Your Reflected Best Self™
Getting a deeper understanding of your strengths
Think of your national athletics team at the Olympics. All the individuals in it are exceptionally talented – but at different things. The javelin thrower is able to throw his javelin powerfully and release it from his grasp at exactly the right time; the marathon runner has phenomenal endurance; and the sprinter has powerful leg muscles so that she can explode out of the starting blocks. No team manager would encourage the sprinter to start throwing javelins, nor would he assign the endurance athlete to the 100 meter race. If he did, he'd be ignoring their strengths, and expecting them to deliver results from an area of weakness. Yet managers do this every day in business! If you're not convinced, think back to your last appraisal. Did your boss praise the way that you carried out various key aspects of your role? Or do the "areas for improvement" he or she identified stand out more clearly in your mind? The chances are that the criticisms are most memorable. And what this means is that, at best, you're working on your improving your weaknesses, and you're ignoring your strengths.
Why Strengths Matter
Of course, managers clearly need to point out areas of team members' performance which are not up to standard, if that area is an essential part of the job. But there are two good reasons why ignoring people's strengths can fail to yield the results that managers want: i.e. increased performance. First, focusing on weaknesses often doesn't encourage people to work on those weaknesses: negative feedback generally puts us on the defensive. And, for many, it's natural to deny that the observations are true, or to dismiss them as irrelevant, by telling themselves that that aspect of their work isn't important anyway. Either way, they're not motivated to do much about it. On the other hand, most of us respond well to praise. We...
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