The college recruiter watched as the promising young player walked onto the field to display his legendary batting prowess. As he swung at one pitch after the other, he looked awkward and hardly made contact with the ball. The recruiter’s disappointment was palpable as he had heard great things about this player’s ability. The player was frustrated because he was worn out from working non-stop with a batting coach to shore up the weaknesses in his swing. His father couldn’t take it anymore. He walked out onto the field and whispered in his son’s ear. On the next pitch, . . .
On the next pitch, the stadium resounded with the crack of the bat. The winning swing was back. Most people focus on improving their weaknesses and spend little time developing strengths. Corporate managers have universally focused on helping their employees improve their weaknesses and leave the strengths alone.
Let me challenge you to reverse this thinking. Significantly better results flow from the effort you put into building your strengths.
This is the polar opposite of how most people operate but it makes sense intuitively. And besides, you will enjoy working on your strengths much more that correcting your weaknesses. As the player’s father whispered, “Remember what you love about the game. Swing the bat your way.”
Just because you are good at something does not mean it is your strength. When I was growing up my parents pushed me to become an engineer because I was good at math and a strong analytical thinker. I didn’t even know any engineers. In fact, I didn’t know many college graduates. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. I started in engineering and finished 4 ½ years later because I did not know any better. I even passed the exam and became a licensed professional engineer. Yet detailed work sitting at a desk all day wears me out. Engineering and detailed desk work are not my strengths.
Marcus Buckingham describes strengths as follows: “Strengths are not activities you’re good at, they’re activities that strengthen you. A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours.”
Based on this definition, playing to your strengths leaves you energized. It is something you can do all day long and still have energy. It is not necessarily something you are good at but most people do develop their skills in this area because they work at it and enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like work to them.
On the other hand, if you do something for any period of time and it leaves you feeling worn out, this is probably not a strength, no matter how well you do it.
I grew up a shy young man. I never asked questions in school and I hated to talk in class. I still struggle with walking into a group of strangers or introducing myself even in a networking situation. You would never expect public speaking to be a strength for me, but it is. I love it. I am energized getting ready for a speech and on top of the world when it is over. When I was younger, you would never have expected this to be the case.
Look for ways to play to your strengths more often during the day. Find others that get strength from those things that weaken you and that don’t enjoy the things that strengthen you. You can team up and both play to your strengths. Everyone wins.
You will not be able to play to your strengths 100% of the time, but be purposeful in finding ways to spend more time in the areas that energize you and minimize the time spent on activities that drain you. You will enjoy your work more and will experience greater success.
Love the game. Get your winning swing back!