I’ve been noticing recently that more and more writers and facilitators are promoting that if you want to become a great leader, you should focus on your strengths.
I certainly agree that you should lead with your strengths, but I am also a strong proponent of training your weaknesses... if they are skills you need to be successful in your job.
Case in point: Many of us are not strong in accounting. That’s why we didn’t pursue jobs in a financial area. However, as managers and leaders we certainly need to understand our budgets.
Some years ago, I was a member of a large management group. We had gathered for a weekend retreat with the president of the company. One discussion centred on our concern that the president only focused on the financial side of our business, and didn’t seem to appreciate the great work we produced. In response, he accused us of not worrying about the financial side of our business units, and even exclaimed, “It’s like you don’t understand your own budgets!”
At that point, the manager of the art department stated, “Fact is, I DON’T understand my budget. I graduated from the Ontario College of Art, and we never studied accounting. All I know is that if the last number on my month end statement has a bracket on it, I will be with you an hour for my manager’s meeting. If there’s no bracket, I’ll be out in half an hour”.
The president was shocked. He asked how many others didn’t really understand their budgets, and was even more shocked to see several hands go up.
Within days, the president hired a facilitator to run an in-company program called “Finance for the Non-Financial Manager”. For a few of the managers, the program got them on the road to understanding their budgets. Others required, and received follow-up help from the accounting department to work on their annual departmental budgets.
In time, the “mystery” of accounting became familiar, and all of our company’s managers were able to strike much more relevant working budgets. In a few instances, managers even set budgets which allowed them to generate profit sharing bonuses – something they never could master before.
WATMEC is often asked to work with IT personnel, engineers, and the like who have been moved into management positions. These are talented, intelligent people. But for all their knowledge, they often need help with management and people skills. If they only worked with their strengths, they might soon see significant staff turnover, and jeopardize the culture of their organization.
For that reason, I believe we should all take an honest look at our strengths, weaknesses, and position within our organization. From there, we should identify what we are great at, and what we need to become better at. There are unlimited opportunities to acquire these skills whether it is through training, coaching, finding a mentor, or checking out a good book or online course.
And let’s face it, isn’t identifying areas for improvement one of the signs of a strong leader?
Here’s to you leading with your strengths and improving your weaknesses!
Dale Wilcox is co-owner of WATMEC. Dale is a respected board member, former volunteer of the year, and inaugural Chair of the Canadian Society for Training and Development.