We all have strengths and weaknesses. There are some things we are very good at and some things that we aren’t as good at.
There are two philosophies of performance in terms of using our strengths in our pursuit of excellence.
One philosophy is to be good at a lot of things… a jack of all trades as it were, not have any weaknesses. You can deal with most things reasonably well and get a lot done on your own without being dependent on someone else. The downside is you never really shine in any given area, and you work slower and less effectively in all areas than someone who is effective in each specific area.
The other philosophy is to be really, really good at just a few things. This of course leaves us vulnerable as we have to depend on others, but we can play to our strengths, get more done, and produce better quality.
Our tendency is to keep doing the things we are good at, and in one sense that’s a smart strategy anyway. Why waste time doing things we aren’t good at? But what do we do about the things that are our weaknesses?
The one thing you have to be aware of, however, is your strength IS also your weakness. How is that possible?
Your strength is also your lens
When you have a particular strength, you will tend to filter everything through that strength.
Just like a carpenter who wants to use a hammer for everything, you will tend to see things through the lens of what you are good at. Even experts make mistakes because they also see things through a certain lens, and sometimes miss the simple obvious answer due to something called ‘expert blindness’…they make things too complicated.
Real world examples
Let’s say you are able to brush off criticism easily and not worry about what other people think. That can be a real strength. But the opposite side of that coin may be you aren’t the most sensitive sort in the world, and so you aren’t intuitive to how others are feeling. In fact, there may be times when you are quite oblivious.
Perhaps you are a passionate and charismatic speaker. You like to talk and are good at it. But maybe listening isn’t your strength.
Your weakness may expose a strength
The same can be true of our weaknesses. Very often, we criticize ourselves for our weaknesses, but if we really look at it, often we have a strength in the opposite direction.
Let’s say you don’t feel like you are very creative. What’s the opposite of creative? Are you structured and organized? Salt of the earth and responsible? Or at the other end of the continuum, maybe you are a dreamer, but have trouble with execution, detail and follow-through.
It’s hard to be really strong in one area and not have the corresponding weakness in another area.
So what’s the answer?
How narrow is your lens?
Playing to your strength is always smart, just don’t let it be your only lens on the world.
We can still improve on our weaknesses, and should, at least to a point. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of working on a skill, and other times it requires learning to look at things through a filter we are less comfortable with, but gives us a broader viewpoint.
Allocation of resources
The trick is to recognize whether working on that weaker skill is a good use of your current resources, or if it is better delegated out to others.
For example, if you are an idea person, that can be a real strength if you can take enough action to turn it into something, whether by selling or sharing the idea, by creating and delegating to a team, or even by initially pulling things together yourself.
But if you are a dreamer to the point where you never take action, and you have zero follow-through, that’s a weakness you need to deal with.
Be flexible, be unique
Ask yourself if the way you are looking at something is the only way to see it. Learn to be self-aware and look at situations more objectively, then play to your strengths when appropriate, moderate yourself when required, and surround yourself with others who balance you out.
You can’t be all things to all people, so don’t try to be. That’s what makes you special and unique.