Here’s a pop quiz for you.
When trying to improve myself, I focus on:
a) Advancing my strengths
b) Overcoming my weaknesses
If you are like most people, you’d have answered B.
And you’d be wrong.
In case the ever growing self-help sections of our bookstores didn’t give it away, we live in a society that is obsessed with trying to turn us into things that we’re not. (I just saw a blog post yesterday telling introverts how to become extroverts – what if we LIKE being introverted?).
If it’s not the bookstore, it’s our schools with their set curriculums or our jobs with their one-size-fits-all career paths, or our parents, nosey neighbors, or well intentioned friends. Everyone seems to have an idea on how we can be better. The problem is, somewhere along the way the things that we really are good at seem to get lost.
Worse, after interviewing millions of people on the subject of strengths, you know what The Gallup Organization found? If you’re missing the fundamental talents required to be great at a particular activity, "practice practice practice" will only take you so far.
If you’re lousy with numbers, you’re probably not going to become the next great accountant.
I’ve found the research from Gallop’s strengths-based development refreshing. They don’t call overcoming your weaknesses self-improvement, they call it damage control. If you lose every job you get because you can’t get along with people, well you’re probably going to have to work on the social skills a bit. But, don’t imagine you’re going to become the next Oprah.
Instead, save your energy to focus on those things that you have a natural talent for because these are the areas that you can truly become great at if only you invest a little time in them. And they’re also the areas that you’re going to be happiest. In other words, stop wasting your life away on skills that you’ll get little gain from just because somebody else said you should be good at them, and instead focus on the things that you truly love.
As Ayn Rand taught us, we do best not only for ourselves but also for others by being selfish and focusing on what we want and what we do best. Gallup found that when we’re given the opportunity to do what we do best at work, we’re not only the happiest, but we’re the most productive and contribute to the highest number of satisfied customers. In other words, an organization’s best employees are the ones who are enabled to do what they do best.
So, yet again, compelling research that backs up the great success of Scrum’s self-organizing teams where the team itself is best positioned to know what it does best, and allows each member to determine how they can best contribute, and get to it.
Although, I am a little disappointed, because I was still holding out hope of becoming a princess when I grew up…
To learn more about the research and how to find your own strengths:
» Now, Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton
» StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath