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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What About Weakness?

By Maika Leibbrandt, Gallup Learning and Development Consultant

Just like doctors answer lots of questions about illness, I find as a teacher of strengths coaches, I am ironically asked quite a bit about weakness. It’s important to understand where weakness plays into the purpose and power of strengths coaching, and I believe there are three important steps to truly mastering this concept. 

Let go of the idea that a theme can be a weakness. StrengthsFinder themes are like Switzerland -- neutral. While not particularly helpful in a game of Risk, they can be relied upon to be neither good nor bad, but simply naturally recurring patterns which, when applied and understood, can help us succeed. Remember, themes don’t make people ineffective. People make people ineffective.

Define the right outcomes. If it can be measured, it can be managed. The most valuable picture a coach can help someone see when faced with challenge is the measurable reference point. For example, if I am a sales manager and my team isn’t hitting their target, I have a variety of outcomes to choose from. Perhaps I want to measure my time spent with my team, the number of new introductions, variety of customer interactions or size and scope of deals closed. Any one of these, if necessary for my growth, can be either a strength or a weakness. And the more focused we can get on how we are measuring success or failure, the better chance I have of applying my talent to the problem.

Start with talent. Specifically, start with MY talent. Our job as coaches is to shine a light on what is there, to focus on the pathways we most naturally use and apply them toward a challenge. Within anyone’s top five Signature Themes, there are five possible tools to tackle a well-defined problem. On top of that, there are 10 combinations of two themes, which may also help. To use our themes within the context of a problem or weakness, we have to first know what our themes can offer. Ask yourself, what’s the benefit of this strength when used to its full potential? Next, consider what our themes need.  Ask, what does this strength thrive on or hunger for? For example, in previous performance reviews, one of my weaknesses has been following through on long-term tasks. Within my top five there are no typical talents of a person with strengths in the Executing domain. I have Woo and Positivity, so I am always aware of how people around me are feeling, and I strive to make it a good experience. Putting people into the context of tasks helps me get things done. Woo needs people, and positivity needs the opportunity to affect emotion. Rather than making a list of to do’s that is action-based, I now list my tasks and include the names of people who are counting on me and adjectives of how I’d like those people to feel when I follow up on my task. 

We are much more likely to address a problem if we see ourselves as a vital part of the answer.

There are plenty of other strategies for managing weakness, some which can -- and should -- be as harsh as changing roles altogether. But with or without strengths, we all have races we must run. Speaking of running, a friend once introduced me to a mantra she repeated while completing her third marathon, one I think we could all use when faced with a weakness to overcome: “All I need is within me now.” 

Maika Leibbrandt is a Senior Education Consultant in Gallup’s Education Practice. Through coaching, teaching and facilitating conversation, her job is to help leaders improve the lives of followers.  Maika has worked in customer and employee engagement and development across industries all over the world, and recently moved to the east coast of the United States to focus on work with schools and universities.

Strengths: Strategic | Positivity | Woo | Ideation | Adaptability

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