I have two questions for you:
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
Go on… write them down.
I did this on myself earlier and I found it a darn sight easier to answer number two than number one. When I looked at the piece of paper with my lists I had two things under Strengths and a dozen Weaknesses.
This sudden desire for soul searching and hand wringing about what I am and am not good at came about after a parent’s evening at my son and daughter’s school.
My daughter is very, very good at English but, apparently (‘cos, being a typical EB type person, I wasn’t there), this was hardly mentioned – it was all about her need to work harder at maths, which she’s not very good at, so she can stay at the bottom of the top set rather than be at the top of set 2.
For my son, the same thing happened – the discussion was about his need to read more at home, which he doesn’t enjoy, rather than the fact that he can divide, add, subtract, multiply, create percentages and generally manipulate numbers in a way I never could… he’s ten years old!
In the workplace this pattern continues. We are often forced think about our situation and create our Personal Development Plans to really improve on our weaknesses, to make sure we can be as good as possible in those areas.
I read a book a while ago (and was reminded of it recently) called Now, Discover Your Strengths by a guy called Marcus Buckingham. He says that strengths are strengths for a reason… we’re good at them and we (probably) like doing them.
Marcus Buckingham says that we should spend more time developing our strengths rather than our weaknesses because the percentage uplift in our performance is much greater if we work to our talents, rather than trying to make a silk purse out of a sows ear; i.e. to try and improve on something we’re not good at.
I’m not sure… I understand the theory and, to a certain extent, even agree with it. I would find it very difficult, though, to say to my son: ‘never mind about the reading… it’s just not one of your strengths’ instead of doing what I did… which was dash out and by him the Dangerous Book for Boys in the hope he would enjoy it and start reading more.
Fat chance, according to Buckingham… he won’t because it just ain’t one of his strengths.