Saturday, February 27, 2010

Strengths And Weaknesses

Last year, I read Tom Rath's book StrengthsFinder 2.0. I highly recommend it. Small book, big impact! It essentially provides readers with a means to discover and focus on their assets rather than their liabilities. Rath correctly asserts that we're a society obsessed with identifying and improving weaknesses when we should be building on our strengths.

It's true isn't it? All these tools that help us identify weaknesses, all so we can develop plans which (if we're lucky) will result in only marginal improvement. As a lifelong Celtics fan, I try to imagine what it was like for KC Jones to coach Larry Bird. Can't you just see KC telling Larry to focus on improving his dunking ability rather than his three-point shooting or passing game - just a few of the strengths that made Bird among the best to ever play the game. Of course not. In fact it sounds kind of silly when you think about it that way, but Rath would argue that that's our mindset.

It's not only more fun to work on improving areas that come easily to you, but the rewards will be greater as well. I recall working with a colleague years ago on a project where we implemented communication strategies to help improve retail sales at low performing stores. While we achieved some success with these troubled locations, we also learned that most of these stores were in bad shape for a reason. We discovered quickly that by focusing our efforts on moderate performers and highlighting their strengths, that the return on investment for the company was far greater.

As public relations professionals who aspire to offer the best possible service to their clients or companies, it's far more important to focus on getting better at what you already do well, than trying to improve in areas where, compared to your competitors, you may only hope to be average.

Does that mean we should just ignore our weaknesses? Probably not. But if the three-point shot is your strength, then you may be best served by staying late after practice to shoot a few hundred more!

*Image from britannica.com

5 comments:

  1. vikrantu@gmail.comMarch 2, 2010 at 5:34 AM

    Hi Mr Bottary,

    I have a small question here, i completely agree with what you say, however i wanted to know your viewpoint on how should we proceed with client when they keep talking about our weakness, i mean the product/services that we offer to them. what are the ways or step that one need to take to make sure that we convert the weakness that the client is talking about to the strength or positives that we have?

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  2. David Maister wrote a book titled Strategy and the Fat Smoker, where he talks about why most people and organizations fail to correct weaknesses or bad habits. If there's a particular weakness that is holding you back, you should certainly address it. To do so, however, starts with identifying the problem and its root causes, developing a plan to overcome it, and being prepared to make the kind of lifelong behavioral change that can convert a weakness to a strength over time. If you treat it as an event, your efforts to correct the problem may succeed for awhile, but will ultimately fail. As Maister would say, your commitment to change will have all the teeth of a new year's resolution.

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  3. I completely agree with your main point, that we should focus on our strengths and not our weaknesses. Not only is that a better mental exercise, but it will ultimately also lead to better results. I am legal marketing consultant with my own agency, AdVolt Legal. Although it is somewhat self serving, I always advocate that my clients focus on what they do best (being lawyers), while we provide the services we do best (legal marketing).

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  4. Fabian, as you've probably experienced by now, most people don't pretend to be lawyers, but they often fancy themselves communication experts. Sometimes it isn't about trying convince them that they are not, but by your counsel and actions, see to it that your clients come to the conclusion that it is your strength.

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  5. Great question. It's important to note that Rath doesn't suggest that we ignore our weaknesses, but too often people/organizations become overly focused on weaknesses and become satisfied with what they do well. In many cases, it results in marginal improvement on weaknesses and good but not great execution against your strengths - which should be your competitive differentiators. If your client wants you shore up a weakness, I wouldn't ignore that, but at the same time, I'd get even better at all the things which likely represent why your client hired you in the first place and why they are likely to stay as long as they believe you're listening.

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