Over the years, I’ve worked closely with individuals who feel stalled in their development and the value they provide. One common theme among them was that they and their leaders had focused on overcoming their weaknesses. In the end, however, this approach seemed to have a paralyzing effect on the individual and a biasing effect on their leader. It was almost as if everyone had forgotten why the individual had been hired in the first place—their experience and strengths, including their knowledge, skills and abilities. So in each case, we decided to try a different tactic and change our paradigm to focus first on the individual’s strengths—strengths-based development.
Strengths-based development doesn’t mean we neglect the individual’s weaknesses. Rather it means we begin with what makes the person valuable and build from there.
While there are a variety of ways to engage in strengths-based development, we will begin our approach with a personal SWOTH analysis. Much like its predecessor, the business SWOT analysis, SWOTH analysis provides a balanced view of the individual as it looks at Strengths, Weaknesses, and Opportunities.
The difference between the SWOTH analysis and its older business sibling (SWOT) is that Threats include Hurdles, because for most of us the biggest threats to our success are the obstacles or hurdles created by our own bad habits and limited perspectives.
Therefore, the first step in this approach is to complete a personal SWOTH analysis for ourselves and to ask our direct leader or a close friend to also complete one reflecting their understanding of us.
While it is tempting to start with our ever-familiar weaknesses when completing this self-assessment, it is more effective to start with our strengths and to spend a few days revisiting and adding to that list. There are several benefits to this approach. First and foremost, our strengths are the source of our greatest value to ourselves and those whom we serve. No organization ever hires people for their weaknesses; it’s for their strengths. So, a key part of our growth strategy should be to continue to develop and refine our strengths. They provide the foundation for addressing our weaknesses, capitalizing on our opportunities and overcoming our threats/hurdles.
If we have taken sufficient time to create a complete list of our strengths, an interesting phenomenon occurs as we build and review our weaknesses.
Lo and behold, our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. This is because as human beings, we tend to over-utilize our strengths and they can skew our view of reality and what is the right tool and the right time. As my father counseled, “Beware of the individual walking around with a hammer in their hand. Because to them, everything in life looks like a nail.” Now we all know that this isn’t true. Not every situation calls for a hammer, just as every situation doesn’t call upon our particular set of strengths. Therefore, the first set of weaknesses we can and need to overcome are those that are the result of misapplying our strengths at the wrong time or in the wrong way.
There is also another way in which strengths form the basis for addressing weaknesses and habits. When looking at the rest of our respective weaknesses list and developing a plan to overcome or at a minimum, mitigate each weakness until it becomes very clear that the strengths we each possess actually provide most of the tools we would need to improve. Even as we move on to tackle our opportunities and threats/hurdles.
In the end, it becomes crystal clear that the most effective path to achieving our full potential begins and continues with strengths-based development. What has been your experience?
As a Talent Management/HR executive with over 20 years of talent and human resource management experience, I strive to deliver value generating services to internal and external clients. This has provided me with the ability to lead or influence people in developing solutions to achieve higher levels of measurable success. My professional interests are targeted toward helping clients achieve their optimum performance through people solutions.