Misguided self-perceptions and finding your strengths

Photo by Cambodia4kidsorg

I am reading Guy Kawasaki‘s book Reality Check these days. It is like reading many important checklists about how to do just about anything in business. Strange, but interesting. Anyway, in one of the first chapters he talks about why is it better to invest in young inexperienced entrepreneurs than in serial entrepreneurs. One paragraph in that chapter caught my eyes:

Serial entrepreneurs fill new roles in their next companies. For example, in the first company the person was an engineer who became the vice president of engineering. In the next company, she is the CEO and founder. Just because you are good at designing chips doesn’t mean you’re CEO material. You may end up not doing what you’re good at and doing what you’re not good at

I am constantly surprised how people have misguided self-perceptions. They are so good at something and they usually even enjoy and love doing it. Sometimes they feel a state of flow when they are doing it. But something, society, greed, conventional wisdom or something else I cannot fathom, tells them – hey – you should try being a manager. You should try doing something else. You are better than this.

I wrote about this in my E-book:

It is not uncommon to see someone who was very good at his job and is promoted to be a manager. When he was part of a team or even a solo player, he excelled at his job. But when you put him in a managerial position, which is not his comparative advantage, he just can’t handle it. This is interesting. Usually this man actually wanted the promotion even though he was happy with what he was doing and even though he does not like to manage people. We are so used to the Hierarchy Thinking Model and not the Comparative Advantage Thinking Model, that we actually want positions that our abilities are not compatible with. The reason being this is just the way we know the system works. Well, the system sucks! The problem is that not only this man can’t handle the job of a manager, he also can’t handle the truth … He does not have what it takes to be a manager. And I am not just talking about an application of the Peter Principle. This man is actually unhappy being a manager! It is not his comparative advantage. Bill Gates got it when he put Steve Ballmer to manage while he did software development, so why can’t it work for all of us?

I admit this is a natural phenomenon. You know what, it happened to me not a while back. I found myself looking for a career, I am not 100% sure was for me. I am actually struggling these days to find a career path that will allow me a better use of my strengths.

It is not always a bad idea to try new things. If we don’t try, we will never know. And sometimes, the only way to discover your strengths is to do something again and again and fail at it. As long as you enjoy failing at it (not being cynical here, seriously, read the post in the link).

However, if we can’t be true with ourselves we will never be able to reach our full potential. If we become managers and our most important job is to help our employees find what they are good at and help them excel at it, there is no way we can do that before we go through the same process with ourselves. And it does not matter of you are a serial entrepreneur that made millions of dollars or if you are just a novice trying to find your place in the world. You can do better, for yourselves and others, by finding and using your strengths.


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