Strengths or Opportunities: Where Should You Focus?
“Opportunities for improvement”, “constructive criticism”-- these are phrases we have all heard during formal work evaluations. But what you might not know is that the sting of criticism lasts longer than the good feelings you get from positive feedback. Furthermore, focusing on areas to improve might not benefit you (or your company) as much as playing to your strengths.
In fact, doing more of what you are good at can have an immediate effect on your work motivation. But sometimes we might not recognize our strengths. Often they come naturally, and it’s easy to take them for granted. According to Peter Drucker, management consultant, a strength is something you are good at, with clear evidence from feedback. Strengths are not potential or possible areas, they are things you do consistently well.
So what’s the best way to identify your strengths?
A great way to do so is to collect feedback from a variety of people inside and outside work. By gathering input from a variety of sources—family members, past and present colleagues, friends, teachers, etc,—you can develop a much broader and richer understanding of yourself. Ask the group via email to provide information about your strengths and examples of when you used those strengths in ways that were meaningful to them.
The next step is to look for patterns and common themes among the feedback. Take the general ideas and put them in a table so you can understand how you are perceived and what your strengths are. You might be surprised by the uniformity of responses or the fact that people appreciate a quality in you that you were not so sure of (i.e. playing “devils advocate” in meetings).
The next step is to think about the feedback and how you might be able to focus more on the things you’re good at. Can you re-negotiate your workload or work-focus with your manager or delegate more to your staff? You might even want to share the feedback with your manager, as there might be opportunities you are unaware of that will play to your strengths.
This positive approach does not ignore opportunities that traditional feedback identifies. On the other hand, it offers a unique feedback experience that counter balances negative input. It allows you to tap into strengths you may or may not be aware of and so contribute more to your store and bottom line.
Something to keep in mind:
Research by Marcial Losada and Emily Heaphy at the University of Michigan suggests that when individuals or teams hear five positive comments to every negative one, they unleash a level of positive energy that fuels higher levels of performance.