A Coaching Power Tool By Jasmine Vincent, Executive Coach, SINGAPORE
What Are Your Strengths vs. Weaknesses?
Definition of Strengths
According to the Cambridge dictionary, “strengths” is defined as the ability to do things that need a lot of physical or mental effort. And according to Gallup, a “strength” is the ability to consistently produce a nearly perfect positive outcome in a specific task.
Why Strengths Matter
Our strengths are the product of our talents and the skills, knowledge, and practice we invested in them. That is why any task related to our strengths feels effortless or renders much lesser effort. By focusing on our strengths, we can be more efficient and confident, have more direction and hope, and be more productive. Essentially, focusing on our strengths leads us to excellence.
What Research Shows
1Gallup’s five decades of research have found that when people use their talents and strengths, they are:
- 6x as likely to be engaged in their jobs
- 6x as likely to strongly agree that they have the opportunity to do what they do the best everyday
- 3x as likely to report having an excellent quality of life
2In a study of 49,495 business units with 1.2 million employees across 22 organizations in seven industries and 45 counties, Gallup also found that teams that implemented strengths-based development saw the following business improvement:
- 10%-19% increase in sales
- 14%-29% increase in profit
- 3%-7% increase in engaged employees
- 6 to 16 point decrease In turnover (in low turnover organizations)
- 26 to 72 point decrease In turnover (in high turnover organizations)
- 22%-59% decrease in safety accidents
Examples of Strengths at Play
Here are some examples of strengths at play:
- A customer service representative who puts the upset customer at ease every time.
- A team leader who always leaves a team inspired after every get-together.
- A real estate agent who consistently closes sales because of his ability to create a win-win situation between the buyer and the seller.
- A project manager who always manages to shift timelines well and get projects to deliver on time.
- A waitress who consistently offer excellent service and notices the needs of the diners.
Clues to Strengths
If your strengths are at play in a task or situation, it is most likely that you will experience the following:
- You feel energized by it.
- It feels effortless to you (but not for some others).
- You look forward to repeating it.
- You are in a flow.
- You learn something very easily.
Definition of Weakness
According to the Cambridge dictionary, “weakness” is a particular part or quality of someone that is not good or effective. Gallup defines “weakness’ as talents or strengths that do not come naturally to us, and that weakness gets in the way of success.
Knowing Our Weaknesses
Having a clear understanding of our weaknesses requires one to have a good amount of self-awareness. In organizations, 360-degree feedback surveys3 are often used for leaders and help get the pulses on the areas of their weaknesses. There is also a more straightforward way to find out – ask yourself:
- Do you feel drained when you are performing that role or task?
- Do your lack of intensity of a particular talent ever undermine your success?
If you answer yes to the above, it is likely that to be an area of weakness. Here are some examples of weaknesses:
- A nurse who struggles to empathize with the needs of patients
- A leader who sees it more important to advance his agenda than the shared purpose of his team or the company
- A hotel guest relations officer who finds it frustrating to make guests happy
- A salesperson who finds it uncomfortable to talk about sales targets
- A lawyer who finds it difficult and nerve-wracking to put together a case
Managing Our Weaknesses
Focusing on developing our strengths does not mean that we should ignore our weaknesses. That will make matters worse. Our weaknesses will continue to stand in the way of what we want to accomplish, and we need to deal with them.
There are some strategies to manage our weaknesses:
- Claim them. Develop clarity on what your weaknesses are and how they get in your way.
- Minimize the effect. If you can, avoid putting yourself in situations where your weaknesses may be at play.
- Find others who complement you, i.e. people who are strong in your areas of weaknesses. For example, if you think deeply and may overthink more than necessary, partner with someone who will move you to action.
- Focus on the outcome and do it. Sometimes, we do not have a choice, and in those situations, we need to summon other areas of our strengths to achieve the outcome.
Know-How Our Strengths vs. Weaknesses Are Expressed in Our Day-To-Day
To achieve excellence, one needs to develop self-awareness of what our greater and lesser talents are and invest in our talents to become strengths. We need to know how our strengths and weaknesses are expressed in our day-to-day, and we need to self-regulate in areas that get in the ways of our success.
Here are some examples of applications:
- A coach who struggles to listen to emotionally charged personal issues (on relationships, financial burdens, etc.) can focus on the executive or organizational coaching
- A salesperson who finds it challenging to wine and dine in networking events can develop one-on-one meetings with prospects and clients to build relationships with them.
By knowing our strengths and weaknesses, we are also more emotionally intelligent 4 when working with different people in different situations. For leaders, using a developmental profiling tool like CliftonStrengths® is a shorthand to helping them individualize to the people they manage. For example:
- If a leader has an exceptionally talented staff in the Empathy talent theme, they can use this staff to get a pulse of the team members. The leader should also ensure that this staff can express themself emotionally and check in with the staff often, asking the staff, “how do you feel”.
- If a leader has an exceptionally talented staff in the Responsibility talent theme, they can lean on this person to take psychological ownership and do what was committed. However, the leader must ensure that this staff is not overcommitting or taking on too much burden, out of guilt or inability to say no.
Focusing on Managing Strengths vs. Weaknesses
By focusing on strengths and managing weaknesses, people can become more effective, happy, and successful. It is an approach that can maximize our greatest potential and lessen the frustration of mediocre progress.
A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all. Peter Drucker
1Gallup: Science of CliftonStrengths
2Harvard Business Review: Developing Employees’ Strengths Boosts Sales, Profit, and Engagement
3Harvard Business Review: Most Leaders Know Their Strengths — but Are Oblivious to Their Weaknesses
4Inc: 10 Qualities of People With High Emotional Intelligence
5Gallup: An Introduction to the Empathy® CliftonStrengths Theme
6Gallup: An Introduction to the Responsibility® CliftonStrengths Theme