There is always a tug a war going on between our weaknesses and our strengths, as well as a tug of war between not over working IN our business and neglecting to work ON our business. If you have experienced a battle on your leadership team, business, or company and you want to build a strengths based organization, check out my new web site at www.brentobannon.com.

Today, we will focus on weaknesses and how to PLUG your LEAKS. Remember, our weaknesses are like a LEAK in a sail boat.

L: Loath

E: Escape

A: Average

K: Kink

One of my coaching clients loathes public speaking. He wants to escape it or get someone else to do it for him. He tries to improve but still just feels average. He even feels a kink his stomach when he presents a report to the senior management team.

How can he PLUG the LEAK?

P: Plan

Plan on consciously using one or more of your signature strengths to boost your weakness. If your strengths are deliberative, belief, responsibility, discipline and relator, then you could decrease the stress (landmines) before you speak, stick with topics on which you can share strong beliefs, use responsibility to make you follow through with quality, structure your talk with discipline, and open your hear so you connect with your audience.

L: Leave

You will likely have to do some public speaking in your work and life as a parent, but what if you could eliminate 80% of public speaking? Of course, don’t volunteer for public speaking jobs. Make it clear to your boss and team that you want to decrease any opportunity that could create public speaking moments.

U: Unite

Who on your team could you unite with that excels at public speaking–that loves public speaking and could take the pressure off of you? Many companies hire a spokesperson. You can, too, in critical public speaking situations. Who knows! You could even barter with someone who has the strength of public speaking.

G: Grow

We all have to do things that we are weak at to some extent. Go to Toastmasters or hire a coach to help you maximize your speaking abilities. Grow in the basics and let it go. Take the pressure off of yourself to be the best at everything and invest your time and energy in your strengths.

You have to do more than plug your leaks.

There is always a tug a war going on between our weaknesses and our strengths, as well as a tug a war between not over working IN our business and neglecting to work ON our business. Today we will focus on weaknesses and how to plug your LEAKS.

Maybe you think the strengths approach is one-sided. Nope. As a coach I realize we all have weaknesses in our personal life and business. Weaknesses are like water leaks in a sail boat and if we don’t plug our leaks, we sink.

First, we need to identify our weaknesses (leaks) as well as discover our top five signature strengths to help us plug our leaks. Strengths guru Marcus Buckingham paraphrased the military strategist Sun Tzu, saying, “Keep your strengths close and your weaknesses closer.”

Use my acronym below to help you identify your top personal and professional leaks (weaknesses) today.

L: LOATH

What activity do you hate to do with a passion? You’re are going to laugh when I confess this but I loath and hate dealing with the cable TV remote control or anything related to hooking up a DVD and cables. When you loath an activity you will find a way to…

E: ESCAPE

What activity do you want to avoid and get someone else to do? You guessed it, I ask my wife to take care of the remote control and hooking up any electronics. Similarly, she hates installing the toilet paper so for 27 years I’m the one who puts it on the roll.

In business, I loath and avoid entering data and dealing with Quickbooks so I’m frequently singing, “Help me Rhonda, help help me Rhonda.” Oh, I’m determined enough (whether I’m smart enough is questionable) to learn how to control a TV remote and figure out Quickbooks, but I will always be…

A: AVERAGE

What activity is a weakness in your life or business that, no matter how much you learn or practice it, you will only be average or below average in performance? Many professionals despise public speaking and try to get better by reading books or going to Toastmasters (which I recommend). The truth is, they can get better but they will only be average or below average in performance because it’s not their strength.

In fact, you can become average in a weakness and still feel a…

K: KINK

What activity, no matter how much you improve (and I recommend improving your weakness to a point) there is still a kink in your stomach? A feeling of stress and strain.

My wife gets a feeling of stress and a kink in her stomach just thinking about dealing with conflict personally or professionally. It is a weakness of hers, however she has learned how to plug that leak (and lean on me to help since this is one of my strengths). In 27 years of marriage we have had a couple (okay, our fair share) of conflicts, big and small, but we are still afloat.

We have found a way to PLUG our leaks so we don’t sink.

Each of our top 5 signature strengths are like a SAIL that create momentum in life and business.

S: Success

A: Authentic

I: Invigorating

L: Love

Today’s article will give you 5 ideas to HOIST those strengths into the air so you can sail toward your dreams.

