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Turn Your A’s into A+’s: Why You Should Focus on Strengths in Your Teams

 
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Leah Potkin, avid cyclist, Boston dweller, bleeds blue.


Take a moment and think about a weakness you’re a little self conscious about.

Got it? Okay. Now take a minute to think of a strength you’re proud of.

For many, I imagine it was a bit easier to think of the weakness than the strength, and that’s something worth addressing!

Boost your team’s strengths to create diverse, high performing teams.

Early in my career, I had the privilege of working for a truly inspirational CEO, Mark Lawrence of SpotHero. Among many things he taught me, one lesson that came up time and time again was to focus on playing to people’s strengths and using smart hiring of great people to fill in the gaps.

It seems so simple, so intuitive. However, it’s all too easy to get caught up comparing yourself to others and focusing (dare I say obsessing?) on your weaknesses. And that’s just it! Most likely, if you’re really bad at math (cough, me, cough..), no matter how much time and energy you put towards improving, you’re never going to be a math whiz. However, if you’re a pretty strong project manager from day one, focusing on refining your skills and becoming a truly excellent project manager can set you apart, adding value to your teams and helping you propel forward in your career.

I’ve come to refer to this practice as turning your A’s into A+s, and the opposite (focusing on your weaknesses, that is) as turning your “C’s” into “B’s”.

Now this is, of course, a tricky dance, because you can’t just go ignoring your weaknesses entirely. But you can be strategic and focus the majority of your energy on enhancing those innate “A” areas, while leaning on coworkers (who are A’s in different areas) for support where you need it.

And let’s not forget your people. Importantly, allowing your teams to focus on their strengths is proven to make business sense, as a Gallup study shows that people who use their strengths every day are 6 times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs. Not to mention, this group was also 3x more likely to report an excellent quality of life. All from focusing on their strengths!

For me, a handful of conversations about strengths and weaknesses made me realize that it’s okay to use my calculator when looking at budgets, and spending hours trying to accomplish the mental math would only take away from my focusing on becoming a stronger communicator (an area I’ve identified as a potential “A”).

And while it is certainly always great to learn and try new things, it’s important to utilize your and your team’s unique strengths when working to form diverse, high-functioning teams.

 
Catherine Malloy Cummings