Build your strengths or develop your weaknesses?

An alumni last week asked my colleague (Martyn) whether it was best to build on his strengths or work on improving his weaknesses.  As usual in Careers, there’s no easy answer to this.

This was brought to (cenematic) life in an unexpected way yesterday as I watched X-Men: First Class.  After Charles Xavier recruited mutants to his fledging tribe he started helping them make the most of their abilities – he didn’t say ‘Banshee, whilst your talent for screaming really sets you apart, what I really want to you to do is work on your presentation skills’.  And yet this is what line managers in general, and Graduate Developers in particular do all the time.

Ah, I hear you say, your example is partial – & so it is, because Professor X does try to address weaknesses too – he’s tried to develop both Magneto’s and Wolverine’s team working skills with decidedly poor results.  And there’s the rub – the best thing to do with someone at work is to make best use of their strengths, but people are not islands; they need to be deployed around others, which often means negating weaknesses – and even the head of the X-men usually fails when he tries that.

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