3 Myths About Strengths and Weaknesses

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3 Myths About Strengths and Weaknesses

"When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." — Audre Lorde

Want to lead a life of strength?  Well, what holds you back?  Chances are … you do.  You’ve been trained to focus on your weaknesses.  At school, it’s not how many you got right.  It’s how many you got wrong.  At work, chances are you spend more time fixing your weaknesses than growing your strengths.  Want to make the shift?  Well, you need to know how to bust your myths

The beauty is, you don’t need to believe in the research.  You can simply test whether changing your beliefs will help you become more than you currently are.

I’ve learned to play to my strengths.  I often get tempted to work on my weaknesses.  What happens when I do is drain my energy.  At best, I get mediocre results.  When I play to my strengths, I keep a high level of energy.  This energy builds momentum and it’s the key to how I get results.  While I invest more energy in my strengths, I try to make sure that if I do have a liability, I give it some attention.  But rather than try to turn weaknesses into strengths, I grow my strengths.  I really think it’s the key to be your best.

In Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance, Marcus Buckingham provides questions and answers to help you make the shift. 

Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:

  • Spend more energy growing your strengths, and less energy fixing your weaknesses.  Strengths are where you grow the most.   You grow the most in your strengths, not focusing on your weaknesses.
  • Test it for yourself.  Don’t "believe" it, test it.
  • Evaluate the myths.  Know how a myth supports you.  Be aware of the how believing a particular myth can limit you.  Know the potential benefits of changing your beliefs.
  • Put your strengths on the table.  Volunteer your strengths to the team.
  • Trust your strengths. Trust your strengths and become more of who you already are.

3 Myths About Strengths and Weaknesses
According to Buckingham, these are 3 myths about strengths and weaknesses:

  • Myth 1 – As you grow, your personality changes.
  • Myth 2 – You will grow the most in your areas of greatest weakness.
  • Myth 3 – A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team.

3 Truths About Strengths and Weaknesses
According to Buckingham, these are the three truths about strengths and weaknesses:

  • Truth 1 – As you grow, you become more of who you already are
  • Truth 2 – You will grow the most in your areas of greatest strength.
  • Truth 3 – A good team member deliberately volunteers their strengths to the team most of the time

3 Questions for Myth Busting
To bust your myths, you need to ask the right questions.  Buckingham suggests the following 3 revealing questions for myth busting:

  • Question 1. How does the myth serve you?
  • Question 2. What would it cost you to stop believing in this myth?
  • Question 3: How would it benefit you to believe the truth?

3 Questions Applied to Myth 1 – As You Grow, Your Personality Changes

Question 1. How does it serve you to believe that as you grow your personality changes?
Buckingham answers:

  • “It gives me hope that I can keep growing.  And, besides, I think I’ve really changed since I was a kid.”
  • “It allows me to believe in my unlimited potential.”
  • “It allows me to see solutions in the future and to look past a present that I’m not happy with.”
  • “It lets me not delve too deeply into who I am.  Why bother, when I am just going to change anyway?”
  • “It lets me believe that I’m not trapped by the worst aspects of my personality; that I can rise about them if I just work at it.”

Question 2. What would it cost you to stop believing that your personality changes as you grow?
Buckingham answers:

  • “It would cost me my belief that life’s a journey.”
  • It would cost me something I have been certain of my entire life.”
  • “It would cost me my belief that progress is always possible.”
  • “It would cost me my belief that learning and growing are critical to success.”

Question 3. How would it benefit you to believe that as you grow, you become more of who you already are?
Buckingham answers:

  • “It would be able to put my trust in me rather than in something outside of me.”
  • “That no one will ever make quite the same contribution as me.”
  • “I would be able to stop listening to my parents, my teachers, or my boss telling me what I should strive for, and instead I would be able to start listening to a voice I know really well: my own.”
  • “That the answer to the really big questions in my life – what should I do with my life?  Where will I excel?  What will I make the greatest impact? – can be found within my own experience … if I know where to look.”
  • “That I have far more control in terms of my career and my contribution than I thought.”

