Play to your strengths

Research shows that the most successful people play to their strengths, building on their innate strengths and authentic selves. They start with one or more dominant talents and then add skills, knowledge and practice.

However, business culture often focuses on “weakness prevention, looking for deficits, trying to fill the gaps where people don’t have natural capability. A lot of corporate energy goes into trying to make people into someone they’re not.

This is a pity, because we spend more time at working than doing almost anything else. People who are able to do what they do best, at work, have much higher levels of interest, energy, and productivity throughout the workday, and greater life satisfaction.

What is a strength? A strength is something you are good at, and which you like doing.

Your brain processes more petaflops than the largest supercomputer on earth ( follow IBM’s @DharmendraModha) but it does not attend to everything equally. It has more developed and less developed “branches.” Think of talent+interest as creating thicker branches of neurons, which become areas of strength.

Strong areas create an appetite for specific activities. When you are engaged in areas of strength, time passes quickly. You feel creative, fulfilled, flourishing, sharp, interested, resilient.You grow through your strengths.

The “thin branches” of your brain are your weaker areas. These are activities which cause you to procrastinate. They leave you feeling drained, frustrated, disappointed and hoping you can foist the tasks onto someone else. The real task is to minimize or to find work-arounds for your weaknesses while building on your strengths.

Luckily, your strengths are often someone else’s weakness. A little negotiation and everyone is happy.

I once worked with engineers who hated writing trip reports. It would take them a day or more to write a report that I could do in 20 minutes, if I had their information. We changed the system so that they’d write a “chopping block” of basic phrases. I’d turn it into a report and in 45 minutes we’d have a full trip report for a customer. Then they’d get onto the “to do” list of engineering tasks, satisfying new requests from customers, while I invoiced their trips! Everyone was happy.

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