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People Development Focus – Strengths or Weaknesses?

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Do we spend too much time focusing on our own and others weaknesses and trying to make them stronger, rather than recognizing strengths and trying to capitalize on them?

When considering Employee Development, we tend to make 2 incorrect assumptions:

  1. That a person can become competent at anything if they are trained properly – so we spend a lot of time training the workforce.
  2. That the greatest areas of “opportunity” or growth are in an employee’s area of greatest weakness – so the individual development plan for an employee will often focus on these areas of weakness or work to minimize them.

But, are these assumptions correct, or maybe we should, instead, make these assumptions:

  1. Each person’s talents are enduring and unique (i.e. they were born with them and will always have them)
  2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in their area of greatest strength

The definition of Strength is “Consistent near perfect performance in an activity”. For something to be a strength, you must be able to do it consistently and predictably. People excel by maximizing strengths, not by fixing their weaknesses. One exception is that “fatal” weaknesses must be addressed. These are weaknesses that prevent growth and good performance. We need to learn to acknowledge and manage around these weaknesses. An example would be a manager hiring someone who has great attention to detail, since they know that is something they lack that is needed for the team they manage.

Strength can be seen as the sum of Talent, Knowledge and Skills that exists at any time in an individual.

  • Talent – naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behaviour that can be productively applied. Usually talents come so easily to us that we don’t recognize them as talents. We assume everyone can do the same things.
  • Knowledge – facts and lessons learned. Knowledge includes “Factual knowledge” – knowing product features or protocols, etc., and “Experiential knowledge” – learned through experience.
  • Skills – the steps of an activity. Skills bring structure to experiential knowledge and aid performance but not necessarily excellence. For example, you may learn some of the basic steps of public speaking and even become a better public speaker than you were before. But without the natural talent, you will never be great at it.

A person cannot have a strength without having the requisite talent. You may develop the knowledge and skills to get by, but without the talent you won’t be able to achieve consistent, near perfect performance.

The key to building a strength is to first identify your dominant talents, then refine them with knowledge and skills.

To find out what your strengths are, purchase Clifton StrengthsFinder access codes at