This book has been sat on my bookshelf for a long time. I had been intending to read it but was also wondering what else it might be able to tell me when I’m quite the strengths enthusiast already.
I should have known better than to make assumptions because as the blurb on the front of my edition says: ‘within these pages is a simple yet revolutionary philosophy of business and management.’
Chapter one starts with some myth busting. Here’s a summary:
1. Fixing weaknesses will make everything alright.
Is this something you believe or accidentally approach life with? There is so much data and evidence out there now that shows us that focusing on our weaknesses has minimal impact and is mostly just an exercise that tires us out. We might see a slight change but it will pale in significance to the changes that happen when we focus on our strengths. But when it comes down to it do we actually use this approach? I’m going to guess we don’t… at least not as much as we could do.
2. Let the strengths take care of themselves.
We often think that when a talent in someone becomes apparent, we can then just wait and watch it develop in them because it is something that is so natural. However, a talent can only become a strength when we give it attention and focus. Without that, it can wither and either become underused and no longer that noticeable when alongside others, or can go into overdrive and actually turn into a weakness from overuse. Getting the best from our strengths means knowing how to drive them at the right speed, at the right time.
3. Success is the opposite of failure.
It’s very easy for us to live in a world where there is an opposite to everything. Right is the opposite of wrong, success is the opposite of failure, good health is the opposite of illness. This leads us to believe that if we fix one of them, we get the other. For example, if we find out what makes people fail, then we can be sure to succeed. This is actually not logical or that useful because studying how people fail only makes us well versed in failure. To really know how people succeed, we need to be studying those who are succeeding. (Disclaimer for this part – I’m a bit fan of failure and I know it plays a huge part in moving us towards success, and yet it’s still true that looking at it in isolation won’t shed light on the secret to people’s successes, just a part of the journey before they get to the desired destination, and not in itself an answer to how they finally get there.)
4. Everyone can do anything they put their minds to.
I grew up in a generation who were being told they could do anything they wanted to. The trouble is, that’s not quite true is it? My husband can’t be a pilot because of his eyesight, my dad can’t be a professional cricketer because of his health and I can’t be head of sales in the company of my choice because I’m not wired to be brilliant at it. The first two examples involved things that are largely out of an individual’s control. The third, seems like it shouldn’t be – that if I just worked hard enough and tried to improve myself more then I could in fact do it. But this is a story of the difference between good and great. I could do everything in my power to wow people in that role, but what it would come down to is that it would be utilising a weakness that would also be constantly draining me and not allowing me to flourish through using my strengths. It’s a lose lose for everyone.
The rest of the book shows us that: “Managing our weaknesses allows our strengths to overpower them, ultimately making them irrelevant.”
We struggle to believe this can be true too don’t we? The messages we hear are too often ‘try harder,’ ‘just keep at it a bit longer,’ or ‘it’s worth the pain to see some improvement.’ Now I’m not saying we should shy away from doing hard things. But there is a difference between persevering with something that is going to give us miniscule joy and improvement compared with working on something we are innately brilliant at and will continue to feel energised by and see exponential growth in if we instead focus on that.
So many more thoughts on this and so many other strengths resources I would love to share with you, but for now, if you want a good overview on why strengths matter and just how life changing they can be individually and in the workplace then I recommend this as a quick but detailed overview on just that.