P2M5 Working To Your Strengths

I haven’t heard many business advisers explain the importance of focusing on your strengths. I picked up the concepts from Rich Schefren when I went through his Business Growth Systems coaching program.

I realised it was a missing link and helps to explain why people struggle when they try to do things that don’t suit their natural talents, skills, abilities and experience.

I heard John Assaraf, CEO of OneCoach give this great quote

“Hire, barter or partner with people who play at what you have to work at.”

If you find it tough to do, get someone else to do it.

Sometimes people will say “Paul I’d love to be able to hire or outsource but I can’t afford it.”

If that fits what you’re thinking, let me turn it around.

Can you afford not to do it?

Can you afford to spend hours doing stuff you hate and is a struggle and which diverts attention away from those activities that earn you money directly or make you special to your customers?

Can you afford to waste time on activities which suck out your enthusiasm for your business?

I don’t think so.

Why Focus On Strengths

  • Nobody can be good at everything
  • Work with strengths or fix weaknesses
  • Olympic athletes example
  • Work with natural strengths – enjoyable and satisfying
  • Work against natural strengths – frustrating and stressful
  • Intuitive logic – held back by emotions (pride)

Except for your nemesis from school, nobody is good at everything.

I know he or she was so good looking they got all the attention, was top of the class, the best at sports and so popular with everyone else. Grown up life isn’t like that.

You do some stuff you love to do and excel at.

But there’s all this other stuff – boring, mundane things that waste your time.

And the things you out off because they are difficult, take you out of your comfort zone and perhaps your feelings are so strong, you hate doing that stuff.

Each of us has strengths and weaknesses and we have a choice.

To focus on our strengths and take full advantage of the natural talents and abilities we have plus what we’ve since learnt to do well.

Or to looking at our weaknesses and gradually eliminating them one by one. Forcing ourselves to move from inadequate to adequate.

The second option doesn’t make sense but it does seem to fit human nature. instead of doing what’s obvious and best for us, we struggle.

Perhaps it’s pride. Or stubbornness.

To make the point, I use an example of four athletes eager to get to the very top of a sport and go to the Olympics and even win a medal.

One is very tall and thin – about six foot eight inches.

Another is shorter, heavier built and muscular – about five foot ten tall and nineteen stone (266 pounds or 120 kg)

Another is six foot two with a lean body bulging with muscles.

The last is five foot eight and weighs ten stone (140 pounds or 63 kg)

Each looks at the athletic events and sees the high jump, the shot put, the sprint events and the long distance events.

Now each could have a go at any but their strengths make them ideally suited to one event each.

Play to their strengths and with natural talent and hard work, they could get to the Olympics.

But to try to boost their weaknesses reduces their chance of success.

The tall, skinny guy could try to bulk up but that will reduce reduce his advantage at the high jump and never make him competitive at the shot put, the sprint or the long distance race.

It doesn’t make sense when you think in terms of results.

And it doesn’t make sense when you think of happiness.

“Do more of what you’re good at and makes you happy” seems to me a pretty good mantra for life.

And it makes sense in business.

If you don’t play to your strengths, then life gets frustrating and stressful.

How To Find Strengths

  • Self reflection – a personal SWOT analysis
    • Good/bad
    • Enjoy/hate
    • Easy/difficult
  • Ask Others
  • Formal Assessment
    • Kolbe A Index
    • Clifton StrengthsFinder

If you accept the logic of working to your strength, you need a reliable way to find out what they are and how you can put those strengths to use.

Basically there are three methods:

  1. Personal reflection
  2. Asking others
  3. Taking a formal assessment

Personal Reflection

If you do it yourself, you need to create your own personal SWOT analysis – that’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The first two are what you’re good and bad at. The second two help you to identify how you can apply your strengths and what you need to be looking out for if you are going to stop your weaknesses from hurting you.

Start by listing down things that you believe you’re good at and the things you do that you don’t think you do well. Would others agree?

Then list down the things you love to do and the things you hate to do.

Finally what do you find easy to do and what do you find difficult.

Then combine your lists and look for recurring themes.

You might be really good at starting up conversations, love to meet new people and find it very easy to make new friends. They combine to create a great strength based on developing relationships.

