The importance of understanding your strengths and weakness

Overview

Some years ago I heard a talk from Marcus Buckingham that changed the way I viewed strengths and weaknesses.  Up until that point I think it was obvious to me that I, and those around me, had things we were good at and things we weren’t so good at.  However, I hadn’t thought about it much more than that.  In listening to the talk I learnt some key lessons:

  • I will contribute the most when I am  operating  in my strengths and minimising operating in my weaknesses
    • Though there may be times when I need to do things that are not strengths, doing too much of this is not good for me, the team I am a part of and the organisation I serve
  • Strengths and weaknesses are about more than just being good or bad at something
    • I need to consider what makes me feel weak and what makes me feel strong
    • I could be good at things that I hate doing and which therefore make me feel weak
  • My greatest growth areas are likely to be in my areas of strength
    • Unsurprisingly this is where I am going to have the most enthusiasm and the most potential
  • I am unlikely to be able to do much about my weaknesses
    • This seems defeatist, but it is true
    • God has made me in a certain way, and I am not in a position to change it

Given all of the above it is clearly very important to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are.  On one level it is possible to take the Strengths-Finder survey.  This can be really helpful in finding some general themes, but it can’t be very specific.  In order to get into the detail, we need to analyse the tasks that we undertake.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses

The following questions can help us in considering whether any given task is a strength or a weakness:

  • Success
    • Am I good at it?
  • Instinct
    • Do I find myself doing this regularly and voluntarily?
  • Growth
    • Do I pick it up quickly and want to learn new ways?
  • Need
    • Does doing this give me personal satisfaction?

Fairly obviously activities that yield lots of positive answers are strengths and those which yield lots of negative answers are weaknesses.

Once some key strengths and weaknesses are identified, it is time to dig a little deeper.  The following questions may be helpful:

  1. Does it matter why I am doing the task?
  2. Does it matter who I am doing it with?
  3. Does it matter when I am doing it?

It should now be possible to write some simple, but specific, statements that begin, ‘I feel strong when …’ and ‘I feel weak when …’.

The last task is then working out how to do more of the things listed in the strength statements and less of the thing listed in the weakness statements.

Though many books have now been written on the subject, this is the original, if you want to get some more information:

Now, Discover Your Strengths: How to Develop Your Talents and Those of the People You Manage

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