Strengths Coaching Blog

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Strengths Circle of Competence: A Powerful Concept for Reaching Success

By Carlos Martinez



Puzzle pieces and upward graphCompetence is defined as the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. As an individual and a leader, I always strive to display competence by leveraging my own strengths to maximize the strengths of others. I am privileged to have the opportunity to do this each day while directing a manufacturing site that employs individuals with a wide range of educational backgrounds, from high school graduates to those with doctoral degrees. It is my mission to help individuals achieve success by understanding their strengths and aligning them to a role with an aim for performance excellence. 

When individuals understand that leveraging their strengths leads to efficient and successful achievement of their goals — competency — they can more clearly identify the areas that may lead to the opposite result. We can visualize such practical knowledge as a circle. Everything inside the circle is a strength, and everything outside the circle is not. This is our strengths circle of competence.


A strength is the ability to consistently deliver near-perfect performance on a specific activity. When we identify and apply our strengths, we act within our circle of competence. We use our strengths to navigate challenges, effectively deciding to personally engage, reach out to others with a different circle of competence, or simply dismiss the situation and move on. When we act within our circle of competence, we become more efficient, productive and successful.

Identifying strengths is not always straightforward. However, their identification is crucial to defining how quickly we can make decisions that align with our purpose so we can reach our desired success. 

Two well-known and successful financial investors, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, exemplify the circle of competence concept and how it can apply to the topic of strengths to achieve unspeakable levels of success. These two business leaders invest only in companies they full understand — companies in which they can use their strengths to drive success. Their approach of acting within their circle competence has undoubtedly positioned them and their company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. among the most successful in the world. 

Consider the following quote from Mr. Buffett:

“You don't have to be an expert on every company, or even many. You only have to be able to evaluate companies within your circle of competence. The size of that circle is not very important; knowing its boundaries, however, is vital.”

Acknowledging the edge of our competence circle helps us to quickly recognize opportunities to collaborate with others who have a different circle of competence. As Buffett’s long-time partner Charlie Munger said:


“It's not a competency if you don't know the edge of it. You are a disaster if you don’t know the edge of your competency.”

If we do not recognize the moments when we are operating outside our circle of competence, the results can be disastrous. Our self-esteem may suffer, our quality of life may deteriorate and our relationships may crumble. Therefore, recognizing our weaknesses is equally as important as knowing our strengths. 

A weakness is anything that gets in the way of success — not because we need to fix it, but rather because we need to manage it. Understanding and identifying our weaknesses early affects the speed at which we reach the levels of success we seek.

Do not limit your success by constantly playing outside your circle of competence. Instead, seek to fully understand your strengths while identifying the edges of the circle to accelerate your journey toward achieving a purposeful and successful life. 

Consider the following actions to reveal the edges of your circle of competence: 

Ask friends and family to help you identify the things you do well.
Identify additional examples that align with their observations to help you recognize trends.
Write down the times that you procrastinate or seem to lose energy while trying to perform a task.
Find a common thread for these de-energizing moments to help you avoid them in the future.
Begin with talent and continue developing your strengths by keeping an attentive eye on how your talents               show up to yourself and others.  

As these simple exercises uncover the boundary between what energizes and drains you, you will naturally identify your strengths circle of competence.  


Carlos' bio below

Carlos Martinez, Ph.D. is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach who has spent the last 17 years leading and mentoring people to their personal success. He is driven and personally fulfilled when people “get it,” realizing the power of leveraging who they are and becoming the best version of themselves. He executes the strengths philosophy daily in his leadership role at a multinational life science and technology company.

Carlos' top 5 strengths are: Maximizer | Activator | Relator | Individualization | Arranger.

Early bird pricing for the 2018 CliftonStrengths Summit ends December 7th. Learn more here!

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