B2B International
B2B International

September 17, 2010

This week, Nick Hague looks at personal development and how focusing on your strengths, over your weaknesses, can lead to a greater return on investment.

We all know it is that time of year again when the dark nights are drawing in and travelling on the roads takes twice as long as it did during the month of August – yes, the summer break is over!

With my eldest son starting in year 1 at primary school in the last week, breakfast discussions with the family have changed in there tone somewhat with stories more likely to be about playground fun and new learnings in class rather than the unequivocal “what are we going to do today?”

Just this week my son was recalling about some of the activities from the day before at school and I asked him what his favourite subject was? “Maths” he said without hesitation. Now this answer didn’t surprise me one bit (although it might to many for a 5 year old to mention such a thing) since he has always been obsessed by numbers since a very early age.

“And what do you like doing least at school?” I followed up; “painting” he said. Again, this didn’t come as a surprise as when visiting his school on parents evening last year his paintings definitely stood out but not for artistic talent! My immediate reaction was ‘I must get my mum (an artist) to give him a few pointers about art’, but then I thought about this some more; shouldn’t I think more along the lines of building his strengths rather than rectifying his weaknesses ie ‘let’s keep a tab on his maths ability and how we can channel that more in the future?’

On reflection in my own personal life I can very much harmonise with this. I always struggled at Economics at A-level and so my parents spent much money on my tutoring. However, with all the time spent on improving my weakness it just made me a little bit better economist rather than focusing on my strengths and helping me shine in a more creative subject.

I think this is very typical of how we, as humans, think and act in life. Think about how we act in our daily business lives. When looking to better ourselves in our working environment; we are always looking to concentrate on improving our weaknesses to make ourselves a more rounded individual. However, my question to you is ‘why not ignore trying to improve our weaknesses and focus all our attention on building our strengths?’ – if Gordon Brown had not tried to remould himself as a smiling, more personable individual and concentrated on his strengths during the last election he may still be in power today.

By another way of example, I was watching football on TV this week and as time slipped away between Man United and Rangers I put myself in Sir Alex Ferguson’s shoes on how he would best enhance his team’s performance. Paul Scholes is one of the best players in the world when asked to deliver a 60 yard pass to precision but he cannot tackle to save his life. Would Sir Alex put Paul Scholes through his paces in training to improve his tackling so he can deploy him as a defensive midfielder, I don’t think so! Of course, he could practice some more on fixing his poorly timed tackles but as a result, he wouldn’t be concentrating on his strengths that could be used to unlock a tight defence. In other words, to fix weaknesses is not to lose but you definitely don’t win with that strategy!

As any inquisitive researcher would, I then went onto the internet to see if anything had been published to back my thoughts up? I came across an interesting study that asked people the following question:

Q. “Which do you think will help you be most successful in business?”
A. Build on strengths?
B. Fix your weaknesses?

Looking at some country findings from 2009 these are the interesting results:

  • In the USA – 45% of people said build on strengths, 55% said fix weaknesses
  • In Australia – 50% of people said build on strengths, 50% said fix weaknesses
  • In the UK – 54% of people said build on strengths, 46% said fix weaknesses
  • In China – 73% of people said build on strengths, 27% said fix weaknesses

From the above, is it any wonder that the new world order has shifted towards the East! I was curious to why this was so and so in speaking to some of my Chinese colleagues they rationalised that maybe it’s because there is over 1 billion people and if you want to stand out you need to win and not just compete.
So my argument to you in this week’s Thursday Night Insight is this – If you want to get a greater return on investment from either your staff or your customers, focus on what they/you do best. Then understand why that is so and then focusing more attention on these strengths will only act as a multiplier and deliver exponential growth and value to your organisation.

Therefore, the next time your boss questions you to find out the reasons why you have the level of customer churn you do, think before you act. Is it not best to speak with your loyal customers, ‘those that are likely to recommend your company and services to another colleague’ and find out what the reasons are these people are such ‘promoters’ to your company? I reason that this will deliver your organisaiton far more insight and result in greater change in the future than carrying out lapsed customer research.

Isn’t it time you went back to school and re-evaluated your way of thinking?