One of our mantras at THINKspiration is “Less focus on weaknesses, more focus on strengths.” You are probably thinking “How can I not focus on my weaknesses? I can’t afford to ignore them!” I am so glad you asked that question! :) I have discovered personally and in teams that when we focus on strengths, magic happens. Problems are solved, goals are met, and dreams are surpassed. People are fulfilled and genuinely engaged in what they do. How is that for win-win?

I like to see myself as a fun-to-be-with nerd. I always have my nose in at least 5 books at once. These range from historical fiction, to organizational development, to coaching and therapy techniques, to inspirational content. My bookclub gathering is my favourite evening of the month, and my friends always tag me when they find photos of quirky bookshops on Facebook. But it goes deeper. I constantly look for moments in which what I have read and learned can be truly useful to someone else. I simply can’t help it. I do it all the time. To me, many books demand a summary or at least some notes: I simply know that the gleanings and insights will come in handy and I don’t want to miss that opportunity to add value. These opportunities arise at work, at home and with friends regularly. Crazy? Nope. Just an irresistible attraction towards scenarios in which I can connect meaningfully with people and use my strengths. YOU do this with your strengths too, albeit unintentionally.

Strengths-based thinking is based on various important premises. Firstly, our greatest potential growth lies in the areas of our greatest strength. Secondly, when energy is expended solely on improving weaknesses, life is exhausting and disheartening, and we feel we are constantly fighting reality. This has application in organisations: work performance should not just be about avoiding failure, but about stellar achievement. Marcus Buckingham and others in their StrengthsFinder approach, propose that there are 34 “themes of human talent” or strengths. They have designed a rigorously tested assessment instrument which helps people to discover their top 5 strengths. A strength is something that is demonstrated consistently and well – and the associated activities feel like a thrill and a challenge, instead of draining and dull. Among my top 5 StrengthsFinder strengths are: Learner (I love expanding my knowledge and thinking); Achiever (I am deeply satisfied by working long and hard, within teams) and Connectedness (I am fascinated by people and love bringing them together. Diversity is very valuable to me). Participants doing the ESCAPING THE LEADERSHIP RIPTIDE workshop with us get to take the assessment as part of the experience, and the StrengthsFinder test is easily accessible online. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

A person’s strengths are not an indicator of the industry in which they should work; instead they point to the type of role(s) they should play within their team, to be optimally productive. One of the chief benefits is the spin-offs within teams. Firstly, people are appreciated for their unique contributions – immediately increasing their sense of significance. As people recognize one another’s strengths, they get a glimpse of the lenses through which their colleagues approach tasks. Also, individual weaknesses become almost irrelevant, as people intentionally start to complement one another and realign for greater synergy. This doesn’t mean that weaknesses receive no attention, it just means they don’t take centre stage any longer.

I close with one of my favourite quotes on the value of ‘leaning in’ to your personal strengths, by John Ortberg: “Amazingly enough, research shows that the best moments of our lives don’t come from leisure or pleasure. They don’t involve sex or chocolate. They come when we are totally immersed in a significant task that is challenging, yet matches up well to our highest abilities. In these moments, a person is so caught up in an activity that time somehow seems to be altered; their attention is fully focused, but without having to work at it. They are deeply aware without being self-conscious; they are being stretched and challenged, but without a sense of stress or worry.”

Imagine if this was a reality in your workplace?

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