Water Your Flowers

When faced with a capital allocation decision, businesses typically 1) build a needed capability, 2) buy a proven competency, or 3) rent expertise from a third-party.

Every strategic decision is evaluated through all three lenses before deciding how to address a deficiency. And depending on circumstances, any of these may be the best option. When it comes to developing a personal set of abilities, however, many consider they must first work on their weaknesses, building all capacity from within.

Early in my career, I got advice from the late Peter Drucker that has served me well: “Build on your strengths; and make your weaknesses irrelevant.” This was the opposite of what I was doing. I was working to address my limitations, and, in so doing, I ignored my natural abilities and wound up laboring toward mediocrity.

Every year, Graham Weaver, founder of Alpine Investors, comes to a 2nd year MBA class I teach. One of the most powerful lessons he leaves with students comes with a simple metaphor: “water your flowers and cut your weeds.” This is not only the advice Drucker gave to an aspiring young leader many years ago, but it is counterintuitive advice to any aspiring leader working on a portfolio of problems and opportunities.

By Joel Peterson