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  • Dr. Julie Olsen

Is it Smarter to Focus on Your Strengths or Weaknesses?


One expert will say that your weaknesses are holding you back. Another will advise to forget about your weaknesses and focus on your strengths. Which is true? Whether you should focus on your strengths, or your weaknesses will depend on the situation. It’s advisable to run with your strengths, unless your weaknesses are holding you back.


For me, helping people identify their strengths and opportunities for development and then encouraging others to success comes rather naturally. I’ve been told it’s one of my strengths.


However, I don’t enjoy the bookkeeping end of my business. Can I do it? Yes, I have an MBA and the aptitude to do it. Do I want to do it…no! Since I don’t enjoy it, I don’t spend much time staying up to date on the latest accounting practices. Is it a weakness? Yes! However, there are very capable accountants who can take care of that element of the business. They stay up to date and can accomplish the tasks much quicker and more accurately than I would.


Once you identify your strengths and opportunities, determine which skills have to potential to contribute to your success and those that could become career derailers.


The most successful people maximize their strengths while addressing their relevant weaknesses.


Manage your strengths and weaknesses intelligently:


Hire people with strengths that cover your weaknesses. This is why well-constructed work teams can be so powerful. You can hire or work with people who have the strengths that you lack.


Examine your goals. What skills or traits do you need to be successful in the achievement of those goals? Where are you lacking? How can your strengths be applied? Will your weaknesses be limiting? Can you work around your weaknesses? The answer to these questions will make it obvious if you need to address your weaknesses. Avoid worrying about irrelevant weaknesses.


Are any of your weaknesses pervasive? For example, procrastination, an inability to make decisions, and a lack of following through on your decisions are weaknesses that affect everything you do. These are worthy of time and effort to correct. These weaknesses can even take away from your strengths.


Get a second opinion. Scientists have discovered that people are often blind to their weaknesses. And even when they do identify their weaknesses, they grossly underestimate their severity. Be brave and ask a friend to list your weaknesses. Get as many trusted opinions as possible. When you hear several of the same items repeatedly, you can be quite certain that these are genuine weaknesses that could use your attention.


Your strengths make you uniquely valuable. Your strengths determine your value in the marketplace. They define what you can bring to the organization and your industry. Focusing on your strengths makes sense if it enhances your value. The ability to accurately throw a tennis ball and hit a target on a tree might be impressive yet it is not relevant to your success. Focus on strengths that are relevant to achieving your goals or enhancing your value.


Sometimes it does not make sense to spend more time on your strengths. Perhaps you are already very good at building spreadsheets and analyzing data, but you have a limited network. Your analytical skills are not holding you back so continue to leverage those skills while building relationships across the organization.


Keep your ego out of it. It is human nature to want to spend time doing the things you’re good at and avoid areas of weakness. Avoid allowing your personal preferences to make these important decisions. Spend your time and energy wisely.


Everyone is blessed with strengths and burdened with weaknesses. How you manage your strengths and weaknesses determines your ability to thrive. When allocating your time to increasing strengths or minimizing weaknesses, choose carefully. Leverage your strengths and address weaknesses that are systemic or stand in the way of achieving your goals.


“There are better starters than me but I’m a strong finisher.”

Usain Bolt: 8 Time Olympic Gold Medalist


What are your unique strengths to leverage? What skill do you need to develop or delegate? Recognize your value and make a difference!


If you want to talk more about identifying your strengths, contact us!