A recent article by Rebecca Schalm, an HR columnist at Troy Media, considers the idea of emphasizing a person’s natural strengths versus building up weaknesses in an effort to become more effective. The article is available here.
As Schalm points out, this strength-based approach has become a common philosophy in personal and organizational leadership. This is not surprising in an era when people are encouraged to become their own “brand.” And certainly it’s easier to quickly label someone as “a numbers guy”, “a marketing whiz”, or “a turnaround specialist” than to make the effort to fully understand the nuances and intricacies of ourselves and others.
But emphasizing strengths is almost always going to limit a person’s potential. Particularly because the higher a leader advances, the less time they spend using functional skills (sales, accounting, etc.) and more time on things such as building consensus, motivating others and establishing effective teams.
Schalm goes on to identify a person’s ability to recognize their shortcomings and develop strategies to address them as a key factor in long-term success. Such self-awareness is a fundamental aspect of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), a frequent topic of this blog. Of course working hard on things we do poorly is not typically as much fun as applying our strengths, but it is necessary for improving our overall capabilities, and even our EQ.
Another insight Schalm makes is the importance of balancing self-reflection with objective input when identifying strengths and weaknesses. TRACOM’s own research has shown that individuals frequently rate their own behaviors and EQ skills different than the people with whom they work. An over-reliance on self-reflection often leads to significant blindspots. TRACOM offers a whitepaper for those interested in the topic of Self-Perception vs. Third-Person Feedback.
What are your thoughts? What is the right balance of using strengths and developing weaknesses?