A sure path to marital unhappiness — if not divorce — is when a newlywed sets out to change his or her spouse. Yet how many performance management discussions are built on the same premise? Too often managers set about trying to “improve” his or her direct report by fixing weaker areas.
How enthused are you about fixing a weakness? Weaker areas are often weaker because we don’t enjoy doing those things. It’s a chore. Like New Year’s resolutions, when our hearts not in the task we feel obligated rather than energized. Fairly quickly those development goals fade and we drift back to what we find most rewarding.
Joe Folkman’s recent Forbes column appeared as I was preparing a progress report on the personal development and one-on-one executive coaching of over a dozen high potential leaders with a major global manufacturer. In The No. 1 Reason Most Personal Development Plans Fail, Joe highlights the magnifying power of the CPO model in turning good managers into great leaders.
This three step process starts with identifying strengths (Competencies) to be leveraged. Unless there’s a glaring weakness or fatal flaw that needs to be addressed, building strengths is 2 to 3 times more effective than fixing weaknesses. Strength building leads naturally into identifying which competencies generate the most energy (Passion). This is when we’re “in the zone” — that state of flow where time zips by and we feel most masterful. The third step is aligning our strengths and passion with what’s most valued/expected in our role or position (Organizational Need).
My report to the CEO and HR/OD leaders on the work with their high potential leaders showed the exponential power of the CPO model. We started the process with these leaders with one-on-one coaching sessions to understand their career and development goals. In the next session we reviewed 360 feedback on their strengths as seen by their manager, direct report, peers, and others. As we so often see, many of these high potential leaders underrated — and underused — their strengths.
Each leader then built a Personal Development Plan around his or her leadership sweet spot of strengths, passion, and organizational need. Energy and follow through is much higher than traditional performance improvement planning or leadership training.