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Feb 01 2019
Focus on Your Strengths in 2019
DeAnna Leahy, CCE, Sunroc Corporation
Let's face it, there are some things each of us just aren't cut out to do. I certainly don't have some of the talents that others I know possess. It is amazing how our culture places so much emphasis on improving our weaknesses when, at best, we will only be able to be adequate in those areas no matter how hard we try to improve them. From the time that we are young children to the time that we are making our way in the workplace, we are taught to spend more time and energy fixing our weaknesses rather than developing our strengths. All too often, our natural talents go untapped. However, we can take the time to discover our strengths and use them to our advantage rather than spend time improving upon our weaknesses.

As a leader, are you striving to become more effective? Should you identify your weaknesses and work towards chipping away at them, or should you discover the things that you are good at and endeavor to improve those qualities? In the book, How to be Exceptional, by John Zenger, Joseph Folkman, Bob Sherwin, Jr., and Barbara Steel, the authors make the case that organizations desperately need strong leaders. They argue that strong leaders have a huge impact on the outcome of the business. While there are benefits gained by overcoming weaknesses, the highest-performing leaders place their emphasis on developing strengths.

Often, the methods that we use to overcome weakness are very different from those needed to develop a strength. The authors of the book propose a model with three important filters for identifying a behavior that could be expanded into a strength. This is called the CPO model, where C stands for "competence." This is identifying your current inclinations; the things that you are already reasonably effective at doing. The P in the CPO model stands for "passion." These are the things that you enjoy doing; the things that charge your battery. Leaders can improve by identifying areas of passion. They discover things that are not only important and rewarding to their organization but are also important and rewarding to them personally. The last letter in the CPO model is O, which stands for "organization needs." These are the things that your organization needs from your position right now. These are the things that will enhance your career and help you become a more competent leader that are specific to the needs of the organization and the current position you hold. The ideal situation happens when all three of the CPO elements come together. The individual is working on a competency that he or she is already reasonably good at doing, the competency is something that the organization highly values, and the individual has an intense interest or passion for building that competency.

While the book suggests that we focus on strengths and not on our weakness, they do suggest that a "fatal flaw" must be identified and corrected. A fatal flaw is defined as a behavior or trait that has a devastatingly negative impact on a person's overall effectiveness. This is a behavior that is viewed as being very important in the person's current job or in the culture of the organization. While it is okay for leaders to have weaknesses, it needs to be understood that there is an enormous difference between a common weakness and a fatal flaw. Leaders with fatal flaws should make a priority of fixing any fatal flaws first, before working on a strength. While fatal flaws are not easy to change, improvement is possible and will have a substantial impact on the organization. The book offers six steps to help an individual correct a fatal flaw. The first step is acceptance. It is necessary for people to accept the fact that they have a fatal flaw and that this flaw will eventually be fatal to their career. The second step is to understand the behavior. They need to identify the problem behavior and study the triggers that cause it to occur. The third step is to create and make measurable plans for change. This plan would lay out goals and activities that would demonstrate a significant change to others. The fourth step is to ask for forgiveness of others, when necessary, to let people know that change is occurring. This also creates a higher level of accountability for the person who is making the change. The fifth step is to enlist the help of others. While it may be embarrassing to tell others that you are working on change and to ask for their assistance, the reality is that everyone is already most likely aware of the problem. By enlisting the assistance of others, you can get their support and can take advantage of good ideas shared by them. Finally, the sixth step is to find a way to reward yourself for progress and achievement of a goal.

As we start 2019, and set our new year's resolutions, instead of focusing on our weaknesses and how to overcome them, let's focus on our strengths and learn how to magnify them to become an exceptional leader.