When you think about leadership development do you focus on the strengths of your team or their weaknesses? Do you believe you will get the most out of your people by emphasizing what is wrong with them or what is right? Here’s my two cents. If leadership development overlooks the gifts people bring and hones in on weaknesses mediocre is all you will get. BUT if leadership development supports the strengths that people bring naturally, they will grow into greatness.
We are preconditioned from an early age. Consider one of your first report cards. It may have looked something like this Math A, Science A-, English B, Social Studies D. What subject did your parents see as needing attention? Where were you encouraged to study harder? Social Studies, right? Well, here’s the thing, your parents should have focused on what came naturally to you, Math and Science. You likely have the capacity to excel in these two subjects. But instead, you probably spent hours studying Social Study struggling to get your grade up to a C. Now don’t get the wrong idea. I am not advocating that weaknesses get overlooked or denied but I am suggesting that they do not become the sole focus of anyone’s growth and development plan.
In my coaching practice one of the first tools, I give to every client is the Strengths Finder 2.0 found on www.Gallup.com. This assessment identifies individual natural born gifts and talents. Not only that it provides a specific report helping clients to understand how their strengths work together offering insight into how they can achieve success. The Strengths Finder increases awareness into how one can optimize on who they already are.
Let me share an example, if I have two clients who possess the Competition strength that does not mean they are simply Competitive and always striving to win. Depending on the other strengths in the lineup the Competitive Strength will play out differently. If one client has the strengths of Competitive/Focus/Learner, they may be Competitive with themselves working hard to learn and excel seeking a high level of individual performance. Compared to someone with the strengths of Competitive/Strategic/Maximizer who will strive to win seeking self-improvement and using tactical planning for the purpose of being the best amongst their peers.
Often strengths go unnoticed because they come naturally and easily. I mentioned early that we are preconditioned to look at areas of weakness or what is wrong with us. We are also preconditioned to believe that things should be hard. If we are not struggling to improve, then we will not get ahead. I believe when you tap into your natural gifts you are able to get into flow. Work does not feel like “work”. When you are engaged in projects that allow you to use your strengths you enjoy what you are doing, and it comes naturally.
When an organization develops a strengths-based culture people are set up for success. Each person is specifically coached and guided to use their natural born gifts and talents in their contribution to the whole. It has been proven when individuals operate from the foundation of their strengths, they will be more engaged, achieve greater success and be happier.
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