Many of us are programmed to brush off praise, barely letting it enter our psyche. When given some criticism though, we thoroughly dissect it, focus a huge amount of energy on thinking about it again and again, often going round in circles. I see it in myself when looking at evaluations from training courses; if one delegate hasn’t benefitted as much as the others, it’s hard not to dwell on that one, even when it completely contradicts all other opinions.
I see the same tendency often when helping people get to grips with their 360 reports. When they find areas where they have been rated highly by colleagues, their attitude seems to be “Phew, that’s all right then! Let’s move on….” Strengths are dismissed as ‘job done’ so that we can continue our search for the real meat to chew on – our weaknesses. They are what we need to address the most, right?
No, not right!
Even though understanding our strengths has moved up the agenda in recent years, thanks largely to Gallup’s ground breaking strengthsfinder, when we find ourselves considering strengths and weaknesses at the same time, as a 360 report inevitably leads us to do, the temptation is to focus on the negative. I’m not saying we shouldn’t address our deficits, but to keep a healthy sense of perspective.
How did you get to where you are today? the chances are you have achieved through using your strengths and building on them, more than trying to plug your weaknesses. We tend to get highly skilled at things we have a natural aptitude for, we enjoy or are interested in. Learning is easy when this is the case. By contrast, those things that we find difficult, boring or unpleasant don’t exactly fill us with enthusiasm when we have to master them.
Imagine you have a set amount of energy to spend on developing your skills – let’s call it a sackful. You want to get as much value as possible from spending your sackful. Where do you think you will get the most from your sack? Spending it on developing a skill that you enjoy and interests you? Or on developing a skill you find cumbersome and dull? You know the answer, don’t you?
Whether you are managing staff or yourself, think about how you spend that sackful. Make sure a good proportion goes on building strengths, you’ll get a much better return on your investment.
Author of Face to Face in the Workplace