By Reyna Matthes, Director
If you want to win at work and become exceptional in your chosen role, then you probably need to reject the orthodoxy on performance reviews and improvement. Instead of trying to turn weakness into strength, spend more time doing the things you’re already good at to become even better at them.
For example, how much energy is lost by focusing on a weakness, rather than further developing your strengths? The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t ask his principal violinist to spend time learning the cello. Rather, they work on timing and precision to accentuate their existing skills as a violinist. The same principle applies for organisational leaders. That’s not to say we should ignore our weaknesses! Take those on board and try to improve. But people who spend too much energy on improving weaknesses, are quick to burnout and become negative
The classic workplace review focuses on weaknesses in order to improve them. This comes from an idea that the best employees are the most well rounded – that the difference between their strengths and weaknesses is small – but that is one of several classic workplace performance concepts that researcher Marcus Buckingham wants us to throw out the window. Buckingham is widely-regarded as the world’s leading researcher and author on talent and unlocking potential through strengths. He spoke recently at the World Business Forum in Sydney, drawing from his book Nine lies about work: a freethinking leader’s guide to the real world. Buckingham’s work links business fundamentals – such as turnover rates, customer satisfaction, profits, and productivity – to the engagement levels of employees who work to their strengths. Which is why he is my favourite thought-leader in this area.
Buckingham wants to redefine how we think about strengths and weaknesses. Many of us will have tasks that we are capable of doing quite well but that we find boring and that drain us of enthusiasm and energy. Because we can do these jobs well, a traditional performance review would class them as strengths. But for Buckingham, these are weaknesses because they weaken us. And vice versa. Those things that enliven you, that allow you to flow at work and enjoy how you spend your time should be considered your strengths.
So this is his redefinition of strengths and weaknesses:
“A strength is an activity that strengthens you, and a weakness is an activity that weakens you.”
That makes each individual the best judge of what their own strengths and weaknesses are. Not the person interviewing you for a performance review, unfortunately.