Why I Play the Blues

September 6, 2011

BB King is possibly the world’s most famous bluesman – yet he can’t sing and play at the same time. Oh, and he’s not that hot at chords either. Perhaps what he needs is some effective management. Let’s the scene- BB comes off stage after a gig at the Apollo and …here comes the manager…

BB? Got a sec? Just wanted to give you some feedback.

Sure, son. Go ahead.

Well, I couldn’t help but noticing that you didn’t sing and play at the same time out there. That’s fine but It’s just that all the competition’s doing it now. Clapton, Buddy Guy – all those fellas singing and playing – simultaneously.

‘fraid I just can’t do it. When I sing I gotta stop playing. There it is.


Uh-huh. Can’t do it.

Well, maybe now we’re getting to the root of things here. Don’t you think that’s typical of your attitude. ‘Can’t’ ,My woman left me.’ ‘Worry, worry, worry.’ It’s quite frankly all a bit negative. Can’t you sing some happy songs? And a few chords wouldn’t go amiss out there either.

Maybe we should thank God that BB hasn’t had that kind of feedback. Despite his weaknesses, BB has managed to win fifteen Grammy awards, record more than fifty albums and has even made an appearance on sesame street. Luckily BB didn’t worry too much about his limitations. When he sings he just stops playing – and he made sure that the single notes he plays just about knock everyone’s socks off. BB King didnt worry about his weaknesses and focused on what he could do and as a result Rolling Stone Magazine named him the 3rd Greatest Guitarist of all time.

The message is simple. We should spend more time focusing on people’s strengths. When was the last time you told one of your teachers how good they were? We don’t want to give these poor people the blues.

For lots more on making the most of your strengths visit the Marcus Buckingham site.


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?

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