In listening to the podcast episode of WorkLife with Adam Grant: When Strength Becomes Weakness, I thought about two different situations in my career that related to the two topics discussed. The episode discusses the idea of improving your weaknesses versus fostering your strengths. It posits that people spend too much time focusing on their weaknesses and not enough time on fostering their strengths. I agree with this notion and the following are two stories from my career that come to mind.
The first time I had to switch teams at LinkedIn, I had the option to work on a growth team or a feature focused team. I was encouraged to take the position on the growth team by upper management. I decided to listen to upper management and choose the growth team. I knew that I disliked working on growth because much of it runs counter to my strengths and passions of focusing on the best user experience. However, I rationalized the switch as it would allow me to learn more about this area and improve my weaknesses. I figured that it is useful to know about growth if I ever started my own company. After 6 months, I found that I had already known enough about growth from my previous work for most purposes. I was just unhappy with the work and needed a switch. In hindsight, it would’ve been better for to just move to the team where I knew I’d be happy.
The second situation relates to fostering my strengths. The first manager I had didn’t give me much constructive feedback during the year. When the annual review time came, I received a poor review. The review pointed out things I had never heard before; it seemed to say I needed to do more of something, but in the next point said that I did too much of that in another project. That manager was also leaving the company at the same time, so I didn’t get much detail or explanation. This negative review impacted my career and ability to get a raise and promotion. A manager should give you constructive feedback throughout the year and not just at review time when you are unable to improve. Be sure to always ask your manager for this feedback regularly to help you avoid this type of situation. If you do this and still only get negative feedback at review time, I would suggest moving to a different team or company.
My next manager, however, was great! I was previously working on Android for the majority of my time, though I was still relatively new to the platform. My new manager allowed me to work on iOS and told me to use my deep knowledge and long history with the platform to my advantage. He called on me to amplify and utilize my strengths. The encouragement he provided and opportunities he helped me to get, led to me becoming a leader in the iOS development community at LinkedIn and earning a promotion to senior software engineer.
I agree with Adam’s thoughts in the episode that fostering strengths can be very powerful and helpful to your growth in your career. I encourage everyone to find things they excel at and push those skills forward even more. I highly encourage you to listen to this episode and all of the others as they are very thoughtful and helpful.