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Is your team strong or weak?

The effective executive knows that to get strength, one has to put up with weaknesses. ~ Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive

Kicking off an assignment with a new client, I casually ask, “Tell me about your team…

What comes back is a string of complaints.

“They rarely come to a meeting prepared; I don’t think they’re even thinking about our issues. They sit around and wait for me to tell them what to do. When I can get them to make a decision, I have to remind them to follow through. I’ve had it with them!”

The funny thing is, when I talk to the team, they have their complaints, too.

The boss drives me nuts. He’s such a control freak! When we’ve got a new idea, he shoots it down. Then he’s always on us, “Did you do the thing? How about that thing…”

This founder is focused on their team’s weaknesses. (Or at least what he perceives as his team’s weaknesses.) And the team? They replay their boss’ weaknesses, too! Each wants to change the other, and neither is getting what they feel they need.

Who hired these losers?

The funny thing is that each team member was hired because they were the best candidate available. When they came on board, the founder had aspirations of how this person would change the department and help grow the business. Maybe those lofty visions reflected an idealized image of the candidate, or maybe in their first weeks, the candidate made a mistake or didn’t understand the context immediately, and something didn’t go well. But at some point, the founder stopped looking at their strengths and started focusing on their weaknesses.

This is pretty normal. Our brain runs from pain with ten times the intensity it runs toward pleasure. So once someone makes a mistake, our brain starts to play defense. “How do we keep more mistakes from happening?” And it starts to analyze every way someone might screw up. In other words, we focus on their weaknesses.

What are they great at?

I continued the conversation with my new client by asking, “What is each of your team members great at?” He reeled off a long string of expertise areas each team member brought to the table. In fact, once he got going, he could name significant accomplishments that each department had achieved this year!

If we put people in a situation where their strengths can be used to do great things, we’re more likely to get the most out of them. When we understand their weaknesses, we can build structures or hire people around them that help mitigate them so that we don’t have to stay vigilant for their every failure.

Are you focused on your team member’s weaknesses and trying to mitigate them, or are you putting them in situations where their greatness can shine?

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