If frogs could fly
Frogs can’t fly and telling them to fly won’t help. Training them to fly won’t grow their little froggy wings. Offering a bonus if they fly won’t enable them to soar. Furthermore, giving them jobs that require flying, grounds them.
Trying to excel at everything dilutes your potential and wastes your energy.
Leaders tend to see the bad more than others. It’s easy, natural and necessary to work on improving weaknesses. However, there’s more to leading than seeing inadequacies and improving deficiencies. Focusing on what you don’t do well drags everyone down.
I lead a local non-profit. A few years back, during a leadership retreat, we decided to strengthen strengths rather than improve weaknesses. That decision radically transformed us from a backward to a forward facing organization. We began leveraging our strengths over improving our deficiencies.
Recently a leader said to me, “You’re our visionary.” They said it in the context of my lack of organizational ability. Sounds like a back handed compliment. But, in reality, it reflects the powerful approach of leveraging strength.
Yes, I want to be a great organizer. However, I’ll help my organization reach higher by fueling vision and getting help with organization.
Have your strengths taken a back seat because you’re frustrated with your weaknesses?
Leaders reach higher by strengthening strengths
rather than improving weaknesses
Drucker wisely said, “Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.”
Frogs don’t fly. They hop. Go out there and hop.
How can a person know when it’s time to accept rather than improve weaknesses?
Great post Dan. So often we focus so deeply on “improving” weak areas that we miss the opportunities created by our strengths. (Not to mention frustrating ourselves and our teams.) One strategy I have found effective is to focus on strengths internally while finding partners externally that can bolster non focus areas with their strengths. This is a key premise around effective outsourcing and can move our teams farther… faster.
Best wishes for a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Joan
You left a clear useful comment that should help anyone or any organization that tends to focus on weaknesses.
I respect that you took the time to share your insights.
Happy Thanksgiving to you too..
I’m in complete agreement with this post. But there is always a caution in my mind whenever the topic of “strengthen strengths” is discussed. We use time well when we don’t waste it on weaknesses. But when a weakness begins to undermine the strengths, it’s time for some attention.
Example: Take a very gifted, charismatic speaker. Great at motivating a crowd, right? But what if he has a weakness with integrity? Perhaps he treats his support staff like they were children and he demeans them? In my mind, all the great up-front motivation in the world is a wasteland if he has this weakness with his treatment of his staff.
Interested in your thoughts.
Thanks for adding an important dimension to this conversation. I couldn’t agree more. I think your comment is particularly useful when it comes to character faults vs. leadership skills.
We can compensate for weaknesses in skills with training, delegation, or as Joan says with outsourcing. Character flaws not so easy!
Thanks for adding value.
Hello Dan, great post. It really put me a smile on my face imaging all the things this frog should do. When using a frog it seems brilliant clear to us, but with employees we tend to increase the effort when missing the goal.
Thank you for inspiring and sometimes provoking us to think things over.
I love your blog (an of cours voted for you, good luck!) Best wishes from Germany, Chris
Thank you for your positive feedback… “trying harder” when you don’t even have wings probably won’t work. 🙂
Also, thanks for you support in the Best Leadership Blog competition. It’s great just to be on the list with the other nominees.
Powerful message there Dan, wow. In the past, yes, I have been trying to improve my business’ weaknesses but the idea of improving our strengths never occurred to me.
Definitely worth a try and a lot more thought, thanks once again Dan.
I hear in your comment what I frequently feel. There is so much room for improvement. And it’s true! We still work to improve. Sometimes strengthening strengths means you deal with weaknesses with your strengths in mind.
Thank you for stopping in today.
Spot on Dan.
I am currently involved in an engagement with a R&D group in the U.S. government that has asked me to assist them transform their safety culture and safety management systems. The group is heavily populated with highly educated researchers, who expect to see evidence as to why they should change the way they have been doing their work for years.
Rather than dwell on safety weaknesses or as I call them safety messes, I focus on examples of safety strengths within and outside the organization to encourage and facilitate the safety mindset transformation. BTW, this is a lot easier to write about than execute.
Have a safe and festive Thanksgiving, Jim
Great to see you today. Leaving a story helps strengthen the important idea that strengthening strengths has value. I recall the conversation we had regarding your project. I wish you continued success.
“Easier to write about than execute”…. boy ain’t that the truth.
Happy Thanksgiving to you,
I agree that leading at the speed of change demands awareness of one’s strengths and how to build upon them. Ego often intercedes and bad leadership evolves when we refuse to see our weaknesses and develop a strong team and collaborative relationships. HOWEVER, often there are challenges or weaknesses we can transform, it is possible to develop greater whole brain thinking, new perspectives on our strengths and challenges, as well as an evolution of self that drives potential.
