Why focusing on your strengths is important


Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” -Marilyn vos Savant

Why do so many of us focus on weaknesses? It’s all about strengths! Whether it’s your own personal performance, or the performance of your team, you’ve probably been focused on identifying and overcoming faults, weaknesses and shortcomings as a way to improve results. While it’s certainly true that everyone is “just human” and has flaws and imperfections, research shows that the path to becoming great lies not in focusing on your faults, but focusing on your strengths.

In today’s world, it is more important than ever that we take steps to set ourselves apart from our competition. One clear way to gain a competitive edge is to become great or exceptional in your field.

Why the 10,000 hour rule supports developing our strengths

Are you familiar with the work of Malcolm Gladwell? He is a bestselling author who is famous for his research in the fields of leadership, excellence and social psychology. According to Gladwell, success in any field is based on an individual developing one or two stand out abilities or natural talents to the point that they are no longer just competent or average, but are great.

In his 2008 book Outliers: The Story of Success, Gladwell popularised the concept that it takes over 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert, or great, in any field. Gladwell bases the 10,000 hour rule on research conducted by Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, who found that it takes enormous amounts of time for anyone to move from the level of competence to greatness.

Since we only a limited amount of lifetime, it makes sense to focus on developing our natural talents and abilities to master an area of greatness that separates us from our competition, rather than wasting time developing areas where we have little patience or natural ability. We should use the gifts we have and polish them to perfection.

Why developing strengths gets results

You know that you do your best work when you are doing things that come naturally to you; things that you genuinely enjoy. That’s what happens when we focus on our areas of strength. We automatically improve our performance because we naturally put forth our best effort.

Wise leaders assign roles and tasks to people who have the best natural ability in those areas, making it easier for everyone to excel. As we continue to focus on our strengths, an increase in confidence, engagement, satisfaction and performance naturally follows, and we each find happiness because we know we are doing great work.

This happiness and self-satisfaction is contagious, and it spreads to co-workers and onto your customers. Productivity improves, costs related to inefficiency decrease and our profits increase. As we begin to focus on our strengths in our personal lives, we stop wasting time on meaningless tasks and focus on fulfilling our dreams. Our stress levels naturally decrease and we find a natural increase of harmony and balance in our key relationships. What a great way to build happy and enthusiastic teams!

How to identify your strengths

Start with you and your own strengths. I know that in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it can be easy to lose sight of our strengths. Here are a couple of ways to rediscover them.

  • Try to remember what past activities have brought you the most joy and satisfaction in your life. What about the activity did you enjoy most and least? What brings you happiness?
  • You can gain insight into your strengths by asking close friends and relatives to name five or so qualities that describe you or five areas and natural talents that you possess.
  • There are even free tests that can help you to discover your hidden strengths and abilities; you just need to search for them online. Workuno, the University of Kent and Psychology Today offer three of most well- known free online tests to help users identify their strengths, but there are countless other resources that can help you to find your key natural strengths.

Once you’ve identified your strengths, seek ways to put more of your time and energy into using and developing these areas in your daily life. Even little things add up over time and the more that you can begin to play to your strengths, the happier and more energised you will become.

Whether it’s something in your personal or professional life, if you have tasks that you hate that are not in your area of expertise, seek ways to delegate those tasks to others who have a natural strength in those areas. This way you will have more time and energy to focus on areas in which you excel. As you continue to “play to your strengths” you and everyone around you will become happier and more productive.

What can you do today to focus on your strengths?


About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonald, Director of LeadershipHQ, is a thought leader, consultant, full time single mum and dynamic speaker and writer. Internationally recognised as an expert in leadership and strategy, organisational development and neuroscience, Sonia is an engaging writer who inspires as she educates. Sonia’s key focus is on the strategies behind successful business and leadership. Her articles and blogs are both fun and informative. Taking a neuroscience approach, Sonia shows how the power of the human brain can become the driver for business and team success, pushing your business to achieve and surpass organisational objectives. She has also just launched her amazing EmpowHER program which is taking Australia by storm and building leadership capability and confidence for women across the nation.

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