Overcoming Weaknesses or Developing Strengths?
Many managers who were once identified as high potentials get stuck at some point in their careers. Decision makers get second thoughts about the manager’s capabilities dealing with a broader job scope. Or, what’s worse, the manager gets promoted and suddenly finds him-/herself on the fast track to derailment.
The situation is serious: the whole team may be prevented from performing at their best, and important business goals are not met. It is very frustrating for the individual if he/she is not progressing as desired, and the whole development can be embarrassing for the manager who once nominated the candidate high potential.
Here are three effective steps to get you where you want to be in your career:
1. Create Awareness
The essential question is: what key strengths must the individual exhibit in a specific position? Although certain competencies may be generally expected, leadership skills are not universal for all industries or positions. Great capabilities as CEO in the software industry don’t necessarily qualify you for the top position in a manufacturing company.
Once you are clear what strengths are required for the position desired, you need to know yourself. Great personality instruments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) or the VIA Character Strengths Survey help you understand who you are – and eventually who you can become.
Even more important than being aware of your strengths is the perception others have of you. People do not get promoted because of actual performance but because of perceived performance. As Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman Google, says: “one thing people are never good at is how other people see them.”
Do a 360 degree feedback to identify actual and hidden strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. Or just ask the people around you for honest feedback.
2. Overcome Unacceptable Weaknesses Only
A great leader does not have to be great at everything. Nelson Mandela is my role model when it comes to leadership. After 27 years of agony in prison he refrained from retaliating against his adversaries. Instead, he practiced forgiveness, and with amazing people skills he lead a whole nation towards unity and peace. However, it is no secret that this great man failed in enjoying a fulfilling family life. Apparently this didn’t prevent him from being an outstanding leader of a country.
Time and resources are limited. You may spend a lot of time getting marginally better at what you’re not good at. Investing the same amount of time and effort in improving your natural strengths will get you further – and be so much more fun.
However, there maybe weaknesses that you simply must overcome. For instance the world’s best technical expert who does not communicate information with impact will not inspire others. The most insightful visionary who is not paying attention to getting results will not climb far on the ladder of success. Some key tasks cannot be delegated.
3. Build on Your Strengths
Based on my experience as Executive Coach & Life Coach people are clearly at their best when they build on their natural strengths. People who develop their talents and follow their passion will inevitably be successful.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review “Making Yourself Indispensable” suggests: “What makes leaders indispensable to their organizations (…) is not being good at many things but being uniquely outstanding at a few things.”
It takes only two to four outstanding skills to be in the 72 to 89 percentile ranking of top leaders, according to a key message in the paper. In addition, the authors recommend to improve your skills through “cross training”: when you are already excellent in one area, improving this any further may not be effective. Instead, you should develop a “complementing” skill which will help you grow more significantly. Say for example you are great already in building relationships, then developing the complementary skill of developing others will eventually have more impact than further incremental improvement in building relatiosnhips.
In a nutshell: Define with a key stakeholder or the HR Manager in your organisation the crucial skills required for your desired career. Do a 360 and take the MBTI assessment to understand yourself better. Work with a mentor or coach to overcome weaknesses – if required – and build on your strengths. Enjoy your growth!