“Our studies indicate that people who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.” – Strengths Finder
World class athletes spend, on average, 23 hours training per week. That’s a significant amount of time! We tend to call people of this caliber “natural athletes.” They have to practice and train, but it will always be easier for Lebron James to shoot a three-pointer than me, no matter how much time I spend practicing my b-ball shot.
So let’s say you’re a coach and you have a gifted, fast sprinter that naturally runs like the wind. Would you take the athlete and spend hours working and training on this person’s shot-put skills? What a waste of time and speed! People would look at you like you’re crazy. Let the sprinter RUN! Let someone who can throw practice shot-put. Now if this is true in sports and athleticism, why would it not also apply to personal strengths?
Our culture is one that wants to always improve or weed-out our weaknesses. But to what avail? If it’s a weakness, we will always be limited in how much we can actually improve. Why not take an area of strength and try to be “world class”? Just like the runner gifted with speed will continue to train and exercise in ways to make him faster and not waste time trying to improve his shot-put skills, why don’t we spend time in our jobs in areas in which we naturally excel. All of us have different strengths; that’s the beauty of a community! I should let someone who is STRONG in an area do something that maybe isn’t a natural fit for me. In the end, we all operate out of our strengths, which is refreshing and encouraging, instead of struggling against our nature to be just decent at something.
As stated by Paul Brown, “You are far better off capitalizing on what you do best, instead of trying to offset your weakness. Making a weakness less of a weakness is simply not as good at being the best you possibly can be at something.”
At Cherwell Software, we take this reality to heart. Every employee who joins us is given a book called Strengths Finder, by best-selling author Tom Rath, and asked to complete the online Strengths Finder survey. None of the 34 strengths are greater or more important than the others. My top five strengths (out of 34) according to this survey are Strategic, Activator, Futuristic, Belief, and Competition.
We then display each employee’s top five strengths on our office name plates. We try to celebrate each employee’s strengths, and we desire to utilize and grow our employees’ strengths within their respective jobs and teams. It also is a good way to get to know each other and build community if we have a better understanding of each others’ strengths. We know how to build each other up—and that is a great building block for a better culture.
If we stay focused on our employees’ strengths, I believe we will continue to deliver a great product, take great care of our customers, have jobs in which we are fully engaged, and have a better quality of life.