CMI MBOTY 2019: Do you suffer from strengths blindness?

06 February 2019 -

MBOYIt’s crucial to recognise your strengths – here’s how to do it

Guest blogger Sebastian Salicru

Last year, I had the privilege of coaching 50 leaders. One of them was the CEO of a multibillion-pound food chain. When I asked them what their top five strengths were as a leader – as part of my initial assessment– all of them without exception hesitated before answering.

Moreover, when I asked them about the key strengths of their team members, they were speechless: the leaders suffered from ‘strengths blindness’.

What is strengths blindness?

Strengths blindness is a subtle and pervasive condition in which individuals are unaware of their strengths. This means they are unable to apply, leverage and benefit from their strengths as much as they could.

We know through research that:

  • Most people (up to two-thirds of the population) are unaware of their strengths
  • Everyone (100% of people) has some degree of strengths blindness
  • People who know and apply their strengths have a greater chance of succeeding in life

Why knowing your strengths is essential

Peter Drucker, a visionary management consultant, was the forerunner of the ‘strengths movement’. According to Drucker, effective managers build on strengths, and concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results. Drucker insisted: “Most people know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at – and even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.”

The myth of the ‘well-rounded’ leader

With this in mind, thinking of yourself a ‘well-rounded’ leader could mean you are a ‘jack-of-all-trades, master of none’ – someone who can do a lot of different things without being good or excel at anything. It means you’re a generalist; you don’t have a personal brand, trademark, uniqueness or differentiation, and – as a result – no competitive advantage.

Having an awareness of strengths has critical implications if you are a leader. Leaders who know the value of their unique strengths, are appreciative and are willing to develop the unique strengths of their people for the good of the team.

Are you suffering from strengths blindness?

To determine whether you need to focus more on your strengths, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you (and your team members) name your top five strengths off the top of your head – without hesitation?
  • Do you have a plan to further build your strengths?
  • Are your team members curious and supportive of each other’s strengths?

If you find it difficult to name your strengths, here are seven steps that should help:

How to identify your strengths

  1. Solicit feedback from people you trust by asking them what they think your top strengths are
  2. Find a ‘blind-spot partner’ who can give you feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, and hold you accountable for your performance
  3. Recall feedback you’ve received from bosses, peers, coaches, mentors or advisors in the past
  4. Examine your career to identify patterns of failure and success
  5. Complete the CliftonStrengths profile or the VIA Survey of Character Strength online
  6. Write your unique personal value proposition (UVP or PVP) – a clear and concise statement describing your strengths, the benefit you can offer to others, and what distinguishes you from your competitors
  7. Keep a daily journal of how you apply your strengths.

This will help focus your performance as a manager and help you to recognise and build a strong team in the workplace.

Sebastian Salicru is a leadership development expert and author of Leadership Results: How to Create Adaptive Leaders and High-performing Organisations for an Uncertain World, which is nominated for Management Book of the Year 2019

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