Push On The Hamstrings

Posted on September 18, 2011
Filed Under Business, Decision Making |

“Unless, therefore, an executive looks for strength and works at making strength productive, he will only get the impact of what a man cannot do, of his lacks, his weaknesses, his impediments to performance and effectiveness. To staff from what there is not and to focus on weakness is wasteful - a misuse, if not abuse, of the human resource.”
- Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

My first business was a sports training franchise. I didn’t own it long because I missed technology businesses, but while I was there I learned a very important lesson about strengths. We hired a track coach as our lead performance director, who came from a powerful track program that had come under scrutiny multiple times. This coach had so many championships, he was repeatedly accused of cheating. He finally had enough and had decided to leave for a less stressful job, which is how we landed him.

One night as we were closing down, I asked him about it. “Tell me the truth, just between us. What did you really have to do to win so many titles?”

“Rob,” he said, “I never cheated. You see, when most coaches get a good sprinter, they instantly look at where he is weak. If he has naturally great hamstrings, they overload him with exercises to improve his quads, calves, etc. They assume his hamstrings are fine, and he needs work elsewhere. I look at a guy like that and wonder how much his hamstrings can take. I give him exercises to push his hamstrings to their limits. I build on his natural strengths. No sprinter is perfect. To win, you have to accentuate your strengths.”

Everyone likes to complain about what everyone else does poorly. But really, that doesn’t matter nearly as much as what everyone does well. Peter Drucker had it right. Instead of trying to build a company of perfect people who are good at everything (which is undoubtably an unrealistic goal), build a company around people’s strengths.


One Response to “Push On The Hamstrings”

  1. Jake on September 30th, 2011 3:24 pm

    This is great advice for helping your employees to grow to their maximum potential. During performance appraisals and other types of evaluations, many managers focus on an employee’s weaknesses and how to correct them. However, as both Peter Drucker and the track coach suggest, it is usually more important to help your people get better at what they have natural apptitude for. It’s much easier for them to improve in areas they’re already good at, and they’ll enjoy it more, leading ultimately to more success. Thanks for sharing!

  • About Rob

    Rob is co-founder of Backupify.com. He likes value investing, the Rolling Stones, college basketball, artificial intelligence, economic history and people who think independently.