Let’s work on our weaknesses, right? Wrong.
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
One of the key elements of motivation is perceived mastery. Did you ever have a burning desire to play more of a game/sports you are terrible at? Most probably not. Nobody likes to feel they are not good at what they do. “I’m good at this!” is usually the feeling that pushes us more towards that activity and the desire to become better.
In business, though, this concept is rarely utilized. Overwhelming majority of businesses keep talking about increasing motivation of their employees, then move on to telling people what they are not good at. They adapt development programs which mainly focus on areas of weakness for improvement. To their surprise, many find out that their efforts have been counter-productive. According to the study conducted by Corporate Leadership Council, when managers emphasized weaknesses the performance declined by 27%.  Not exactly the improvement one is looking for.
What is the alternative? Doing the opposite! Focusing on people’s strengths and utilizing them properly is the key for a high performing organization. Focusing on strengths is found to be associated with greater confidence, energy, resilience and less stress. When we look at the Gallup poll numbers we see that the chances of being engaged at work is 73% when the organization’s leadership focuses on strengths. This number drops down to a scary 9% when the organization’s leadership does not focus on strengths. This is a tremendous gap given the cost of disengagement.
Does this mean we should never focus on weaknesses? No. There are some weaknesses that can be considered “fatal flaws” and can be detrimental for organizations success if not transformed. But besides those flaws, I believe we are better off focusing on people’s strengths and utilizing them properly for better performance and wellbeing.
Changing the focus from seeing weaknesses to seeing strengths will take some time though. Majority of us spent all our lives in a macrosystem that focused on where we are behind the norm. Rather than putting our effort into where we have the potential to achieve greatness, we struggled to catch the average in the areas we are not good at. I think it’s about time we leave the cult of the average and train our minds to search for strengths in ourselves and in others.
 Corporate Leadership Council (2002). Performance management survey. Washington, DC: Author.
 Linley, P. A., Nielsen, K. M., Gillett, R., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Using signature strengths in pursuit of goals: Effects on goal progress, need satisfaction, and well-being, and implications for coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 5 (1), 6–15.
 Poll dated 2006