Soar with Your Strengths

by Nancy Zwiers | 07 May 2022

The Bloom Report

Soar With Your Strengths

By Nancy Zwiers

I visited my daughter Nikki who is in graduate school in Europe this past month, and over dinner, I shared with a group of her fellow student friends that I was an executive coach.  One of her friends asked me what advice I give to all my clients.

 

First, I complimented him on a “powerful question.” Then, I confirmed that coaching is not about giving advice per se.  It is about helping clients reflect through asking “powerful questions” and guiding them to new levels of understanding and commitment based on their own insights.  That said, in my 40+ years of working, I have learned some valuable lessons that I often share with my clients.

 

So after reflecting on Tim’s powerful question, I realized one of the most important pieces of advice to share would be “Soar with your Strengths.”

 

Extensive experience in both business and human development has demonstrated unequivocally that the key to success is investing in strength versus focusing on shoring up weakness.  In other words, we get a bigger return on our investment when it’s directed to areas where we are strong.

 

Often, in our quest for perfection, we focus on fixing our weaknesses so we can be “perfect.”  This is a fool’s errand.  We expend great energy on efforts that don’t yield much benefit.

 

Let me use myself as an example.  I am not great at planning and organizing; all my efforts at fixing this shortcoming fall flat—after 40 years of effort, I’m still not great at planning and organizing.  In other words, I have gotten a low return on my investment of attention and energy. 

 

I am, however, adept at intuitively connecting disparate pieces of information and generating breakthrough insights that lead to out-of-the-box thinking.  The resulting innovations lead to breakthrough results.  Every time I focus on leveraging my strength in this way, I get a huge return on my investment of attention and energy.

 

Let’s apply this same principle to strategic business-building. This means do more of what works and less of what doesn’t:

  • Strong in one channel/market but weak in another? Don’t try to elevate the weak channel or market, lean-in to the strong channel instead.
  • Got a brand that is growing but another that is languishing? Focus your effort on growing the brand that is already thriving, by diverting effort from the weaker brand.  My personal experience working on Barbie for Mattel reinforced this in spades—Barbie represented the lion’s share of Mattel’s profits, and it received the lion’s share of resources.

 

P&G, the world’s foremost expert in brand-building, embodied the mantra of “spend behind the business.”  This is another way of ensuring that you are leaning into success versus failure.  The brand generating 60% of the business should receive 60% of the support.  The “new kid on the block” generating 10% of your business deserves 10% of your effort—or if you truly believe it is a growth engine of the future, maybe 15% or even 20% of effort…but be wary of over-supporting the unproven at the expense of the proven. 

 

So, as you think about your career and the business you are driving—how do you assess your commitment to leaning into strength?  How can you soar with your strengths?