If you want to improve yourself, work on your weaknesses, says conventional wisdom. Look at what you don’t do particularly well, work at it, and get better. It sounds logical because it’s what we’ve always heard. However, the end result is that you can lose sight of what you do well.
Instead, what if you focus on your strengths, pouring time and resources into turbocharging your greatest abilities? That’s the tactic advocated by Darren Virassammy, co-founder of the business consultancy 34 Strong. Build a business on your strengths, he says, and steadily allocate more of your time to activities you do well.
This doesn’t mean you can ignore your weaknesses. “We have to be able to look in the mirror and understand ourselves,” says Virassammy. “That way we can focus on our strengths and also understand the gaps in our skills. Then we know how to form partnerships that will allow us to thrive from a business standpoint.”
In many cases, people undercharge or give away work that fits into their genius zone because it’s quick and easy for them.
To improve self-awareness and build on our strengths, Virassammy recommends classifying work activities into three categories:
1. Grind Zone. These are tasks you always try to kick down the road—the tedious work that’s necessary to keep your business functioning. You aren’t particularly good at these things, and you don’t enjoy them.
2. Greatness Zone. You’re good at these. Actually, you’re great at them. You don’t mind doing them, and others notice your aptitude for this type of work.
3. Genius Zone. These tasks come to you so naturally that they’re almost second nature. This is where you’re at your best, doing things intuitively and fluidly. Other people appreciate your abilities in these areas and consider them your unique talents.
One problem: People tend to undervalue their own genius zone work because it comes easily to them. In many cases, people undercharge or give away work that fits into their genius zone because it’s quick and easy for them. Avoid that trap, warns Virassammy. “Because you can do these things so quickly, that is the value,” he says. “That shows your skill and efficiency when it comes to this work, and that’s the crux of the value you bring to others. You need to value this work more, not less.”
Look at your workflow and identify which zone each of your tasks falls into. Virassammy notes that it’s useful to be detailed, categorizing everything you do so you can get an accurate breakdown of how you spend your time.
The goal is to spend as much time as possible in greatness and genius zones. That’s where you’ll see the most return on your time investment.
Rather than try to overhaul your workflow all at once, start by considering how you can get back an hour of time each week from the tedious grind zone tasks.
Ideally, you want to spend more than 50 percent of your time in the greatness and genius zones, says Virassammy. If your time allocations are skewed toward the grind, think about the tasks you could reasonably outsource or assign to others at your business.
This can be a difficult process for small business owners and solopreneurs because they’re used to doing everything themselves. So rather than trying to overhaul your workflow all at once, Virassammy recommends implementing a series of microshifts. Start by considering how you can get back an hour of time each week from the tedious grind zone tasks. What opportunities could you create by filling up that hour with greatness or genius zone work?
Then try to free up another hour. And another. Keep tabs on your progress. Every week, look at how much time you spend in each zone. It will fluctuate—some weeks may be more optimized than others—but that’s OK. Permanent change doesn’t happen overnight. As long as you’re moving in the right direction, you’ll steadily add value to your work over time.
Ultimately, this process will help increase the value of your time. That increase in value comes at the cost of giving up some control and paying others to do tasks that bog you down. Of course, the costs of hiring out grind zone work can be daunting. You may think you can’t afford it. Virassammy suggests reframing that statement into a new question: How can I afford not to do it?
Think about it this way: What’s the work you can’t afford not to do? For most photographers, that would likely be photo sessions, artistic post-production, expanding your photographic skills, networking for referrals, and conducting other essential artistic and business development tasks. If you’re neglecting that work or not spending enough time on it because you’re too focused on grind zone tasks, what is that costing your business in lost revenue?
“Think about what your billable time would be if you weren’t spending time on that grind work,” says Virassammy. “In other words, what’s the dollar value of that time to your business?” If it’s more than what you would pay someone else to handle those tasks, then it’s a no-brainer to outsource that work.
The problem is a lot of people don’t give themselves permission to make that separation. They lead with a self-limiting “I can’t” statement. “Instead, try ‘I wonder if,’” says Virassammy. “Give yourself the freedom to sketch out different possibilities before natural limits come back in. Otherwise, when we spend too much time in the grind, our skills in the areas where we really shine begin to atrophy.”
“Just like we need to use the right lens to create a great photograph, we have to view our businesses through the right lens to put things within a frame of excellence.“Darren Virassammy
What’s holding people back from pursuing a more strength-based business? It runs counter to our conditioning. Most of us are so preoccupied with our weaknesses that it takes a major mind shift to change course and concentrate on our strengths.
Shake up the thinking, suggests Virassammy. Ask, What is something I do really well? Condition your mind to focus on where you excel. Then take that way of thinking and apply it to your team members, your partners, your clients. Recognize the strengths in other people and how you can work with them better.
“Change the lens that you’ve been conditioned to view the world through,” says Virassammy. “Just like we need to use the right lens to create a great photograph, we have to view our businesses through the right lens to put things within a frame of excellence. Otherwise, we keep focusing on weaknesses and we end up managing around those weaknesses instead of addressing them strategically.”
And that doesn’t benefit anybody, except maybe your competition.
Jeff Kent is the editor-at-large.
Tags: bridging the gap