H: Hear

What do your family, friends, and customers say you are great at?

Hear their feedback.

In fact that’s an assignment I often give my clients. Go and ask five people who know you best, what they believe are your strengths. Hearing their feedback breaks through our low self-esteem and denial of our own strengths.

What strength is lying dormant in you just waiting to ignite?

O: Opportunities

What opportunities are in your work or community to use your strengths? One of my coaching clients, a leader at Music Mountain Spring Water, used to under utilize her relator strength at work. Going through my www.brentobannon.com program, she has created a company directory recognizing each employee with a picture, personal profile, and a list of the fun hobbies they enjoy, as well as planned company wide social events to increase positive relationships and employee engagement.

In the weekly senior management team meetings she facilitates the question, “How did you best use your strengths this week?” All of this positive momentum in Music Mountain Spring Water is flowing because she saw opportunities in her workplace and hoisted her sail/strength.

I: Investigate

How could you grow your strengths so that they are maximized?

Here are a few questions to help you investigate more deeply into your strength.

  • Who could I talk to to learn more about this strength?
  • What could I read to expand my knowledge of this strength?
  • Where could I visit to see this strength at high performance?
  • How could I try on “new hats” with this strength?

Remember that your greatest potential for growth is not in your weaknesses but in your strengths.

S: Strategize

Strategic thinking and planning is the ability to sort through the clutter and find the best route.

How could you design your life and work around your strengths?

A great chess player is always thinking ahead what moves to avoid and what moves to make to win the game. The same is true with your strengths. Ask yourself, “What activities would I love to cut in my work role because it’s not my strength?” Now ask yourself, “What activities would I love to do more of because I am strong at them”

Write that plan down and follow the next step to HOIST your sails.

T: Team

Every strength needs a complimentary strength to partner with to make the best team. A person who is strong at strategic or analytical benefits by teaming up with a person who is a strong activator. The activator makes sure that “paralysis by analysis” doesn’t happen.

What kind of person and what kind of strengths do you need to team up with?

HOIST your sails and enjoy the ride of your life.

Our top 5 signature strengths are like a SAIL that create momentum in life and business.

S: Success

A: Authentic

I: Invigorating

L: Love

S: Success

Ask yourself what successes have you had in your past or present life–any prizes or awards that you have been given are indicators of strengths? Maybe you won the science project in 7th grade, which could point to an analytical or ideation strength. What about winning homecoming queen or voted most popular in school? These could indicate WOO (winning others over).

But a history of success is not the only marker of success.

A: Authentic

What comes naturally to you, or, what is your authentic gut reaction?

One of my golfing buddies loves to drive the golf cart. I’m amazed by how easily he finds shortcuts around the golf course. He has a strategic strength. That strength helps in his golf game as well as running his home health care business.

I: Invigorating

When utilizing your strength, you will feel energized. If you are good at something but still feel drained doing it then it’s not a true strength. One CEO I coach says, “If people lined up at my door all day long to help them fix their problems, I would be in heaven.” But people with the maximizer strength would likely hate that job. Maximizers get an emotional charge making something already good into something great.

Determine what activities drain you and what activities make you feel invigorated.

L: Love

If you look forward to an activity or want to learn more about an activity then it is likely a strength. Tennis, coaching, and speaking are three activities I love. I get excited when I’m scheduled to do these activities. I’m constantly reading, watching, and learning how to do these activities even better. These three activities allow me to use my top 5 signature strengths–focus on the ball, my coaching clients priorities goals and priorities, and the topic in my keynote.

Individualization is the ability to come up with a unique strategy with my tennis opponent, my coaching client, and speaking audience, whether its made up of corporate clients, business owners, church group, or youth campers. My achiever and competition strengths help me work hard to achieve goals and win as well as help my clients to win in life and business. My command strength enables me to to take charge on the court, help my coaching clients face conflicts, and be charismatic when speaking to a large audience.

A great tool besides the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment to discover your character strengths is the free online assessment at www.viasurvey.org. Or you can list your top 5 activities that answer the SAIL concept.

