The Most Outdated Approach in Leadership
"At its fundamentally flawed core, the aim of any development program is to help us become who we are not. If you don't have natural talent with numbers, you are still forced to spend time in that area to attain a qualification. If you are not emphatic, you get sent to a course designed to infuse empathy into your personality.
From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths."
There is no difference between school, your parents, or your workplace/boss. They all wanted you to focus on what you could improve at. How does it make you feel to be repeatedly told: "fix yourself"? Not great, right? However, you proceed by saying, "yes, but I definitely need to address certain things with me". Maybe you do, but maybe you don't. As we say during the strengths program, you only need to worry about your shortcomings when they get in the way of success.
And this is the clue everyone ignores. Is that shortcoming of yours causing a problem for you or others? If the answer is no, you can leave it alone and turn your attention to leveraging your strengths.
But what does it look like when your lesser strength (as we call it) or your strength is hurting you?
- If your communication is not your strength and your team feels like they aren't heard or included in necessary information.
- If your job requires a lot of deep thinking, but you are more of a doer, and as a result, you keep yourself busy with ongoing work. This may result in no change, no strategic vision, or a lack of understanding of why your team or organisation is in a specific situation.
- If you need to make uncomfortable decisions constantly but cannot because you worry and feel strongly about other people's emotions.
- When your self-assurance strength comes across as arrogant and everybody rejects you.
- When any of your weaknesses or lesser strengths severely affects your self-confidence and stops your strengths from performing. Overshadowing your strengths. That's the worst-case scenario because all you have left is a lack of confidence, worry, and performance anxiety.
So to identify whether or not you need to address your weakness or unintelligently used strengths first, you need to establish if they get in the way of success. And here is another tricky part. How success looks depends on so many things. Maybe your poor communication will not be an issue at workplace A because the team is small and they are very self-sufficient in finding answers to their questions. At workplace B the team relies on you to provide adequate information.
The bottom line is that you need to re-look at your strengths and shortcomings all over again because the question of "are they getting in the way of success?" is environment dependent. That's why we must develop individuals within the context of their environment.
I know a person who was fired because of her outspoken nature and unpolished way of communicating what she had on her mind. Why was it a problem? Because the team members didn't have strong personalities and her way of speaking destroyed team morale. Should she have been surrounded by equally strong characters who were not tolerated or bothered by her way of communicating, this would not have been an issue. For example, she was fine with me and with other leaders because we were ok with her way of communication. We came from the same background and that kind of communication was ok for us. And when she went too far we would put her back to her place fairly quickly.
So yes, strengths and weaknesses need to be monitored at all times and adjusted as necessary, but the main job is to focus on your strengths while monitoring your weaknesses from the corner of your eye.
And one more thing, please don't work for a manager or leader who says, "You have done well, but these are your weaknesses you need to work on if you want to get even better". That is the most outdated leadership style. The kind that ignores the person and the science behind the fact that your greatest area of growth is within your strengths.