Or you might struggle for small talk, hate to go into a room full of strangers and find it difficult to open up and show the real you.

The first makes you a great networker and a connector between people – it’s easy for you to do and fun. But it’s a role the second person would find virtually impossible to do well.

Asking Others

“To know yourself is to know how others see you”

It’s not a famous quote but I think it’s true.

Sometimes others can see things we can’t. What you and I perceive may be our own reality but it isn’t what others think.

Get ready to swallow some humble pie and ask a few people you trust (i.e. they must have your best interests at heart) what they see as your strengths and weaknesses.

Do argue or try to justify, just listen and ask for why they have formed those opinions.

Sometimes strengths and weaknesses can be situational. We assess others relative to ourselves.

If I know nothing and you know something, then you are an expert.

If I thing of myself as an expert and you know little, then you don’t know enough.

If I’m an expert and you know as much or more than me, then you must be an expert too.

Pay particular attention to themes that keep coming up.

Formal Assessments

Several organisations have formal assessments of your natural strengths to help give you independent focus.

The one I’ve used is the Kolbe A Index which I’ll talk about in detail.

An alternative is the Gallup Clifton StrengthsFinder which can be used if you’ve got an access key from one of the many books written to promote it.

Kolbe A Index

  • Thinking, Feeling, Doing
  • Four instinctive ways used in creative problem solving
    • Fact Finding – gather & share information
    • Follow Thru – organise/arrange/design
    • Quick Start – risk/uncertainty
    • Implementer – physical & mechanics/abstract
  • No bad ratings, just a bad use of your natural strengths

The Kolbe A Index is what’s known as a conative test.

It recognises that we have three sides to who we are:

  • How well we think – measured by IQ tests, school exams and traditional qualifications
  • How we feel – which are covered by personality tests
  • What we do – our natural working style – which is measured by the Kolbe A Index.

The Kolbe A index is based on four key dimensions of how we seek to solve a problem.

How we deal with information – Fact Finder

How we organise work – Follow Thru

How we handle uncertainty – Quick Start

How we prefer to deal with abstract ideas or concrete reality.

The interesting thing is that there are no bad scores.

Whether you rate High, Medium or Low, the scores indicate a positive attribute (so there’s no need to worry about what you might be told) but there are bad fits between how you are trying to work and your natural style based on your strengths.

There are two ways for you to take the Kolbe A Index. Both charge a fee but I think it’s well worthwhile if you get the clarity I did.

Kolbe A Index – direct from Kolbe.com – current cost $49.95, no guarantee and no help to interpret and apply it beyond the Kolbe A report.

Strengths Mastery Advantage (affiliate link) – current cost $97 –  this is the Rich Schefren version of the Kolbe A Index with some added extras, a special report “11 Ways To Leverage Your Strengths And Manage Your Weaknesses” and a video interview between Rich Schefren and Amy Bruske, the Executive Vice-President of the Kolbe. You also get a 90 day 100% money back guarantee.

Kolbe Modes

  • Preventing problems (low) to initiating solutions (high)

If you want to know more about the Kolbe A Index, there’s no better place to go than to the creator – Kathy Kolbe and her Google Knol which is more informative than Kolbe.com.

These are the ranges for each of the attributes:

  • “In Fact Finder, a person might research in-depth to develop expertise, gather a moderate amount of information to accommodate what’s asked for or get right to the bottom line.”
  • “In Follow Thru, someone may develop schedules and systems, follow the systems set by someone else or resist getting bogged down by a set way of doing things.”
  • “In Quick Start, people can dive into new tasks, approach with some caution or take a risk only if deemed necessary.”
  • “In Implementor, a person may naturally work and communicate with their hands, be able to fix something that’s broken or be able to visualize spatial objects.”

Each range from initiating solutions to preventing problems.

My Kolbe Score

  • Fact Finder – 8 (Specify)
  • Follow Thru – 4 (Maintain)
  • Quick Start – 5 (Modify)
  • Implementer – 2 (Imaginator)

I thought this was very revealing.

I have a huge urge to find out information and it’s usually my first instinct.

If I encounter a problem, I want to find out what’s causing it and investigate possible solutions. You can tell that from the contents of Your Profit Club. I love researching and finding out more information and becoming an expert. And I hate not knowing enough about stuff I’m supposed to be doing.

