Why you should focus on the best of you, rather than trying to fix the worst of you
I sucked as a soccer coach.
Yeah, I had plenty of excuses.
And, truth be told, some of the kids’ parents made the situation worse.
But knowing what I know now — I was my own worse enemy.
There I go, focusing on the worst of me.
And that was the exact problem with my coaching style.
Unfortunately, it’s the way the vast majority of us have been coached and taught, and the method most coaches and teachers still use today.
Our practices would be focused on trying to “fix” what went wrong during the game.
My halftime talk would be about went we needed to do better in the second half.
This may not sound unique or out of place.
As Tom Rath writes in StrengthsFinder 2.0:
“From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths.”
Whether through our work reviews, our schooling, or our sports coaching, our “teachers” and bosses too often focus on what we did badly, and the need to fix it.
What if, however, we decided to focus on the best of us, rather than trying to fix the worst of us?
That’s the exact question asked by psychologist Donald O. Clifton, PhD, the “father of strengths-based psychology” (and Tom Rath’s grandfather).
“What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?” — Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.
It’s about more than just a positive attitude.
And it’s not just a state of mind.
Clifton’s efforts sparked decades of research by Gallup on strengths-based development.
Here’s just a few of the tidbits they found…
People who focus on using their strengths are: 3x as likely to report having an excellent quality of life and 6x as likely to be engaged in their jobs.
People who learn to use their strengths every day have 7.8% greater productivity.
Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability.
A further sign that the traditional/popular “weaknesses-first” approach development isn’t working is the fact that Gallup finds:
Only 13% of U.S. employees are engaged at work.
A disengaged workforce is less productive, less happy, less fulfilled and, yes, can be less profitable.
There are many facets to how a strengths-based approach can work, but the first step is taking your CliftonStrengths talent assessment here.
Here’s just a small example — continuing on my soccer coaching story from before—about how I’ve begun using this approach with my own daughter.
I found that she would get nervous before games by focusing on all the things her coach told her to fix in the previous practice.
As such, I asked her to visualize a game or practice where she was “in the flow.”
A game or practice where she walked away feeling satisfied like she was really crushing it.
What did she do “right” on those days that made her felt so good?
She identified three things: Staying on her toes; kicking with her laces; and, being aggressive with her feet to the ball.
Three simple things that she knew she did every time she had a killer practice or game.
So, I told her to replicate those things in the game.
I could see the weight being lifted from her shoulders.
They were things she knew how to do.
They were things at which she could do.
They were the things she knew happened every time she played well.
Did she go out and have the best game of her life after we spoke?
No — but I could tell she had a lot more fun.
She was less nervous before the game.
And ready to kill it when she got back on the field.
It’s a small example, but hopefully a story that helps you better understand the strengths-based approach.
In fact, that specific “Best of Me” approach is one that I take in my personal coaching sessions with my clients.
Complete this sentence: You get the “best of me” when …
Another way I phrase the question: Think of a day or a time when you’re “in the flow” and feeling great. What does that look like?
The bottom line: Think of a time when you’re at your best.
And replicate it.
Focus on your strengths.
Do what you do well — as much as possible.
Should you ignore your weaknesses? Of course not.
But manage them.
There are some things for which we need to be competent, rather than master.
Focus on the best of you.
Rather than trying to fix the worst of you.