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The Well-Rounded Myth

Jan 20, 2016
By Gina Breslin
Comments: 1

Categories: Leadership & Organizational Development

The Well-Rounded Myth

It’s playoff season for the NFL and yet again the beloved Philadelphia Eagles are watching from the sidelines—sorry Philly fans! My 10-year-old son, Patrick, is a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan and fortunately for him, they historically fare a bit better in postseason play.

One of Patrick’s favorite players is Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. When we think about a quarterback preparing for his next game, would we want him spending the week working on becoming a better kicker? I’m quite certain we’d much rather see our favorite QB working hard on the things that make him a professional in the NFL—perfecting those things that he already does well and leaving the kicking to the talented kickers.

I recently heard a presentation by Andy Stanley where he described the “well-rounded myth”—an illusive belief that in order to be successful we must become well-rounded individuals and organizations. When we buy into this notion, we often spend time, energy and money on improving our weaknesses and inadvertently neglect to strengthen the things we already do well.

However, when we work on developing, advancing and refining our areas of strength, we can have a much greater impact on those we influence every day.

To work on our strengths, we must first know what they are. I have found the following resources helpful when identifying assets, talents and gifts:

  • DiSC Behavioral Profile—a tool that determines your preferred work environment and ways of behaving
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0—a tool that helps you discover your top five talents
  • 360 Leadership Feedback Survey—an online evaluation created and customized by North Group that delivers feedback from those who experience your leadership on a daily basis

While I think we’d all agree that working on our weaknesses is valuable, improving our areas of strength can be a differentiator, the thing that sets us and our organizations apart.

comments: 1
  1. Hi Gina,

    I appreciate your blog post with its reminder to stay focused on our strengths. I certainly need that reminder as I find almost everything interesting and tend to spread myself too thin. For example, responding to your excellent post, rather than being in my lab running the experiment that I have planned. :)

    On the other hand, I’m wondering how you practically differentiate between a productive well-roundedness (that allows one to see connections and be creative) versus an ineffective dissipation of one’s energy and focus. I think that our culture encourages a narrow over-specialization mindset, which I see as problematic. For example, I engage with students who quite frequently only want to learn about one specialized field and view anything beyond what they think they will need for a career in that field as a waste. I think that this impoverishes their education, their career, and ultimately their life in general.

    Is a balance between these two extremes the key? If so, then, I would repeat my earlier question: How does one practically decided (of a proposed action or behavior) between productive well-roundedness and unproductive dilution of focus and energy.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


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