leadership advice: when your strengths are not enough
There’s nothing wrong with using your strengths to propel initiatives forward. After all, those strengths more than likely got you into the leadership role you have today. But the strengths we know can also become derailers when used in excess. You may also have hidden strengths you’re not conscious of.
Let’s take a few moments and see what you know and don’t know about your strengths, as taken from the book, The Zen Leader.
1) List 5 things that you know you’re good at. These could be specific skills (like tennis or negotiations) or traits that have supported you throughout your career (like being good with people).
2) Describe a time when you were completely “in your game” – totally engaged and able to bring out your best. What skills / attributes did you bring to that situation?
3) List one thing you often wished you were better at.
These traits will generally center on one of 4 basic energy patterns, that connect not only to the way you think, but to your emotions and behaviors as well.
– The power, speed and competitive edge of DRIVER
– The discipline and attention to details of ORGANIZER
– The sociability and resilience of COLLABORATOR
– The imagination, curiosity and risk-taking of VISIONARY
We are able to measure what patterns you favor using an assessment called the FEBI (Focus Energy Balance Indicator). To further your own knowledge, you can take a free mini version of it here.
Why is this important?
Our strengths can take us only so far. The fact is, we have access to all four patterns and to reach our full effectiveness, we need all the players on our inner team to jump in when the situation warrants it. Here’s an example.
I was in a new business pitch once, where we had great ideas that were perfect for the prospect. We were in DRIVER mode all the way. But the harder we drove, the more the group began to pull back. Suddenly, things they told us earlier they really wanted were not so important anymore. They were finding problems with everything. So, we pushed even harder. One smart person on our team saw what was happening, quickly took the reins and immediately shifted gears. He jumped into the COLLABORATOR pattern and changed up our approach on the fly. “Maybe we misunderstood your needs. Let’s talk again about what’s important to you now and if we can’t help you, I’m sure we can help you find someone who can.” Arms uncrossed, people leaned forward again. A totally different conversation ensued (and we salvaged a very good portion of our work, BTW).
Step 1: Awareness
We need to be able to access all four energy patterns in ourselves – not just one or two of our favorites. The earlier exercise (along with the mini FEBI if you took it) is the first step in discovering WHAT exactly are your strengths and what patterns are your weakest.
Step 2: Build Your Bench
Once you see the patterns functioning in you, you might also see a weaker one you’d like to cultivate. You can strengthen these players by building a practice around your hobbies, work habits or a number of otherway. Here’s a complete list of pracitce suggestions for each pattern if you’d like some help. The more we build our bench, the more comfortable we become moving into any pattern at a moment’s notice. In this way we are always fielding the best player for the situation.
Step 3: Field The Best Player
“If all we have is a hammer – as the saying goes – everything looks like a nail.” As Ginny Whitelaw says in her book, The Zen Leader, “If all we normally do is push, every situation looks as though it can be handled by pushing. But once we have a well-rounded inner team of pattern players, we are more ready and able to read life situations for the best way to approach them.”
Our agility as leaders comes from our deep understanding of ourselves, our desire to be the very best we can be, and our continuous expansion of our knowledge and expertise. Understanding the energy patterns that work within us, is an excellent tool for doing all of the above.