Why focus on strengths?

My job is to help people identify and then productively apply their greatest talents to their work and life. This work can be so uplifting and positive. I have also found that is is hard to stay focused on strengths. When I work with clients on their top 5 almost everyone wonders what are their bottom talents. When I attended the Certified Strengths Training with Gallup and we got our full 34 talent themes the facilitators had to bring us back to the top 5 again…and again. My 34 talent theme is Adaptability. I have stewed over this for over 10 months since I saw it. How can I be successful if I am not adaptable? Good news! I do not need to have Adaptability to do my job, be successful, enjoy life, etc…

When I think about why we focus on strengths, I am brought back to this eye opening example given in the Certified Coaches training. The research was done in the 1950s, which seems old, but I think the point is still highly relevant, so stay with me. This Gallup white paper is a great overview of the speed reading study I am going to quickly summarize.

During the 1950s in Nebraska, studies were done to find out the best way to teach speed reading to children. Two main points came out of this research:

1. The best students who had the best teachers did the best.

2. The students most talented at speed reading saw the most significant improvements after the interventions.

Speed Reading Study


Average readers on average made a gain of 66%.

Talented readers on average made a gain of 828%.

This is why we invest in talent. If you are striving for excellence you will get there through talent. You can see modest (sometimes good) gains when you focus on weakness. You will never see the kind of gain made by those talented readers if you focus on weakness. Onward towards excellence!

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