“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.