Why appraisals are all wrong: How to play to your strengths

Why appraisals are all wrong: How to play to your strengths
Panagiotis Koutoudis
by Panagiotis Koutoudis
Here’s a scenario that will strike a chord with pretty much anyone who’s ever had a job.

Picture the scene: you’re in an appraisal, your boss has flattered you with some nice stuff and now it’s the awkward bit - she’s talking about the things you’re not so good at.

With her stern eye on you, you grudgingly agree to address your weaknesses, plug your skills gaps and work hard on those dodgy areas.

Naturally enough, when you eventually quit that job to set up your own business, you took that mindset with you.

An online article (a bit like this one, perhaps) advised you to list your strengths and weaknesses and identify your shameful secrets. You might have admitted you’re nervous of numbers, you’re clueless when it comes to marketing, or perhaps you don’t see yourself as an ideas person.

Whatever your personal Achilles’ heel,  you took action. Because entrepreneurs are widely expected to be supermen who need to be masters of all trades, you ran around signing up to webinars, reading books, attending courses - anything to rub out those weaknesses.

And that’s exactly where you’ve been going wrong.

Michaela Oldfield, who runs Green Shoots Coaching, advises a completely different approach. She works with her business clients on playing to their strengths and believes anyone not doing so is shooting themselves in the foot.

‘Being told to develop your weaknesses to turn them into strengths is a waste of valuable time and energy - never more so than when you are running your own business,’ she explains, ‘Investing too much time trying to develop your weaknesses can be de-energising, time consuming and demotivating. These are all things you can’t afford to have in your business.

‘One of the reasons so many entrepreneurs fail is that they’re trying to do everything themselves and eventually run their business into the ground.’

Michaela suggests that instead of spending time on their weaknesses, they work with the things they’re great at and find other ways of plugging the gaps.

‘I call it being resourceful with your weaknesses,’ she says, ‘Really, it means looking around you and perhaps delegating, outsourcing, employing or automating to bring these skills into the business.’

The first step is to identify your strengths - and there are plenty of ways to start.

The simplest is to list all your successes; basically anything you’ve done that has achieved great results. Add to this anything that makes you feel happy while you’re doing it; the sort of things that make time fly and put you in that blissful state the psychologists call ‘flow’.  These are the things you’re naturally good at. Reviewing these lists should give you a good starting point for working out your strengths.

If you need a prompt, why not kick off by taking part in the Great British Business Quiz? It takes just minutes to complete and will give you a great idea of what kind of businessperson you are, as well as pointing you towards some useful articles to help you develop your best points.

Alternatively, you might choose to work with a professional business coach such as Michaela. The advantage is that you’ll get an unbiased opinion - and you’ll be taken through a variety of exercises to find the genuine answers. And then you’ll work together on a programme to put these skills into use for your business.

  Michaela’s three cracking business reasons to play to your strengths:  

1Not wasting time on your weaknesses means you can invest time in stretching and growing your strengths even further. You could become known in your industry as an expert - and that might give you the competitive edge.

2If you employ others, allowing them to play to their strengths is a great way to keep them engaged, motivated and happy. No one brings everything to the table, but a happy and enthusiastic team has fewer absences and better productivity.

3As you begin to focus on your strengths, you’ll stop wasting time on meaningless tasks and focus on fulfilling your dreams. Your stress levels should naturally decrease as a result of this and you will find a natural increase of balance harmony in work and life.

Take the Great British Business Quiz today and you could win £5,000 worth of advertising for your business.