Strengths or areas to improve?

More than 10 years ago – time goes so fast – I heard about Peter Drucker talking about focussing on our and other people strengths instead of weaknesses – nowadays called “areas to improve”. One of his quote, among many, says:

“It takes far less energy to move from first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.” Business guru Peter Drucker (1909-2005)

At that time, I thought: “Wow, I like that!” I felt so relieved to be allowed to forget about all these areas I was not good at. Instead, I should focus on developing my strengths. It gave me a sense of peace – I was ok as I was. I could continue to work hard but on things which were easy and fun for me. At that time, I was running my own business. I was lucky I could create a team who could compensate where I was not good at, while I would run at full speed where I could make a real difference.

Then I moved back as an employee in a corporate environment. Without noticing it, I slowly started again to worry about my “areas to improve” – I did not feel so secure any more. Moreover, I realised that people around me were doing the same. Everybody knows about performance evaluation forms used on average once a year. Most of them cover a full range of competencies.

Think about it for a moment. How are you reacting when your manager rates you with a few “achieved over expectations”, some “achieved as expected” and a few “achieved, but under expectations”? On which ones should you focus your efforts? Do you ask your manager how you can do even better where you over-achieve or do you argue on the “as expected” and “under expectations”? What are YOU expecting? Being an over-achiever on all criteria? Is that realistic? Does it make sense?

Most of us have this tendency to try to have a balanced evaluation. But, would that make anything good for us and/or the company we are working for? Read again the quote at the beginning. What is more efficient?

Now I am back on my own – it is even more important that I work on my strengths to be successful – no one can build a successful business relying on average strengths. As a coach, I wish to spread this concept – I wish I can help my coachees to recognise and develop their strengths – I’d love see them reaching success in their “area of competence”. As a coach for project managers, I wish my coachees can recognise the strengths of their team members and I wish they know which type of projects will allow them to show their full potential.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when you something interests you, you find a lot about it even without looking? This happened to me with this “focus on strengths” concept:

  1. I met a woman in a leadership training and we happen to talk about the concept – I remembered about Peter Drucker
  2. I took a class as part of my coaching training where I heard about a book called “Strengths finder 2.0”
  3. I went to a PMI conference in Basel “Wanted: leaders” where the presenter most important point was “From hard work to heart work”, where he explains that a leader is anyone who know who he is and where he wants to go.

I will come back to leadership in an upcoming post – especially leadership skills for project managers. But, the starting point is: “do you know what are your strengths? Think about what you do easily and naturally, things you see other struggling with without understanding why they have so much problems. Think about what you do with pleasure, what puts a smile on your face, what gives you a lot of energy. There is a good chance that these activities are linked to your strengths.

What are the benefits of knowing and using our strengths? Enjoying what we do, feeling we are at the right place, being complete both at work and at home, getting satisfaction from our work, higher self-confidence – the list is long.

I will conclude with a last quote:

Know your strengths. Apply them to areas in your organisation where you can make a contribution. Make sure your values and the values of the organisation are compatible.” Business guru Peter Drucker (1909-2005)