Thanks for adding your insights.
I’m glad you addressed the danger of arrogance when we don’t acknowledge our weaknesses. One danger of strengthening strengths rather than focusing on correcting weakness is… it’s just a short step to rolling over and playing dead, or worse yet, rejoicing in our weaknesses…
I hate it when people excuse their weaknesses with things like, “thats just the way I am. We all can improve. I’m better at organization than I used to be. For me, it’s as simple as being sure there is someone else in charge of the details who reports to me or someone else.
Quite an interesting post and lot of good insight in what has been said. Leaders do march ahead with their vision, greatly focus on strengths and move forward at speed in the company of achievers. In the process, they encourage, develop and motivate people to be part of the winning team.
Good leaders always provide equal opportunities to all but few really pick up and mould themselves to the organization needs. Frogs category, once identified, are also given adequate training and other inputs to excel at work and meet the desired expectations. Such jobs are given to either HR or outsourced to external experts. Surely, leaders will not waste their time correcting mediocre or low productivity staff. They are either side-tracked or weeded out in a phased manner.
In other words, leaders will spend more time with their fliers to reach newer heights in the sky and leave the frogs behind to do routine jobs.
Well said! Spending time with the high-fliers shouldn’t exclude opportunities with others who desire to improve.
If you didn’t notice, its a holiday in the USA, thanksgiving. I don’t think its Thanksgiving in India. However, I’m thankful for you and your insights.
A person can know when it is time to accept by knowing its limitations. Weaknesses can be improved but the time and efforts taken to improve weaknesses actually weakens strenghts. So, the better way is to focus on strengthening strenghts rather than improving or worrying about weaknesses. However, when weaknesses weaken strengths, then person should improve weaknesses. As long as weaknesses do not affect the performance or shadow the strenghts, one should omit weaknesses otherwise not.
If frogs could fly then what will happen ? I think additional feature can not change the nature of frog. So frog will do the same things i.e. staying in mud, eating worms etc. Either frog or any species are not going to get extra lives by adding additional qualities. Similarly, by enriching human beings with a lot of resources may not change its nature of being ambitious, curious, passionate and optimistic. The fundamental belief behind this philosophy is that nature has created each and every thing with its specific purpose. Fiddling with its nature might disbalance the nature and positive response is remote.
I agree that one can not be outstanding in every area. Any efforts to be number one everywhere, everyfield actually fuels negativity, pessimism, and selfish behaviour. On the other hand, focussing to excel on strengths actually fuels more passion, determination and will power.
I’m so glad to see you today and to read your comment. Thank you for both affirming and adding to the conversation.
One thing I’m taking from you comment is, “if weaknesses weaken strengths” then we should address them.
I’m thankful for you.
Important post, Dan.
There’s an innate glamour to the idea of improvement, particularly in America at this point in time. However, the reality of improvement may not be served by the idea – fantasy – of it.
My handwriting is notoriously unreadable. Others considered it a weakness and some spent considerable time, energy and emotion on trying to convince me to improve it. While it’s likely they still consider my handwriting a weakness: in today’s world, with current technology, illegible writing brings no ill consequence to any other entity – so I frankly don’t consider it a weakness. I’ve accepted it as fact in light of the self knowledge that I don’t care to and don’t strive to improve it.
If a weakness of our own brings no ill consequence to those we impact, accept it.
If a weakness of another brings no ill consequence to us, and we merely find their weakness an irritation we want to improve, accept it and leave them alone. Trying to improve what only irritates us about others often turns into a game of one-up-man-ship.
If a weakness of a person brings no ill consequences to our organization, accept it.
If a weakness of a person brings ill consequences to our organization, engage them in improving it, and render it easy for them to improve in a favorable direction – systemically speaking. If no improvement within a reasonable timeline, and ill consequences are real or high risk: it’s time for the individual and organization to part ways.
P.S. I strive to have weaknesses serve strengths, both my own and others.
Thanks for sharing your insights. Your focus on consequences is an important component of assessing weaknesses and determining if corrective action is necessary.
I’m intrigued by your P.S. statement. Can you elaborate on how weaknesses serve strengths?
Thanks for adding value.
