Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Our weaknesses, for some reason, outshine our strengths like a beam of light. We all become focused on our shortcomings, comparing other’s strengths to our weaknesses.  Maybe that’s why we try to improve our weaknesses through self-help books, podcasts, or self-improvement classes.

Talented employee focusing on his strengths.

But what about our talents? While we’re focusing all of our time, money, and effort on our weaknesses, our skills are sitting in a dark corner not getting any attention. Let’s flip it. What if we focused our time on our talents and let our weaknesses sit in a dark corner? What would happen?

When we’re talking about talents and strengths, we’re not talking about where you got your degree, or where you’ve worked in the past, or how many awards or achievements you’ve earned. Although those may be indicators of your strengths and talents, they don’t tell the whole story. A medical degree can’t tell you about your creativity and developing people’s potential and a finance degree can’t tell you about your emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills. Strengths go deeper than achievements.

Here are some ways to get talented people to focus on their strengths:

We’re Often Critical of Ourselves

It’s difficult to see ourselves as others see us. And, we’re often our own worst critic. Therefore, it’s tough to determine your own strengths. Sometimes your strengths come easily to you, while they don’t for others. For example, perhaps it’s easy for you to write reports at work. Writing is not a problem, and you can crank out page after page. For another employee, writing may be the most frightening experience since the last scary movie.

Other times, your strengths may come in persevering through complicated situations, where others would throw in the towel. For example, you persevere through challenging, complex projects until the conclusion. Other employees may be terrified of such complex projects that they freeze. They need someone like you to lead them into and out of the woods.

You may harshly judge yourself and consider yourself prone to weaknesses, where others see you as possessing amazing strengths. Ask your closest friends or co-workers what your strengths are. Although this may be an uncomfortable exercise, it will give you a more objective look at your talents and how you may use them.

We’re Obsessed with our Weaknesses

Think about it, which is a better use of your time? Spending a couple of hours strengthening a talent or spending a couple of hours strengthening a weakness? The former. By developing your natural abilities, you’ll learn faster while becoming more effective and efficient. However, that’s not what society emphasizes.

Improving our weaknesses has been stressed since childhood. This improvement continues into the workplace. Often, we’re trying to develop something that goes against the grain, something that doesn’t come naturally to us. In the same breath, we’re ignoring talents and skills that do come naturally to us.

According to Gallup surveys since the 1990s, only 33 percent of employees strongly agreed with the statement, “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” This is disconcerting. If you want productive and happy employees, they need to be in roles that suit their talents.

Talented employee focused on his strengths rather than his weaknesses.

Working in a Role that Suits Your Talents

The Harvard Business Review recently published an article that focused on the importance of putting talented people in the right roles, and it’s getting quite a bit of attention. The report addresses employees at the NFL. When a new Chief Information Officer was brought in, she noticed that many employees were struggling in their current roles, and it wasn’t because they weren’t talented. They were merely in the wrong positions.

Leaders must learn to spot talents in their employees. Further, leaders need to convince their employees the value of these talents. Often, as we said above, using these innate talents seems natural and not challenging—because they are our innate talents. They are our gifts. But both leaders and employees need to identify these talents and understand how to bring their value to the organization.

Identify & Leverage Your Talents

So how do you know what your talents are? Here are some interesting questions put forth by the Harvard Business Review:

  • What exasperates you?  What can you do easily that others struggle with so much that it irritates you watching them?
  • What do you think about in your downtime?
  • What types of compliments do you dismiss or shy away from?

Thinking through questions like these may get you on the right track to finding your strengths and talents.

Once you begin identifying your talents, start leveraging them into more significant results at work. Start capitalizing on your natural aptitudes. Continue growing and developing your talents and you’ll find that you’re more committed at work and to your personal development.

Outsource Your Weaknesses

If you’re not good at something, see if you can get that task re-assigned to someone who is. Or see if it can be outsourced. Don’t spend hours on a task that makes no sense to you, or where your time is better spent somewhere else.

Once someone else is working on that task, you can focus on tasks that will help you build your strengths. That way, you’re effective and efficient, and contributing to a growing business.

Don’t throw your focus on weaknesses entirely out the window. Both leaders and employees need to change their perspective. Instead of focusing all our energy on correcting and overhauling weaknesses, we should put more effort into developing our strengths.

Naturally, we undervalue what we do well and overvalue what we don’t do as well. We need to change our approach. We can capitalize on our strengths, we can work more fulfilling jobs, and our companies can profit from the talents of their employees and leaders. Let’s start putting people in roles where they’ll shine—not where they’ll struggle.

According to songwriter Roger Miller, “It’s one thing to have talent. It’s another to figure out how to use it.”