Focus on Your Talents

an article by Barb McEwen

The pressure on small business owners today is unprecedented. For many, their training and background has not equipped them for the problems they face. The playing field is slippery, time is a commodity they don't have, the future is unknown and security is a thing of the past! Have the rules of the game changed so much, or are we in fact, playing a different game?

In this environment it is important to remember to try differently, rather than trying harder!

For most of us, when things are not going the way we had anticipated or at least the way we like, our inclination is to put our shoulder to the wheel and just try harder. When that doesn't work, we press on once again! Although this occasionally works, often the result of our extreme effort produces exhaustion and frustration coupled with personal and business chaos. The people within our organizations often don't understand the depth of the problem, nor do they know what they can do to help.

When this happens, it's time to take stock, to stop long enough to examine what is going on. It is time to bring some clarity into the picture. What we do must work if it is our intent to be successful in both our business and personal lives.

It was Shakespeare who said, "This above all, to thine own self be true." A wise statement, for when we are not true to ourselves, when we try to be something we are not, we inevitably set ourselves up for failure.

The story is told of business person loaded with talent and potential. The only trouble was that he was misdirected. He was asked to join a firm where he didn't agree with some of the corporate values, but he convinced himself that this was 'just until' something better came along. Then came an opportunity for promotion but it was into an area of the business that he didn't particularly enjoy, although he could handle it. Next came the pressure to travel, which conflicted with his personal priorities, but the money and the contacts were good. The inevitable happened. He became disillusioned, he was unhappy, and questioned what was he doing. He didn't like what his life had become, and he was determined to start again, but this time being true to himself. Sometimes in business, we don't learn this lesson until it is too late. We dream of what could have happened, if we had just made different choices along the road.

Most people are focused on where the opportunities are and then try to fit themselves into that mould, without giving appropriate thought to their own unique talents and abilities.

When you are in crisis . . . it is important that you start here. First, ask several of your closest friends or associates to give you their perception of your five greatest strengths. Is it leadership, attention to detail, creativity? Are you a people person, nurturer, strategist, or perhaps a good listener? Whatever your gifts, prioritize them and then rank them in an order that best reflects you. Now ask them to do the same for your weakness, except this time, don't be too hard on yourself. Ask for only two or three.

If you are perceptive you will see what I am doing here. Basically, I am recommending that you to focus on those areas in which you know you have talent and begin to align these talents with what you do for a living. Let me give you an example. Marg was in sales and knew she was an outgoing spontaneous people person, she got excited meeting new people and exploring new ideas was her idea of a great day. She saw opportunity where others simply saw hurdles. Her downside was although she has lots of ideas, she knew she became bored easily, and follow through was a problem for her. This scared her because she feared not following through might one day be costly in terms of her job. Through coaching Marg began to understand that she had this weakness. Her goal then was not to achieve the impossible and never become bored, but to be more self-aware. Her awareness gave her the insight to hire a top-notch assistant who was excellent at details and she in turn could utilize her skills in a way that saw her become a top achiever in her field.

This focus, this attention to what you do best will allow you to be creative in a very dramatic but practical sense. When you are absolutely clear about the skills you possess, you can become absolutely clear about what you want and how you can go about achieving your 'aim in life'. So many go through life without ever realizing their potential or what it is they were capable of achieving.

Here we return to your business dilemma. Focus on resolving your problems utilizing your talents. If the scope of the problem is outside your area of expertise, seek out the guidance of those who have skills in the areas you don't. A simple success strategy is this: Focus on your talents, this will keep you energized and on target. Have the right support people in place to compensate in areas where you are weak. You are not unique in this situation, we all have skills and we all have areas where we need to utilize the skills of others. This is one of the reasons it is important not to hire those who are mirror images of yourself! Come to understand when it is all said and done, it is not the world outside of you that dictates how you feel, it is the world inside you that creates the conditions of your life. When your talents are aligned with your life's work, you feel great!

Barb McEwen, C.E.C.
Personal Executive Coach
20/20 Executive Coaching Inc

Barb uses Enneagram Personality Theory in coaching her clients.


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Barb McEwen is a Master Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist who works with corporations and individuals worldwide. As founder of 20/20 Executive Coaching and 20/20 Executive Women she has spent the past twelve years working with high potential individuals to help them hone their leadership and management skills. Contact Barb at