Don't be Seduced by the Dark SideRecently I had a coaching session with an operations vice president to review her personal development plan, following her participation in our Extraordinary Leader workshop. In that session she received feedback from 19 peers, direct reports, and others throughout her organization.

Joanne rated herself very low on Builds Relationships and Collaboration and Teamwork competencies. Everyone else gave her lower scores on these two of sixteen competencies, but nowhere close to her own very negative view of her skills in these two areas. 19 people who worked very closely with her and experienced her daily leadership did not identify these as serious enough to be “fatal flaws” for her.

Joanne and her raters agreed that her greatest strength was Drives for Results followed closely by Takes Initiative. One of the workshop exercises Joanne went through was aligning her strengths with her passion and what she and her raters determined were the organizational needs for her role. Drives for Results was the only one of the sixteen competencies where all three aligned.

Our research clearly shows that focusing personal development on this type of alignment is 2-3 times more effective than fixing weaknesses. Despite this evidence, Joanne could not resist the pull of focusing on improving her weaker areas. She was seduced by the dark side of weakness-based improvement.

At best, Joanne might raise her weaker areas from low to a bit higher. As was evident from her lack of progress since the workshop, her weakness-based improvement plan will likely stay in her workshop manual in her desk drawer.

In his latest Forbes column, “What Can Increased Strengths Do For Your Career? Take The Test“, Joe Folkman reports on the research he and Jack Zenger did to understand good and great leaders; “It was not the absence of weaknesses that made these leaders great, but rather it was the presence of a few profound strengths.” In this column Joe defines a leadership “strength,” explains how strengths overshadow weaknesses, and provides a link to Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leader assessment.

Gap and training needs analysis, performance appraisals, and traditional 360 feedback assessments are common paths to the dark side. Don’t be seduced to focus on weaknesses. Use “The Force” of strengths to boost leadership effectiveness from good to great!

Further Reading:

• “Leadership Sweet Spot: Strengths, Passion, and Organizational Needs
• “Is Your Culture Anchored in Strengths or Weaknesses?
• “Peter Drucker on Making Strengths Productive
• “The Enduring Impact of Focusing on Strengths
• “Positive Psychology, Strengths, and Leadership

We’ve just set our fall public workshop schedule for The Extraordinary Leader and The Extraordinary Coach. Click here for more information.