Do You Focus on Strengths or Weaknesses?

I think it was Winston Churchill who said “I am easily satisfied with the very best”.  I wonder if we always strive to deliver the very best to our clients. I wonder. Because to do so requires an unbelievable laser-like focus on their fears and frustrations, needs and desires, to the exclusion of all else.

I recently have experienced two offerings that are truly excellent – world class, honed, magnificent, near perfect.

C’est Magnifique…

The first was an overnight stay with dinner and breakfast at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton. I won’t go into the minutiae of what it was like to stay in a 2 Michelin star Oxfordshire country pile but suffice to say they know what they’re doing and they do it superbly and have been for 25 years. Right down to the perfect lemon cake with afternoon tea. And they make money.


The second magnificent experience is Blackberry. In October last year I changed my Blackberry for an HTC smartphone. Once my initial ardour had subsided I was left with something that, although brilliant for some, was not brilliant for me. Despite the massive capability of the thing, it couldn’t do well what I needed – to call the right number when I needed it to without having to push 8 buttons, and to send, receive and manage emails and texts efficiently and effectively. I got to the stage where I was scared to pick it up because to do so invariably activated some App, or called the wrong person.

So, I went back to Blackberry and was reminded all over again how their product, for me, is world class, honed, magnificent, near perfect. And they make money.

School’s out…

The reason I question whether we aim to be excellent is because we are taught to be average. Having just had parent’s evening for my two boys (held from 4 to 6pm – eh…don’t get me started) I am struck once again by the focus on “failure” – the areas where the child is excellent are “banked”, with relief, and the focus turns to the “weaknesses” in an attempt to get them to the average. Now don’t get me wrong, the basics must be secured at a minimum level – reading, writing and arithmetic. That’s fine. But once this has been achieved, the focus should be on excellence – focus on strengths, not weaknesses, whether it be academic, vocational, sport, art etc..

Role models…

Every business biography I read – the leaders in question focused on their strengths and managed their weaknesses – usually by getting someone else to do it.

Free transfer…

And in sport – do top sports teams try to get their under-performers up to snuff? No. They let them go and they focus on making the great ones superstars. A focus on excellence.

Business is not about being perfect. In business, value = money.


The more value you give, the more money you will attract. At a high level, it’s a true differentiator and of course it fits with the well honed idea that there’s only two business strategies – niche or massive. Le Manoir or MacDonald’s. Each is valid but for the small business person where customer intimacy is often key, the customer will be disappointed if you put a burger down in front of them.

So, for all of you who have “tart up the website”, “rewrite the brochure”, “redesign the logo” etc on your to-do list today – score them out, now. Ask yourself what fears, frustrations, hopes and desires you fulfil for your clients and how can you do more of this and do it better. A relentless focus on this will make your business even better than it is and maybe one day some idiot will be blogging about your lemon cake and in so doing generate more custom for you.

Have a week of excellence. Have an excellent week.

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7 Responses to Do You Focus on Strengths or Weaknesses?

  1. Matt Chandler March 28, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Hmmm… timely, as always Mark. (I won’t tell you the things I’ve just written on my Monday morning to-do list….!) But sufficed to say it’s very easy to become distracted by the things we ‘think’ are important. Writing a big to-do list of minor distractions does not equate to progress, and taking the strategic customer-focussed view is definitely the only way to go.

  2. naomi timperley March 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Great blog post and oh so true!

  3. Dr. Michael L. McCrimmon March 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Well done, Mark. I also got added value today from Matt’s comments which I wholeheartedly agree with! Cheers from Atlanta, GA, USA!

  4. Mark Nugent March 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Strangely enough – in my private life, (I mean with my wife Jennifer) I find I need to work on my weaknesses, not my strengths! LIfe is so confusing…

  5. Anthony Madume March 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Hi Mark,

    Good to read your ‘Pearls Of Leadership Wisdom’ today. Once again great thought in piecing together the threads.- from our personal life, business life, customer relations, focus on qaulity/excellent service delivery, adding value, nitche and massive market(s) to making money, money and lots of it by working hard and smartly to achieve all these. It will be nice if we do all the time.

    That said, Mark, I wonder as human beings if we can achieve excellence all the time. Moreso, can organisations across the spectrum achieve ‘excellence’ or excellent results all the time, even with best of intentions?. Overall, this PEARL raises the mark. A good one for me to reflect upon in my leadership role, going forward. Thank you.

  6. Angela Slattery March 29, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    Splendid, Mark. Was it my particular business you were talking about? Certainly seemed like it! Intimacy is key for my clients when discussing deeply personal issues – and I do strive to always serve the lemon cake, as a burger would never be on the menu. The metaphor can indeed be carried through to all areas of our lives. Thanks once again. Angela.

  7. Mark Nugent March 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    Anthony asks – can businesses achieve excellence all the time? Well, it appears most do not, but some do for extended periods, e.g. Apple. It’s leadership at the end of the day – excellence is not the default position. It must be created and all the forces of inertia conspire against excellence. But at the end of the day life is pretty much about continuous improvement and I’m always banging on that the best way to achieve great things is to take small steps, and the small step a lot of us can take is to be more focused on excellence, starting now.

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