What Are Your Strengths?

 The Worst Piece of Business Advice I’ve Heard

I’m often asked for my best piece of business advice – that’s pretty simple, hire a cleaner,  but what about the worst piece? To be successful, it’s important to understand what are your strengths and what are your weaknesses, but it’s what you do what that knowledge that makes the difference between a happy career and a miserable one.

A few years ago, I overheard what I consider to be the worst business advice ever. What was more frightening was that it was given by a very successful and well known female business leader. I was working on a project alongside an incredibly talented young man, Oli Barrett. He was young, talented and enthusiastic; full of great ideas and energy. He wasn’t however, the one to own the minutia on the spreadsheets (for the record, nor am I).

Now, whether she genuinely thought her advice was going to help him or she used it as a tool to try to control him, I’m not sure, but whichever it was, it was potentially damaging nonetheless.

“Oli, you need to focus on correcting your weaknesses until you’re 40 and then you can start working on your strengths”

Fortunately I wasn’t employed by this person so I had the right to reply without fear of retribution.

Me: “That sounds like a sure fire recipe for a life of misery and disaster. Oli, do the opposite. Focus on your strengths and become world class at them. Sure you’ve got weaknesses, we all do, but if we were all the same not only would life be very boring, but there would be no jobs to go round! Hire or partner with people who have different skill sets so when you come together you are greater than the sum of your parts. When you play to your strengths, you’ll not only be happier, but you’ll also be far more productive.”

Oli is an extraordinary human being and fortunately paid no attention to her advice. Instead he focused on developing his unique talent for curating people and ideas and bringing them to life. Don’t take my word for it though, last year he was awarded an MBE for his services to business and entrepreneurship.

Stop worrying about your weaknesses and focus on your strengths, just remain human in doing so and understand that there will always be things we need to do, but don’t necessarily want to do!

What’s the worst business advice you’ve heard?