Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On How To Play To Your Strengths: Beyond “Developing a Strong Forehand”


Results of research in positive psychology have made it into business magazine articles and self-help books. I’ve used Strengthsfinder series to get my staff introduced to the idea that it may be more advantageous to think about how you can apply your strengths than dwelling on their weaknesses. I had everyone take the Strengths finder test, and discussed the results both individually and as a team. When you are externally told that something is a strength, and is given a name for that particular strength, it is indeed easier to hone it further, and because it is easier, you are more likely to commit to the improvement process. It had some other benefits I didn’t expect. There were some staff that didn’t seem to have much in common. When they discovered they had some strength factors in common, it helped them to understand each other better.

When I started this exercise, a staff member who was an avid tennis player, offered the analogy: “So, what you are saying is we should keep developing our strong forehand, instead of working on our backhand strokes.” She went onto explain that there are professional players whose forehand strokes are so strong and good that this skill makes up for their relatively mediocre backhand. This analogy helped other staff buy into the concept.

What they didn’t grasp was what they needed to change in order to embrace it. When I asked some staff what should you work on if you have a strong forehand? Most of them answered, “Work on the forehand.”

I challenged them to think beyond practicing the forehand: what would you do in a situation where either a forehand or a backhand stroke could work? They understand that they should use the forehand, because it’s the stronger skill, but what they didn’t immediately get, was that your practice should then focus on creating situations where you would be able to use forehand more often, and not just work on the forehand strokes themselves. That might mean that you work on certain leg muscles and other techniques to be able to span the width of the court more quickly so you can increase the number of situations where you can use the forehand even if the ball were headed on your side where you would normally have to use the backhand, or perhaps it means that you want to work on teaming up with someone who has a strong backhand.

To maximize our success, we need to be able to maximize our ability to be able to use our strengths. Identifying one’s strengths is a good first step. We mustn’t waste it by only working directly on the strengths alone but taking the time to figure out what related skills and activities will allow us to create more situations where our strengths can be in play.

Photo: Botanical Garden, Cambridge, UK


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This entry was posted on May 10, 2015 by in Management and tagged , , , .
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