Go with your strengths (and don’t beat yourself up for what you lack)

How many times in class have you heard me say, “Go with your strengths and don’t worry about your weaknesses.”  For many of you, this is the antithesis of what you have been previously taught.  How many of us have gone through the exercise of identifying strengths and weakness and then proposing a plan of action (aka a personal SWOT analysis).

Yes, it is good to acknowledge our weaknesses.  And better yet, it is OK to admire and respect those who have gifts in areas we lack.  But that is where the focus on weaknesses needs to stop.  I admire women who can cook (and I mean really cook!). I have tried to cook (as some of you can attest).  But no matter what, I will never be a great cook-it is just not my strength or my calling.  Furthermore, I could spend hours trying to improve my cooking-taking classes, buying equipment, practicing and yes, I would probably become a better cook.  But will I ever be a great cook?  Probably not.  And at my age, I am old enough to admit that and give the glory to those who are gifted in cooking.

The sad thing about focuses on weaknesses and spending time and energy on improvement is all the energy wasted on going from weak to average.  Instead, think of what you could do if you concentrated on what you do well-call them strengths, competitive advantages, or talents, and really refine and improve them.  Not only would you reap intrinsic reward of success (you know when you’ve done a good job), but you would excel in your given area.

When I start to question my lack of a gift, or when I face failure, I am brought back to one of my favorite thoughts.   I can choose to focus on my weaknesses  (and continually beat myself up for what I’m not) or I can choose to focus on my positive strengths.  Eleanor Roosevelt once commented that no one can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission.   I must remember that we are all created equal and perfect. And that means you are perfect-even with the flaws you see.

So if you’re in sales, find the aspect of selling where you can use your gifts and go for it!  If you’re good at meeting people, get into cold-calling and transactional selling.  If you are especially sensitive and pick up on subtle cues, you are in a position to build long-term relationships.  If you are a negotiator (definitely not me!), get into a  B2B sales position where you can play your chess game and facilitate win-win outcomes.  If you can write, write your customers beautiful thank you notes that will set you apart.  If you are a smooth talker, leave phone messages that make your customers smile and return your call.  If you light up the room just by being there, always make personal appointments when possible.

Find your strength, continuously improve it, and use it.  Connect with people who have other strengths and work together as a team.  We don’t all have to be the best in everything.  Go with your strengths and don’t beat yourself up for what you lack.

Written By: Jane Z. Sojka Ph.D.

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