Too many times companies send employees to trainings to fix the areas of weaknesses, we expect people to be well rounded to be successful. The fact is excellent performers are hardly “well rounded”, they are sharp. The difference between an excellent performer and an average performer is that the former ones are aware of their strengths and are cultivating it through their day to day work whereas the later ones are spending time and energy in places other than their strengths.
What I Mean by Strength
1. An activity is your strength when are able to do it consistently, repeatedly, happily and successfully.
2. You don’t have strength in every aspect of your role in order to excel.
3. You will excel only by maximizing your strengths, never by fixing your weaknesses. Most successful people didn’t ignore their weaknesses; instead they did something much more effective -Hired someone with complimentary strengths, found a niche, or worked on the weakness just to overcome the barrier.
Strength = Innate Talent + Knowledge + Skills.
Innate Talent: Try an activity and see how quickly you pick it up, how quickly you skip steps, and twists and kinks. See whether you become absorbed in the activity that you lose track of time. Talents are the neuron connections that through genetic inheritance and childhood experience you find smoother and easier to use than others. In internet analogy talents are like the T1 lines, have the strongest and loudest signals. Our brain wants us to use those; it seems effortless and engaging when we use those T1 lines.
Our talents come so easily that we take it for granted and think others are seeing the world the same way. If you are good at relating with people, anyone not that way seems too rude or too proud. Or if you are talented as an activator (who is good at starting new things) you may find the deliberative people (who are careful) lazy or risk avoiders. Instead of seeing it as their weaknesses, we need to be aware that these are our talents and make good use of those.
- Factual knowledge. As an artist you need to know green and red when mixed makes the color brown. It is the vocabulary, for example, when you learn a language you need to know the words and their meanings.
- Experiential knowledge – It is not written in the manuals you pick up from your experience/observation by trying different things. Experiencial knowldge usually makes the difference between good and outstanding.
Skills bring structure to experiential knowledge. A sequence of steps if followed and practiced one can improve their performance. If you want to build your strengths you will need to acquire the skills. It is like the grammar of a language, without those your beautiful prose may not get the well deserved attention.
How the 10K hours Theory Works
I get this question about spending 10k hours of focused effort on an area to be outstanding (from Outlier by Malcom Gladwell). 10 thousand hours is a very long time. It is about 6 years when you spend 30 hours every week. Only when you love doing something, which most likely is your talent, only then you may have the energy to spend that much focused time in an area (and be creative and resilient to overcome the barriers). It would be smart to start with what you love, what energizes and engages you internally.
Where Strengths Doesn’t Serve Much
The strengths in this context is very generic and can be applied to any career field. Two different persons can succeed is two completely different fields of career by having similar strengths. To find the field(e.g. IT, retail, law, medicine, etc.) you need to pay attention to your interests/passion. For example, in a library what kind of books do you get drawn into? It often requires trying different activities, talking to people in relevant fields etc. When choosing a role in a particular field the awareness of strengths can give a lot of leverage.
A good start is to take this strength finder assessment. After you get your assessment reports you can work with a coach or with your manager to plan – utilize your talents in your day to day work, get trainings, and build skills around those so you can start capitalizing on your strengths.
Reference: Now, Discover Your Strengths