Consider that you have a Personal Operating System (POS), how you most naturally and effectively operate, your strengths and talents, and your non-talents. And consider that this system is unique to you, just as others’ systems have their own unique configuration. This is the heart of diversity, not just recognizing that people truly differ, also recognizing that people’s differences are to be valued. The superhuman has not (yet?!) been created that can be good at everything. In order to have all our bases covered, people need to be good at different things. For example, there are some people that forge ahead. They have a quick intuitive think, decide, and are ready to run. Others like to mull over a decision. They thoroughly consider different sides and potential outcomes before they move forward. A really good team benefits from having both of these types as members, the gas and the brakes. Remember the internal adoring fan from a previous column? One step in creating an internal adoring fan is to become familiar with your POS. Get to know your strengths, your talents; and recognize your non-talents as well. We typically do not expect our computer’s operating system to do something that it is not designed to do (expect being different from want!). We are sometimes less kind with ourselves, becoming frustrated when we have difficulty in an area that we just may not be designed to do. We each have our own way of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and behaving, our own way of making sense of our world.
There is some fascinating work in this area described by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton (“Now, Discover Your Strengths”). Research suggests that we have huge growth in our brain’s synapses (the connections between neurons) pre-birth and in the first three years of life. Then, over the next thirteen years, we become inattentive to and lose about half of this mental network. We pay increasing attention to certain areas, and strengthen the synaptic connections in those areas. We cannot be good at everything; our effectiveness depends on how well we capitalize on our strongest connections.
Hence the term “non-talents”. Often we assume that something that is not a strength is a weakness. Personally, I believe I have a talent in people processes. And, I do not consider my lack of talent in astrophysics a weakness; it is simply a lack of talent. Similarly, there is increasing interest in entrepreneurs who exhibit “ADHD symptoms” – or perhaps an ADHD configuration. An interesting question is the potential effect on the person who sees themselves as “slow” compared to the effect on the person who recognizes their POS configuration to be thorough and cautious. There are a number of tools that have been found to be useful in describing significant differences between people (Myers Briggs (MBTI), Human Dynamics, Print Survey).
Coaching focuses on leveraging people’s strengths and talents. Leveraging our strengths suggests that our time is better invested when we can recognize what we are naturally good at and work at making this even better. Spending a great deal of time trying to turn a “weakness” into a “strength” is usually not our best time investment. Sometimes it is enough to improve a “weakness” or non-talent to a “good-enough” level, or to find ways to compensate for a non-talent that is significantly affecting our performance.
We humans have a tendency to think how we “should be” this, or “need to be” that, thinking that typically leads to more frustration than benefit. Instead, get to know your POS. Start by “simply noticing” (a deceptively simple yet powerful exercise) the things you do repeatedly, happily, and successfully. And invest in thinking how to use your POS, your natural strengths, tendencies, and talents, to achieve your desired performance. There is almost always more than one way to skin the proverbial cat.