At work we’re introducing a new performance framework. The basis of this is a move to regular conversations between managers and individual team members. Within these conversations we want people to recognise and work on strengths in contrast to the old once-a-year meeting where the conversation tended to dwell on the individual’s weaknesses and how they need to work harder to overcome them.
As you can guess, there is a lot more to the framework than I’ve covered in the brief paragraph, but what I’ve been considering recently is covered in those few words. As writers, indeed as people, we often dwell on our weaknesses rather than the things we’re good at doing. It’s all too easy to look at the end-of-year school report and overlook the ‘A’s and ‘B’s and ask yourself (or your children) why they only got a ‘C’ in one subject. We beat ourselves up because we’re not good at dialogue, or useless at weaving poetic images in our prose and overlook or minimise the things we are good at doing.
I can definitely raise my hand to thinking that anything I’m good at doing is because it’s easy and everyone can do it, rather than recognising it’s a strength.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. If we’re realistic, however hard we work on our weaknesses we’re only going to improve them a little, but when we work on our strengths we can enhance or increase them many times more. In addition, when we’re working to our strengths we feel better about ourselves and our weaknesses aren’t as noticeable.
We can’t completely ignore weaknesses, but we shouldn’t let them loom so large in our thinking. Going back to my work example, one of the things to do is look at the whole team in respect of strengths and weaknesses. One person might not be any good at Excel spreadsheets, or hate working with them, while someone else may love them. There can often be a trade-off in tasks. Likewise with our writing. If you belong to a writing group there will be someone who is better at dialogue, creating metaphors, writing description or any of the myriad craft skills we use to create a compelling book. Ask them for some help or advice with a piece of your writing and you may find they’d like your help with something they find difficult.
We can’t completely ignore the things we don’t do so well, but we should keep it in perspective and give ourselves credit for the areas where we have talent and work to our strengths.