There is No Halo of Exceptionality
You are as unexceptional as you are exceptional. Everyone sucks at something.
There is no halo of exceptionality. Skill or talent in one area doesn’t bleed into others.
You may be good at several things, but you’re only exceptional at one.
People who are great at gathering and parsing data are slow at making decisions.
- Great decision-makers are pushy.
- Compassionate people don’t push.
- Dreams don’t like details.
- Visionaries think process-thinkers are foot-draggers.
- People-developers sacrifice results because people are growing.
Don’t expect people to bow down and ignore your weaknesses, just because you’re exceptional in one area. You’re ability to solve problems doesn’t give you permission to be a jerk.
Exceptional teammates navigate each other’s weaknesses or they blow up.
You have an exceptional designer on the team who thinks they’re god’s gift to your organization. If you tame them, you lose their talent. But, they’re always ticking off teammates.
Personal conflict requires resolution. It’s almost never useful. But, conflict regarding goals, processes, results, and assignments, may be useful disruption.
The key to navigating useful conflict is the ability to leverage it’s advantage and let it go when it’s time to move forward.
Teammates who hold grudges do more damage than good.
- Agree that being exceptional in one area means you’re below average in another.
- Be open with the importance of maximizing strengths.
- Commit to compensate for each other’s weaknesses. What’s easy for you is difficult for others. If it was easy for them, you wouldn’t matter.
- Teach teams how to put up with each other. They’re never going to like each others weaknesses and idiosyncrasies.
- Hold open conversations about what people are good at and not so good at.
The truly exceptional are also truly unexceptional.
Don’t domesticate exceptionality out of teammates.
How might leaders navigate the weaknesses of exceptional team members?
How might teams deal with each other’s weaknesses?
Leaders need to acknowledge and admit their weaknesses. Doing so, I feel, is NOT a sign of weakness; but a sign of being in tune with ourselves and reality. Leaders also need to help their team members be comfortable in accepting their own weaknesses. The first step in overcoming or compensating for weaknesses is to recognize and acknowledge them.
Very good article
What a great perspective. It dissolves right and wrong. It solidifies that what we focus on grows and it makes clear that what we say yes to, there are a thousand no’s of neglect in other areas. With a motive of love, a common goal and a realization of where each other chooses to become exceptional, how can we not make an impact.
Today’s blog ties in nicely with your Monday blog on the 10 phrases incompetent leaders keep saying. You asked what leaders might do when they find themselves failing over and over. My suggestion was to reflect on their own weaknesses, share them with their teams and ask for help. This one simple act is powerful. It makes a statement. “We are a team that supports each other and leans on each other; connected to serve a higher purpose and a greater good.” Lead by example and employees will follow suit. They will begin to see each other in a new light, accepting of each others’ weaknesses then recognizing and eventually depending on each others’ strengths.
Thanks Dr. Pinzon. We might think that leading by example is about our strengths. But, as you indicate, leading by example when it comes to weaknesses is also important.
It’s the failure to acknowledge weaknesses, not the weaknesses themselves, that make us weak.
This called to mind the 1 Corinthians 12 passage — … “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”
Which i’ve found VERY appropriate in an industrial/business context, companies are an interdependent group.
Thanks Ken. Yes indeed! Where would the hearing be? We need to rise above the idea that we have to be good at everything.
Dan, navigating weaknesses is one thing. Ignoring foot dragging or obfuscation due to the unwillingness to admit lack of knowledge is another altogether. We have a process thinker on our team who I know needs that time, I’m not always patient, but I do understand his thinking. I also have another who will not admit that they do not understand key parts of her job, and does not take advice, and often actively derails forward thinking projects.
Since none of us is really “in charge” and the manager doesn’t want to make a change, frustration often mounts as the entire department catches the blame when systems do not work that are under her control.
Thanks Joseph. Your distinctions, although painful to you, are important to this conversation. It’s one thing to acknowledge and navigate weaknesses. It’s another to use them as an excuse for incompetence.
As far as advice goes… hmmm. I’ll have to think about that….
Sometimes when I believe a person is blocking forward movement, I ask, “It seems like you don’t want to move forward, what am I missing?”
Where does following you advice take us?
What are you trying to accomplish?
Right now, that’s the best I can offer.
“It seems like you don’t want to move forward, what am I missing?”
“What are you trying to accomplish?”
These two are going in my hip pocket. Thanks, Dan! Another thought provoking post.
