Leverage your strength for the company

Seni Adetu

Still on the subject of “what the boss values” in deciding to support the career growth of his employees, I will be discussing the above topic today. Before I dive into that, I must mention that following last Sunday’s “the boss must find you reliable”, I got a text from Sir Steve Omojafor, former Chairman, Zenith Bank, who provided further clarity to readers, that the employees’ loyalty must be primarily to the company and not to the boss. He is spot on. The spirit of that article was that the boss must find his staff reliable for performance delivery, but in truth, their loyalty must be to the company because bosses come and go – especially employee-bosses. I am blessed to have such great business icons as Sir Steve and several others I have mentioned in this column who follow and provide feedback to my column.

Back to today’s topic, you must learn to identify and leverage your strengths for career growth. Your strength is something you are very good at – where you manifest your “spikes.” Your strengths are the platform for overcoming obstacles and gaining confidence and consequently, higher levels of recognition in an organisation. You got your role in the company on account of your strengths not your weaknesses; so what you owe the company is a consistent application of your strengths to the betterment of the company, while the company in turn owes you to create the enabling environment and resources for you to address your weaknesses both in terms of skills and leadership gaps. No two people have exactly the same strengths and weaknesses. Story is told of Bill Gates (Microsoft) and the late Steve Jobs (Apple); both successful in the same industry with similar products, but who had very different strengths – the former as a software engineer personally writing codes for his company’s products, while the latter wrote no codes, but was a great designer.

For some, these strengths are interpersonal skills, leveraging relationships to get the job done; whereas for others, their strength is more functional or technical. The crucial imperative is to understand your strength, sharpen your skill around the same and turn it into such a valuable asset for yourself and the company. It has been proved again and again that you’re far more likely to achieve success if you focus on your strengths than on weaknesses.

This principle also holds true for companies. Many companies have lost tonnes of money and (in some cases) folded up because they were trying to be “jack of all trade.”  I am aware of companies that started out well but burnt their fingers when diversifying into non-core areas. I have counselled and coached business leaders that even when they try to innovate or indeed expand through mergers and acquisitions – whatever they do must be complementary to their core competencies (strengths). The rest can be outsourced. I always encourage them to “strengthen their strengths” and stick to it. In one’s lifetime, you may never live enough to exhaust the possibilities that this strength can give you, even if you live for 100 years; so why not focus on it. People have asked me, “so what about my weaknesses – must I not do something about them?” Of course you must – developing ourselves, causing growth and enriching our knowledge and skills are crucial to being successful in life. However, it seems to me that because weaknesses are tough to over-turn, if the time spent on correcting a weakness is devoted to sharpening your skills in your strength, there could be more value – with the latter.

Past research work has indicated that close to 60% of the workforce believe they are most likely to succeed by fixing their weaknesses, while in reality, fixing a weakness saps energy and often slows you down. From when I was in school, I was taught that if asked to select and answer five questions out of eight in an exam for instance, I must not only pick the five I was most confident to “smash”, but also answer them in the order of my depth of knowledge (i.e. my strengths). By the way, your strength is not necessarily determined by your academic background – even if it helps.  I have shared in this column before that even though I was trained as an engineer, my first boss post-qualification enabled me to experience my strength in marketing, and I swung out to develop and upscale this strength culminating in my appointment as Marketing Director for Coca-Cola Nigeria in 1998.

So how do you leverage your strengths? 1) Understand what it is: By doing self-assessment or peer-group surveys, you’ll very quickly identify the same. The leader is “reading you” like a book to understand your strength too, and you would discover that the tasks and assignments he places on your laps are consistent with his understanding of your strengths. 2) Swing out: Don’t be overly risk-averse. The fact it is your strength does not mean you won’t make mistakes, it only means you are operating from your “homepage” of comfort. Demonstrate it consistently to colleagues and your boss, so they realise you are available to assist where necessary. This is one area you can blow your trumpet “humbly” 3) Coach and Mentor: There’s nothing wrong even mentoring your boss in an area you both agree you are more competent. As I have said before, being the boss doesn’t make you the best all round in every function. It only means you’re probably the best at harnessing the skills and resources at your disposal to deliver extraordinary results for the company.

To close, we tend to focus more on our weaknesses which for me is a mistake. The fact that a footballer is rated 8 out of 10 marks in a football match and yet wins “man of the match” award is testament to the fact not a single player in the game is perfect; and not one in business either.

Have a fantastic week.

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