Watching the Phoenix Suns, my current favorite basketball team, lose to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday again offered a subtle clue on the value of focusing on your strengths and perhaps how debilitating focus on weaknesses can be.
In the series San Antonio used a tactic the announcers called “Hack-a-Shaq.” Shaquille O’Neal, the mammoth center the Suns picked up late in the NBA season, is a notoriously poor foul shooter [think Wilt Chamberlain] He frequently fails to convert even half of his foul shots and San Antonio resorted to this method to reduce the continuity the Suns would have on the court and also to reduce the number of points they would produce.
As I watched this process take place you could almost see the disappointment and frustration for Shaq and his teammates as series after series they would foul him to send him to the line in order to maintain San Antonio’s momentum and prevent the Suns for gaining any ground. It worked so well that with one game exception, the Spurs lengthened their lead each game using this approach.
What’s the point? If you’re not aware of it already the research that has come out in the recent few years notes that each of us gains more by concentrating on our strengths then by focusing on improving our weaknesses. Books by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, PhD, Now Discover Your Strengths, and Tom Rath’s follow up Strength Finder 2.0 point to the value of learning our strengths and then exercising those “muscles” rather than putting effort into improving a weakness.
Working on improving a weakness is frustrating and often times self defeating. It is not enjoyable and thus the process is frequently painful. What is more important is that working on a weakness rarely brings forth much benefit. If you’re poor at something and you get to average, how much have you truly gained? Working on strength is most often more fun, and best of all more rewarding. You see results faster, plus because it is in your sweet spot you enjoy it.
San Antonio used a tactic that focused on their opponents weaknesses. While I don’t approve of the tactic, and think there should be a rule change to penalize this since it ruins the flow of the game, never the less it was not only helpful on the scoreboard, I believe it psychologically defeated the Suns. It was like David slewing Goliath. A small thing like a foul shot glaringly revealed a chink in the Suns team. It made them feel vulnerable and probably defeated them on many levels that they are still unaware of.
Have you been guilty of spending too much time working on your weaknesses? If you spend a lot of time in an area you are not good at, that doesn’t make you feel strong, how do you end up feeling? How does that transfer to others?
Most small business owners spend time doing things they don’t like to do because they have to. They feel they are too small to do anything else. Those small business owners who succeed quickly, realize in short order that in order for the business to get better they need to hire others that can do the jobs they are doing, and who can do it better than them. They need systems to ensure that these jobs are done correctly and to the specifications they want, however the key to leadership is [as mentioned in previous Blog – Leadership Keys] effective delegation and prediction. If you aren’t delegating tasks to others who are as or more capable than you, what happens? You probably are not spending time on your strengths, and you have less time to evaluate, use your power for pattern recognition and thus predict better as well.
The lesson from “Hack-a-Shaq?” Concentrate on your strengths. Hire others to do those things you don’t like to do. Just a clue, strength is not necessarily something you are good at, but rather, something that makes you feel strong when you do it. You may be good at something however if you don’t feel good when doing it, don’t label it as a strength. A good test to take to find your strengths is the new Strength Finders 2.0 book that provides a free on line test when you purchase it.