My early career years were tough. As newly hired entry level managers with Procter & Gamble, we were given tremendous responsibility -- and we were expected to deliver! Most of my colleagues seemed to excel under that pressure. Not me. By about my 5th year with the company, I doubted my ability to reach the next level and I was worn out from the constant struggle to meet the new stretch goals. In year six, I took an opportunity to transfer within the company to a very different role in a different division. In this role, I had the opportunity to work with the senior leaders of the Laundry and Fabric Care business. I facilitated their leadership team meetings, ran the Strategic Planning process, spent much 1-1 time doing what I later learned was ‘Executive Coaching’ and marveling at the discovery through this work, that we all struggle with some level of self-doubt. Some of us are better at masking it than others.
I flourished in this new role and environment. Within a short period of time I was promoted and I started researching my discovery of the impact of negative self-talk and how that manifests in our culture.
A Strengths-based Approach
About that time, there was research coming out, based on work done by Martin Seligman, who is considered the Grandfather of Positive Psychology (University of Pennsylvania). Gallup had recently published Now, Discover Your Strengths (M. Buckingham and D. Clifton), which debunked the myth that our greatest area for growth is in improving our weaknesses. That was fascinating to me!
Instead, our greatest opportunity for growth and delivering exponential results (in addition to greater confidence and true joy) is in working to develop our strengths.
Later, Malcolm Gladwell’s research indicated that it takes 10,000 hours of disciplined practice to achieve greatness in a particular discipline.
Unfortunately, in our culture, it’s easy to stay focused on our weaknesses. We gleefully point out other people’s weaknesses – often not to their face of course, that would be rude! And we confidently put together a list of our own. Some of us willingly share those with others and some prefer self-torture. Many do both. That doesn’t do any good.
What I learned is that you, me, your staff, and everyone else has amazing strengths: skills you’ve built over years of growing your business; qualities and characteristics that are inherent to who you are, that come naturally in special situations and in your everyday life. The thing that makes your performance in those strength areas really special and unique is your willingness and commitment to identify, acknowledge, and develop those very strengths. They don’t become amazing on their own. Look at Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Steve Jobs. They all developed their strengths with hours of disciplined practice. Why not you? If you invest in developing your strengths and your staff’s strengths, you will transform your business, your culture and their lives.
What about weaknesses?
So what if your staff (or even you?) have weaknesses? Should you ignore them? No. Mitigate them. Make their impact on your business and life inconsequential.
Now, if you have an employee in a role where his weaknesses are truly holding him and the company back, you may need to make a change in his role and/or responsibilities or you may ultimately discover he’s not a fit for your company. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have strengths! It simply means the fit isn’t right. Allocate roles and responsibilities with strengths in mind and you’ll find your results and engagement soar.
- Identify your greatest strengths and then note the ones you most enjoy using. If you are stumped, think about the feedback people consistently give you.
- Take a look at your team. What strengths do they have that are underdeveloped or underutilized?
- Invest in an assessment to highlight and validate their strengths. Strengthsfinders is web-based and for $10, you can get a list of your top 5 from their set of strengths . If you want a competency-based leadership or management assessment, contact us for more information.
- Invest in developing their strengths. Look for ways to re-allocate roles to better align strengths and responsibilities to maximize results.
- Begin your 10,000 hours of disciplined practice to expand your impact using those strengths. So, if you want to be a better decision-maker, for example, figure out how you can leverage your strengths to do that.
This is a pretty seamless way to get your team engaged and performing at their best, which means your business is on the cusp of something big! I can’t wait to hear what you will accomplish by shifting to a strengths based approach in your business! Drop me a note and let me know how it worked for you!