Using Strengths to the Point of Weakness
Doug Hensh, founder of myHappier, revealed the 5½ Secrets of Resilient Entrepreneurs last Thursday when he kicked off Positive Business DC’s Well-being in The Workplace speaker series. Doug teaches people how to become more resilient and helps businesses develop more engaged, creative, and productive workforces through his expertise in positive psychology.
While Doug made a number of provocative statements that night, none resonated with me more than the following:
“In my experience a person’s greatest weakness is when they overuse their strengths. . . . It feels good to use your strengths. But by focusing too narrowly on your strengths you become less aware of the consequences [of your behavior] and the impact you have on others.” —Doug Hensch, myHappier.com
As a fan of the Gallup Organization (and Marcus Buckingham‘s work in particular) I can tell you a strengths-based approach to building strong, successful businesses works. In fact, I have repeatedly used their techniques as a basis for transforming organizations with poor morale into companies that excel.
Doug’s observation that an individual’s misapplication of strengths leads to weakness captured my attention because the phenomenon has an organizational corollary. When a strengths-based approach is applied without a structure that enables a company to effectively harness what employees have to offer in a balanced way, performance suffers.
Blinded by Personal Bias
People tend to hire others like themselves. As a result, the recruitment process leads to organizational imbalance unless the hiring manager recognizes and purposely curbs this natural, human bias. Unchecked, the bias spawns an obvious organizational weakness. A company that has too many people with the same strengths unintentionally creates a blind side (or two) and lacks the strength needed to run the distance. Competitors will quickly outdistance this company even though employees may “click” and enjoy working together.
Dilution by Shared Strengths
Perhaps a forward-thinking executive has established a safe environment and invites disagreement during discussions because this leader knows that airing differences improves the team’s problem-solving capabilities. If the hiring manager has repeatedly cloned him- or herself, the deck is stacked against the company and the conversation will probably be a short one. This group of people simply will not see a wide enough array of options to enable the company to compete effectively.
Much more subtly, a team comprised of people with too many overlapping strengths dilute those strengths. Even if this group has members with opposing viewpoints and can argue through the issues to develop a sound strategy, I have consistently observed that this team as a whole is less than the sum of its parts. Every time. And that’s just a waste of talent.
Deliberately Blend Corporate DNA
Strong corporate DNA requires a strengths-based focus layered over an existing sense of organizational self-awareness. By using this framework, newly hired employees will share the company’s core values and fit within the corporate culture while being diverse in heritage, gender, age, experience, talent, and strengths. The mix forms a well-balanced team that has the stamina and resilience to keep the company in peak performance during good times and bad.
So, when thinking about developing resilience in your own organization and honing strengths, don’t forget to put systems into place that will ensure that you not only install a well-balanced team, also ensure they have the systems and tools to maximize their efforts.
Join The Well-being Movement
Please join Positive Business DC if you’re interested in how science-based disciplines like positive psychology and neuroleadership can improve organizational behaviors, job satisfaction, and overall performance. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
And, if you live in the Metro DC area, please check out our local events. According to research by Delivering Happiness, Washington DC exhibits the lowest level of happiness (and thus job satisfaction and productivity) in the U.S. With your help we can make working and living and working in the capitol region a more rewarding experience.
Thank you, Doug, for a compelling presentation. I have purposely avoided writing about the secrets. If you’re curious to learn what we discovered the other night, please download: 5-1/2 Secrets of Resilient Entrepreneurs.
Thank you also to Andrew Murdock, professional photographer and founder of Natural Artistry Photography, for taking official shots during our first event.
Finally, a heartfelt thank you to Teqcorner for hosting Positive Business DC’s first event. As a tenant, I can tell you Teqcorner works hard to develop and nurture an enabling ecosystem that takes an entrepreneur “from concept to company.”
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