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August 28, 2015

Playing to Your Strengths

Sarah Pavey

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"Everyone makes mistakes."

How often have you heard that, or even said it yourself? Chances are, fairly often… and usually when a mistake has been made.

Personally, I really don't mind making mistakes... as long I can learn from them. I've got a pretty distinct learning style: I like to be taught or study the basics, then I want to go off and learn by experimenting and doing it myself. The "doing it myself" part includes making mistakes, finding out how and why they're mistakes, and hopefully avoiding them in the future!

Now, I don't mind making mistakes while learning… but I hate making the same mistake twice. One of my strengths is my visual and aural memory, and doing the same thing wrong twice makes me want to kick myself. After all, I should have known it was wrong… right?!

Because I know my memory is one of my strengths, I can take advantage of this and focus on tasks that make the best use of it. For example, as an editor and print designer, memorizing style guides quickly and being able to visualize page layouts is a huge bonus. I can picture what things look like and remember what people have said to me, which helps me minimize the number of mistakes I make.

I'm aware of this strength... but I also know my main weakness: numbers. My brain just doesn't work that way. Ironically, my good memory doesn't help at all! Sure, I could picture the page of a math or physics textbook at school and recall what was written there… but it didn't help me comprehend the calculations or formulae. I know I'm not great with numbers, so I avoid them where possible and delegate tasks that involve finance or accounting to others who are much better equipped to deal with them.

Within the Mind Tools editorial team, everyone has their own unique strengths, and we try hard to encourage people to focus on what they do best. For example, Caroline Smith (@CarolineSmithMT) is a fantastic commissioning editor: she can build rapport quickly with writers, she provides constructive and fair feedback, and she's able to assess an article against a brief using her insight and knowledge. Our newest editors, Keith Jackson and Charlie Swift also bring some great skills to the group. Keith works exceptionally quickly and accurately, writing snappy headlines and watertight copy, and he's always keen to take on something new. Charlie is a great researcher who really gets into the "nuts and bolts" of a subject. He can provide in-depth analysis of a topic, and has a perfectionist streak that's a great trait for an editor!

This combination of skills allows us work hard and provide the best possible content for the Mind Tools audience. We fine-tune and quality-assure all our content, again and again, until it's as good as we can make it. After all, our aim is to delight and inform our readers.

Within the team, we try to share out tasks based on our strengths, and delegate jobs that someone else could do better. As we all know, people who enjoy what they do, get to use their expertise, and work within a team of people with complementary skills are bound to be happier and more engaged at work.

In our latest article, we explore Strengths-Based Leadership, and look at how you can use it to develop yourself and your team members. We focus on the advantages and disadvantages of using this approach, and think about how you can identify your own strengths.

Do you know your own strengths? Do you focus on using them? What about your team members' strengths? What do you do about your weaknesses?

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