Short version, if you’re pressed for time:
Quit trying to shore up your weaknesses.
Do what you’re already good at doing, and build mutually-beneficial relationships with people who are good at doing complementary things.
Once you get in that mindset, take a fresh whack at that Eisenhower Matrix and think about where you will be best served applying your own best self and where you’ll be better off delegating to someone who’s good at different things.
That’s the short version.
When I was interviewing for my one and only big corporate job, part of the interview process included a Gallup profile.
My prospective boss had been an AT&T executive, back when AT&T used behavioral interviewing and talent assessments to guide employee career paths. I learned later that he and a colleague (also a former AT&T guy) were the only members of the executive team who used the approach in hiring.
I spent an hour on the phone with an assessor who asked me a bunch of questions, and then that assessor prepared a written report for my prospective boss.
I got the job, and I got a copy of the assessment report, which described me to a T.
When I asked why he used this approach and how it helped him in hiring, he explained it this way: You can teach people skills, but you can’t teach them to be different people. If you match people with work that fits naturally with who they already are, as people, then they’re more likely to be happy and the company is more likely to be successful.
By the time it was my turn to build a cohesive team in a high-stakes, compliance-driven setting, Gallup had a new, universally available tool to help me use a similar approach: Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Don Clifton (“father of Strengths psychology and inventor of CliftonStrenths”).
Convincing people to take the assessment was easy. People, in my experience, enjoy learning about themselves. The tool, even then, was simple and the report easy to understand.
Slightly harder? Getting the individual team members to agree to share their reports with fellow team members, and to look at the overall team strengths holistically. Harder, but we got there. We even had fun doing it.
What was almost impossible, though, was wiping clean the entrenched “shore up your weaknesses” mindset.
Second time I used this tool for building a team and developing a strategic plan? Same thing.
Third time? Ditto.
No matter how many times I’ve led this exercise that I’m going to describe, someone on the team invariably hangs on to the idea that shoring up weaknesses is a better professional development approach than leading with strengths and native talents.
Maybe that will be true for you, too; but give this a try, first:
You’ll need a one-minute timer, a piece of paper and something to write with – doesn’t matter what, because no one but you will ever see this work.
In the first round, write the sentence, “I use my strengths every day,” as many times as you can in 60 seconds.
In the second round, write that same sentence, “I use my strengths every day,” as many times as you can in 60 seconds, using your non-dominant hand.
Bonus: Do this as a group exercise, and instead of giving a minute for each round, time how long it takes for everyone in the group to write that sentence five times, first with the dominant hand, then with the non-dominant hand. In the second round, the timer runs until the last person is finished.
You are better, faster, and stronger doing what you naturally do best. Sure, you could learn to write with your non-dominant hand. But unless ambidexterity is a goal, with a specific purpose (something that will enhance or enrich your life in some specific way), then how is that investment a good use of your most precious and limited resource, time?
Curious to learn more?
The gold standard for discovering your strengths is still Gallup’s Clifton Strengths assessment, which has a few improvements since the early 2000s but is largely the same. That link will take you to the Gallup site where you can learn more about the work and invest in learning about yourself, if you choose: $19 for the “top five” assessment; $49 for the full 34 theme sequence and report; $20 for the hardcover book, that comes with a code to take the “top five” assessment online.
(My suggestion? Go for the full 34 theme sequence right away. I doubt you’ll regret it.)
More than 28 million people have taken the assessment, which makes for a huge, and hugely interesting, data set.
Still not sure (or working hard not to spend any money)? I get it. Here’s a different way of getting to the same idea, although this tool isn’t anything like the real deal from Gallup.
Use it as you see fit, perhaps to refine the way you think about yourself and how your relationships support reaching your goals.
Fair warning: The next five days are college move-in days for my daughter. Expect either short posts or re-posts of older content, probably with a fresh twist.
About this series:
For the month of August, as a birthday present to myself, I’m doing another daily writing challenge. This year, not unlike last year, it’s all about RE-committing to writing. So far that includes: Reengage, Reconsider, Reassess, Review, Redefine, Relish, Relay, Reinvent, Reevaluate, Reroute, Restore, Rediscover, Reflect, Remember, Reboot, and Revisit.