What does it take to be a good poker player? That’s the question I asked my workshop attendees. The responses were:

  • Get a lucky hand
  • Know when to hold and when to fold
  • Know how to bluff

Just like poker, each of us is dealt a metaphorical hand at birth. You have been given a genetic set of signature strengths. It’s up to you to play the hand you’re dealt.

First, know your strengths.

Just like playing poker you need to understand the hand you’re dealt.

Here are four questions to help you identify your strengths (hand). Take a moment and write down your answers to these questions to better know your strengths cards.

  1. What successes, prizes or recognition have you received in the past? Maybe you were the chess champion, speech contest winner, or homecoming queen.
  2. What is an authentic, natural and gut reaction to you? Maybe you crack a joke and create laughter without a conscious thought or listen intently making people feel heard and loved. Either way, this strength is not hard for you. It flows naturally and effortlessly.
  3. What is invigorating, energizing, and exciting to you? When you’re reading, your mind comes alive, playing sports you soar with energy, or learning technology absolutely thrills you. These are key indicators of your strengths.
  4. What do you love to learn and look forward to doing in the future? My wife eagerly watches cooking channels and reads cooking magazines. My coaching client just enrolled in a filmmaking class because he loves making documentary movies. Another client can’t wait to get underneath the hood of his classic cars. Appreciate and accept your signature strengths. Learn to play the hand you’re dealt.

Second, know when to hold and when to fold.

Your area of greatest growth is in strengths not weaknesses. Part of that growth is knowing when to hold and play those strengths and knowing when to slow down and fold those strengths so they don’t derail you or hinder others.

One of my character strengths is zest. I was born with a bundle of energy. I wake up in the morning almost jumping out of bed ready to achieve and tackle the world. If you’ve heard me speak, you have felt my energy. However, I have to practice when to slow that energy down so I don’t overwhelm some people and I also need to practice turning that energy up when I need it to accomplish a task.

While in China I spoke for 5 days straight. One person said to me, “You have incredible mental and physical energy.”

I can hear you asking, “What if I’m dealt a bad hand?” That leads me to my next point.

Third, bluff your weaknesses.

We all have sluff cards we are dealt and we can use our strengths to overcome those weaknesses. One of my coaching clients struggles with communication with his team. He is an activator, which he calls WOT, wide open throttle, and he is strategic. He strategically created a discussion form with key questions and now is slowing down his activator strength to meet one on one on a monthly basis to dialogue with his employees. He feels more connected to his team and the door of communication is opening.

How could you use your strength(s) to bluff and overcome your weakness? Remember, play the hand you were dealt.

Happiness is more than just having a momentary good time in life.

The growing school of Positive Psychology is digging deeper into the science and experience of happiness PERMA is an acronym that Martin Seligman uses in his new book, Flourishing, to highlight the 5 elements of happiness, or what is scientifically called, “subjective wellbeing.”

P stands for Positive Emotion

Most people believe that if they feel more joy, peace, security, kindness, compassion, and so on, they will be happy. And research does show that experiencing more pleasant (positive) emotions throughout your day increases your sense of wellbeing. But it’s also true that you can laugh on the outside and be crying on the inside. I know because I’ve done it many times. Increasing positive emotions is a good endeavor to pursue, just don’t stop there because happiness is also a form of adventure.

E stands for Engagement

When my wife and I went crawling 180 feet deep into the Rats Nest cave in Alberta Canada we were totally engaged (and terrified). Picture us with hard hats, coal miner lights, repelling gear, rock gloves, and dressed in coveralls. It took 1.5 hours to slither down into the bottom of the cave and 1.5 hours to climb back out. We were totally engaged and in the moment because climbing required every fiber to be focused on the task at hand.

Engagement is being in the flow so much that you lose track of time. It could be with work, your kids, your hobby, or a thousand other things. Engagement is an important element of happiness but there still is more to happiness.

It’s also…

R, which stands for Positive Relationships

True happiness cannot ultimately be experienced without the context of another human being. Positive relationship experiences are the crucible of happiness. According to studies, doing a kind act for someone else is the single most reliable way to increase happiness. There is no denying the deep influences that positive or negative relationships have on our well being.

But where does happiness research go from here?

M stands for Meaning

Positive psychology researchers define meaning as “belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than yourself.” Being clear on your life purpose and giving your life to a bigger cause can add depth of soul which translates to more than momentary positive emotions.