On systems I’m better at setting them than following other people’s rules. I certainly recognise the need for systems but I want to find ways to put my new knowledge into action.

I’m balanced on starting and finishing stuff. I can start and I can finish although I’d like to get more stuff finished.

The last rating I thought was interesting.

For years I described myself as a frustrated entrepreneur. I loved the idea of being an entrepreneur but I could never find a proper business (outside of advice) to fire me up with so much passion I could commit to it.

This last score effectively says that I am the architect – happy to deal with the intangible concepts of others which I can relate to strongly – and I’m not the builder – I don’t have the desire to create something tangible.

When I followed Kathy Kolbe on Twitter, she asked me if I’d done the Kolbe A Index, what my score was and what I did. She came back and said that I’d got the perfect score for what I do.

That’s nice and reassuring and I feel much better now that I’ve stopped looking for a business to build. If I found one, I’d have to make sure I recruited a No 2 who is strong on the operations side to deal with all the nuts and bolts of making things happen.

I know the Kolbe scores of two very successful Internet marketing entrepreneurs

  • Rich Schefren 6-3-7-6
  • Yanik Silver 4-2-10-2

As you can see, while both sell huge amounts of programs based on building a successful Internet business, their underlying strengths are very different. It’s also interesting to see that Yanik’s scores are more extreme so he’ll rely more on building the right team to harness his particular strengths.

Building Teams with Kolbe
  • First employee – complement not duplicate or opposite
  • Within 4 on each score – beware polarisation conflicts where strengths fight against each other rather than building consensus.
  • Teams
    • 1 to 3 25%
    • 4 to 6 50%
    • 7 to 10 25%

One definition of team is Together Everybody Achieves More.

It happens when the right strengthens combine effectively to create something much better than the sum of the parts.

If the first recruit for any business is of vital importance but there are two common traps:

  • To recruit someone who is just like you – but you can’t compensate for each other’s weaknesses. The good and the bad gets magnified.
  • To recruit the total opposite – and you drive each other crazy with incompatible working styles.

The right way is to look for compensating skills within four of your score.

So with my score of 8-4-5-2, I’ll be looking for someone who is:

4 or 5 to match my 8

5 to 8 to match 4

2 to 8 to match my 5

5 to 6 to match my 2

My temptation would be to push that last one (the Implementer)  further and go for someone who scores an 8 but he or she would hate my lack of understanding of the details of practical stuff like cabling an IT system.

Our third recruit could go further on the Implementer score but my colleague would have to be the main contact.

As a general rule, you want 25% of your people at each of the extremes (1 to 3 and 7 to 10) and 50% in the middle. You want to challenge the what is happening together with keeping the business stable.

You could get your potential employees to take the test – that’s what some of the big companies do – or you could interview knowing the characteristics you want for the particular role.

Success

Kathy Kolbe says “My definition of success is the freedom to be yourself.”

It’s a great definition.

You get there by recognising your instinctive strengths and your natural way of working. This gives you “permission” to STOP doing the jobs you hate and relieves any guilt when you dump these horrible jobs onto someone.

Remember my quote from John Assaraf at the beginning?

“Hire, barter or partner with people who play at what you have to work at.”

Stop beating yourself up about what you can’t do and instead focus on how you win doing what you can do extremely well.

What To Do

I want you to find your strengths and then plan your work around them.

Be the tall, thin natural high jumper doing the high jump and not the sprint race.

Or the heavily built and muscular shot putter doing the shot put and not the marathon.

Ideally I’d like you use all three methods:

  • Personal reflection on what you find easy and hard
  • Ask others for their impressions of what you’re good at and what you appear to struggle with
  • And the Kolbe A Index.

The more you know about yourself and you build this into your business, the better.

If you want to save money, just use the first two.

If you want to save time and have the formal assessment, give the Kolbe A Index a try and see how you compare to others.

The best option is the Strengths Mastery Advantage version with Rich Schefren’s Strategic Profits because you get the training to go with it to help you to understand the implications.

Strengths Mastery Advantage (affiliate link)

Next up P2M6 How To Set Priorities

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