Leadership – Strengths and Weaknesses
As part of my attempt to grow as a leader I took the StrengthsFinder survey. I got this one from the Go Lead Idaho sessions I am attending. It’s based on a Gallup survey and is all based on self-assessment. It was a quick and painless survey with clear, concise output. It’s based on a series of questions created and vetted over many years by Gallup, the experts in polling and finding out what people are thinking. Some of the questions seemed nonsensical and all were time-limited. If you can’t decide in 20 seconds where you fit on the scale then it’s not a defining question for you. The premise is that there are 34 themes that people are strong or weak in. Based on talking to a couple of career coaches the results are remarkably accurate for most people, no matter how much you resist the names of the themes. You take your top 5 strengths and concentrate on those. Don’t try to “fix” your weaknesses since that would focus your attention in the wrong area. Focus on your strengths instead. In that vein, the output from the survey only tells you your top 5 areas. Not the top 6, not a ranking of them all, not a clue what your “worst” 5 areas are. There’s a worksheet that helps you highlight which aspects of each area resonate with you and you should pick a key point from each to focus on. As an illustration of the themes, my strengths are listed below with the points I feel best describe me included below each item.
- You rely on collective intelligence and wisdom of experts to guide you towards the best solutions or answers
- You regularly point out what is wrong
- You zero in on difficulties, glitches, obstacles as early as possible so individuals can deal with them easily
- Key terms: Logically, unemotionally, practical thinker, consensus
- My key point: You help others see things as they actually are
- Set up clear rules and adhere to them
- You study and examine plans before you leap into action
- You want everyone including yourself to be happy
- You go out of your way to treat every person you meet with the same amount of respect, care, concern, and hospitality
- Key terms: unsentimental, realistic, streamline, overlook no detail, concentrate on facts, practical
- My key point: Because you check so many things beforehand, the number of misunderstandings and miscommunications between people is likely to decrease dramatically
- You fill your mind with new ideas
- Process of learning, rather than outcome, excites you
- Accumulate facts, data, stories, examples, or background information from the people you meet
- Want to be kept in the information loop
- You gravitate to people who converse about ideas at a deeper and more thoughtful level than most individuals are capable of doing.
- Small talk is seen as a waste of time
- You capitalize on your ability to ask questions and listen to people’s answers
- Key terms: thirst for knowledge and new ideas, continuously improve
- My key point: examining the interaction between various parts is as important to you as knowing what each part is designed to do
- Resist being held back, restrained, or controlled by people or events
- Prefer to be in charge
- Need fewer detailed explanations than many people require
- Prefer people who are trustworthy
- Key terms: stamina, hard work, busy, productive
- My key point: outstanding results and demanding standards (on self)
- Want to understand how one idea or fact links neatly to whatever precedes and follows it
- Search for causes and reasons, think about all factors that could influence a situation
- Automatically double-check your work
- Prefer company of people who carefully listen to what you say
- You make sure you know as much as possible about a contest before you decide to enter it
- You revel in gathering data and evidence to get answer before being told answer
- Key terms: examine, sound reasoning, reader, values information
- My key point: reduce things to their simplest parts
Note that many of these things can be described in less flattering terms by those who don’t appreciate these strengths. For instance, pointing out what is or could go wrong is to me a key strength. From my perspective if I don’t point out a weakness no one can address it and make the final output stronger. In my world you create a list of things that don’t seem quite right and things that could go wrong, you look it over and see what’s worth addressing, and if what’s left isn’t insurmountable go ahead with a good sense that things will succeed. But over the years I’ve been told I am trying to make projects fail, that I am too negative, and that I am making things overly complicated. It took me a while to find a job where that was seen as beneficial, and I also have to temper my approach. So take your strengths, own them, and make it clear that they are strengths. Don’t let others define you and your traits.
One trait most people share is that they tend to hire and reward others like themselves. That includes preferring people with similar strengths. Therefore many teams have a lot of people who are good at the same things and big gaps in other areas. That means there are potential strengths that the team has difficulty exploiting. Other teams have a good mix of strengths and team members can rely on other team members to fill in their own gaps. That sounds great, but you have to be able to manage the inevitable conflict. As an Achiever “down in the weeds” implementing something I will be annoyed by the Activator who from my perspective is always starting things and never finishing them. The Activator is annoyed by the Achiever who can’t keep up with their new and inventive ideas. Alone the Achiever works on the unimportant projects and the Activator never gets anything done. But together we can define the strategic, game changing projects and get them implemented to near perfection – as long as we recognize and utilize each other’s strengths. Asking an Activator to slow down and follow through (or from their perspective getting stuck in the weeds) is asking them to work in their weak area and holding them back from doing what they do best. Asking an Achiever to abandon a project (from an Activator perspective move on to something new because they’re done with the last one) is only asking for frustration.
One key point is that you have to satisfy your motivators every day. A great example came from a Learner. She figured out that she was getting sidetracked with meaningless web searches and Wiki reading during critical projects. But when she purposefully looked up a few interesting topics each morning or read a chapter before starting work, she had satisfied her learning motivator and could concentrate on her work. Find a way to satisfy your motivators in a way that moves you forward.
The themes themselves are simple. You can take them at their face value or you can spend hours upon hours diving into the explanations and action plans around them. How you approach it will reflect your individuality and your personal strengths. However you get there, find your own strengths, surround yourself with smart people, and lead from your strengths.