I’ve been thinking about strengths and weaknesses recently. They exist everywhere in life; in our professional, personal, and social lives. We hear about them from the time we are little (“Sharing isn’t one of Janie’s strengths. We need to work on that.”), through our academic careers (“Spelling isn’t Arthur’s strength, but he overcomes it with his endearing personality and willingness to help others.”) and, of course, into our career lives (“In order to move up, you need to strengthen your data analysis skills.”). But I’m wondering, why do we spend so much time working on our weaknesses when we really should be strengthening our strengths?
Reading the book “How the World Sees You” by Sally Hogshead (2014, HarperCollins), it struck me that we have it all wrong. Hogshead’s philosophy, that our strengths, the things that come easily to us, the attributes that make us unique, are the things that make us stand out, empower us, motivate us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “You are too brusque. You need a better poker face.” But my advantage is that I am direct, systematic and detail-oriented. Why should I be something that I’m not? Your strengths, or advantages as Hogshead calls them, are different than someone else’s and that is your competitive advantage. Who doesn’t want to capitalize on their competitive advantage? Why not accept the advantages that your teammates, colleagues or family members bring to the table and use them in collaboration to propel the entire organization/ team/family to new heights?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should ignore our weaknesses (or in Hogshead’s terms – your dormant advantage). I agree with her when she says spending too much time in this zone can be emotionally and eventually physically draining, like being in quicksand. But we need to be aware of our dormant advantage, acknowledge its existence and then move on to strengthen and highlight our Primary and Secondary advantages.
While there is a difference between skill sets and personality traits, Hogshead’s Fascination model suggests we treat our personality traits as skill sets, therefore capitalizing on what makes us unique as seen by the rest of the world. Instead of working so hard on fixing what we aren’t, put time effort and focus into who we are, using that to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack.