Only 2 out of 10 of us work to our strengths most days, according to Marcus Buckingham and the Gallup Organization. 2 out of 10. A sobering figure. Buckingham suggests we can rise above that quagmire by exploding a couple of well-worn myths:
Myth 1: As we grow, we change.
Truth: As we grow, we become more of who we always were. Drink cocktails with a group of women and you’ll learn the best part of aging is doing and saying exactly as we please. Dreams, circumstances, skills may change, but with each passing year we’re more ourselves.
Myth 2: We grow most in our areas of greatest weakness. Sounds illogical, but find out your first grader excels in math but struggles to read, he gets remedial reading. In 10th grade we’re still harping on that C in English instead of showering him with advanced calculus or the chance to build some real-life algorithms. And that reading deficit may later haunt him in every performance appraisal, renamed as “poor communicator.”
Truth: We grow the most in our areas of strength. Sure, we can eke out tiny gains in our weaknesses, but, ugh, it’s hard. Tap our strengths? We’ll leap exponentially. Partly because strengths build on strengths. And partly ‘cause we’re happy & engaged.
Myth 3: Others can tell us our strengths, like parents, teachers, and supervisors.
Truth: We know our own strengths best. When we were kids we just knew what got us out of bed each morning. Even now we know what makes us feel alive and engaged. Time flies, and we feel exhilarated, magnificent. Strong.
Myth 4: A strength is what we’re good at.
Truth: I’m actually very good at process improvement, but after a few days I burst into tears, utterly exhausted and shriveled up. This is a competency, but it sure ain’t my strength. Fill your day only with competencies and you’ll burn out quick. Fill your day with your strengths and you’ll soar.
Myth 5: Our team and organizations need well-rounded folks.
Truth: Folks need our unique strengths, not milk-toast well-roundedness. Our team needs to be well-rounded, our organizations need lots of varied skills. But this happens when we each bring our unique strengths to the table.