I had just finished commenting to my husband how much I liked the use of copper in the Parade of Homes' kitchen we were touring, when I overheard another woman telling her husband how much she disliked the look. It made me laugh. It's funny how we see things differently.
Work is like that too. It's fraught with differences of opinion. One of the more confusing areas can involve your performance. Early in my career, my boss told me my communication skills needed improvement. Five months later, a new boss heralded the same skill-set as a significant strength. While one might conclude I'd focused on developing skills in a weak area, that wasn't the case. The difference was their opinion.
But opinion is not fact. It's helpful, useful and important feedback to evaluate, assess and incorporate if appropriate. Just because someone thinks something is one way or another, doesn't make it true. It turns out, I built my career using communication strengths I knew by then I possessed.
Unfortunately, noted weakness areas for many people carry a greater feeling of career significance than acknowledged accomplishments or strengths. But people who are winning at working know that's backwards. They understand that finding and maximizing strengths is a success key.
While minimizing weaknesses can be important, lasting success is achieved by maximizing strengths. People who are winning at working practice, learn and stretch themselves, working to hone their talents into exceptional performance. They focus on developing their abilities to higher levels of expertise. That's where career payoff happens.
You see, when you enhance what you do well naturally, you shine. When you find and maximize your gifts, you carve your unique success key. And when you build your self-knowledge, you lay a foundation to guide you through the winds of opinion.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't work on needed areas of growth or develop other skill-sets. That's important too, but in perspective. An Olympic-hopeful sprinter can best achieve her goals by magnifying her running ability, not developing her archery prowess. Some weaknesses are unimportant. Improving others might elevate your strengths. As the German proverb reminds us, "one must carve one's life out of the wood one has."
In twenty years in management, I watched people make strategic mistakes in their careers by trying to improve weaknesses, instead of building on strengths. They spent too much time on what they didn't do well; too little polishing and enhancing what they did. They allowed opinion, rather than self-knowledge, to dictate their direction.
But people who are winning at working apply a different strategy. They understand that what they focus on expands. So they concentrate their primary efforts on their strengths. They continuously work to improve what they do well, enlarging their natural abilities as they expand their career. Want to be winning at working? Carve your success key from your strengths.
(c) 2006 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
About Nan Russell
Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan is the author of the books "The Titleless Leader: How to Get Things Done When You're Not in Charge" (Career Press; May 2012) and "Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way" (Capital Books; Jan 2008) and was the radio host of the nationally syndicated "Work Matters with Nan Russell," from which she is currently taking a break. To listen to previously aired shows, please visit Nan's website www.nanrussell.com
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