Two Who Used Their Strengths to Turn Things Around

There is always plenty to be concerned about. High costs going higher; unexpected moves by the competition; uncertainty in the world that could inadvertently impact your business and your life.

Owners and leaders often forget that everyone has strengths. The more a person is able to use their strengths, the more productive and engaged they become.

The focus in business is, unfortunately, on the very visible weaknesses that each person has. Weaknesses are where the bulk of the frustration comes from when dealing with people.

Here are two short stories of individuals who were at a turning point in their careers and used their strengths to make a comeback.

Reporter Carl Bernstein had been employed at the Washington Post newspaper for six years. During that time he had managed to anger almost all of his colleagues and all but one of his supervisors. He had violated more company policies than the next 250 employees combined.

In the late spring of 1972 he was stuck covering local Virginia politics, and was on the verge of being fired. Carl had spent a year’s worth of budgeted expense money in a very short time as he ate his way through a number of fine dining establishments while on the job.

In his enthusiasm to get to one story he rented a car and when he was finished using it, simply parked it, forgetting to turn it back to the rental car company. The bill was enormous. Bernstein’s days were numbered. Management had him in their sites to let him go.

In mid-June 1972, fellow Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward was assigned to cover the break-in of the Watergate complex, because it was deemed a metropolitan police story.

Behind Woodward’s back, Bernstein took the role of editing Woodward’s articles. While not pleased with what Bernstein had done, or how he did it, when he found out, Woodward appreciated the editing that resulted in a better written story.

As the Watergate story grew, Bernstein’s local upbringing, connections and persistence uncovered more than anyone at the Post thought existed.

Between Bernstein’s know-how and Woodward’s persistence, the two of them became known as “Woodstein” in the pressroom of the Post. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting in 1973. The two reporters combined to write two books about the Watergate affair, “All The President’s Men” and “The Final Days.” Bernstein was played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie (see the clip below).

After leaving the Post he worked at ABC News, Time and has written numerous articles. Bernstein has also published books on his parents, (“Loyalties: A Son’s Memoir”), on Pope John Paul II (“His Holiness”) and most recently on Hillary Clinton (“A Woman in Charge”).

Around that same time, a tie salesman became a $10 million dollar a year fashion guru, but his business was going broke. The man, Ralph Lauren, was an excellent designer but manufacturing costs were driving him out of business.

Lauren took a step back and assessed his strengths. According to Bill Pullen, a career coach in Washington DC, one of the least applied concepts in Corporate America is assessing strengths with objectivity and then concentrating efforts for success.

What did Lauren do? He outsourced production and marketing on everything but the men’s line.  He took his life savings and applied them to his plan.

What happened to Ralph Lauren? Within a decade he was doing $1 billion a year in business.

“Now, Discover Your Strengths” remains on the best seller lists for a very good reason. Millions of individuals are learning what their strengths are and how to apply them at work and in life.