Play to Your
Strengths: 5 questions that lead to greater professional success
By Mark Eaton
At work, how
many of you are running around doing everything when there is really
only one thing that you could be great at? And if you are not doing
that one thing, you’re probably not succeeding. Unfortunately, too
many people get so focused on exceeding expectations that they
forget the basics. To position yourself for success, you need to
narrow your focus and intensify it. To play at the top of your game,
you have to do what you do best. In fact, that’s your one and only
job—to help others achieve their goals by doing what you do best.
understanding your role is critical to the team’s success and to
your success as an individual. Most people in the work world do too
many things. Whether they’re taking on too may tasks out of
necessity or simply to attempt to prove their worth, the longer they
fragment themselves and wear too many hats, the less successful they
are. The people who rise to the top of their industry are those who
have learned to do one thing well and then to capitalize that
In the NBA, every player on the court has a specific job…and
that’s the player’s sole focus. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes
rookie players make is trying to do everything—trying to learn how
to dribble the ball better, how to shoot the ball better, how to
improve conditioning, etc. They spend little bits of time on lots of
different things. On the other hand, the players that make it to the
hall of fame are those who find one thing they’re great at and keep
their focus there. They devote their time and attention to
developing that one aspect of themselves—always enhancing that one
skill—which ultimately makes them all-star players.
So where should you be spending your time at work so you can
positively contribute to the team and develop your own success?
Answer the following questions to find out.
What’s the one
thing I’m great at?
Whatever your role
is, it must involve something you’re great at. So what are you great
at? What do you need to be doing more of and what you need to be
letting go of so you can be great? But don’t just ask yourself; also
ask your co-workers, boss, spouse…anyone who can offer insight,
because outsiders often have a different perception of our skills
and talents. Find out what you bring to the team that makes the team
work. Once you get your answer, your job is to maximize that
attribute or skill for the good of the team. Why? Because to make it
to the top you have to play to your strengths. Honor your role and
that of others. When everyone focuses on what they do best you have
a strong foundation.
Do I completely
understand my job?
Now that you know
your role, what are all the aspects of that job you need to focus
on? Are you doing everything possible to make sure that your team
can count on you and that you understand every aspect of your job? A
lot of people don’t really know what their job is, and they’re
afraid to ask what their job is because they don’t want to look
If you’re unsure of your real job, you need to skillfully
inquire. You can simply say to your supervisor, “I’ve been doing A,
B, C, and D. Do you see anything else that I can improve on or any
part of my job that that I may be may be missing or just haven’t
looked at for a while?”
This also relates to the integrity of the team and the
concept of wholeness. In other words, the ability for any team to
function is dependant on each person’s understanding of his or her
role or job on the team. So if you only understand 80 percent of
your job, then the team only gets 80 percent out of you. That has a
direct impact on our team’s ability to succeed. And in fact, you’ve
just compromised the integrity of your team. You’ve handicapped the
next person on the team because he or she doesn’t have everything
necessary to complete the job—all because you don’t completely
understand your job. So before commenting on or criticizing other
people on the team or the corporate goals, make sure you completely
understand every aspect of your job first.
Who can I learn
Whatever your role or job is, you can always better yourself. So who
are the best people out there currently doing what you do? What can
you learn from them? What can they teach you so you can do your job
better? This doesn’t mean you completely stop doing all the other
aspects you’re responsible for. You do, however, put the most focus
and energy into the one thing you’re great at and you continually
hone that one skill or attribute. That’s the best way you can
support your teammates.
Am I nurturing my
In today’s economy, it’s common for people to have to do more than
just their job—more than what they’re great at. With many companies
trying to do more with less, being understaffed, and downsizing, the
reality is that multi-tasking has become the norm. Despite this
reality, you have to remember that there is still one thing you
bring to the table that makes you unique. You have a gift that’s
different from anybody else on the planet. The question is, are you
spending time with that gift? And are you spending time giving that
gift to other people?
In a setting where you wear ten different hats, you can’t
allow that situation to cost you who you really are and what you
bring to the table. For example, if you know you’re the greatest
print advertising salesperson, and all of a sudden your company
decides to start selling radio and television advertising too, you
have to remember what your core passion is. Yes, you can sell the
other services for the time being, but always remember what you’re
great at and keep your main focus there. You have to keep nurturing
your passion, because that’s what has gotten you to your current
level of success and what will take you to the next level as well.
You can’t give away your passion for the sake of wearing many
different hats and multi-tasking.
When you allow a short-term initiative to derail your
long-term passion, your team becomes fractured. As such, your
company goes into survival mode, which can be necessary for a period
of time, but you can’t let what makes you great die out or be
extinguished in the process.
How does my job
doing today has a direct impact on your teammates. So if others are
receiving only 80 percent from you, no matter how hard they work to
pick up the slack, the company will never be at 100 percent
productivity or profitability. Therefore, take a close look at what
you do and get a sense of how your job impacts others. Look “down
the line” to see how others use your contribution to the company.
Whether you manufacture a product, create company reports, or sell a
service, your effort directly affects everyone on your team. Be
clear on that so you can fully realize how vital it is that you
always give 100 percent.
Help Your Team
Getting ahead in today’s world requires a team focus. And the best
way to contribute to your team is to be clear on your strengths and
to capitalize on them at all times. So no matter what your company
is going through right now and no matter what others on your team
are doing, always play to your own unique strengths by being
completely clear on your role, your passion, and how what you do
affects others. Only then can you help your team score the winning
point and become the industry leader.
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