In my work as a certified Gallup “Strengths-Coach” the most common question I get asked at the beginning of the process of incorporating strengths-based performance goals for organizations is ‘how can an employee be successful if we ignore their weaknesses?” short and sweet answer is ‘they can’t” long and sweet answer is “they can’t – nor can they be successful if you spend all your time and focus on improving their weaknesses. To thrive, individually and as an organization you won’t achieve success by only trying to fix your weaknesses.” You also need to leverage their strengths. Research on strengths at work shows that the use of strengths is connected to greater work satisfaction, engagement, and greater productivity.

Strengths are something you’re good at, something that takes less effort than things in which you don’t excel. The best way to consider how you effectively manage weaknesses is to study how you navigate doing something you don’t like to do but that needs to be done daily for one reason or the other.

For example, my non-disputed domestic weakness is that I am a bad cook. I can make a dinner but it takes so much more effort and time for me to produce a poor to mediocre outcome, it seems like a complete waste and impacts my mood negatively (and anyone around me) as well. My husband, on the other hand, using the exact same resources, ingredients and facilities can produce a picture-perfect savory dish with comparative ease. Having my husband cook every evening meal wasn’t really an equitable option (for him). So we used our standard democratic method for dividing all big or bad tasks in two and each of us taking responsibility for half the week’s evening meals equally, with one day designated for dining out.

I fulfill my end of providing dinner three times a week by either purchasing take-away or I induce my husband to choose to cook more than his “share” by offering to take his turns at grocery shopping and the vacuuming, two things I actually love to do and am quite good at.  These are the same strategies utilized to successfully manage weaknesses in business situations either to “buy it” it as exampled by my purchase of prepared meals or “trade for it” as my offer to vacuum in exchange for cooking. Finding solutions where everyone can utilize their own strengths in a team to achieve mutual objectives benefits both the physical and mental outcome of a situation.

Ten years ago research showed that 63% of the working population believed that they would achieve greater success at work by fixing their weaknesses. I am pleased to report that a recent poll reflects a positive shift, where 64% of the working population now believe that building on their strengths will make them more successful at work.  The shift in strengths focus is attributed in large part to employees that state they get to use their strengths each day, report that are more likely to look forward to going to work and as a result feel more successful.


Michelle Smirnoff

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