A common thread emerges whenever I ask people to reflect on how they have grown in their personal and professional lives, and what they will do to progress and grow further.
Most have worked towards their goals via socially accepted conventional routes (like gaining the requisite academic and professional training), and by plugging perceived weaknesses or inadequacies.
A young graduate enrolled in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) course to climb the corporate ladder in a multinational corporation, while a mid-career executive was sent for “continuous” training to fix the “training gaps” in the roles he was expected to fill throughout his career.
It is all well and good to give someone the tools (knowledge and skills) to do his or her work.
However, many people turn apprehensive when I next ask if they are doing what they do best every day, loving what they do, and doing what they love. They are not so sure.
Working on weaknesses makes you less weak
Convention has most of us spending vast amounts of time and energy to fix our weaknesses or to “sharpen our saws” in order to grow. Our bosses send us for training on areas we are weak in. We send our kids to tuition classes to fix their weaknesses in subjects they have not scored well in.
In our weakness-obsessed society today, we somehow believe that by working on our weaknesses, we can become strong. The truth is, we simply become “not so weak”.
If you too have been trying to advance in your life and career by working on your weaknesses, it is time to try a different route. You can begin from today to progress and grow by focusing on what is right, not what is wrong.
You are likely to need less effort if you work on what is right — your talents and strengths — rather than on what is wrong — your weaknesses.
Working on strengths makes you super good
The best advice Jim Clifton, chairman and chief executive officer of Gallup Inc, received came from his dad, Dr Donald Clifton, who said: “If you want to soar limitlessly, you can’t do so by fixing your weaknesses, but rather by using your God-given strengths.”
Dr Clifton is the father of strengths-based psychology, and he created the Clifton StrengthsFinder, a tool that has been used by more than 10 million people around the globe to uncover their strengths.
He identified 34 talent themes that relate to what intrinsically makes one tick.
His research shows that when a person’s dominant themes are tapped and worked on properly, he or she will excel in what they do.
Strengths, in this context, refer to the ability to consistently perform at a near-perfect level.
Talents are one’s naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behaviour — often seen as one’s potential. Talents become strengths when they are combined with the right skills, knowledge and practice.
Peak performance is achievable when you are able to engage and build upon your potential to let it flourish. You will be more successful when you focus on what you are innately good at, not what you are not good at.
You will be happier doing what you love and loving what you do. Focus on what is strong, not what is wrong. Everyone should therefore aim to identify their strengths and use them to do what they do best every day.
Using strengths to improve staff engagement
People who are able to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.
Employee engagement is paramount to driving organisational success.
In a Gallup study of workplaces in more than 140 countries, from 2011-2012, Singapore’s workforce was the most actively “disengaged” among her counterparts in South-east Asia, accounting for 15 per cent of the workforce while a large 76 per cent was simply not engaged.
Not only do disengaged staff not add value to the bottom line, they also compromise the contributions and positivity of their engaged peers. There is much scope for Singapore’s employers to improve staff engagement.
According to a Gallup 2005 study, if you want engaged staff, focus on the strengths of your staff. There is only a 1 per cent chance of disengagement when your manager focuses on your strengths.
Conversely, managers who ignore their staff run a 40 per cent chance of having actively disengaged staff, while managers who focus on staff weaknesses have a 22 per cent chance of disengaged staff.
Organisations can incorporate strengths-based practices in the workplace to improve communication, foster better teamwork, and cultivate stronger workplace relationships, leading to higher employee engagement and, hence, enhanced productivity and return on investment (ROI).
Article by Lim Kim Pong, the only Gallup Certified Platinum Coach in Singapore, and Principal Coach at StrengthsAsia, which coaches organisational teams and individuals in strengths-based thinking and practice for peak performance. For more information, visit www.strengthsasia.com