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.

Completely 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 strength.

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 stupid.

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 from? 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 passion? 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 affect others? Everything you’re 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 Win: 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.

Read other articles and learn more about Mark Eaton.

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