Be Smart About Art

Working to your strengths

written by: Susan Mumford Aug. 7, 2016 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 1815 views

Working to your strengths

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here

You excel at some activities and struggle with others. It’s only human nature. As a champion of life-long learning, upskilling and keeping on top of technological developments (no matter how challenging), I focus on areas of strength, as much as possible at least. Because let’s face it, in every single career, if not in life, we all have to do things which, frankly, are not our forte.

Here’s a straightforward example of strength vs weakness: I’m hands-down a ‘starter’ (the strength), and not a ‘completer/finisher’ (the weakness). So while I can practically lift projects off the ground and make stuff happen in my sleep, other people – a ‘team’ if you will – help to cross the Ts and dot the Is. Examples of completer/finisher tasks from my gallerist days are placing drinks orders for events, bookkeeping, recording art consignments and so on.  

You might be tempted to think “well that’s great but I do everything in my business.” Truth is, for the vast majority of small art enterprises, including those with a team, you still end up doing a lot of the mundane work, no matter how established or experienced. Arguably, having an understanding of each ‘department’ is paramount to be able to manage others. Even if you eventually aren’t doing the doing of social media, at least you understand the strategy needed, as you have done it yourself and manage to keep up to date with the latest.

Businesses of all sizes, big and small, are increasingly outsourcing projects. For instance, you might have hired a designer for your website, brought in a couple of uni students to bartend your event, used a courier company to transport works of art, etc. Thinking back to my childhood endeavor as a lemonade stand operator, this is equivalent to the next door neighbours having been roped in help. The question I have today is: Were the lemonade stand assistants working to their strengths? Even at age 11, some would’ve been better salespeople and others better at counting the nickels and dimes.

Moving to the present day, the Be Smart About Art office received a call several weeks ago from a business with a new offering for the art world. I so happened to be on the receiving end of the call, and never worked out what the service did, the name of the company or individual, or anything particularly useful whatsoever. Why? The lady had a heavy (and I mean HEAVY) French accent. Moreover, based on phrasing and selection of words, she was also new to use of the English language for business. My best guess was that she was new to the UK and had been put in charge of blasting out sales calls. Bad move for that company, as her lack of communicating in the appropriate language for the task led to a poor result. This wasn’t her fault, but that of the person who put her in charge of the wrong task (no matter how amazing she might be in sales when speaking French).

I want you to think about working to your own strengths and, when you have others on projects or in the team, getting them to work to theirs. It can take experimenting to see if a task gels or not. When it does, fantastique! When not, identify such (don’t ignore it) and figure out a solution.  

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