A stands for Achievement

Many people pursue success, accomplishment, winning, and achievement purely because it floats their boat. The father who works to make money to provide for his family achieves just as the mother who dedicates her time and energies to nurturing her childrens’ success. The teenager who achieves levels of success at games, education, hobbies, dreams and goals increases self-esteem which translates to happiness.

If you want to be deeply happy, set goals in each area: Postive Emotion, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement.

Then you will be PERMA(nently) happy.

China is famous for the Great Wall.

The first Chinese emperor had the massive stone wall built to protect its people from the brutal Mongolian Huns who invaded and pillaged their homes and cities.

Building the wall was not only monetarily expensive, it cost hundreds of workers their lives. The wall stretches from the sea to the desert–several thousand miles–and has remained for centuries.

Ultimately, the wall proved to be ineffective and later, other more sophisticated strategies were created to deal with enemies.

As my wife and I climbed the Great Wall, I was reminded of the emotional walls we build in our relationships and our lives. Here are three lessons about climbing your own great wall:

1. We erect massive walls to protect ourselves.

It’s natural to protect ourselves from hurt, bitter betrayal, a deep wound, or unmet needs. Just this week I coached a successful business man who has built emotional walls in his marriage. Both man and wife have co-existed without emotional intimacy for 21 years, though they attempt to portray the American dream to their community.

2. Walls can extend for generations.

This husband and wife have also built walls with their parents and have continued the same walls into their marriage. Both of them were wounded and felt they were never accepted and unconditionally loved by their parents. The wife rarely heard, “I love you,” by her father, who was also a minister. The husband never felt like he measured up to his dad’s standards and, to this day, has no relationship with his father.

Now his teenage daughter is avoiding her father because she feels unloved, fearful of his disapproval and being attacked. She wonders if she will be able to trust enough to get married one day. Sadly, walls continue to create barriers to open, peaceful, loving relationships, from one generation to the next.

3. Walls are costly and mostly ineffective.

It’s been said, “Marriage is grand, divorce is a hundred grand.” Walls eventually create divorce, which divides and squanders assets. Divorce creates pain, fear, and disillusionment for happy relationships.

And people don’t only build walls in their marriages. As I coach family owned businesses, I’ve seen walls between siblings as well as parents and adult children. These walls cost precious productivity in companies and eventually cause a collapse. Customers pick up on the emotional distance, quiet hostility, and will leave looking for hope and happiness in another company.

There is a famous Chinese quote about the Great Wall: “Not been on the Great Wall, not a great Man.”

Everyone has erected walls in various relationships in their life, including me. But you cannot be great until you climb and get on top of your walls. I’ve learned to get on top of my walls with many important people in my life, including my biological dad, my wife, my children, and myself.

The question and challenge for all of us is how to utilize healthy boundaries to protect ourselves and create peaceful, productive, happy relationships with those that may hurt us.

Our second key to holding onto happiness is to celebrate strengths.

Each of you were born with your own set of signature strengths. You already have your own brilliance and greatness inside of you. Self help guru Brian Tracy says, “Life is like a combination lock; when you get the right numbers in the right order, you unlock your potential.”

It’s up to you to discover, name, and maximize your strengths.

Some of you are wondering how to discover your strengths. One informal way is to complete this sentence: I feel strong when…add whatever comes to your mind.

I feel strong playing tennis. I feel strong speaking in front of a 1,000 people. Those two strengths are named focus and command.

Some of you might say, “I feel strong learning a new language” or “I feel strong analyzing the stock market.” Those two strengths are named learner and analytical. Most of us were taught we can be anything we want to be or do anything we want to do if we just work hard enough. Sorry, I don’t believe that anymore.

What I’ve discovered is that “we can be more of who we already are.” Who you are is good enough if only you would be it openly.

I flopped in Spanish and computer classes at GCC. I barely passed my statistics and research courses in my masters program. But I discovered my strength in tennis and helping people achieve their dreams through coaching and speaking.

What I’ve stumbled upon in my coaching career is the strengths revolution. The Gallup Poll reports that 77% of people focus on improving weaknesses rather than maximizing their greatest potential, their strengths. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to maximize your potential and hold onto your keys.

Relish the key of small beginnings and get moving in the direction of your dreams by celebrating your strengths.