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Focus on your strengths

November 1st, 2009

I’ve been working on the leadership component of the new Boot Camp program and have given it a major re-work because I believe that leadership is the principal success driver in any organization.  Anyway, one of the things I really want to emphasize is the need for people to focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.  This may seem counter-intuitive but it makes all the sense in the world.

It’s way easier to get more leverage from your strengths than it is to do so from your weaknesses.  This is not to say your weaknesses should be ignored but they should not take up more than 5-10% of your attention, energy and effort.  The whole point of having a team is to surround yourself with people who complement you, who you are able to delegate those tasks that you are not suited to or that you don’t need to do.

In the course of my research on this I came across this vintage Drucker quote:

The great mystery isn’t that people do things badly but that they occassionally do a few things well. The only thing that is universal is incompetence. Strength is always specific! Nobody ever commented, for example, that the great violinist Jacha Heifetz probably couldn’t play the trumpet very well.

To be successful you must focus on and be remembered for your strengths. Are you doing that? And what about your practice – as Jim Collins says in Good to Great, you should ask yourself the question: what are we capable of being really good at (as in “best in the world”)** and then ask yourself: is that something I/we are or can be deeply passionate about? and finally, will people pay for that?

You’ll notice I asterisked my comment about “best in the world”.  I did so because some people will look at that and immediately say I/we can’t be the best in the world and then forget about it.  BUT, it’s not the destination or the goal that’s important in and of itself.  What’s really important is what you and your team become when you set your mind and direct your actions on that goal. Collins and every “management expert” I have ever read or met all agree that having robust, challenging and worthwhile goals are what brings out the best in people and businesses.

  1. January 13th, 2010 at 22:02 | #1

    I didn’t claim them to be my original ideas. I do claim them to be an expression of my personal thoughts based on my research and experience. I am familiar with Buckingham’s work and seriously doubt that he would claim to be the originator of the idea that people should focus on their strengths. I most certainly doubt that he would take issue with anything I have written in this post. But since you raise it I am grateful for reminder that people who are interested in exploring their strengths (and those of their team members) should take a look at Marcus Buckingham’s Amazon Author page and also Tom Rath’s Amazon Author page. In the meantime, if my posts offend you in any way Steve, please take yourself off the distribution list.

  2. Steve Ferraro
    December 8th, 2009 at 14:41 | #2

    I assume (maybe falsely)you’ve heard of The Gallup Poll, Markus Buckingham and the “Strengths-Based” movement! Please take me off you list unless you can show me that these are your original ideas.

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