What’s Better – Focus on Strengths Or Weaknesses?

Should you focus on strengths or weaknesses? It's an ongoing debate, and it remains to be seen which one wins. 

Focusing on your strengths seems ideal because it's positive and easy.  Especially if you are looking to build your confidence.  So why beat yourself up about your weaknesses?  On the other hand, if you don't consider your weaknesses, you could leave yourself vulnerable.

Either way, it can affect your confidence, belief in yourself and if you are looking to change direction in life, whether you can make your dream life a reality.

What's Better?

For a long time, the question of whether you should focus on strengths or weaknesses was hotly debated. 

At one point, there was an emphasis on looking at strengths as the preferred option.  Which meant that strengths would be developed, and weaknesses were often ignored.  After all, isn't this the best way to become more confident?

Then there was an about-turn, and the emphasis moved towards a focus on weaknesses.  It became essential to assess and identify those and tackle them head-on.  As a result, you would reduce your vulnerability and increase self-sufficiency.

Confusing, isn't it?

But ultimately, there are benefits to both approaches.

Should You Focus On Strengths Or Weaknesses?

I'm not trying to be deliberately awkward here, but …

In some situations, especially if you are looking for solutions to problems, focusing on strengths is the better option.

But, if you are trying to resolve bottlenecks or get to grips with the causes of problems, then it makes sense to focus on your weaknesses.

The answer comes down to choosing which focus is suitable for the situation you are facing.

Let me explain.

When To Focus On Strengths

If you are in a leadership role – and by leadership, I don't mean Captain of industry, although it would also apply there.  I mean, if you are responsible for the outcome of something, then the question of whether you should focus on strengths or weaknesses is important. 

Consider this in the light of creating a life of your own design.  Think of yourself as the CEO of your life.  You are definitely in a leadership role then!

In that situation, it would be better to focus on your strengths.  To exploit your zone of genius.  Because often, the areas you experience weakness in could be outsourced or delegated. There's no sense in spending time and resources overcoming weakness when someone else can handle it more efficiently.

Time is precious, after all.  And you're a busy woman who wants to get things done and be confident doing it.

Let's imagine you're hosting a big fundraising event, and you happen to be strong at:

  • Organising
  • Event planning
  • Building and motivating great teams

But you're not great at

  • Catering
  • Public speaking
  • Sales

In that case, it would make sense to:

  • Hire a caterer for the food
  • An Emcee for the night
  • Hand the sales to someone brilliant at it –

All of these weaknesses need to be addressed.  You want the evening to be a success and to raise money for your cause. 

So you want an eventful evening that people will enjoy.  It would fall really flat if the food was awful or there was no atmosphere.  People might complain and not attend another of your events. 

And if you don't maximise the number of people coming.  Well, you're not going to raise much money, which, after all, is the reason you're holding the fundraiser in the first place!

When To Focus On Weaknesses

If you have a weakness that could stop progress or impact an outcome, then it may be best to improve a weakness.  Because some things can't be outsourced or delegated.

If the missing link is you, and you do have to be honest here - none of us like to think that we are the cause of problems - it's time to close the gap between your strengths and weakness and figure things out.

Let's return to the fundraising example. 

If you're not great at following through or keeping on top of what needs to happen, then it makes more sense for you to become better at that. So take time to improve your personal skill set.  Your role will be much easier as a result.

When to focus on strengths...

when you can exploit your zone of genius and you can delegate to someone who has that strength

When to focus on weaknesses...

when you are solely responsible and the task cannot be delegated

Which Way Forward ...

You may often find yourself conflicted about whether you need to focus on strengths or weaknesses.  But if you look at the outcome you are trying to achieve, choose which focus is better in that particular situation.

If you can delegate something you're not good at to someone better, that's great.  Allow others to shine, which is also a great way to help them progress – essential if you manage a team and want to motivate them.

But if your weakness is stopping you from doing your job correctly, or to live the life you want without interference from others, then take the time to improve your weakness.  If you don't improve your ability, it could hamper how you live your life, your career prospects or impact your results.

Getting to know yourself better and become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses is critical. A great way to do this is to ask a friend for honest feedback.

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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