Have you ever worked tirelessly to excel at something, only to be surpassed by someone else who does not even have to try? Maybe you put all your effort and weeks of practice into a sports play or a project at work. The bottom line is that some people are just better at certain things than others. I am 5’ 2” and will probably never play in the WNBA, no matter how hard I practice.
Wait. That’s not what we are told in this can-do, entrepreneurial society. If we work hard enough, can’t we achieve anything? Sure, more or less. We may be able to concentrate all our efforts on a particular goal and eventually reach it, but then we sacrifice effort that we could put towards other things.
Bestselling author Tom Rath explains this concept in his book StrengthsFinder 2.0, which our company used to facilitate a weekly book club discussion. His idea is that everyone has strengths, or inherent traits we build upon and utilize in our daily lives, often without even thinking about it. He claims we are most effective when we focus on developing our top strengths, rather than focusing on weaknesses. Sure, I could spend all of my time practicing basketball but honestly, I’d probably achieve much more if I spent time honing my ballet or gymnastics skills, because I already have some of the strengths of a ballerina, which I can use to my advantage.
Our company did a little experiment. Every employee and intern took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test, and we charted everyone’s top five strengths. We noticed a resounding commonality between top strengths. This is not surprising, given that we skew young (because of our 9 interns) with a startup mindset. However, there was noticeable variation between the strengths among certain groups, i.e. the marketing interns versus the sales team or the development team versus the customer service team, etc. We met in groups to discuss our top strengths and paired up with another employee to discuss similarities and differences in our strengths.
Every individual brings a certain set of strengths to a company, and the best companies utilize each persons’ top strengths as much as possible. We challenge your company to do a StrengthsFinder experiment. Who has what strengths? How can individuals best work with one another’s strengths? What strengths complement other strengths? Talk about it, brainstorm, and come up with a plan to maximize everyone’s opportunity to highlight their top strengths in their work.
So maybe you’re not the best strategizer but you have excellent ideas. We challenge you to partner up with someone who has complementary strengths to demonstrate the highest level of achievement. You may lead the brainstorming, but your partner will figure out how to choose ideas and execute them. Not only will your team become more effective, you all may discover new ways to work together and improve company dynamics.