3 Questions Applied to Myth 2 – You Will Grow the Most in Your Areas of Greatest Weakness

Question 1.  How does it serve you to believe that you will grow the most in your areas of greatest weakness?
Buckingham Answers:

  • “My weaknesses can hurt me and those around me – my customers, my colleagues, my boss, my friends, even my family.  If I learn to improve my weaknesses, I will feel more well rounded and less vulnerable.”
  • “Working on those things I struggle with makes me feel responsible.”
  • “It’s easier to see improvement when the starting point is so low.”
  • “Fixing something I’m bad at seems like a necessity, so it gives me the motivation to get off the dime and take actions.”
  • “It reinforces what I’ve always been taught.”
  • “By believing this, I fit in.  It encourages me to do what everybody tells me I should do.”

Question 2. What would it cost you to stop believing this?
Buckingham answers:

  • “I want people to see me as a good soldier.  If I stop fixing my weaknesses, it could cost me their approval.”
  • “I’ve always prided myself on my work ethic.  I’m the kind of person who’s never satisfied, who always want to get better.  I would have to give this up.”
  • “I manage people.  This ‘fix-weaknesses’ mind-set was time efficient.  I just looked to where each person was struggling and then put together a plan for how he could improve.  The ‘build-strength’ mind-set seems far more time consuming.”

Question 3. How would it benefit you to believe that you will grow the most in your areas of greatest strength?
Buckingham answers:

  • “I will get to challenge myself in those areas of my work that I already love to do.”
  • “I will be able to indulge my natural curiosity.”
  • “I will see myself get better faster – exponential improvement rather than incremental.”
  • “I will get to excel and be seen as an expert in one or two key areas.”
  • “I will be on the cutting edge of new developments and trends in a few areas of my job.”
  • “I will come to be viewed as a person who comes up with new ideas and innovations.”

3 Questions Applied to Myth 3 – A Good Team Member Does Whatever It Takes to Help the Team

Question 1. How does it serve you to believe that a good team member does whatever it takes to help the team?
Buckingham answers:

  • “It makes me feel more secure on the team.  After all, if I needed help from one of my colleagues, I would want him to chip in and do whatever it takes to help me, even if it wasn’t in his area of strength.”
  • “It reinforces my views of the world.  My parents, teachers, and coaches have always told me this was true.”
  • “It makes me popular with my teammates.  They like it that I have got their back.”

Question 2.  What would it cost you to stop believing this?
Buckingham answers:

  • “It would cost me the approval of my teammates.”
  • “It would cost me the good feelings I get when I sacrifice and do something I don’t like to do for the good of the team.  Life isn’t always a bed of roses.”
  • “It would cost me performance.  Sometimes the team just needs me to knuckle down and get something done.  When these times come, I can’t ignore them.”

Question 3. How would it benefit you to believe that a good team member volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time?
Buckingham answers:

  • “Deep down, it’s what I want to do for the team most of the team anyway.”
  • “I will come to be respected as a person who delivers in crunch time.”
  • “The more success I have in playing to my strengths on the team, the more the team will rework it’s ‘playbook’ to call upon my strengths.”

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Hi J.D.

    I get it! There’s a lot of truth in your words. We do have a tendency to try and correct our “weaknesses”. But like you said, when we use our strengths, the results are more positive.

    I see it as “concentrate on the positive” and although we do have weaknesses, don’t validate them to the extent they weigh us down and cancel out our strengths.

    Great post!

  2. Interesting read. Thank you. I agree that we should focus on our strengths. I also think that we should pay SOME attention to our weaknesses, especially if they are hurting our quality of life.

  3. Hey Barbara – thanks!

    You got it all right. I like your phrasing — “concentrate on the positive.” I’ve seen good people obsessed by their weaknesses.

  4. […] 6. Focus on their strengths and encourage them to develop those instead of focusing on their weaknesses. J.D. Meier elaborates on the idea of focusing on one’s strengths in his article Three Myths About Strengths and Weaknesses. […]

  5. How do I respond when I see that I have no strengths in relating? (the first group you’ve mentioned? is this considered a weakness) This has confused me because that is what I want the most right now.

  6. @ Lisa — If you’re not getting the results you want, then I would work at it then. In my experience, if you want something bad enough, you can find a good mentor and improve.

    I think the keys are
    – Align your strengths with your life
    – Get better at your strengths faster than your weaknesses
    – Spend more time in your strengths
    – Spend less time in your weaknesses
    – Focus on your strengths for faster growth and to make a living

    Even if relating is not a strength, you can at least improve it. Pick a few scenarios where you want better results, and find some mentors to model from.

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