Great post Dan. Very apropos to have this discussion on thanksgiving day. Weaknesses are important to be aware of but never vital enough to let them become barriers to our focusing on our strengths. I am thankful to have a cadre of caring people who will quickly point out my weak areas and help me assess whether their presence seriously impairs their expectations of my leadership. There are weaknesses that are perceived by others and some that only we are aware of. I will submit to you that perceived weaknesses should be prioritized and seriously addressed vs. The ones we see in our mirror. We should capitalize on our strengths and amplify and grow them but we will get more traction if we address our “public weaknesses” or at least if we demonstrate our concern by addressing them even though we might not be able to correct them. The effort put forth
Will validate our strengths and indeed paying attention will turn out being one of our appreciated strengths. So even though we should not let our weaknesses stop our progress we should not ignore the “perceived shortcomings” doing so can seriously impact our credibility and trust and yes may be viewed by some as arrogance. There is never any good that will ever emanate from real or perceived hubris. I try very hard to never miss an opportunity to act in some way to show acceptance of all feedback.
Thank you for the chance to remind us on this special day how we should
be appreciative of all those who support us as well as those who have the courage to address our failings: both will motivate us to improve and grow..regards Al
Thanks for your encouraging and insightful words. Understanding how others perceive our weakness is important. Even more important is the attitude we display toward others when they point out weaknesses.
I tend to adopt quietness and no excuse making when others point out weaknesses. In addition, a “I don’t care what you think” attitude is counter productive for everyone involved.
I’m also reminded of something Marshall Goldsmith said. You only get 10% credit for 100% improvement when it comes to improving our weaknesses. He advocates that we frequently follow up with progress reports when a weakness is worth our attention.
In some cases just letting others know you care and are addressing an issue is enough… However, Goldsmith suggests we are real specific.
Adding Julia’s comment helps here too. Be sure to deal with substantive issues that have impact.
I’m always thankful when you share your insights.
Dan thanks for the Marshall Goldsmith reminder: I really enjoy his work. 10% recognition for 100% improvement. Wow! The flip side would be how much negative recognition for no improvement or no attempts at addressing the particular weakness? Also I honestly never thought about it that way but will think on Marshall’s comment. Thanks for the elaboration..Hmmmmmm. Is it worth all the attention and work for such slight improvement worth? Another discussion? Have a great weekend. Regards Al
Happy Thanksgiving!!!!! I find the book “Now Discover your Strength” to be very help. A combination of the book and the on-line test are especially helpfully. Blessings, Howie
Hope your thanksgiving was joyful. I always appreciate it when readers expand the conversation by suggesting added resources.
I really enjoyed your post. I agree that shifting the focus from weakness (or perceived weakness) to strengths improves performance, happiness, etc.
However I would like to take your analogy one step further. The fact that frogs don’t fly is not a weakness for frogs. Frogs don’t need to fly! They are extremely well adapted to their roll in the ecosystem. I hear news of their success every warm spring evening.
If I were to decide that that frogs need to learn to fly, then the weakness is mine, not the frogs.
I, too, am “organizationally challenged.” But that’s not a weakness. It only becomes a weakness when someone hires me to try to organize something.
Great post! I am going to follow your blog.
I’m delighted you stopped in to take the frog analogy to a new level.
Your statement — “. The fact that frogs don’t fly is not a weakness for frogs,” is great. It reveals a fundamental flaw in my illustration and adds an important idea. (I still like the illustration. I just can’t push it too far)
This conversation will be enhanced by categorizing weaknesses. My broad based post opens the door to discussions about character based weaknesses, skills based weaknesses, aptitudes, talents…etc.
I’m glad you dropped in.
Do we take the time to even think and reflect about our strengths and weaknesses? As we’re often finding ourselves running all the time, it’s important to find that quality time to do just that: nothing ! or reflect on what makes us unique and how our contribution, whether in our personal or professional lives, can make a difference. To be able to focus on our strengths and weaknesses, one has to know what’s important (sense of self and key values, purpose), ensure alignment, and go and act upon our beliefs… Leadership to me is much about leading by example, being true to oneself, true with others in fostering authentic connections and conversations… just like this one ! Bottom-line: to focus on our strengths, we likely have to stop and reflect, pause and sometimes regroup, then go forward with confidence and panache ! Finding the time is key in today’s complex and fast-paced world. Thanks for taking the time each day Dan to foster these good conversations. You have my vote !
We have to and respect our weaknesses and we should work towards minimising the impact by leveraging strength. Strength could be our own or our colleagues or our partners.
The frog cant fly, but it sure can leap
Indeed, “The fact that frogs don’t fly is not a weakness for frogs” is gold. I’m still reflecting on the truth of that statement, and whether or not certain decisions of mine have been based in faulty logic. Very thought-provoking. And I thank you for that!
All the best,
I recently wrote on transparency, and appreciate your blogs that cause us to look introspectively.
I wish my Boss could read this. I’m glad I know it now though, gives me an edge.