One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all.” ~ Peter F. Drucker, Managing Oneself
The importance of knowing and using your strengths in your career is illustrated in one of my favorite fables, the story of the animal school (Leo Buscaglia, Living, Loving & Learning, 1982):
“A rabbit, bird, fish, squirrel, duck, and so on, all decided to start a school. Everybody sat down to write a curriculum. The rabbit insisted that running had to be in the curriculum. The bird insisted that flying be in the curriculum. The fish insisted that swimming be in the curriculum. The squirrel insisted perpendicular tree climbing be in the curriculum. All the other animals wanted their specialty to be in the curriculum, too, so they put everything in and then made the glorious mistake of insisting that all the animals take all the courses. The rabbit was magnificent in running; nobody could run like the rabbit. But they insisted that it was good intellectual and emotional discipline to teach the rabbit flying. So they insisted that the rabbit learn to fly and they put him on this branch and said, ‘Fly, rabbit!’ And the poor old thing jumped off, broke a leg and fractured his skull. He became brain damaged and then he couldn’t run very well, either. So instead of an A in running, he got a C in running. And he got a D in flying because he was trying. And the curriculum committee was happy. The same way with the bird – he could fly like a freak all over the place, do loops and loops, and he was making an A. But they insisted that this bird burrow holes in the ground like a gopher. Of course he broke his wings and his beak and everything else and then he couldn’t fly. But they were perfectly happy to give him a C in flying, and so on.”
And so goes the story for all the other animals that, because they had to focus on developing their weaknesses, not only did they not succeed in the area of their weaknesses but they also started to fall back in their performance on areas that had been their strengths. Now each of the animals that used to be strong in something all passed the school in the areas of their weaknesses but had fallen back substantially in their overall performance.
The advice to focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses by leadership experts such as the late Peter Drucker is also backed up by extensive research from the Gallup Organization which shows that if you can discover and focus on your strengths you will excel in your work and career. Unfortunately, the Gallup research also shows that only 20 percent of people surveyed globally feel that they can use their strengths every day. (Buckingham, Marcus, and Donald O. Clifton, PhD. Now, Discover Your Strengths, 2001)
Do you know what your strengths are? How often do you make use of your strengths in your daily work?
If you are a manager, in your performance reviews do you focus enough on the strengths of your team members?
If you would like to learn more about how to recognize and use your strengths in your daily work or in the work of people you are managing, take a look at my book, The Boomerang Approach at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0615979769/