I’m sorry, have we met before? 

There’s a difference between getting out of your comfort zone and jumping off a cliff.

One is a useful exercise that involves healthy risk, stretches you in new directions and stimulates growth.

The other is an exhausting, frustrating, wasteful effort that doesn’t play to your strengths.

Drucker, in his bestselling book on managing yourself, wrote: it takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than to improve from first rate performance to excellence.

Sadly, not every manager understands this. They put their team members in situations where they aren’t working with their strengths, and it feels like an uphill battle.

People have very little leverage in that situation. The work suffers, and so does the worker.

Reminds me of an old boss of mine. She did a commendable job of challenging me as a marketers to think more analytically and use company data as our source of truth. Those two approaches didn’t come naturally to me, but they were useful to learn, and helped me expand my repertoire of communication tools.

Sometimes, though, her expectations around my role were totally unreasonable:

Scott, we need you to be more like an investigative journalist. We want you to spend significant time looking into serious crimes, corruption, or corporate wrongdoing, as it relates to our industry. Walk through walls if you have to. Research, plan, develop hypotheses, uncover compiling evidence and publish those stories in a way that’s compelling for our customers to read.

Wow, really? Have we met before? Not only would that process be excruciating for me, but the output would be awful. None of that work plays to my strengths. It would be a colossal misuse of manpower. And so, let me save you some time. Don’t ask me to spend my time and energy publicly unearthing secrets about social injustice and organizational accountability.

Look, we all have to do things we don’t want to do in life, but this is ridiculous. Drucker’s insight from earlier is worth repeating here. It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than to improve from first rate performance to excellence.

If you want leverage, focus on being a strength based person.

Do things that multiple the return on your time, energy and effort. 

When was the last time you were put into a situation where you weren’t working to your strengths?


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