Coaching should leverage your strengths and not just focus on your weaknesses

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This post is by Nathan Verco, a dynamic leadership coach with hellomonday who transforms and brings to life cutting-edge information around peak personal and professional performance in a way that remains with you long after you leave. He is dedicated to exploring the dance between psychology and physiology and how we can implement this to increase performance at work. 

There is a downside to both personal and professional development which feeds off you purely focusing on what some may refer to as your ‘areas for development’, or what others may call ‘the stuff that you suck at’.

Your brain is already making this tricky when it comes to seeing your strengths clearly due to what is known as the “negativity bias” – the tendency to dwell on what isn’t going well as opposed to accepting praise for a job well done.

Besides gratitude mitigating this to a degree, in this post I’ll be sharing some tips on how you might smash through the “itty bitty pity committee” in your head and turn up the volume on the inner voice of your “dream team”.

From the outset, I should point out that for you to feel the need to improve at some stuff, means you must have strengths in other areas.

Picture for a moment a tractor. Although it is slow, it is strong and exerts great power.

Now picture a NASCAR race car. Although it is fast, it doesn’t do slow speeds well at all, to say the least!

I’m guessing that you’re infinitely aware of your own ‘developmental areas’. If not, I’m assuming they’ve been highlighted to you perhaps via feedback forums or performance appraisals? Well, to the degree that you’re aware of your development areas, remember there are also strengths that are equally proportionate to your greatest weaknesses.

Maybe the areas where you feel you suck are what define your superpowers. This could therefore mean that by you incessantly and disproportionately focusing on your developmental areas could in fact eventually diminish your former superpowers.

Let’s take the approach that so many workplace programs and personal growth books take, which is for you to work on your weaknesses until they are no longer weaknesses. I would suggest that by obsessing over improving the areas where you supposedly need to improve could in fact undo the leverage that your superpowers provide.

If you changed a NASCAR racing car’s engine to ‘work on its weaknesses’ so it could be driven around at slower speeds, would it possibly impede its capacity for hitting top speed?

You have strengths. They are your superpowers because they are your position of leverage that are tremendously efficient and effective. You know what your superpowers are because they’re the areas that to you feel effortless, but that other people marvel at based on what you can generate in short periods of time, with little energy, and little resources.

The irony is, due to a variety of cognitive biases and desensitisation, you are most likely not all that super crystal clear yourself on what your superpowers are.

The frameworks that sit around this are the “Dunning Kruger effect” – a hypothetical cognitive bias stating that people with low ability at a task overestimate their own ability, and that people with high ability at a task underestimate their own ability; and the “Pareto Principle” – possibly more popularly known as the 80/20 rule.

A broad overview of the above is this; you could invest 80% of your time, energy, and money (and perhaps you already do?!) into improving your ‘development areas’, but in doing so, you’re likely going to only get a 20% improvement out of it. Investing 80% of everything you’ve got and only getting maybe a 20% kick out of it, well that’s possibly a fast way to feel like a failure.

Whereas, if you were to invest just 20% of your time, energy, and money into your strengths (your superpowers), you would likely get maybe an 80% kick out of it. Now that is leverage!

It is important to engage in self-reflection and personal development and workplace programs and all that personal growth entails, to become more aware of your developmental areas.

I’m guessing you’ve been bombarded by strategies to build awareness and become more aware of your weaknesses. These never seem to be in short supply. So much of our life and work today points towards you working on yourself, which is a tremendously successful strategy to the degree that you keep it in balance with also expanding your superpowers.

However, for most people it’s a case of naturally focusing more on your weaknesses as opposed to your superpowers.

As a result, I want to recommend this. When you have identified the areas where you feel you might suck, it is important that you focus on them to the degree that you do three things:

1: Systemise them (if you do it more than once, it must have a system)

2: Delegate them (through validating another’s skillset and/or identifying who has this superpower)

3: Create accountability around them (through people at work/home or technology prompts).

Underpinning this, it’s so important to ‘own’ the areas where your engine isn’t necessarily geared to. Be cool with it. Call it when others might be noticing it (unless they already have!), since doing this builds so much respect from the right people in your life. Have humility around it. This might also be popularly described as vulnerability or transparency. I should point out here that humility and vulnerability are, in fact, traits of some of the most successful leaders today.

Stop obsessing over ‘fixing yourself or trying to discover ‘who you really are’. You’re not an explorer! Instead, start noticing your ‘superpowers’ and creating your self, your day, your week and your year around what you understand these to be.

As far as some gold nuggets for how you can identify your superpowers? I’ll dedicate a separate post to these another time. First thing’s first.

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