Physical maps almost seem quaint in a world where a voice on Google Maps can dictate your every turn.
The map of your own strengths and gaps helps you plot your course toward Intelligent Leadership.
But one of the most important “maps” you can have is metaphorical, and the ultimate voice that guides your path is your own. This is the map of yourself – where you are now, and where you want to end up in life. And you can’t create such a map unless you know where you are starting from. This requires that you identify and understand your strengths and weaknesses. It’s simple, but not necessarily easy.
Maybe you’re already a leader, or maybe you want to be. Maybe you’re about to pursue a leadership development course. No matter. Creating a “map” of yourself opens up a new dimension of leadership. I talk about this in Chapter 5 of my upcoming book The Intelligent Leader. Here are some thoughts on assessing your strengths and weaknesses.
Assess Your Strengths with an Abundance Mindset
When I work with leaders in a coaching capacity, we spend a lot of time identifying strengths and weaknesses using several assessment tools. In my experience, people are more interested in their weaknesses because they want to know what they need to work on. But this is like putting the cart before the horse. Knowing your strengths and knowing what you do well offers you the tremendous opportunity to learn how to make the most of them.
What are your five biggest strengths as a human and a leader? What do you believe that others admire most in you? Be honest. You will have time to work on your weaknesses. In fact, people often do make time to work on their weaknesses, but they may neglect to work on their strengths. Identify your strengths and view them as the gifts that they are. Commit to making the most of them.
Identify Your Gaps Objectively
There are assessment tools that are great at helping people identify aspects of themselves where there is room for improvement, and I use them with my coaching clients. But most of us know deep down what some of our weaknesses are. And most of us have several people in our lives who we can ask for feedback. Honest feedback about where we could improve isn’t easy to ask for, and it isn’t always easy to give, either. But this feedback is remarkably valuable.
People willing to give you compassionate, constructive feedback are real gifts in life.
Most of us know some of our weaknesses, but we may have opportunities for improvement that we never even thought of. Honest colleagues and friends, as well as assessment tools, can help us identify where we fall short. Knowing our weaknesses helps us identify not only where we want to go, but the first steps toward getting there.
The Importance of Building on Your Strengths
Some people think that leadership coaching is all about identifying weaknesses or performance gaps and making a plan to address them. But that’s only part of what leadership coaching and leadership development are about. Helping people build on their strengths and put their strengths to work in ways that they may never have considered is one of the most rewarding aspects of the coaching relationship.
Think about it. Roger Federer may have the greatest forehand in the sport of tennis, but do you think he takes it for granted? Absolutely not. Maximizing your strengths and knowing where they apply is one of the most important things you can do as a professional and as a human being. Celebrate your strengths. Continue to work on them. Learn where they can serve you as a leader.
Overcoming Your Weaknesses: Don’t Tackle Everything at Once
Looking at the map of yourself and seeing the distance you may have to go before you overcome a major gap or flaw can be discouraging. The route may appear long and winding, and you may encounter unexpected detours along the way. It’s important that you don’t try to “fix” everything at once. Your flaws may limit your growth and progress, but you don’t need to overcome them 100% before you can see and feel a real, positive difference in your performance. Every one of us is a work in progress, so pay attention to the progress.
My latest book The Intelligent Leader comes out on October 15. In it, I go into significant depth on the topics of strengths and weaknesses in leadership. I hope that you will check it out! In the meantime, I invite you to check out my other books.