Every person working to address important situations MUST understand that diversity of input is NEVER a bad thing – as long as the necessity of meeting timelines is kept front and center!!!
Thanks jcbjr. Love the tension between diversity of input and pulling the trigger. It’s an interesting issue. Perhaps the magnitude of the decision impacts how long we spend gathering diverse input. The more important the issue the greater the need to gather more input.
I also wonder about the usefulness of setting a deadline to make the decision. Perhaps that will create urgency and move the agenda forward.
So good and so true! My husband and I have a motto in leadership, “Play to your strengths and staff your weaknesses.” If you can ever determine what you’re really good at and what you’re really bad at, and then, DO those things in which you can excel and find someone who can DO those things in which you cannot (which, turns out, usually, to be things they do excel!), you will (1) have a great team, because each of you are full of strength (2) be able to work to your full potential, as your weaknesses are compensated by someone else’s strengths and (3) succeed at incredible rates, because you create a “Dream Team” where everyone is working together as they recognize each other’s exceptional assets to the team! 🙂
Thanks Wheat. “Play to your strengths and staff your weaknesses,” so powerful as long as we freely acknowledge our weaknesses.
I suppose someone who is insecure may feel they have more weaknesses than they actually have. Or, someone with loads of confidence may feel they are good at most everything.
Do what you do well and leave the rest for the team to build on! Everyone working together can truly succeed, it’s a matter of “all working together” to accomplish all the tasks. Each others weakness can become strengths if coach them along most of the time. There are the few that will not accept change too! All of them or nothing!
Thanks Tim. I think a culture where people can be honest helps. Some organizations punish people for being human. Everyone pretends they are something they aren’t.
Yes Dan I agree, People punishment tends to create with drawn shallow workers! Develop attitudes to heck with you and retreat into a hopeless state of mind! Organizations need to seek out the inner talent>
I don’t really agree with the premise that ‘you’re only exceptional at one’. people who challenge themselves to excellence may excel in many areas. people who accept mediocrity will surely achieve it in all areas, easily. I hear parents all the time pigeonholing their children ‘this one is THE artist, this one is THE athlete’. I really believe that people can achieve excellence, and by that I mean true exceptionality, in several or many areas. But being exceptional anywhere doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk ! I would challenge anyone who is a little too proud to achieve excellence in humility and people skills
Thank you for posting every day with your valuable thoughts !
Thanks Catie. It’s always great to read a dissenting voice. Obviously there are exceptions to the idea that we are exceptional in only one area. However, I seriously doubt if anyone reading this blog is one of those exceptions. Michael Jordan tried baseball and failed is one of my examples.
How much energy, time and focus does it take to become exceptional in just one area. I’ve been giving public presentations for 40 years. I’m not where I would like to be, yet. The idea that we could achieve exceptional in more than one area seems incredible to me. Sure, we can be good at lots of things.
There are some notable exceptions. Some athletes excel at more than one sport. But, lets not forget how exceptional that is.
What if I put it this way, “How many things can you reach a world class level?” 🙂
Having said all that, lets go be great at our one thing.
Great post! I think that it brings up lots of great points.
This calls to mind a particular individual at a previous job who had an exceptional number of admirers, for reasons that seemed incomprehensible to many of us. This person was regarded by a number of people senior to her as “irreplaceable”. That can’t even be possible. All of that overinflated value gave this person cover for a whole lot of bad behavior and corner-cutting. Sometimes people are willing to bow down and ignore someone’s weaknesses.
Very helpful!! Encouraging teams to work around each other’s weaknesses and openly discuss each others strengths and weaknesses with help maximize each teams potential.
Dan re: #4. How do you teach them to do that?
I don’t know if it can be taught, but it can be modeled. Not all teaching is explicit.
Amen and Spot On, Dan. While you phrased it a bit more succinctly, this is Fundamental Principle 7 to a tee (http://wp.me/p2k440-3y)
Having read your article I would therefore question the desire to drive to be truly exceptional in one area, and whether you can contribute more as a generalist? In education, the further you progress, the narrower your field of focus. Regarding being exceptional, I also love the phrase from Belbin regarding team types where he refers to ‘allowable weaknesses’ as a consequence of a strength, and also the concept of ‘overdone strengths’ and the damage that these can cause to others – especially if others can’t be a counterbalance of an individual (as is the case if they are in a position of being higher up the organisation). Sorry for the mind-dump of ideas, but thanks for the spark that generated the thinking.