Are you well-rounded?
Are you happy?
Think back. How far back? Middle or high school. Ok, you there? Let’s move beyond the sudden influx of various emotions (good and/or bad). Do you recall the one word or concept that was often thrown at you as a necessity for future success? There were so many, I know. Yet, one is most likely most prominent and consistent.
That word/concept is well-rounded.
What does well-rounded mean? According to Dictionary.com, it means having a personality that is fully developed in all aspects. No big deal, right? Developing your personality fully by end of high school or even college is an extremely easy and attainable goal, said no one…ever. I don’t know about you, but I’m still in the process of figuring out all the aspects of my personality. Fully developing them? HA. Ask me in a few decades (be prepared to be told to ask again in a few more). Oh, and I’m way beyond college. I have a doctorate degree and a shit load of student loans to prove that.
Why are we pushed to be well-rounded? In theory it makes sense. Life will inevitably provide challenges, professionally and personally. If you are well-rounded you will be better able to handle said challenges. Here is the problem with that theory. By attempting to be well-rounded you undertake situations, skills or relationships that you do not care about. In other words, you work on your weaknesses instead of doubling down on your strengths.
This is not a unique idea, to focus on strengths. In 2009, Harvard Business Review wrote “Let’s encourage people to be weak in areas in which they are average — because no one can possibly be great at everything — and place all our effort on developing their strengths further.” The point of the article was to point out if you focus on getting weaknesses stronger you are over-emphasizing and thus reinforcing the weakness. Which is a regular occurrence in the business world.
Think performance reviews. The above HBR article further mentions that “traditional management systems encourage mediocrity in everything and excellent in nothing.” Have you experienced that? Here is an example– you sit down for your performance review and your boss starts out with everything you are good or excellent in (buttering you up). Then they proceed to slam you (professionally) with your weaknesses or areas of improvement. After that meeting, what are you left focusing on? All the traits you are a rockstar in, or, the few things you need to improve?
Another proponent of focusing on your strengths is Gary Vaynerchuck. If you know anything about Gary, you know it would be a disservice to him if I try to summarize his perspective. Go ahead and watch this (you won’t be disappointed, I promise):
You may be asking, if focusing on weaknesses is wrong, how do I improve? That’s simple. Focus on your strengths.
Having a strength doesn’t mean you are fully developed in that area. You need to develop an awareness of your strengths. Remember, for most of your life you’ve been finding weaknesses and trying to improve them. Now ask yourself, what do you enjoy doing. What tasks do you look forward to completing at work? What do your co-workers rely on you to nail? Begin to compile that list. Go through it and pick 1 or 2 to focus on.
Time is a crucial asset we cannot get back. We are better served to find people to compliment our weaknesses. It’s even better, if they have a few overlapping strengths to yours. By focusing on your strengths and allowing others to do the same results in a productive, driven and happy culture. I don’t know about you, I’d rather be happy than “well-rounded.”
Dr. Gene Shirokobrod
Co-founder, UpDoc Media