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Wally Bock

Good post, Steve. Alas, the current strengths and weaknesses debate seems to suggest that you either build on strengths or deal with weaknesses. Success calls for something else.

No need to take my word for it. I give you Peter Drucker, way back in the Sixties. 'Twas he, I think who first suggested that success came from "making strength productive." But Drucker, wise old soul, didn't leave it there.

There's another part to the Drucker formula. It is: "Make weakness irrelevant." Sometimes you do that by getting "good enough." Sometimes you do that by outsourcing tasks to those who can do them better or to software. Sometimes you decide that particular tasks just don't need doing.

Building on strengths works, but not if it becomes a slogan or an excuse. The final test is still performance.

Becky Robinson

Great post, Steve. I have used the "It's just who I am" excuse (at home, not at work) so often that it has become my own personal mantra. So, ouch.

That said, let me add to your list of what to do:
#4 Keep doing those things that aren't "your strengths." Try new ways to accomplish the same task. Eventually, you may find that you will improve your ability to complete the dreaded tasks -- and you may even find yourself enjoying them along the way.

peter vajda

I like Becky's point. For me, focusing on strengths contributes to one's becoming good, better, best - where they are. Focusing on one's weaknesses, limitations and areas that could use improvement support one to forward the action of their life - personally and professionally.

peter vajda

Second thought:

Steve, you say, "Dumping mundane tasks (like paperwork, administration) on others because "it's not my strength." (For example, "Anne, you're so good at making the office coffee, cleaning out the pot and using the fax machine. Would you mind? I'm not good at that kind of stuff.") All jobs require doing some things we don't like, or aren't particularly good at."

It's important to discriminate/discern between "it's not my strength" and "it's not my job." This is a touchy area where status, title, and, especially, ego can get in the way.

There are myriad areas where one can "do the little things" for the good of the order (the coffee pot, cleaning us a messy room, adding paper to the copier...)instead of walking away...the Leona Helmsly attitude of "those things are for the 'little people'."

Here there cartainly is a weakness on the part of those whose mantra is they are "too good for that" - and if it has anything to do with strength, it'a lack of a strength of character. So, a very important distinction here.

Jo Jordan

Yep, strengths are how you are going to get it done, not what you are going to get done!

Personally, I always let the task go to the person who loves to do it. Then if there are residual tasks that no one wants, we draw straws, fairly.

msn nicks

Yep, strengths are how you are going to get it done, not what you are going to get done!

Mike Myatt

Hi Steve:

This is a great post unmasking the tendency to let human nature overcome sound judgment. I don't believe strengths and weaknesses are the issues, but whether when, where, why and how we choose to deal with them. In a previous post on the topic of strengths and weaknesses I took a look at the subtleties surrounding these issues which might be of interest to you: http://www.n2growth.com/blog/strengths-vs-weaknesses

Recent blog post: Family Business

Recent blog post: Family Business

Frode H

Hi Steve.
Love reading your blog, always something useful.
While reading this, my mind wandered to the book: What got you here, won't get you there by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. I am just reading this book now. And it is great. And right on this topic.

http://www.amazon.com/What-Got-Here-Wont-There/dp/1401301304/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1247507966&sr=8-1

Lynn M

Steve,
I see you have a lot of comments here and that just showed how much passion you stirred up with your post (so congrats on that), also I think most of us have been there to witness this. I think those who trudge along on strengths alone without trying to fix their weaknesses or owning up to them and how they affect others ultimately hit a road block. Such an employee can not be truly successful if they are not interacting with others in a positive way and it catches up to them. It is a weakness on the part of the manager to avoid an employee's negative behavior and this points to their own weaknesses. Perhaps they fear confronting an employee or fear having to take on extra work in replacing that employee. I guess that points to laziness as well.

I enjoyed your post and couldn't agree more on the "corporate speak." There's something dishonest and cowardly about relying on buzzwords to say what you mean.

Mary Jo Asmus

Steve, thanks for a great post and starting the conversation here.

