I had the privilege to be selected to a 40 pax Strengths-Based Client Development Workshop held by Gallup late November and I concur that it was one of the best experiences I have had so far for my first year MBA education. Why? Short answer is I finally found a legitimate excuse for not being good at Finance. Extended answer is…Well, below is my extended answer in a nutshell.
We have been taught millions of time that practices make perfect and the 10,000-Hour Rule: how people who rise from nothing could truly master a skill through 10,000 hours’ practice. That’s why whenever there was a Finance assignment due, I was glued to a caseroom seat the entire night or two nights before deadline. I was patient and serious, but puzzled and clueless. Despite spending an average of four hours on every “mini” assignment, I progressed slowly, and I would cross my fingers and consider hard work paid off if I could get a B+ in the end.
However, my Strategy course is a totally different story. I got “better than expected” grades (90 percentile) for all five weekly case write-ups and four of them were full score. I was so caught up when reading the book Strategic Management Concepts and Cases (Frank Rothaermel, McGraw-Hill, 2012) that I made extensive notes and couldn’t help refer back to it from time to time. I never spent over than one hour on a write-up and my thoughts naturally gathered together while I was reading the cases.
That’s the reality of how performances and outcomes varied when one worked from weakness and strength. Working hard on your weakness will never make you excel in your weak area, but investing in your strengths brings exponential growth. And that’s the core of Strength-Based Theory. It’s a much more pleasant and rewarding journey to maximize who you are and what you are good at rather than trying to make yourself someone else and fixing what you are poor at. Trying to be someone you are not is exhausting and it leads to mediocrity.*
However, it looks like MBA education is all about fixing your weaknesses: we are forced to take quantitative courses some of us have been avoiding throughout our lives; career changers pin their hope on this panacea to start afresh. How many of us use the buzz phrase “well-rounded” in our personal essays and interview answers? I believe that identifying and developing our strengths does not mean that we should ignore weaknesses. Rather,we should adopt different strategies to approach our strengths and weaknesses. Instead of investing the most time on weaknesses, we could focus on our core strengths and utilize them to manage weaknesses.
I would like to conclude with an excerpt from the book Strengths Based Selling (Tony Rutigliano & Brian Brim, Gallup Press, 2010)
When you’re working from strength, you find yourself in a state of flow…as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”When you’re using an area of strength to its utmost, you feel energized, powerful, and even a little euphoric.
I am pretty sure I had those moments of euphoria at some of my works. And I’m looking for more. How are about you?