I have always been fascinated by the crossovers between sport and business. Over the past few months I have been working with Rhodri and Robert Jones both of whom have played professional and international rugby. You can see what they are up to at http://www.rugbysuccess.com but in the meantime here are some great observations from Rhodri about the pitfalls of working on your weaknesses…
Play To Your Strengths And Focus On What You Do Best
Conventional wisdom suggests that we should always be looking to improve our weaknesses. On the face of it this does make an awful lot of sense, because if we improve or better still eradicate our weakness wouldn’t success be a hundred percent guaranteed? While learning and training to become better at something is an admirable and essential trait, continually striving to improve weaknesses can often produce negative or sub-standard results.
Whenever we receive feedback whether it’s from a coach, manager, executive, or employer it ordinarily accentuates the negative. Regardless if the overall evaluation is complimentary, invariably the discussion does seem to focus on ‘areas of improvement’. Whoever you are, criticism hurts and the pain lasts much longer than the pleasure that accompanies praise. Corrective feedback always has and always will have its place within every team or organisation. This will ensure every player, member or employee achieves the expected standards of performance to realise the desired results. Unfortunately, feedback that forages for faults can often result in otherwise talented individuals devoting all their energies into propping up their weaknesses or forcing themselves to perform unnatural, inappropriate roles.
Early in his international rugby career, my brother Rob was very much a victim of an over investment in his perceived weaknesses when he unfortunately lost his place for the first time in the Welsh national rugby team. He’d be the first one to admit he was never the biggest or the most physical of scrum halves in the game, however the qualities he did have included silky skills, a superb pass, and exceptional kicking game, and someone who could create and put other players into space easily. Unfortunately in the late 80s when the Welsh team were going through some lean and difficult times these qualities were seen by many as a dispensable commodity. Pundits and public alike clamoured for a bigger more physical scrum half to be selected; someone who regularly took on opposition back rows and was more of a running threat.
As result of this, Rob went about adopting a style of play that relied more on brute strength, power and physicality, all of which were qualities that were somewhat unnatural and moreover totally unsuitable to his physical make-up. Over time through neglecting his undoubted strengths and pouring all his energies into improving his weaknesses it served not only send his performances into free fall but also caused his confidence to hit an all time low.
I also suffered from a similar problem to that of Rob but in a different kind of way. During my playing days my main strength as a scrum half was more as a runner rather than having the all round technical skills that Rob possessed, however because I held my brother in such high esteem and regarded his style of play as the only one to follow, I devoted hour after hour improving my weaknesses (or rather my brother’s strengths) instead of focusing most of energies on strengthening MY strengths. I guess In a nutshell, I was aspiring to be the next best Robert Jones rather than being the very best Rhodri Jones.
Obviously I can never say with 100% certainty that if I had worked on my strengths with the same discipline and energy that I did on my weaknesses, I would have achieved everything I wanted in the game, but what I can say is that my career would probably have been much more enjoyable and certainly less frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly advocate purposeful, repetitive practice to improve your skills and chances of success, irrespective of what profession or industry you’re in, however, banging your head against a wall struggling to improve something that isn’t natural to you, can also be a terrible waste of time and talent.
When you work on developing your strengths, everything becomes so much easier and more natural to you. You will no longer feel like your constantly paddling up stream. Frustration will be replaced with enjoyment, anxiety with calmness and self doubt with confidence. The reality is that we’re all very different. We all have strengths and weaknesses that are unique to us. So the important thing to remember is this, whatever it is you’re aspiring to achieve, be sure to FOCUS ON YOU, YOUR STRENGTHS AND THE THINGS YOU DO BEST. Endeavouring to do this will inevitably lead you on a self rewarding, more enjoyable authentic path toward success.