I too am a firm believer in working within our strengths. In the work I've done over the the years, there are a few things I've learned from my clients about them. The two most prevalent in my thinking right now are:

1. There is a difference between strengths and strengths that are over used. Example: someone who communicates in a direct manner may have a strength. But I've also encountered those who are what I call "overly direct", blurting out what they are thinking at every opportunity. The latter is a strength that is overused, and the individual needs to learn to pull it back. When appropriately pulled back, it can be a great asset.

2. A focus on strengths for success and growth is essential! However, an awareness of weaknesses is as well. I've chosen my words carefully here - FOCUS on strengths and AWARENESS of weakneses - for a reason. We can all learn a lot about ourselves by becoming aware of our weaknesses. The attention on strengths has sometimes been an excuse for pretending that our weaknesses don't exist. They do, and they need to be acknowledged.

Steve Roesler

Wally,

I wonder if Drucker is required reading in management classes any longer?

Your punchline pulls it together: strengths leading to performance tells the tale.

Steve Roesler

Becky,

The #4 suggestion has me thinking.

When I get stuck on something (and I'll bet others do the same thing), I tend to try harder, not differently. What comes to mind is that this is a signal to find someone who can demonstrate another way, since I already don't know what it is.

This is where it's important to learn to ask for help or to be able to sit back and calmly try to approach things from a different angle.

We'll add #4 to the bunch.

Steve Roesler

Peter,

Hadn't really thought about my example in that way.

This leads to the whole area of intent, awareness, and misperception:

1. Am I using this as an excuse to dump?

2. Am I unaware of my real underlying motives?

3. Am I being genuine but the people around me could interpret it as a dump vs. an "I need help."

Could lead to another entire post...

Steve Roesler

Jo,

How does that straw thing work out if no one is really very good at the task or eager to get involved in it?

I would imagine that if it's something procedural or mundane, no problem. Are there any glitches if it's a biggie?

Steve Roesler

Mike,

You raise the important situational aspects of the topic. And I would urge people to read your post.

Am currently involved in working with a family business that wants to add an "outside" partner. As you well know, the dynamics of family businesses are unique and frequently unknown to, or unexpressed by, those "in the family".

Thanks for adding the extra dimension. . .

Steve Roesler

Frode,

That's one of the more useful books on the topic we're discussing. Thank you for letting people know about it.

Steve Roesler

msn nicks,

Good one-liner!

Steve Roesler

Lynn,

You sound like a voice of personal experience on this one.

There is a cultural movement afoot that is attempting to engineer happiness by acknowledging only the "positive". This is only one side of reality and, therefore, is ultimately defeating to those of us (all of us) who must learn to responsibly manage our lives, solve problems, and help others do the same.

One way we help others--and get help--is to learn what's not effective and then learn to do it differently.

Steve Roesler

Mary Jo,

Well put. I can't say anything that would add to that one.

Lynn M

Steve,
Good point on the "cultural movement" -- this topic has probably been done to death, but the "only acknowledge the positive" parenting has been one of the reasons many people feel the new generation of workers (millenials) come into the workforce with an entitled attitude. I don't believe all recent grads go out into the workforce feeling/acting this way, but the topic has been covered enough to show that it has been noticed throughout the corporate world. In this post Millenials in the Workforce I discuss how some feel this attitude has been fashioned by TV, the educational system being too focused on self-esteem, and parents over-rewarding at home. I guess I'm going slightly off topic here, but I wholeheartedly agree with you. Having grown up being told what not to do and what I've done wrong and being a parent now and seeing how my friends can't tell their children "no" or express that they are totally out of line and not behaving correctly....well, I think if today's young workers are expecting only positive feedback, it doesn't look like it is going to end anytime soon....just wait until the generation 10 years from now goes into the workforce!
Thanks for listening ;)

Steve Roesler

Lynn,

I'm adding your post as a "Bonus" to the end of this one.

Unless you say, "No." :-)

Lynn M

I say yes, of course! Thanks, Steve!

modifiye

It's important to discriminate/discern between "it's not my strength" and "it's not my job." This is a touchy area where status, title, and, especially, ego can get in the way.

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