How to Leverage Your Strengths for Peak Performance

Published: 04th October 2005
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Ask almost any business leader how to maximize performance

and you'll hear, "tap into employees' strengths." Yet when

it comes to their own careers, many executives still focus

most of their personal development efforts on shoring up

areas of weakness.

>From your earliest years you were programmed to believe that

your greatest potential for growth was in your areas of greatest deficiency. Think about it. In school, if you received an A in English and a C in Math, where would you focus most of your attention?

This isn't necessarily wrong. In fact, everyone can and

must develop a basic competency in multiple important areas. The problem is that this philosophy tends to perpetuate a focus on weakness long after you've achieved the basic competency that you need.

A Focus on Strengths Leads to Higher Performance

Today's business environment offers tremendous opportunity

for advancement. But to take advantage of this opportunity,

you need to recognize your areas of greatest competency,

work to develop those to their fullest potential, then match your strengths to the right role.

To maximize your effectiveness, follow the example of high performing organizations. The most successful companies identify their core competencies, then work to develop those in order to maximize their potential. Functions that the organization performs less well are outsourced, markets that don't fit core competencies are abandoned and divisions that don't add to the company's strengths are sold or spun off.

Attaining your next level of performance involves

identifying and enhancing your core competencies rather than attempting to remedy every weakness. Delegate every possible activity that doesn't fit your strengths, and only attend to areas of weakness that stand in the way of doing what you do best.

First Determine Your Strengths

While it seems that most of us should be aware of our strengths, many of us take them for granted. In doing what seems absolutely natural and logical to us, we fail to recognize that we are actually creating outcomes far

superior to what others might have expected.

So how do you determine your greatest strengths?

One way is to examine your own past and present performance. What comes easily to you that might be more difficult for others -- negotiating a tough contract, analyzing financial data, creating an advertising strategy, leading a team?

Or you could use feedback analysis as described by

management guru Peter Drucker. Whenever you undertake a key activity or make an important decision, write down your expectations. Then, a few months later, compare your expectations to the results you achieved.

Colleagues, family members and friends can also serve as resources for helping you determine your strengths. Actively solicit feedback from those who know you well. Ask them where they feel you perform best.

Match Your Strengths to Your Tasks

Once you know your strengths, you need to figure out how

best to use them.

Often the difference between success and failure is not learning additional skills but rather figuring out how, given your strengths, you can adjust yourself to the demands of your specific position. This is particularly important when the nature of your job changes.

Jack was a star sales manager for an educational products company. His ability to form strong personal connections and develop people resulted in lower turnover and significantly increased sales.

Jack also worked well with his colleagues, leading brainstorming sessions that resulted in a new integrated product and service offering, with significant profit for the company. Jack's abilities caught the attention of company executives who saw him as a natural leader. When the opportunity came for significant career advancement, Jack jumped at it.

Yet a few months into his new job as regional manager, Jack found himself becoming more and more frustrated with his work. He productivity was down and his former sense of eagerness to get to work each morning had disappeared.

As we worked with Jack, we began to see that his strengths

were largely interpersonal and creative. He shone as he

worked with his team, made presentations and coached his

direct reports. But most of his work now involved written reports, formal strategy sessions and routine management tasks that had little to do with Jack's greatest competencies.

After pinpointing his strengths, Jack began the work of redesigning his job so that it fit better with his abilities. He began to spend more time in the field, visiting customers and prospects to gain a first-hand understanding of their needs.

He used his natural team-building and creative abilities to bring together representatives of the sales and product design departments to brainstorm ways of better serving customer needs. He found an assistant who excelled at writing reports and organizing data and began delegating these tasks as much as possible.

With this new focus on his areas of greatest competency,

Jack felt a renewed satisfaction in his work. His

productivity and performance improved greatly.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and while there will

be many who encourage you to work on your deficiencies, the

key to high performance is to look for what you do

uncommonly well and focus there.

Your greatest successes will come from placing yourself in a position where your strengths can meet opportunities for their regular expression. And, as maximizing your strength becomes a habit, you'll be in a better position to help those around you maximize their abilities, leading to greater productivity and satisfaction for you, your team and your organization.

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