May We Complement Your Strengths?
No, we aren’t looking to congratulate you on your excellent backhand, organizational skills, or even your technical aptitude. Instead, we are looking at The Inspiring Leader by Zenger, Folkman and Edinger recently profiled in Harvard Business Review. They collected data over decades with tens of thousands of executives worldwide that showed developing your strengths is an entirely different endeavor than improving your weaknesses. We know that we can identify our weaknesses with an untold number of tools and opinions. We also know that we can chart an improvement plan that will include tangible efforts resulting in clear, linear improvements. But what happens when your weaknesses aren’t actually hindering your success?
The authors share Tom’s story, a midlevel sales manager in a Fortune 500 company who was surprised to have been turned down for a promotion that seemed a natural progression in his career. In fact, it was given to someone with less experience despite his consistently positive reviews, performance, and matching skill set. When Tom spoke with his manager he was assured that he was well liked, a strong performer, strategic thinker, and that his recent 360-degree assessment confirmed his success. “No need to reinvent yourself, just keep doing what you’re doing. Go with your strengths.” This sales manager was stumped. How do you grow strengths and show more than incremental improvement?
Zenger, Folkman and Edinger found that nonlinear development through complementary skills will provide the greatest return on improving your strengths. They liken it to cross training for athletes. For example, if you are a great strategic planner, learning and developing more strategy isn’t going to take you very far. However, if you instead focus on your communication skills to explain that strategy and garner support from management and peers, you have just greatly enhanced and improved your expertise. We will look further into identifying your strengths, complementary skills and share other cross-training tips in this blog series.