy engaging in your strengths. Others recognise this ability in you and rely on you for it. But sometimes we can’t see our strengths, and it takes someone close to us to point them out.
Just because we have a particular strength doesn’t mean we don’t have to work at it and try to improve it. In fact, in many ways, strength is like a trust that has been handed to us. The question is, how well will we manage that trust? Will we invest in it, seek to grow it, and leverage it for the good of others?
Develop Your Strengths
Strength is like a muscle that must be exercised. Below are several ways we can do that. I’ve also included some challenges to avoid in this process. Like Karen in the story above, we must keep trying. That means enduring frustration and overcoming obstacles.
- Discover your strengths. Some years ago, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton wrote the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths. These two leadership gurus recognised that many of us “have little sense of our talents and strengths.” Instead, we’ve been told to spend all our time working on our weaknesses. Meanwhile, we neglect and waste our true strengths and abilities.
- Danger: We waste precious time and effort trying to master some skill we’ll never enjoy or excel.
- Stretch! To develop our strengths, we need to stretch them and push them beyond their current limits. We won’t know what we’re capable of until we try.
- Danger: Relying on past performance, we get lazy. We assume our past achievements will always suffice. In this way, we stagnate. Our “muscles” atrophy and we suddenly find ourselves woefully inadequate to the task, because the world has moved on without us.
- Learn from others. We need to find others with strengths like ours and learn from them. A coach can also be of tremendous help in this regard. In fact, in his book, The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley claims, “You will never maximise your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input, you will never be as good as you could be.”
- Danger: Letting ‘ego’ focus only our strengths and thinking we don’t need anyone else to tell us how to improve will be our downfall. If we believe we’re already good enough, we’re in danger of becoming obsolete.
- Focus on strengths. We need to attend to the skills and abilities that we know are our strengths. We must leverage them, manage and grow to our full potential in using them.
- Danger: We must avoid “strength-envy” when we watch how good someone else is at something we can’t do. Instead, applaud their skills and partner with them.
- Keep trying. We must always combine persistence with natural talent. Natural talent only goes so far. Without practice, growth, and perseverance, we’ll never know what we are capable.
- Danger: Assuming there’s no struggle in using one’s strengths and that employing a strength should always come easy.
What About Weaknesses?
If a weakness is a character flaw rather than an ability, then we need to set out to change it. Character flaws can trip us up and challenge our personal and professional growth.
If a weakness is a skill that you want to pursue, then apply yourself to see if it might be a latent ability. But beware of spending too much energy on something you have no talent for. Finally, if your weakness is a skill that you need in your business, delegate that function to someone skilled in that area.
It is vital to align your strengths in your business and understand your weaknesses if you would to grow and manage your small business to make a profit book in for a 15-min chat.