Jake discovered his love for maths at school. He also discovered his love for people, connection, his culture and helping others. Ambitious from young, he was never constrained by circumstances or limited in what he thought possible for his life and career. Navigating a career in a multinational organisation beyond being a technical specialist was was obvious given his strong IQ and EQ skills. However the higher up the organisation he advanced, the more he realised the very strengths that had led him to his current success would not take him to the next levels. He needed to see things differently.
His biggest challenge came from overplaying his people orientation. He was developing a reputation for deliberating too long on people decisions. He gave his team more chances to perform than was appropriate. He trusted people with too little process and procedure to ensure consistent feedback and oversight. This style and the values underpinning it were deeply ingrained in his cultural context where the individual is less important than the team. Making changes was not as easy. His story about himself and others stories about him further reinforced his sense of identity as a caring ‘father-figure’.
His coaching programme strengthened his awareness of the impact of this ongoing way of leading on his career progression, on his individual team members own growth and responsibility, and on the business unit’s ability to deliver better performance. With a more holistic view of himself and a deep appreciation for his values, he was able to see that it was not about giving up on his strength, but about developing other skills and capacities to moderate its usage, and the self awareness to notice which style was appropriate for which circumstances.
As a result of coaching, he learnt to focus his actions on what mattered most not what would have him liked, appreciated and or revered. He learnt to act in the face of strong emotions and not to back off because it was easier or more comfortable for him, and that tough can be kind.
Which of your strengths are you overusing?
· Are you a driver of results yet find yourself steam rolling others to get things done?
· Is your directness creating defensiveness in others?
· Is your decisiveness and independence making it difficult for you be a part of the “we”?
· Is your optimism blinding you to potential risks and tuned out to bad news?
· Is your risk awareness, calmness and objectivity making it hard for you to inspire others?
· Are you so good at executing that you lose sight of the bigger picture?
What can you do?
The hardest part about overusing strengths is that it can be very difficult to see and acknowledge the problem. Like anything else, unless you can see how this might be impacting you, your team and your business negatively, you are unlikely to be motivated to change something that comes so naturally to you and has served you so well up to know. Here are some tips to deal with it:
1. Invite feedback from others and take stock of your strengths.
2. Once you are clear about the strengths that you use, spend a week observing yourself on one of your key strength –the one comes easiest to you or that is mentioned most in your feedback.
3. Notice what this strength makes possible for you as a leader and notice what possibilities it closes down for you?
4. Once you have a better grasp of the impacts you will then be in a position to moderate its usage and exercise skills that act as a counter point to this strength.
Some ideas: If you steamroller people to get results – notice how many commands and orders you give, how many statements you make. What if you asked more questions? Allowed more space for others to pull up the slack?
If you are great at executing and getting things done what about training your mind and eyes to become more like a wide angle than a zoom lens? What becomes possible when you create space for the bigger picture?
If you are super reliable and responsible and find yourself the go to person for most things how about building your capacity to delegate and involve others?
Recommended Reading: http://hbr.org/2009/02/stop-overdoing-your-strengths/ar/1