Some things we’re good at. Really good. Some things, we’re not so good at yet. We’re working on it.
In StrengthsFinder 2.0, Tom Rath presents 34 different strengths and presents an approach that most of us find counterintuitive: the best way to get better is to build on your strengths and not worry about your weaknesses.
He’s not wrong. There is one thing to be careful of, though.
If we only focus on developing our strengths—getting better at something we’re already good at—we might become unbalanced. There are a few ways this usually manifests:
- We develop blind spots. When you only play to your strengths, you can develop blind spots. A string of apparent successes can lull you into a sense of complacency. You forget that you even have weaknesses until they blindside you.
- We limit our options. If you rely too heavily on Skill A, you’ll start to ignore any solution that doesn’t involve Skill A. Skill B may be better suited for a task. You can pound a screw into drywall with a hammer, but it’s not going to hold. Developing other strengths will give you more options.
- We become that guy. Eventually, you get typecast. You’re a one-trick pony. The allure of the Renaissance Man was that he was well-rounded. He had broad experience and knowledge he could draw from, giving him strengths in many areas. Drop him into any situation and he could handle himself. If you round out your skills, you’ll be valuable in any situation.
Our strengths are good. We can’t (and shouldn’t) ignore them.
We should develop our strengths, but not just our strengths. Sometimes, we need to learn new things. We need to develop our weaknesses into strengths.
- Dial it back. When a strength is taken too far, there’s a complementary trait that’s underdeveloped. If you’re a 12 in Courage and only a 3 in Consideration, you’re going to come across like a bully because you haven’t developed empathy for the other person yet. While you work on that, act like you’re only a 5 in Courage so you can step up the Consideration.
- Learn to see it from the other side. How would the starved strength respond to this situation? You know how a courageous person would respond. How about a considerate person? It’s going to feel strange, awkward, and unnatural until you get used to it. Any exercise feels that way at first, especially when it’s a muscle, movement, or, in this case, a skill you’re not accustomed to.
- Check your blind spots. We don’t always know where our weak spots are—they’re in a blind spot. Sometimes, we don’t even know where we have a strength that we’re not using. We need feedback to grow effectively. As people whom you trust—people who have an interest in your success and growth—what you’re good at and where you could do better. Then start to plan ways to incorporate their feedback in how you approach problems.
- Duel with your off hand. Try alternate approaches—make it interesting. Use a completely different strength, not just the starved strength. Use a design pattern you’re not familiar with. Work on effectively delegating the task to someone else. Use the problem as an opportunity to develop yourself.
I want to duel him left-handed. It’s the only way I can be satisfied. If I use my right, it’s over too quickly.
If you have to dial down one strength to develop another, don’t leave it dialed down. As you develop the other strength, it’s okay to dial it back up. Being a 12 in Courage is great if you’re also a 12 in Consideration.
Don’t ignore your strengths. Let them stand out. Use them to pull your weaknesses up into strengths.
It’s not easy to face your weaknesses, whether it’s an underdeveloped skill or an overplayed strength. It takes humility to admit that you’re not good at something and stick with it. It’s a lot easier to ignore it.