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  • Writer's pictureGeorgia Nielsen

Why focusing on your weaknesses is a flawed approach (& what to do instead)

Updated: Mar 10

Don't waste your talents

We focus on what gives us energy, not what’s broken. Here’s why it works.

In the world of personal and professional development, the prevailing wisdom often echoes the sentiment:

Identify your weaknesses and work tirelessly to improve them.

It seems like a logical approach – after all, if we focus on fixing what's broken, won't we become better, more capable individuals? And, ultimately, achieve success?


Positive psychology research – led by Gallup - proves that the opposite is true. Focussing on what feels naturally good for us gives us the energy to persevere and manage our weaknesses.

Gallup’s data shows that people who have the opportunity to use their strengths are:

6x as likely to be engaged in their job

3x as likely to report having an excellent quality of life

And, for managers and organisations, the outcomes of giving employees strengths-based development are:

7%-23% higher employee engagement

8%-18% increased performance

20%-73% lower attrition


Not sure what you're naturally good at? We use Gallup's CliftonStrengths assessment to help you discover your talents and turn them into strengths.


The flawed deficit (but conventional) approach

The deficit approach makes the incorrect assumption that if you try hard enough, you can master anything. And feeds into society’s fixation on becoming a well-rounded person.

It’s probably what you’ve experienced in job interviews, team meetings, performance reviews, or even your own internal dialogue: 


  • “What don’t you do well?”

  • "How have your weaknesses impacted the quality of your work?"

  • "What do I lack that others ahead of me have?"

  • “What training can we invest in to reduce your weaknesses?”

This approach asks you to maintain your talents but focus your time, energy and professional development money on things you’re not naturally good at.

The problem is: your lesser talents will never become strengths. They may simply reach a level of competence that allows you to avoid failure.

And, while you’re spending all your time, energy and money on marginally improving them, you’re letting your talents become dull and unpractised.

This pursuit of well-roundedness, while noble in theory, limits your ability to reach your full potential. By spreading yourself thin, trying to be proficient in every area, you dilute the energy and focus that could be directed towards honing your natural talents.

The inspiring strengths-based approach

In contrast, the strengths-based approach encourages us to identify and invest in our inherent talents with a focus on turning them into strengths. It asks you to give up on your pursuit of being well-rounded, and instead chase what comes naturally to and energises you.

This shift in mindset not only leverages your existing talents but also allows you to achieve a level of mastery that may have been unattainable through the deficit approach.

You may have already experienced your talents in action when you find yourself:

  • absorbed in a task

  • complimented for something you did that seemed very easy to you

  • consistently drawn to a type of work or project

  • feeling you've always known how to do something (even when it's the first time you're doing it)

Unlike the deficit approach, when you spend your time, energy and professional development money on things you’re naturally good at, you are energised and are excited by tougher challenges.

This approach celebrates what makes you unique and acknowledges that the best teams are collections of people with various natural talents who understand and intentionally use this diversity.


So let’s focus on what’s right with you, not what’s broken.

We’ve helped individuals find their dream jobs and teams reach their collective potential. Let us help you to turn your natural talents into trailblazing strengths.


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