Build on your strengths, but

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Shortly after I started in business, I picked up a copy of Peter Drucker’s book, The Effective Executive. Right there, in the first chapter, were words that have been a touchstone for me ever since I read them for the first time.

“Effective executives build on strength.”

For more than half a century, when I followed that advice things have usually worked out well. When I ignored that advice things got much tougher. Building on strength is great business and career advice but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

To build on your strengths, you must analyze your situation to determine what you should do. You must analyze your strengths and weaknesses and compare them to your current situation. You must think about where you want to go next and what will be required. And you must deal with your weaknesses, too.

Analyze your situation

Context always matters. The basics stay the same. If you’re responsible for the performance of a group, you must accomplish the mission through the group and help your teammates grow and develop. Basically, you’re responsible for making the team and the team members succeed.

Here are some questions to ask. What does your boss expect from you? What do your team members expect from you? How about your peers? Stir in some information about the current business climate, your industry, and your organization.

Remember that this is just a snapshot. Pay attention to trends and potential changes in trends.

Analyze your strengths and weaknesses

When you’ve got a handle on the situation it’s time to analyze your strengths and weaknesses. What do you do well? What needs improvement? What should you do well to succeed where you are?

It’s easy to find lists of things you must do. One especially helpful one comes from Google. They studied the best managers in the company and came up with a list of things those managers do.

Read the book, The CEO Test: Master the Challenges that Make or Break All Leaders by Adam Bryant and Kevin Sharer.

Check out CliftonStrengths, formerly StrengthsFinder.

Ask for help. Find friends and colleagues and ask them about your abilities. People who are discerning and whose opinion you respect. Pick people you will listen to and learn from. There won’t be many.

Think about where you want to go next

You may have the perfect job, but things will change. You will change. Sometimes you will choose the change and sometimes the change will choose you. The question is, “where do you want to go next?”

Do you want to climb the hierarchy? Or are you looking for the next challenge? Whatever you think it is, you should start developing the skills you will need now.

What about those weaknesses?

Too many folks who write about building on strength leave out the part about weaknesses. We all have them. The trick in dealing with your weaknesses is to make them irrelevant.

Sometimes you do that by getting just good enough. Sometimes you do that by delegating the work to someone else. Just remember that the next job you have might require you to make different weaknesses irrelevant.

One more thing

You’re not the only one with strengths. Your teammates have strengths and it’s your challenge to make the best use of them.

Part of the art of one-on-one leadership is helping your teammates build on their strengths The other challenge is to apply those strengths so the team performs better.

Create teams with diverse, compensating strengths. Help teammates develop their strengths even though you know that mistakes will happen. Mistakes are the price you pay for better performance tomorrow.


Building on your strengths is a great strategy, but it’s not the whole story.

You must analyze your current situation. Context always matters.

Your current situation is constantly changing.

Analyze your strengths and weaknesses.

Develop your strengths to do your current job better.

Develop your strengths to prepare for what’s next.

Make your weaknesses irrelevant.

You’re not the only one with strengths.

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