Have you noticed how your employees or colleagues have some remarkable strengths and some, well, unfortunate weaknesses? For instance, you notice that Alan is bright and productive, but doesn’t speak up or share his talents. Or you see Sally is seemingly a great team player, but always careful not to challenge the group even when she knows better?
All of us, especially those in higher levels of organizations, possess talents that others see as great strengths. The problem is that our strengths are our weaknesses. Seems so unfair, but it is a truth we cannot ignore. So Allen focuses his efforts, reaches deep within to solve a problem or accomplish his task. But he is also a loner, too focused on the tasks at the expense of helping others. And Sally likes to make the team harmonious and get along. She is the glue that keeps everyone together. But she is also afraid of the team coming unglued; she is unsure enough of herself or her place in the group that she cannot challenge, clarify, or correct. Darn.
Colleagues and employees are very uncomfortable about criticism. They experience it as harsh, corrective, and rejecting. But another way to bring out the best in your people is to recognize that there is a flip side to their strengths. When this becomes accepted – by you and by them – it is easier for people in the workplace to see and accept their downside. Only then can people hear the feedback, acknowledge the problem, and feel safe enough to mitigate their weakness.
This process of acknowledging strengths, and then finding the concomitant weak spot, can be done by managers and by colleagues. It is a common practice in my executive coaching. Acceptance of the self and others, especially that we all have strengths and weaknesses, makes it all possible.
Tom DeMaio, PhD