Monday, March 14, 2011

Strengths or Weaknesses - What should we focus on?

A few years ago I attended a Royal Roads University seminar on subjects such as ‘Exploring Within’ and ‘Leading the Way’. Very reflective subject matter that gave one pause to consider what had just been heard. I’m going to transcribe some of my thoughts on what I heard for you (mainly descriptions from my notes) because I think a lot of this stuff is applicable to anyone that is interested in leadership.

It seems to me that most human beings are fixated by fault and failure. Certainly throughout my entire education and throughout my career I have been encouraged to identify and correct areas of weakness before I had any chance of being successful. I now believe that there are sometimes choices to be made where this model has no bearing what-so-ever and may very well be an inherent flaw in logic.

I believe that sometimes there needs to be a shift of focus, or a decision, that allows us to pursue success by concentrating on what we’re strong in; not what we’re weak in. I think this can be said of individuals and I believe this can be said of clubs or organizations. To me this just starts to make sense.

Two poorly considered assumptions we make about people:
1. People can learn to be proficient in almost anything;
2. A person’s greatest opportunity for growth is through concentrating on their areas of weakness;

Many employers maintain an employee performance review, and in these reviews, your supervisor works with you to identify ‘areas of opportunity’ or ‘skill gaps’ (aka nice way of saying “Weakness”) that you need to bring up to a more acceptable level. It’s a management tool to minimize weaknesses in the organization and then you are possibly sent off to a remedial course or workshop. Is this development or is this damage control?

If this is your modus operandi then I suggest you, or your organization, will never be able to capitalize on your subordinates strengths.

A new way of looking at this dilemma:
1. A person’s talents are unique;
2. A person’s greatest opportunity for growth is through their strengths;

We don’t ignore weakness but we maximize strength. The people that wake up in the morning and look forward to their day at work are called “The Blessed Ones”. These people have been able to identify in themselves some recurring patterns of behaviour then developed them into productive strengths.

Attributes of Strengths?

• Must be able to consistently demonstrate it successfully time and time again;
• Must derive satisfaction from the activity

Capitalizing your strengths and managing around your weaknesses is a lot easier to say than it is in practice. I’m still struggling with this however I have been able to demonstrate this numerous times at work by negotiating jobs that I find interesting and that I am good at into my work portfolio. This work is showing dividends for me and is starting to open doors that would otherwise be closed. Additionally I am building competencies that can be demonstrated should other jobs that I consider more aligned to my interest become available.

I’m only touching the tip of the ice berg on this subject because this medium is a blog. Needless to say strengths are constructed, developed and polished out of specific raw material. Sometimes you don’t know that you have these skills until you step outside of your comfort zone and accomplish things you never knew you were capable of accomplishing. If you are surprised by a feeling of satisfaction, elation and sense of accomplishment then you really need to pay attention to it. You may have just tripped over a strength that has been buried inside of you that just needed an outlet.