Gotcha…thought that was something else didn’t ya?  Smith & Wesson? 


Hello all.  Please forgive my prolonged absence.  It has been one year since I last put a post on the blog.  In that time I have relocated twice…once to Chicago, and once to France.  Needless to say, I have been up to my eyeballs with adjustments.  I am still up to my eyeballs, but I am intent on getting back to my blog.   I am glad to be writing again. 


I had one reader write me the other day asking about the choice between improving on your weaknesses versus building on your strengths…which is better?  Interesting question.  In my opinion, as with many other areas, it is a question of balance.  It depends on which skill areas are weak and which are strong.  It also depends on how weak you are in those areas.  Finally, it depends on the current needs of your organization and how those align with your strengths and weaknesses.   


However, the question also took my thinking down another path…now there’s a surprise. 


The real key to managing your strengths and weaknesses is knowing what they are.  Most people do not.  To make matters worse, I have found few people with internal fortitude to ask for feedback about their strengths and weaknesses, and to listen to the answer. 


If you are in denial about your own areas for development…your individual weaknesses become organizational weaknesses, and your problems get bigger fast!

To take the dilemma one step further, I have found few people that are skilled or feel comfortable giving “constructive feedback”.  They seem to feel that it is going to be a confrontational or combative situation, so they either do not give any feedback at all, or they “shine it up” so that it is easier to deliver.  As a result, the recipient is not getting real feedback, or it is shallow in content. 


Now, to make matters even worse, in those rare cases in which people do get feedback, they often do not believe it.  They go through a period of denial followed by anger.  Sometimes they make it through to acceptance and correction.  Unfortunately, research shows that acceptance and correction are not the usual response.


The final pitfall, though, is the worst.  As you know, we tend to hire in our own image.  If you are in denial about your own areas for development and are hiring in your own image, then you are hiring people with the same weaknesses as your own.   Your individual weaknesses become organizational weaknesses.  The problem gets bigger quickly!


FYI…this is why Performance Management Systems are generally ineffective.  The design is usually good.  The execution is the problem.  Supervisors rarely do an adequate job of providing feedback.


Back in the early uh…well…a long time ago, I had the opportunity to design the leadership development program for one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world.  During that time I sampled many 360 degree programs and assessment centers.  The first 360 program I used really shocked me because it pointed out an area of relative weakness which I had previously felt was a strength…developing people.  I was stunned.  Yes, I went through the denial phase and discounted the validity of the whole process.  Fortunately, I came around and listened to the feedback.  The upside of all this was that I paid attention to it, worked on it, and two years later it had improved to a clear strength. 


The point here is, get feedback…take a 360.  You need facts and data…real information.  Often people you work with are not comfortable or skilled at providing that data.  Seek out a third party for assistance…take a 360 degree feedback program.  They are not expensive and the usable data is priceless for developing your career.  The bonus is that they also generally provide you with development ideas for improving your areas of relative weakness.  As a reference, the ones I have used and that I found particularly useful were from DDI, PDI and CCL.