At our TSB weekly staff meetings, I am amazed by the talent that flows from the wonderfully diverse team of nine who sit around the table. As we spend time brainstorming, planning and organizing each week, I can easily identify the strengths that each team member brings to the table and feel that they make me better. We can achieve more as a team than I could ever accomplish on my own. I’m grateful.
Some twenty plus years ago I was a member of a church which loudly proselytized the Biblically based theory that when selecting individuals for jobs, although yes, in this case, jobs were volunteer positions within the church and not careers, should be based on an individual’s strengths – what they do well. This philosophy embraces a certain set of truths.
People thrive, are more productive and are, indeed, happier and more successful, when they are placed in a position which utilizes their innate, God-given (or whatever higher power you ascribe to) strengths or abilities and talents. Conversely, people are more likely to feel frustrated and fail when they are put into positions which do not utilize their strengths.
For example, in many organizations, particularly volunteer organizations, we often plug people into positions simply because we need to find bodies to fill a void. We assign people leadership roles when they don’t have leadership ability, we put people “in charge”, when, in reality, they would fourish if they were given specific duties to carry out. We assign roles simply based on need, but with little understanding of the integral make up of who people are as individuals.
I have observed people who were terrific at sales get promoted to sales manager within an organization because he made his quota and more, each quarter, was well liked by his peers and “seemed to be” the right guy for the job. Of course, in many organizations this guy is a perfect candidate for a promotion. The thought is that if this is a great sales person, then why not a great sales manager? Success in sales surely means success in a leadershp role, right? Maybe not.
The trouble is, the strengths thats make someone excell in sales may be vastly different from those needed in a leadership role. Strengths such as empathy, being a maximizer or understanding the unique qualities of people within an organization come in handy for managers – they manage people. Often, that individual who was a huge success as a salesman, becomes a dismal failure as a sales manager. Managing people is different from managing sales accounts. Think about it…how many bad bosses have you had, and I’m not just talking about in sales! So often, organizations focus on measuring performance by emphasizing rules, procedures and policies and by focusing on ways to improve our weaknesses instead of understanding and promoting based on our strengths – what we do well!
While it is often easier to assemble a group of those who are more like us, I have found that I have learned to appreciate the differences of our team. I love that we can agree to disagree and still accomplish much. We display a variety of strengths – ideation, focus, communication, leadership, analytical and strategic thinking, and a willingness to share input – just to name a few. We focus on the outcomes we desire instead of focusing on a certain mold – certain policies and procedures that people must follow.
I hope that each of you will have the opportunity to capitalize on your strengths and manage, not focus on, your weaknesses, whatever they may be!
In examining the potential of individuals, we must focus on their strengths and not just their mistakes. We cannot be limited by what they may have spilled in the kitchen.