Honing Strengths

I’ve spent a good amount of time so far reading Moneyball. It’s a book about how the Oakland A’s managed to churn out great seasons yet have the lowest budget or near lowest budget in the Major Leagues.

When I started reading this book, I had a feeling the high level theme would boil down to this: succeed by seeing things that others don’t see.

I haven’t finished reading the whole book yet, but this has been a consistent theme in chapters where the focus was not on background story telling. Whether it’s earning big bucks in a business or winning at sports games, the end goal is the same, but the process of recruiting and honing strengths is where it seems to count most. Sustained long term success, however you define it for yourself, is heavily contributed by good teams that care about the end goal, but are given the freedom to use their strengths to reach the goal. You need team members that bring in different strengths to the team. One member’s weakness should be compensated by another team member’s strength. A person tends to perform better if they focus on their strengths and mitigate the weakness; attempting to eradicate a person’s weakness usually isn’t the best way to go. It’s also about knowing where a member performs best in a team. Plugging random bodies in a gap won’t deliver great sustained results.

From personal experience, I failed to thrive in a startup because my strengths weren’t used properly. I was put in position where I had to use weaker skills to do the job. The president was mostly concerned about what he wanted me to do, but without any regard to whether it was the best fit for me. He had a vision of how he wanted his team to run, but his approach to making this happen revolved more around changing someone completely to fit the role, instead of finding someone with compatible strengths that could be groomed into the role. These observations are very subtle and usually only the most thoughtful leaders can recognize this. This president wasn’t able to see the strengths of an individual, he only thought of what he wanted the individual to do. He wasn’t aware of how and when people were most productive without instigating fear and verbal abuse.