How to Magnify the Impact of Your Strengths
“A man should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. The man who always knows what people cannot do, but never sees what they can do, will undermine the spirit of the organization,” Peter Drucker.
John Zenger, co-author of the HBR article, Making Yourself Indispensible, told me that strengthening strengths is like pushing a wheel while it’s going downhill.
John said, “Fatal flaws overpower strengths. If you have one, you must fix it.”
Four ways to choose what to improve:
After fixing fatal flaws, John explained the way to choose what to improve. First, identify your strengths and then choose leadership skills that:
- Complement your strength. (More on that in a minute)
- Provide balance.
- You are passionate about.
- Meet organizational needs.
Doing the same thing over and over improves skills to a point. For example, repeatedly shooting foul shouts or kicking goals yields improvement at the beginning. Eventually, improvement slows and more of the same doesn’t improve skills; at best it maintains.
John said cross-training is the way to improve something you are reasonably good at. For example, a good speaker can improve their strength by taking an acting or improvisation class. (Thanks Wally Bock for that idea.)
The golden nugget:
John identifies skills that magnify strengths. Make Yourself Indispensible, identifies 16 core competencies along with complimentary behaviors. For example, complimentary skills for leaders who focus on results include:
- Organization and planning
- Honesty and integrity
- Anticipating problems
- Seeing desired results clearly
- Providing effective feedback and development
- Establishing stretch goals
- Personal accountability
- Quick to act
- Providing rewards and recognition
- Creating high-performance teams
- Marshals adequate resources
Strengthen weaknesses within your strengths.
How can leaders make their own strengths and the strengths of others better?
About John Zenger:
*You can read the entire HBR article without charge if you register on the HBR site.
Part one of my conversation with John Zenger: “16 Competencies Guaranteed to Deliver Results“
Dan, this is just a great topic. It reminds us never to rest, and that the opposite of growth is atrophy.
And the idea of working on strength rather than weakness is powerful. It follows the military axiom that you commit your reserve (which is a little bit of combat power you’ve held back) to reinforce success, not to stave off failure. The idea is that at the end of the day your position is better as a result of the resources you expend.
Our leadership grows best with a similar idea, that each day the places we’re suceeding get a little better. So the first way I’d answer your question is with daily attention.
This topic is also related to that of how to build a strong team. Instead of finding people who are like us (that’s what we naturally do) we should look for people who are different, who have different strengths. They’ll not only make up for our weaknesses, they’ll challenge us to think and see the world more like they do.
Dan, just finished reading a fantastic book, which I used as the framework for my December column entitled “Decision Fatigue” in Industrial Safety and Hygiene News. The book is “Willpower – Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney.
This book will provide insights to you and your readers the likes of which they probably have never thought of before. I would give it a five star rating and a must read for anybody who is responsible for leading people.
Not only will it provide you personal insight, t will explain why people you work with and for are the way they are.
Enjoy and be safe.
Aww, Jim, just as I get my ‘must read’ reading list down to double digits, you go and add another! 😉 Thanks for the tip, sound great.
Gee Doc, my wife would do cartwheels if my reading list was in the double digits. Trust me, you will love this book!
While John’s 16 core competencies may not be prioritized, I certainly would place ‘Providing rewards and recognition’ near the top.
Far too easily we mentally spiral downward with a minor set back, challenge or change (even though those may be the deepest veins to mine for gold.)
Leaders, overly focused on the distant vision, miss day to day opportunities to recognize effort in the moment. Those discreet moments make the difference, add up and energize.
Leaders can make their own strengths by taking personal accountability as mentioned by you. This is perhaps the essential parameter of leadership development. Leaders can make strengths of others by empowering, encouraging, appreciating and communicating. Leaders should create faith among others about their potentials. They should create hopes that others must believe it. This is the process of making platform. Then leaders should align people with their goals. They need to communicate and encourage seeing, feeling and believing in their goals.
Leaders should come forward to take responsibility when no one is ready to take it. Leaders should also create an environment that is based on honesty, integrity, and reliability. Leadership is a journey full of challenges, risk and sacrifices. So, leaders should create feeling of his presence even if he is not present. The most important element of leadership is creating leaders who are sensitive, responsible and trustworthy.