The more time that goes by, the more convinced I am that Marcus Buckingham is absolutely right when he says:
“people are dramatically more effective, fulfilled and successful when they are able to focus on the best of themselves.”
He calls it the strengths revolution, and says that the corporate mentality of focusing employee development on shoring up weaknesses is antiquated and ineffective.
This “focus on your strengths” philosophy is equally powerful for entrepreneurs. You want to use your strengths as major building blocks for the foundation of your business.
- If you are outgoing and love to meet with people, make sure that you work live events and speaking into your service business.
- If you are an introverted researcher and writer, an online business may fit your strengths well.
- If you are quick on your feet and articulate, you may want to integrate television into your PR strategy.
- If you love structure and processes, you may want to create a business that thrives with automation.
But even the most powerful strengths can backfire when you rely on them too much.
When strengths attack
A couple of months ago, I had a large number of presentations to deliver in a short time frame. I love to speak, and enjoy the entire process of structuring a presentation from concept to final slides. I can also improvise well, adding examples and stories on the fly. I do not need to have everything perfectly scripted in order to feel comfortable in front of a large group.
I relied so much on these strengths that I did not allow for adequate time to complete my presentations and have time to rest. I was sitting in a hotel room at 1am, still tweaking slides for an 8am meeting. And I was grumpy, exhausted and short of creativity.
I had relied on my ability to improvise so much that I had neglected a key concept:
In order for your strengths to flourish, you have to design an ideal environment.
In my own case, I have to build in enough design and planning time when creating presentations so that I have a few days to rest and assimilate the core message. When this happens, my ability to improvise really shines, since I know the basic content cold and can riff in new directions on the fly.
I often tease my friend Jeff Moriarty about attacking strengths. He is a force of nature here in the Phoenix area. He is great at designing creative, interactive and lively events. And he knows how to fire people up to get involved in their local community. The New Times of Phoenix described his crusade as “Trying to Forge a New Identity for Phoenix, 140 Characters at a Time.”
But his enthusiasm for creating sometimes runs up against pure physical limitations.
There are only so many hours a day. And so many units of energy per day.
His tremendous strength needs to be tempered by rest, grounding and pacing. And an annoying friend like me who will say “Jeff, do you think you may want to rest from the last 13 events you organized before launching the next 13?”
To make sure your strengths don’t attack, answer the following questions:
- What are my key strengths?
- What are the conditions that allow them to shine?
- What dilutes them?
- What happens if I lean too heavily on my strengths?
- Which skills do I need to counter-balance my strengths?
- If I don’t have them myself, who can I hire who has them?
- Who is a peer mentor that is aware of my strengths and will help me keep them sharp?
The last point is really important. You must have people in your life who will give you feedback and perspective. Charlie Gilkey does this for me — if he sees me start to improvise a lot of new ideas without building in planning, he calls me on it.
I am sure you have your own examples where relying too much on your strengths got you in hot water. What did you learn from the experience and how has it strengthened your business?
You can take the Strengths Finder assessment by purchasing the Strengthsfinder 2.0 book. There is an access code in the book that you can use to take an online assessment. The results are very illuminating.