Ask someone to name their weaknesses, and they fire off a laundry list of shortcomings without hesitation. But ask what they’re good at, and many tend to struggle for an answer. People struggle to identify their strengths for two reasons:
1. They’re embarrassed. Insecurities can keep us from admitting when we’re good at something.
2. They don’t recognize it as a strength. It’s easy for to see others strengths, but it’s not always easy to see our own. Sometimes we’re good at something naturally, and for that reason we’re unaware that they are good at it. A few months ago a friend mentioned a strength he had observed in my leadership. It caught me off-guard, because it was a behavior I knew it was something I did, but never considered to be a strength. Because he pointed it out, I now try to develop and practice this more intentionally.
It’s tempting when doing leadership development to identify weakness and try to help them grow from a three to an eight. But your time will be much better invested if you help the leader develop his or her strengths.
Try this exercise next time you meet with one of your staff members or someone you’re developing. Ask the following questions:
- Name 5 to 7 projects or goals you’ve been working on for the past four weeks. Write a list on the whiteboard.
- Where have you felt surges of energy during the past four weeks? What were you doing when you felt it?
- What fruit or results have you seen in the past four weeks? What are the specific things you did to contribute to that outcome?
- To what do you attribute those results, be specific? What response have you seen from others as you did this work?
- Reverse engineer what you did well. Think about what you did well and why. Write down the skills you used to accomplish those things.
- What do you learn about your strengths from these observations?
- What are two or three things that you can put into practice over the next 30 days to sharpen that strength?
When you take someone through this process, there are three outcomes.
- They will develop their strengths
- They will begin to use the strengths with more intentionality.
- It will increase their ability to develop others in that particular strength area.