You Can't Always Get What You Want...

People in the business world talk a lot about Strengths. Do a search on that topic and you’ll find all kinds of information on the web about uncovering your strengths, coaching to develop strengths, applying strengths in your work, etc. These articles all lead you to believe there is a perfect job out there for you—one that allows you to soar with the career eagles as you flex your wings and do all those terrific things you love to do.

However, the work world just isn’t like that. With any job there is a mix of what you love to do, what you like or don’t mind doing, and what you really wish you could pawn off on someone else.

When we have the opportunity to use our strengths at work, we feel fulfilled and love what we do. We’re inspired, engaged, and way more productive than when working in roles that don’t tap into what we do best. But does everything in work have to play to our strengths in order for us to be happy? And how do you manage the expectation that a job is only fulfilling if it caters to strengths?

If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” - Marc Anthony

Managers have a profound effect on engagement since they have the opportunity to position people in roles where they can do what they do best every day. However, managers everywhere struggle with allowing their team members to work to their strengths, but still get all the tasks accomplished. No matter how hard they try, they’re faced with having to ask team members to do tasks they don’t enjoy. That’s just the way it is.

That is, of course, an argument for diversity in hiring. Diversity in the workplace allows for strengths and weaknesses to be spread out. In a diverse team, you may find that one person’s weak area is another person’s strength. If that’s the case, there is always someone who can step up and deliver successful results. So, hiring practices should take into account strength gaps in the team and seek those in a candidate.

But what if the team is already in place and established? In that case there has to be a balance of passion and responsibility.

This can be a good thing. As said in the quote above, if our job allows us to do what we’re strong at, we’ll enjoy what we do, even when doing tasks we don’t particularly love. In other words, we can ride out those periods because most of the time we’re loving what we do. Working on our areas of not-strength (hey – just because it’s not a strength doesn’t mean we’re bad at it) affords us the opportunity to develop other areas we’ve targeted for improvement, and it’s possible those will tie in to our strengths in a different way.