Want to be a more effective changemaker? Play to your strengths
There’s one suggestion, however—in tip #2—that I must disagree with: that changemakers should spend 95% of their time focusing on the 5% of things they’re not good at.
It is certainly true that when practicing a particular skill—playing guitar or piano, for example—we make the most progress when we work on areas where we are weakest. But changemaking involves a combination of many skills—planning, selling, organizing, strategizing—some of which we are bound to excel at more than others. Most of the changemakers I know who are highly effective spend the vast majority of their time doing what they do best, which is typically recruiting others and communicating.
There are so many tasks involved in causing social change, and so many different roles for people to play. It doesn’t make sense to focus on areas where we are less than great. Life is too short. And time is of the essence. What we need to do is to discover and cultivate our strengths—and compensate for our weaknesses by enlisting others who can handle them better than we can.
I’m reminded of the advice given by the management expert Peter Drucker in his classic essay “Managing Oneself” (PDF): conduct healthy self-analysis and seek feedback to discover your strengths. Then make them even stronger:
We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre… One should waste as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.
Photo: Tomek’s DS World