Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

Jyly 2013

The Fastest Fast Track for Career Success

I once read that Thomas Jefferson was an awful public speaker. In fact, Jefferson hated it so much that he asked one of his staff members to deliver his State of the Union addresses.

Would Thomas Jefferson have been a stronger leader and a more effective president if he had honed his presentation skills? Probably, but even so he was considered one our greatest presidents. Jefferson was smart: he focused on what he did best.

Author Donald Clifton believes that when we focus on our strengths, not only will we be happier but we’ll also be more productive. Clifton, along with Marcus Buckingham of the Gallup organization, wrote a wonderful book on the subject: Now Discover Your Strengths. In it, they mention a Gallup poll where only 20 percent of employees working in large organizations felt they were using their strengths every day. Even more disturbing, the poll showed that the longer an employee worked for an organization, and the higher he or she climbed the career ladder, the less likely the employee felt that his or her strengths were being used.

Take a minute and list three of your top strengths. Perhaps you’re a good writer, great listener, and excellent public speaker.

Now list three ways you could strengthen one of these skills. (For example: take a course, find a coach, or schedule time to practice.)   

Which of these action steps would you be willing to commit to today?

Each of you has innate talents and abilities, but too often they go undeveloped or, worse, unnoticed because you are focusing on eliminating the weaknesses rather than perfecting your strengths. Take a page from Thomas Jefferson’s book: focus on your strengths, and manage your weaknesses.

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