Issue: Work on your strengths

March 1, 2010

There are many things that I am absolutely no good at.

French, for example, is like a foreign language to me. Any kind of DIY task fills me (and anyone in my vicinity) with dread. Kicking a football in a straight line is just not within my natural capabilities.

There are many things I’m not good at when it comes to my job too.

  • Sometimes people will point out errors in new flyers or reports. I stare at them (the flyers not the people) as if I were looking at a magic eye picture trying to conjure up some 3D shape. I just can’t see things like that!
  • I am unable to keep my desk tidy for longer than 3.5 seconds.
  • I’m physically incapable of reading any email that’s longer than five lines.
  • I will do anything to avoid filling in forms (give me a group of unhappy students screaming for my blood at reception any day – anything – just not another ISO form, please, No!)

These are, of course, real weaknesses for someone working as a DoS.

A manager should, some might argue, have a tidy desk. They should have an eye for detail. They should be master form-fillers. Many people would say that I should start addressing these weaknesses immediately. I’ve decided, however, that the best thing to do is work round or even ignore my weaknesses.

I mean, even if I dedicate hours of my life to learning how to keep a tidy desk, how good am I ever going to be? Maybe I could reach the heady heights of average-level desk-tidier – but I’ll never have the tidiest desk in town.

I could spend months learning how to be a better form-filler – or I could just give the damn things to someone else.

You could send me away for a week’s training course entitled ‘It’s all in the detail’ – but I will never be as skilled in this area as some of my colleagues from the translation department.

Management Consultant Marcus Buckingham talks alot about working to your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses. His premise is simple – Working to your strengths is what gives you results.

He has an interesting take on weaknesses – For Marcus, weaknesses are not things you are not good at, but things that make you feel weak (stressed, frustrated, angry). There are surely things that we are good at that we would quite honestly stop doing tomorrow and never miss.

Marcus advises us to identify what our strengths and weaknesses are and to get rid of the tasks that make us feel weak and spend most of our time in areas of strength.

Wayne Rooney isn’t spending his time on the training pitch practising goalkeeping skills. He’s out there practising his passing, his shooting, his movement – He is developing the things he’s already good at in order to get the most out of those strengths. Why should we spend large amounts of time working on our weaknesses when working with our strengths would bring more benefit to the school?

Now, if things need checking for detail, I pass them on to a more detail-focused colleague. I’ve minimised my paperwork by getting rid of lots and delegating more. I’ve learnt to live with my untidy desk.

I now have more time to do the things I’m good at and much less stress because I’m no longer spending time doing things that used to give me pains in my chest.

Are there any things you’re no good at – or that make you feel physically ill – that you could just stop doing or pass on to someone else?

Please leave a comment

2 Responses to “Issue: Work on your strengths”

  1. Mike:
    Even though I am not in EFL/ESL/ESOL, I enjoyed your post and wanted to ask if you’ve taken the StrengthsFinder assessment, yet? That is from Marcus Buckingham’s second book, Now, Discover Your Strengths. If so, I would love to read about your top five talents and how you are using them.


    • rileymike7 Says:

      Hi Candace

      Thanks for your comment. I have taken the Strengths Finder assessment and found it really useful. It was especially helpful at giving me some clarity on my weaknesses – although I have lots of friends and colleagues willing to help highlight my failings for me. I really liked the idea that things that make you feel weak are weaknesses – Since taking the assessment I have managed to delegate those tasks to other people.

      I’m really lucky that I get the opportunity to do the things that motivate me and make me feel I’m using my talents –

      My two main strengths on the assessment were –

      Helping people learn and develop their talents (the assessment helped me understand that this only applies when I’m feeling relaxed and energised – don’t ask me to teach you anything if I’m tired or hungry!)
      Finding quick effective solutions to problems (I don’t like mulling over issues – but I do love a good crisis)

      The first obviously helps working in education and in terms of teacher development. The second is crucial to enjoying my job as a manager -especially here in Milan where things can get pretty hectic at times!

      I’ve also found the DISC assessment a useful way of getting to know my own strengths and weaknesses.

      Candace, it would be great to hear more about you and what you think of the Strengths Finder assessment.


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