Strengths or weaknesses? Which should you focus on?

I was talking with a colleague a few weeks ago – and he had decided to take some aggressive action to make progress in his life. He started by asking those close to him to give him 2 lists: his top 5 core strengths and his top 5 key weaknesses.

My first thought was, how courageous.

I’ve done similar things before, and I’m not sure I’d go out and do it again. Oh, I’ll bite the bullet and ask for strengths, but it takes more courage to ask for weaknesses other people see in me. I mean, I know I have them, and others know I have them – so do we need to talk about them?

Lately though, I’ve begun to wonder. Is it worth our effort and energy to focus on removing or overcoming our weaknesses? Or does that detract from focusing on developing and learning to leverage our strengths and skills?

As human beings, living on earth, we have a finite supply of time and energy. And most people I know are trying to figure out how to leverage and make the most of both in their lives. So, I wonder, if we focus on our weaknesses, and dealing with those, are we really just getting in our way? Is focusing on the weaknesses just another form of distraction from our real goals?

If we focus on learning to manage and control and use our strengths, our skills, effectively in all circumstances, would that move us closer to where we want to be, to whom we want to be? If we focus on our strengths, will the weaknesses go away? or become less disabling? without direct attention?

Personally, I find for myself and my clients, focusing on strengths is where our power, enthusiasm, and energy come from. Focusing on our weaknesses tends to be disappointing, depressing, and draining. Focusing on the weaknesses also tends to provide excuses for not moving ahead, for not living or having the life we want. However, focusing on strengths – that’s empowering. Dare I say it, satisfying.

I have spent a lifetime looking at both strengths and weaknesses, of individuals, groups, systems, organizations. Its easy to say “this is broken, fix it”. Its more challenging to say “this is good, how do we make it better, use it more effectively.” And now, I’m wondering, does the real power to change truly lie in our strengths, and focusing our efforts there?

What do you think?

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Client Stories

 I was looking to make large changes in my life, both job and city.  I was a happy midwestern resident for nearly 30 years but wanted to see what life on a coast was like and get a dream job.  This was a tall order and going into it I thought I would have to make large compromises on parts of my dreams to get any of it.  

I went to Lori to help me achieve these dreams.  It was the best decision I made.

She focused on two things right out of the gate:
  1. clarify my goals, both personal and professional
  2. get me to stop selling myself short

These twin achievements allowed me to approach my hunt with confidence, patience and focus.  My original dream job was to try and combine my technical joys with a personal one.  I enjoy large scale data processing with cutting edge tools, music and baseball.  Through the tools Lori taught me and helped me unearth in myself I got that gig that would have fallen into day dream territory before our work together.  

And yeah, there's platinum records on the walls of my lobby and I have tons of data to process.

Pat Christopher, Intelligence Engineer, Seattle, WA