Many of my recent posts on leadership have focused on things leaders need to work on - their leadership skills gaps for the most part. So what about leaders focusing on their strengths instead, and leveraging them within their organization?
As leaders, the responsibility we carry for the well-being and engagement of our teams can at times seem quite daunting. It's not always tangible; everyone wants something slightly, or vastly, different from the next person. You can't use a standard approach with everyone, and we also usually have our own individual tasks to perform.
Sometimes that feeling of being overwhelmed comes from focusing on all the things we're not good at or that need improving - because those things are out of comfort zone, they take more effort on our part and quite often that stresses us out!
Take time to smell the roses
So let's turn this on its head and stop beating ourselves up for a minute. How about we spend just a little less time pruning our thorns and a little more time smelling the roses - and cultivating them! I'm not saying we should ignore our development gaps, but that we should all take the time to remind ourselves what we're good at and celebrate it. Then we can work on making those things even better and perhaps share them more with others.
So where do you start? Here are a few suggestions:
Knowing your strengths:
Think about this as if you're going to an interview and be prepared to answer ‘what are your leadership strengths?' Can you answer this easily or do you really have to think about it?
Shifting focus from skill gaps:
If you have to think about it, this may be a sign that you spend too much time focusing on your gaps and not enough on your strengths. Sometimes this happens because of the culture of your organization or your manager's style is gap focused, but sometimes it's entirely self-imposed
Making the most of multirater reviews:
If you've had a recent 360 review, go back to it and look at what came out as leadership strengths. Talk to your manager about opportunities you might have to leverage those inside your organization. Look for opportunities to mentor others.
Leveraging your peers:
Peers are also an excellent resource. Talk with one another about your strengths and look for ways to leverage these skills. Peers will have ideas for each other in their own areas but will also be able to suggest ways to use those strengths across other areas of the business.
Some amazing outcomes have happened out of conversations where someone says "I'm good at having tough conversations with under-performers," and the next person says, "Wow, I'm awful at that- tell me how you prepare for those and give me some tips."
Writing it down:
Write about what you're good at. It's amazing how good you can feel about yourself when you take the time to write down some positive things. Again, if you think about it as a job interview question, it's easy: identify the strength and then identify 2 or 3 examples of when you demonstrated that strength.
Recognizing strengths in others:
If you see a strength in another leader, point it out, and recognize them for it. It feels good to give and receive positive, validating, feedback.
This is a little like a glass half full or half empty conversation...it's all about perspective. But it's also really important for leaders to remind themselves about the good stuff every now and then. We don't spend enough time on ourselves to begin with, so it's good to take time to feel good about who we are and what we're doing. After all, roses smell good.