“If you have not seen the real end of the journey, don’t boast much at the beginning and never be too proud and haughty in mid of the path. Keep the real end in mind and mind how to get to the real end successfully!” – Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
As the year draws to a close we tend to enter a phase of retrospection, during which we all go through a period of reflecting on what our aims were and what we have managed to achieve during the past year.
Our self review may reveal that we met our objectives, have a strong track record and that our Manager and colleagues are all happy with our contribution. However it seems that we always miss the boat when it comes to taking on higher responsibilities. Sometimes seemingly less experienced colleagues get the job. Have you ever questioned yourself why that happens ?
Even if you have done so the answer you got in return may have been linked to your identified weaknesses or areas of improvement. It is easy to focus on and improve upon those areas by learning more about that area or practicing that skill to improve upon it. However as you may be aware, it is always one strengths that get you where you are and help you to grow further. Building on ones strengths is far more effective in improving performance and not only that, employees tend to be more engaged with the company, they perform at a higher level and are more likely to grow.
So, one needs to remember that doing more of what one already does well will yield only incremental improvements. In order to get much better at that competency, what you also require to do is focus and work on the Complementary or Corresponding skills. It is actually working on those skills which will help you gain an edge. For example an athlete may only improve his performance by focusing on endurance training to build stamina. If you want to loose weight it can be done much more effectively if you combine diet with exercise, than if you focus on only one aspect alone. An Engineer or Software Developer may be an expert in their respective fields but to gain a further edge they may need to focus and improve on communication and presentation skills and on it goes.
So moving to new beginnings in the coming year, in order to become more effective in your role as a leader or just a team player you may follow the pattern described ahead.
First you need to identify your STRENGTHS. If you have access to get a 360 degree appraisal that’s the best option to choose. If not you may create your own feedback form, there is a lot of material available on the internet and request your close friends and colleagues etc to give you feedback anonymously.
Next you would need to choose a strength to focus on. You may do so based on its importance to your future growth in the organization. You could also select a strength based on your own interests and skills you may want to develop. However keep in mind that the strength you choose should have a clear link to organizational requirements and your own future growth.
Further, the next step would be to identify and select a relevant complementary behavior which you would like to develop. It would be best to choose a complementary behavior that is relevant to your job, your future growth and is also important to the organization. In addition it is essential that it also interests you so that you will take it up in an enthusiastic manner and work on it as well. It would be a good option to build it into your development objectives for next year and discuss it with your Manager and get his/her buy-in.
This would be followed by focusing on and developing that behaviour the following year. It would be best to look for as many opportunities as possible, both inside and outside your sphere of work, to improve that behaviour. If you are working on it, you should expect to see some concrete evidence of improvement within 3 to 4 months. You may take fresh feedback to see if you are on track. If you receive negative responses then its apparent that what you’re doing is not working and you might need to review your strategy. Generally, complementary behaviors improve in a steady manner with practice and as you keep on improving you will be motivated to continue. If you had identified more than one complementary behavior then you have the option to start to work with the other required skill also.
Further on you can also start the entire process again with another identified strength and its related complementary behaviours, to ultimately reach the point where you will have a diverse set of skills at your disposal and will be making a more valuable contribution to your job and department.
Can you go over the top ?
The concept of focusing on strengths is not new. Peter Drucker was the first to state this in The Effective Executive, “Unless…an executive looks for strength and works at making strength productive, he will only get the impact of what a man cannot do, of his lacks, his weaknesses, his impediments to performance and effectiveness. To staff from what there is not and to focus on weakness is wasteful—a misuse, if not abuse, of the human resource.”
Since then research has grown to support and promote Drucker’s approach at how big a difference developing a few strengths can make. Unfortunately only few executives are aware of this or have any plan to do so. Executives should be aware that they need a path to enhancing their strengths that is as clear and focused for them as the one to improving their weaknesses.