Ever since I was small, I’ve learnt about strengths and weaknesses. At junior school, my annual school report would highlight both areas, prominently for my parents to see. When I look back, I don’t recall ever being asked by my teacher what I liked doing the most. The school report certainly didn’t have a ‘like’ section.
Rolling on a few years, I studied Business at college and later went on to study Marketing at university. I can’t tell you how many SWOT analysis exercises we did and how many hours we spent dissecting strengths and weaknesses of numerous fictional companies. (In case you’re not familiar with it, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). What was the outcome? Fix the weaknesses pronto and focus on building on the strengths of the business. Not once did we talk about the interests, passions or desires of the company Directors.
Enter the workplace and the world of annual reviews, KPIs and appraisals - an opportunity to identify what we’re good at, so that we can be given more of it to do. If I’m good at maths, it makes good business sense to give me more sums right? If I’m good at organising things, give me more things to organise. That’s what happens with strengths – we’re conditioned through years of habit, to do more of what we’re good at.
But what if I don’t really like being responsible for organising things? What if I happen to be good at sums, but I hate doing them. They drain my enthusiasm and sap every ounce of creativity in my body. Is maths then still a strength, if it makes me feel so deflated?
When a strength isn’t a strength at all
I’ve spent ten years working in a field I’m good at – because it ‘makes sense’ and it’s a ‘sensible‘ way to make a career because I’m good at it and I can get paid well too. But why then, when I spent so long working to my strengths, did I feel bored, unfulfilled and drained?
My view is this: a strength as we know it, isn’t a strength if it doesn’t make us feel strong.
I don’t make a secret of the fact that leaving employed life was the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it is for those who dream about it. Running my own business, makes me feel strong. Organising my own day makes me feel strong. Advising and mentoring others makes me feel strong. And luckily, I’m good at it too.
But what if I love something, it makes me feel strong but I’m not good enough to make a living out of it? Sadly I’d put tennis in this category. Then it becomes a hobby that I cherish. If I was a lover of everything tennis, then I could consider running a tennis club. But it’s the playing of tennis that makes me feel strong.
So what’s the sweet spot? Something you’re really good at, that you enjoy doing.
Applying your true strengths in business
When you’re clear on your own strengths, it’s much easier to decide on what to prioritise, what to outsource, what do take time on and what to whizz through.
There’s a whole world of contractors, consultants and experts available online. If there’s something in your business that causes you distress, hand it to someone else to do. Once you get your head around having to pay someone for something you once did yourself, you’ll soon realise that the time (and energy) you free up, is well worth it.
You’ll find you have more time to focus on the things you love that actually help shape and drive your business. You might even find yourself falling in love with your business, all over again…
What are your strengths and how do you leverage them in your business? Answers below!