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A dreamer to the core. A thinker. A writer. A marketer. A poet. A management guru in the making! A keen observer of business, organizations, leaders, society, economic environment, consumers, and innovation. A confirmed maverick who loves to turn conventional wisdom upside down!

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Focusing on our strengths is key to excellence

I just finished reading “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. It is a truly wonderful book and very practical too. You must read it if you haven’t yet.

Majority of us spend enormous amount of time on fixing our weaknesses. Typically, our attention is weakness centric. We hardly focus on our strengths. As a result, we miss utilizing our real talents in life and instead spend better part of our life in trying to turn weaknesses into strengths. But it never works.

None of us is born perfect and neither can we become perfect. Everyone will have his sets of strengths and weaknesses. No two persons are same. Everyone is unique in the way he thinks and responds to a given situation. So doesn’t it make sense to focus on our uniqueness to live a fulfilled and productive life? Why fret over something we don’t have? Why can’t we simply focus on what we have?

A very simple example: You have 2 meter cloth which you want to stitch into a shirt. But it takes 2.5 meter to make a shirt. Will it make any difference if you sulk or fret over lack of enough cloth to stitch a shirt? In any case you cannot stitch a shirt for yourself with the cloth you have and if you are hell-bent on stitching it anyway then definitely it will not fit you properly. Instead, if you take 2 meters of cloth and decide to stitch something that fits you and also doesn’t require more cloth than you have, will not it be more fruitful, productive, and satisfying?

The key to success and greatness lies in playing to our strengths and managing around our weaknesses. Remember that managing around weakness is not about turning weakness to strength rather it is about working on our weakness just enough to bring it to acceptable level of performance. The essence lies in spending majority of our time in sharpening our natural strengths and spending a small amount of time to bring our weakness to acceptable level of performance. It is all about excellence through strengths and average performance in areas of weaknesses.

So if a manager is great in planning and strategy but is weak in communication and execution then it would be better to focus on his strengths and work with someone who is great at communication and execution to create a synergy of strengths. Moreover, it would be important to bring the communication and execution skills to a minimum acceptable level so that the weaknesses don’t become burdens that reduce the impact of strengths. But starting to spend more and more time on making communication and execution his strengths – when he has no natural talents of either of them – is not a good strategy.

This strength centered perspective makes a lot of sense in the real world. But key to success with this strategy is a clear understanding of one’s natural talents, and then working to gain knowledge and related skill-set to make it a rock solid strength. If our understanding of our strengths is flawed or biased, this strength centered mindset may not do anything spectacular for us. Being honest to self as well as having self-knowledge is vital.

So the strength-centered mantra is very simple:
  1. Honestly identify your natural talents.
  2. Acquire relevant knowledge.
  3. Hone your skills.
  4. Play to your strengths.
  5. Manage around your weaknesses.

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Comments on "Focusing on our strengths is key to excellence"


Blogger Ajit Chouhan said ... (7:31 PM) : 

I hope U've got the answer to the questions you raised...Anyways Marcus is a good writer.


Blogger Mayank Krishna said ... (1:43 AM) : 

Yes boss, all questions answered :-)


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