On life…and learning

Do You Work On Your Strengths?

with 15 comments

I have been a big proponent of following my strengths and bettering them year after year, than only focusing on what my weaknesses are. Not that I do not work on my development areas, it is just that I focus more on my strengths – and believe you me, it pays.

strengths-vs-weaknessesToday, I am writing this blog to share with you what Marcus Buckingham, a British-American bestselling author has been saying. A key promoter of ‘Strengths’, he has written extensively on this subject, basing his writing on far-reaching survey data from interviews with employees working all over the world. He has been stressing that people will get the best results by making the most of their strengths rather than by putting too much emphasis on weaknesses.

As an ardent student of leadership, I have been following his work for a while. And I must tell you; quite a lot of his writing has given me a lot of learning in the realm of people leadership. Some of his thoughts are quite simple, yet astonishingly effective.

Now, let me say, this one is a rather long blog… and in these twitter-happy times, it may appear even longer to some of you! However, in case you aspire to be a leader, do read on…

Here are the top 12 nuggets of his wisdom that I wish to share with you:

  1. Hand Off Praise. One key to success as a manager: when praise comes to your team, hand it off to your people; but when criticism comes, stand in front of them and be their shield. Deflect the praise and take the criticism, and they will do anything for you.
  2. Break the Golden Rule. The best managers break the Golden Rule. Do not treat each person on your team as you would like to be treated — this assumes that your team members each share the same strengths as you. And they don’t. Instead, treat each person as he or she would like to be treated. Treat each person as his or her strengths demand.
  3. The Two Things Your Team Members Need. Although your people want many things from you, their two most pressing needs are: 1) Does my team leader know me for what I do best? 2) Has my team leader set me up to do what I do best most of the time? Meet these two needs and your team will win. Miss on these two needs and everything else you try as a team leader will be less effective.
  4. Do You Make Your People Feel This Way? Think of the best team leader you’ve ever had. Get him or her clearly in mind. How did that team leader make you feel? Did he or she know you for what you do best? Did this team leader give you opportunities to show what you were capable of? Did he or she know how to focus, recognize and challenge you? Did you know this team leader would support you if you made a mistake? Do you make your people feel this way?
  5. Focus on Their Wins. You can’t be insecure and be a great team leader. Your insecurity will cause you to compete with your own people, which is the opposite of what a great team leader does. You are there to speed up their success, not compete with it.
  6. Experiment More. You value experimentation and hands-on experience. This drives your people. They know that it’s okay to make mistakes. They will soon appreciate that you expect them to articulate what they learned from those mistakes and thereby increase organizational wisdom. Make this an explicit part of your leadership.
  7. Strengths ROI. Great team leaders invest in each person’s strengths for these three reasons: a) Strengths are an accelerator: people will learn faster in an area of strength. b) Strengths are a multiplier: people are more creative in their areas of strength, more collaborative, and more insightful. c) Strengths are a reinforcer: people are more resilient in areas of strength — if they experience a setback or poor performance in an area of strength, they bounce back faster.
  8. The Real You. Show your people your personality. Sometimes they feel they don’t really know you. Take the time to tell personal stories and they will feel more connected. You don’t have to be the entertainer at the front of the room; just look for opportunities to make personal connections as you walk the office or share their successes.
  9. Practice Individualization. The most important skill you must develop, as a team leader, is individualization: namely, do you know how your people are different from one another, and have you figured out how to make the most of those differences? Perfect this skill and you will excel as team leader.
  10. Know Their Triggers. As a team leader, your job is to speed up the reaction between the strengths of each of your people and the goals of your team. You can do this job only if you know clearly how to trigger each person on your team in the right way. Remember, strengths are an accelerator, a multiplier and a reinforcer.
  11. The What, How and Why. Ensure that your people are prepared. Clearly articulate the what, how and why of “quality” and the steps needed to maximize it. Create opportunities to practice activities your people might be expected to perform. That way, when it comes time to measure the “quality” of their work, they won’t fear this; they will look forward to it.
  12. Get In Their Shoes. Support your people’s training and lead by example by keeping yourself up-to-date. Take over for someone on your team occasionally, to keep abreast of system changes and challenges. Keep in mind, if you’re able to use a system more efficiently than your people, that’s probably a good opportunity to give them additional support and training.

With these leadership nuggets from Marcus Buckingham, I am signing off for the year. Hope some of these learning will help you take on the leadership journey in 2014 with all your ‘strengths’.

All the best…


Image-credit: thebloodsugarwhisperer.wordpress.com

15 Responses

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  1. Hi sir ,

    Really it’s good for all who handle there team on their rolls and I thanx to u for all good things that share with all .

    Keep sharing sir it is really encourage us .

    Hemant Singh
    Sm -16 FBD .
    Sent from BlackBerry® on Airtel


    December 26, 2013 at 9:44 PM

  2. It will be interesting to know as a reader, what are your own strengths RRG?


    December 26, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    • Personal Integrity, People Leadership and Negotiation Skills – these are my time-tested strengths, Citizen Bittan.


      December 26, 2013 at 11:59 PM

  3. I couldnt agree more with you that developing strenghts is a surer way to improve performance. If you are naturally right handed,whats the point of practicing calligraphy with your left hand?


    December 30, 2013 at 3:01 PM

  4. Fantastic recap of play to your strengths 🙂 Liked it..thanks for sharing!


    January 2, 2014 at 11:01 AM

  5. Worthy to implement.

    Ankit Mishra

    April 24, 2014 at 12:05 AM

  6. Reblogged this on RRGwrites and commented:

    Almost every time I meet team leaders and their teams, senior or junior management or the famous middle management teams… I hear them wanting to work upon their weaknesses. They are all so convinced that working upon their weaknesses is the right approach towards success and improvement…
    I am bemused – what about working upon your own strengths? Do you even know what are your own strengths? Do team leaders know their teammates’ strengths…?


    July 18, 2014 at 10:39 AM

  7. Sir,

    As you earlier said replication of work , can we say replication of strengths and making them stronger.


    July 20, 2014 at 9:17 PM

  8. Hi, sir
    Its really amazing that we not only more focus on our weakness but in the mean time, this approach diminishes our core capabilities(strengths), same as a leader our primary focus goes to our team members weakness as well, with this tendency leaders are unable to take such benefits from the team what they have. Second thought that leader should provide shield to their subordinate as per requirement make them more loyal and committed.
    very motivating blog! pls keep it up.

    Shailendra Kumar

    July 25, 2014 at 3:08 PM

  9. Something really new. I use to hear this a lot from cricket commentators. Play to ur strength phrase is used when they refer to pitch conditions…. seamer friendlies abroad and spin friendly in india….

    Worth reading.
    New thing to practice…
    Thanks for this particular article.


    October 10, 2014 at 6:17 PM

  10. […] It works for me each time, and helps me become stronger and better. In one of my earlier blogs, ‘Do You Work on Your Strengths?’, I have written on this piece and many of my readers agreed with […]

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