It is more effective to invest in building strengths and working around weaknesses.
People are able to improve their strengths faster than they can their weaknesses. Why?
- People generally have an affinity for their strengths
- An affinity means a stronger motivation for using that strength
- Increased usage leads to an improved strength (practice makes perfect)
For a manager, this means that the ROI of the time & effort spent on building a strength is greater than the ROI spent on building a weakness.
A weakness, in this definition, is not a trainable skill or piece of knowledge. Those can be learned and corrected. A weakness here means an innate inability to perform some part of the job well and cannot be corrected through training.
Since weaknesses hurt the employee and even their team, managers should find ways to work around those weaknesses. How?
- Provide tools and processes to counteract the weakness
- Partner the employee with another who has complimentary skills
- Put the employee into a different role where the weakness is no longer a detriment
Let’s look at this concept pictorially. The chart below is a representation of Mr. Employee’s skills:
If Mr. Employee was asked to build Skill C, one of his strengths, here is how it would increase over three periods of time:
However, if Mr. Employee was asked to build Skill D, one of his weaknesses, here is how it would increase over three periods of time:
This doesn’t mean that weaknesses shouldn’t be addressed, especially if they are a detriment to the employee’s ability to do the job. Weaknesses can be managed around, with this kind of a result:
Now let’s take a look at an example:
Andrew is a manager of an IT consultancy. He notices that one of his consultants, Brian, has memorized the statistics for every Major League Baseball team. Andrew realizes that Brian has a strength in memorizing facts. So he builds that strength by training Brian to memorize all the facts about IT software.
Brian, however, is prone to impatience and some clients have complained about his pushy behavior. Interpersonal skills training hasn’t helped. Andrew realizes that Brian has a weakness in working with sensitive customers.
So he manages around that weakness by partnering Brian with Chris, another consultant who is great at talking to his clients, but doesn’t comes across as an expert because he has trouble memorizing all the facts about IT software. Chris’ strength is in making small talk and putting his clients at ease. He’s also grown a lot from interpersonal skills training because he finds such training fascinating.
After pairing Brian and Chris together, Andrew notices with glee that their combined efforts increase client satisfaction significantly. Andrew has successfully improved the strengths of his consultants and managed around their weaknesses.