Building on your strengths and improving performance by understanding yourself and your colleagues.
The technical group who wanted to be superior presenters
A few years ago we were involved in teaching a presentation and communication skills workshop. The company had requested this training because their staff was finding it extremely difficult to present well, and their business was dependent on them being able to sell.
We were training a group of predominantly technical people, and it quickly became apparent that this group happened to be very good in technical analysis, technical crunching of data and pulling things together. Their presentation skills on the other hand were seriously lacking. They were uncomfortable engaging audiences, felt they lacked the necessary charisma, were very uncomfortable presenting and had very few people skills. How would we train them to become superior presenters?
The journey of self-awareness, self-discovery and other-awareness
It was important for our technical people to discover that they did not have the natural talents to be great presenters. So we started them on a journey of self-awareness and self-discovery.
Quickly they started to recognize and come to terms with whom they were and what their strengths and weaknesses were, and they learned to accept and celebrate that.
This is an important step in improving performance. Far too often people struggle with an activity in life and make statements like “I wish I was like so and so”. Focusing on our weaknesses is demoralizing and can have a seriously negative impact. The reverse is true of focusing on your strengths. You feel empowered, confident and strong. Everyday life becomes easier because you are constantly reinforcing a positive, which makes you feel good.
In the group that we taught presentation and communication skills to, the self-awareness element had a profound impact on team life, on how they interacted with their friends, family and colleagues.
By focusing on what they were good at and helping them to communicate the areas they weren’t good at, they could see how to deliver better results.
Build on their strengths rather than correcting their weaknesses
This concept of course is nothing new. It was Marcus Buckingham (co-author of “first, break all the rules”) who followed his best seller with a management study that focused on the most effective method for motivating people. Build on their strengths rather than correcting their weaknesses. Together with researchers at the Gallup Organization, he analyzed results of interviews conducted by Gallup with over 1.7 million employees from 101 companies and representing 63 countries. When asked, only 20 percent of these employees stated that they were using their strengths everyday.
The book that followed, “Now, discover your strength” is powerful. It helps readers to discover their own strengths by giving them access to the online StrengthFinder® tool and helps them to manage their work and relationships based on those insights.
That’s one of the powerful things about using self-discovery tools like DISC or StrengthFinder®. People learn to discover their strengths and learn to accept and celebrate who they are. And once they are at that point, they can then start asking others, “What are my strengths?”
We asked the technology group we were training on presentation and communication skills – “How can you leverage your strengths to become better at presenting to others, facilitating, entertaining questions etc.?”
But it didn’t stop there. Once they got into it, they also realized that they were now better at reading themselves and reading their colleagues. It was a very powerful and liberating process.
The presentation and communication training is just one example of where self-awareness, self-discovery and other-awareness can be driven to the next level to achieve excellent results. The same is true when we use tools like this in the recruiting process, as many companies are already doing. But there is no need to stop there. During the recruitment process companies often only use tools to decide who is the best candidate. But once you have invested in these tools there is also the opportunity to use this beautiful piece of discovery about your candidate who is now becoming an employee to make him a better employee. The opportunity lies in taking this knowledge into the induction process and feeding it into the first components of personal development planning.
Our obsession with focusing on weaknesses
Unfortunately, most of us have little sense of our talents and strengths, much less the ability to build our lives around them. Instead, guided by our parents, our teachers, our managers, and by psychology's fascination with pathology, we become experts in our weaknesses and spend our lives trying to repair these flaws, while our strengths lie dormant and neglected.
The question is: Would you rather have an organization filled with people who focus on their weaknesses or an organization filled with people focusing on their strengths?
At KnowledgeWorkx we believe that self-discovery is an essential part of people development. By discovering yourself, then learning what your strengths and weaknesses are and being able to explain that to others, you are able to make changes that will drive excellence. This is one of the abilities that you can put into the Third Cultural Space that you create in your organization. To learn more, read our three-part series about corporate culture development.
To find out more about the self-discovery tools that would work best in your environment, please contact us.
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