Katena Cain, PhD
Nonprofit Management Consultant
I was recently organizing a bookshelf at home and came across a book that I originally read over 12 years ago: Soar With Your Strengths by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson. It reminded me of a time early in my career when I searched for the motivation to encourage others using a strengths-based approach. Walt Disney, the visionary who turned a single mouse into an entertainment mega-empire, boiled his success down to a simple premise: “Of all the things I have done, the most vital was coordinating the talents of those who work for me and pointing them at certain goals.”
While there are not many Disney-type fairy tales in the real world, supporting weaknesses and leveraging strengths can take your team to levels of success you might not have previously imagined—perhaps the “happily-ever-after” of ultimately obtaining your vision. As leadership engineer John Maxwell asserts, “Work on the weakness that weakens you, and there is no telling how far you will go.”
Top Five Tips for Leveraging Strengths and Supporting Weaknesses:
1. Pay attention
Survey individuals' unique leadership styles, work ethics, skill sets and personalities. Some successes and failures may be a fluke, but if you pay careful attention, trends will likely emerge in relation to a person's strengths and weaknesses.
2. Make them aware
It is easy to recognize an individual for something at which they excel—chances are they already know it is one of their strengths. The harder part is pointing out a weakness. However, it is likely that he or she already realizes some of their own inadequacies.
3. Utilize Mentors
Partnering an individual who has a particular weakness with someone who exhibits strength in that same area creates ample opportunities for that person to sharpen a skill.
4. Consider and budget for Professional Development
Consider utilizing your own resources as well by having the employee who has the sharpest skill set in a particular area lead a company-wide workshop on how they developed and best employed that strength.
5. Allow for failure
Once upon a time, most leaders focused solely on utilizing the strengths of their team members for achieving directives. But by letting team members know they are being given the opportunity to fail for the sake of strengthening a weakness, not only will it give them confidence for developing a skill set or overcoming a shortcoming, but it will prepare them to use that very attribute for future successes.
The best leaders today realize that in order for real achievements to become a reality they must focus not only on the preeminent attributes of employees, but also on their weaknesses, initiating efforts to both buoy and leverage those shortcomings to achieve greater success.
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Coaching on how you can leverage strengths and support weaknesses on your team?
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