By Garold L.
What is the best thing to do with a weakness? According to
the Gallup Poll data, the most successful managers don’t normally
try to fix an employee’s weakness. Instead, they work around it.
Ignore it, if possible. While this sounds counter intuitive to
some, it actually agrees with what most of us have noticed in life.
What would a football coach do with a short but fast player
who has quick hands? Try to fatten him up and make him stronger?
Of course not. The coach would place him in the defensive backfield
where speed and agility are key. He would charge the small, fast
guy with getting faster. Meanwhile, he’d take his biggest,
strongest player and challenge him to become bigger and stronger.
Thomas had been written up as needing to work on his
Analytical Skills for the last three years. His manager can do it
again, but Thomas is probably not going to improve in this area. Is
Thomas worth keeping? Absolutely! He produces a high volume of
work. The only thing needed here is for the manager to refocus his
improvement efforts on things that were more realistic and
valuable. Challenge Thomas to do more heavy lifting, just don’t
assign him tasks that require heavy analysis.
It is customary for managers to focus their coaching attempts
on correcting areas of weakness while praising areas of strength.
They fall into The Weakness Trap, spending good energy on a
bad idea. To achieve a team of fully functioning employees,
Areas for Improvement are more productively focused on
Strengths rather than Weaknesses.
Obviously, there are some weaknesses that must be improved
upon in order for the employee to be valuable to the company. What
is being questioned here is the absolute adherence to the concept of
improving all weak areas. Wherever possible, focus the attention on
enhancing the strengths and limiting the job description in the
The same ideas
apply at home. When a child walks through the door with a report
card showing five As, two Bs and one D, what do we always talk to
her about? The low grade, of course. We tell her how the sub par
subject matter is critical to proper growth and development and
force her to spend more time focused on areas in which she’s
potentially ill equipped to excel. Instead of lecturing our
mathematically inclined child on the merits of mastering English and
Geography, if that’s where she’s behind, perhaps we’d be better
served to encourage her to focus the bulk of her attention on
Physics and Calculus, where she sits at the head of her class. After
all, who cares whether the nuclear physicist that designs the first
truly viable electric car can write creatively or explain haiku?
And her computer or secretary can clean up her misspelled words.
So how do we avoid The Weakness Trap? Consider taking
the following actions:
Whenever possible shift roles and responsibilities to give those who
work for you a chance to focus on what they’re good at and what they
enjoy. Fit the job to the people and the people to the job. Not
all accountants have to have identical responsibilities. The same
goes for supervisors, managers and executive assistants. Few of us
are universally talented. It is more important to create a team
that wins through working together than to mandate that all jobs
with similar titles are carbon copies.
If you have an
employee that has a weakness that you can’t build out of her
position (for example, a manager who can’t delegate), give her a
limited amount of focused attention to make the improvement. In
general, if she can’t start making demonstrable progress in a one to
three month period, she is not worth spending additional time on.
Great sports coaches move quickly when they determine that a
player’s aptitude is insufficient for a given role. In business,
time is money. Repurposing or replacing usually beat rewiring.
Focus on Strengths.
Do your homework to determine what people are good at. Things they
have a competitive advantage at. Identify activities that give them
energy. Knowing someone’s weaknesses is valuable information for
selection and placement decisions. If they’re not tall enough, fast
enough, agile enough (in other words, a poor match for the
position), consider making a change. If you’re going to coach them
where they’re at, however, the key is to take what they’re good at
and make it better. Do that and someday the Gallup Poll researchers
will be writing stories about you.
Read other articles and learn more about
Garold L. Markle.
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and