Do you perform best when you play to your weaknesses? Admittedly, it is an odd question, but it is surprising how often we rely, not on our strengths, but on our weaknesses when attempting to do something well. In fact, when the question is worded more “fairly,” the answer might surprise you, too.
A study by Gallup asked, “Which do you think will help you improve the most: knowing your strengths or knowing your weaknesses?" More than half of Americans believed that knowing their weaknesses would be more beneficial.
They are wrong.
In our attempts to be well-rounded, it is very tempting to spend a lot of resources on our weaknesses. Now, improving areas we are weak in isn’t a bad goal, but it can be if, in the process, we neglect our strengths.
When people enjoy their work, they are more engaged and productive. Managers often wonder what they can do to increase employee satisfaction and engagement.
The key is strength-based leadership. Each person’s strength can become a platform for both sustained contribution to the organization and increased employee engagement. By focusing on the strengths each employee possesses, managers can provide positive and effective opportunity for employee engagement.
Neuroscience suggests that between the ages of three and 15, the brain organizes itself by strengthening synaptic connections which are frequently used and those which are used infrequently wither away. Those connections which wither away are not easily changed later in life. Focusing on fixing weaknesses has shown to be more time consuming and less efficient than focusing on increasing the areas where a person expresses talent or strengths.
According to authors, Donald Clifton and James Harter, we are keen at finding faults, in ourselves and others. But “when people become aware of their talents, through measurement and feedback, they have a strong position from which to view their potential.”
Clifton and Harter point out three stages in the strengths approach, identifying, integration and changed behavior. Managers should encourage those who take the assessment to reflect and act on each of the following steps in order to fully appreciate their strengths.
- Identifying: This involves taking an assessment to help specifically identify strengths and taking notice of them.
- Integration: In this step the individual learns more about their talents and strengths and understand the reason.
- Changing Behavior: This involves taking your talents and applying them to your work and everyday life.
Refining one’s strengths leads to the eventual flawless execution of important tasks. This leads to employee satisfaction and engagement, and perpetuates long-term excellence in the workplace.
Every person has weaknesses. If an employee is underperforming, perhaps he or she isn’t a “weak link,” but instead a “strong link” in the wrong place in the chain! Encourage employees to discover their strengths, and you may end up unlocking your organization’s true potential.