The secret to lasting personal success may seem elusive to most, but best-selling author Marcus Buckingham thinks he has the answer.
According to his enduring 2005 book “The One Thing You Need to Know: … About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success,” the one thing you need to know to be a consistent top performer is to discover what you don’t like doing, and stop doing it.
Buckingham says using your natural talents, whether problem-solving or with out-of-the box creativity, makes you feel powerful and confident and is self-reinforcing. Having to perform in areas where you’re weak, on the other hand, leaves you feeling depleted and ineffective. Therefore, the secret to sustained success, he says, lies in knowing which activities engage your strengths and which do not, and having the self-discipline to avoid the latter.
Most of us are actually pretty good at identifying our strengths, Buckingham says. It’s harder to pinpoint what you don’t like doing and why, in order to jettison those tasks from your working life. Here are four signs you’re doing tasks you don’t like or aren’t good at, and how to eradicate them:
1. You’re bored. In this case, it’s likely that your deep interests aren’t engaged, says Buckingham, and while you may be successful in the short-term, success will be difficult to sustain. There’s only one clear solution in this scenario, he says. “When the content of your job proves deeply uninteresting to you, you must change the job.”
2. You’re unfulfilled. If you feel deeply unsatisfied, most likely your values are not engaged, he says. The job may require that you act unethically, or you may be working toward goals you don’t find meaningful. Like the previous example, if you’re asked to do something that goes against your values — and you’ve made your feelings known to the company and seen no change in behaviour — he says it may be time to look for a new job.
3. You’re frustrated. If you’re in a role where you’re interested in the content and your values are aligned but you’re not using your core strengths, you’ll become increasingly frustrated, Buckingham says. Here, you can either move on or, better yet, tweak the role so that it incorporates your strengths. After you’ve experienced some achievement, you can then “parlay this success into a new, changed role that plays to your strengths entirely,” he writes. Take note: Pulling this off requires persistence and a manager who’s willing to let you experiment.
4. You’re drained. If you find that you frequently miss things or don’t understand things others find clear, he says, it’s likely that the job requires you to be strong in an area where you are actually weak, which can be incredibly draining. There are two possible solutions here: You could find someone else to do the thing you hate, either by delegating or finding a partner with complimentary strengths, or you could find an aspect of the activity that brings you strength. For instance, if you are a great artist but not good at providing negative feedback to those who work with you, focus on the fact that you are helping produce great art, rather than potentially hurting someone’s feelings.
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