A Couple Things to Learn about Leadership
Posted by Amy Wilson on October 26, 2009
But just having missed 2 questions on Dan McCarthy’s Talent Management Challenge , I want to talk about those specifically:
First, What is the most likely outcome of people focusing exclusively on developing their strengths and doing only those jobs that match their strengths?
A. It would only work well for those with the right strengths to begin with
B. People would be happier and more productive because they wouldn’t have to worry about their weaknesses
C. The strengths would get stronger, overwhelming any weaknesses that might get in the way
D. Strengths are likely to be overdone or not balanced, and unaddressed weaknesses would become blind spots
E. More people would become strong performers over time
I should have spotted the word “exclusively” and realized my answer of “E. More people would become strong performers over time” was overly optimistic. My team recently conducted a Strengthsfinder exercise and we found it to be very valuable. We learned a lot about ourselves, a lot about each other, and it seeded us with concrete plans on how to grow and get better. Apparently, I missed Dan’s excellent post on The Perils of Accentuating the Positive in which he reviews the book of the same name. “In a nutshell …,” he says “the ‘celebrate your strengths’ mantra is a feel-good, lazy way of side-stepping the hard work required to develop and be successful. It’s giving leaders ‘permission to stagnate””.
Ouch. That one really hurts. That will teach me to fall behind in my blog reading! It also gives me a lot to think about. I used to beat myself up a lot about my weaknesses. When I discovered “strengths”, it gave me a refreshing attitude adjustment. I felt more confident and motivated in my ability to be successful as a leader. And I think that’s good. What I’m learning is that beating myself up about my weaknesses too is actually good and healthy. It’s all part of the wacky self-development puzzle.
(The right answer is D. Strengths are likely to be overdone or not balanced, and unaddressed weaknesses would become blind spots)
Second, How do high performers rate themselves compared to low performers?
A. Rate themselves higher than others rate them
B. Rate themselves the same as others rate them
C. Rate themselves lower than others do
D. Rate themselves lower than others do and lower than low performers
E. Rate themselves at the same level as low performers
I was pretty sure that A & B weren’t right and I got tripped up on the semantics of C & D, so I picked “E. Rate themselves at the same level as low performers.”
The right answer is “D. Rate themselves lower than others do and lower than low performers.” This question, along with another question in Dan’s quiz (“Who is the least accurate judge of a manager’s job performance?”) tells us that self-assessments are meaningless and 360 feedback is a must. This makes sense and it’s not surprising, but I’m not sure what to do with this information as I look to advise employees, mentees, not to mention myself. There is other solid evidence out there that we should be marketing and positioning ourselves for more opportunities as well as developing self-awareness of our goodnesses (in addition to our weaknesses). So I wonder: should I be advising my people to give themselves credit or be overly humble (as a good high performer should …)?