When Your Strengths Become Weaknesses

career tipsToo much of a good thing is NOT a good thing.  Perhaps you haven’t considered that your strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin.  You need to manage your natural and acquired strengths so they don’t mushroom into faults, irritants, defects, and deficiencies that drive other people crazy.

A couple of years ago I served a client who, as a result of her fierce determination to avoid micromanaging them, allowed her employees to work autonomously on a regular basis.  By essentially letting them do what they wanted to do and rarely asking for updates, she eventually got herself into the position of being blindsided in a way that embarrassed her in front of her Board as well as in public.  This was not a good situation.  In fact, overnight it poked a few holes in her professional reputation.

You don’t want this happening to you.  It’s one thing to trust your staff; it’s another thing to be totally (or mostly) out of the loop.  Any of your strengths that are carried to the extreme may come back to haunt you.  Awareness is one of the keys to staying out of this trap.  Read my feature article below for more specifics.

By allowing some of your recognizable strengths to morph into annoying and even dysfunctional weaknesses, you could be damaging your professional reputation.  Take a look at this list of “desired” traits and skills along with their corresponding excesses that can have a negative impact on people around you:

Optimism. The other side of this coin is often denial of certain facts and truth.

Analysis. Are you bogged down in details to the point of paralysis?

Loyalty. This can lead to over tolerance of inappropriate behaviors and performance.

Independence. Do you resist functioning as a participatory team player?

Responsibility. The other side of this coin can be an unwillingness to delegate.

Cooperation. Are you looking the other way when situations call for confrontation because you dislike and fear conflict?

Helpful. By spending much of your day assisting others you may not get your own work done in a timely manner.

Rationality and Objectivity.  Do you demonstrate appropriate empathy when those around you experience difficult circumstances?

Passion.  Impulsiveness or over zealousness can be the other side of this coin.

Conviction.  Are you reluctant to seek other people’s ideas and opinions?

Assessing your behaviors at work in an honest, deliberate, focused way can be one of the wisest activities you can choose to embrace.  Let’s face it:  Most of us have a bucket full of strengths that, when used and leveraged appropriately, can facilitate both individual and organizational success.  Just remember that the key word is appropriately.

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Expect Setbacks

The following video accompanies Chapter 18 of my book, Learning Leadership Through Loss.

Learn how leaders can rebound from setbacks.

Click here to watch.

tips for managers

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10 Tips to Effective Employee Coaching

tips for managersSome studies show that people in supervisory positions spend less than 10% of their work time coaching their staff.  Assuming that’s accurate, there’s no wonder that performance problems persist and key talent walks out the door.  Formal annual reviews just aren’t enough.  Think of them as one slice of bread on a sandwich.  What about the other slice?  What about the filling?   Getting the best out of your employees is critical to your organization’s survival and ability to thrive.  Proactive coaching, done well, is the answer.  Here are ten tips to strengthen your approach:

  1. Build a respectful, trusting relationship. A quality relationship with your employees lays the foundation for any coaching that takes place. If you don’t have the right relationship, you can’t pull it off.
  2. Identify problems or areas for growth. Select one (or two) that, if fixed or achieved, makes the biggest positive impact. Focusing on too many issues at once overwhelms people.  Clarify and plan your message.
  3. Schedule a series of meetings. Be sure to explain the purpose of these meetings, specifically the benefits to individual staffers, the team, and the company at large.
  4. Communicate observations and expectations. In a calm, neutral, sincere tone of voice begin by highlighting particular employee strengths and how they’ve added value. Then move into areas for improvement or, in the case of shining stars, your vision for taking folks to an even higher level.  Give employees a chance to discuss their concerns and goals too.
  5. Explore options for moving forward. Remember: Usually there are several ways to correct a problem, increase work load, or acquire a skill.  Ask employees for their ideas before sharing your own.  Wherever possible, offer choice.
  6. Challenge them. Your job is to stretch people—not keep them comfortable. Let folks know that you are raising the bar AND that you are there to support them during the climb.
  7. Create a single page action plan. Do it together. Be sure to include the desired outcome(s), objectives, strategies and/or tactics, resources needed, a time line, and success criteria.  Put it in writing.
  8. Get their buy-in. A plan without employee agreement and commitment is nothing but a fancy document. Negotiate where you can.  Show people how working the plan helps them win too.  You can’t minimize WIFM.
  9. Listen to what isn’t being said. Silence during staff coaching sessions isn’t golden. It may mean confusion or resistance.  Periodically during these conversations check in by asking:  “How is all of this landing with you?”  Or, “Tell me what you are thinking right now.”
  10. Follow up. Developing an action plan and sending folks off to work it by themselves without following up at certain intervals down the road is a recipe for failure. Let people know that they must demonstrate progress every two weeks or every thirty days.  Establish dates for emails or face to face meetings.

Coaching is a different approach to developing your staff.  It involves teaching, guiding, providing feedback, mentoring, and advocacy.  Organizations that incorporate coaching into their work days on a regular basis generally set themselves apart from their competition in terms of employee engagement, talent retention, process flow, and profits.  Of course the decision to coach—or not—is totally up to YOU.

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