Rand Golletz Performance Systems
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Articles for Leadership » The Real Deal

Do you develop your strengths and starve your weaknesses?

by Rand Golletz

Note From Rand

With three other recent University of Texas grads, my friend Roy Spence started GSD&M forty years ago. Owned today by Omnicom, it was once the largest independently operated and full service marketing and advertising agency west of the Mississippi. At one time or another, they have handled both Walmart and Southwest Airlines. Roy also coined the now famous tagline for his home state: “Don’t mess with Texas.”

A couple of years ago with his associate Haley Rushing, Roy authored the book It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. The book’s proposition is that extraordinary businesses are driven by “purpose.” Helping companies translate that assertion into practical marketing reality has become GSD&M’s raison d’etre during the last several years.

That’s the backstory. What follows is the reason for bringing Roy to your attention: In a recent interview, Roy discussed founding his business, and the relationship that he has enjoyed with his three partners during the past forty years. His admonition is great advice.

Roy said that the commitment he and his friends made together forty years ago was this: “If we’re going to start this thing together, we’re going to finish it together.” He went on to say that being a partner is easy; what’s hard is dealing with the “ship” (as in partnership). The same might be said of leadership and friendship. His point: The tough work of life is acting in accord with the things that we theoretically support. Partnership, friendship and leadership all require action!

As you begin 2012, I hope Roy’s words resonate for you, and that you’ll commit to supporting your words with your actions. Remember as you undertake this: Progress is more important than perfection!

My lead article this month emphasizes the need to develop your strengths as a high priority. I’ve also included a brief piece on the importance of understanding and acting in accord with your needs, wants, and values.

I’ll see you in February. Until then, get real, get tough and get going!

Develop Your Strengths and Starve Your Weaknesses

I once worked as a partner in an international consulting firm. As a part of that assignment, I helped executives learn to think strategically. Strategic thinking and strategic planning are distinct but equally important disciplines. While strategic plans are frequently and inappropriately linear extrapolations of the past, real strategic thinking requires vision and creativity – “what if” thinking.

In those days, I invariably took clients through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Executives detail their organization’s current strengths and weaknesses as well as current and prospective competitive, economic and regulatory opportunities and threats. The ultimate objective is to develop plans that will leverage strengths and improve weaknesses, while exploiting opportunities and alleviating threats.

During completion, executives initially focused on weaknesses, their thoughts being: “Why should we spend our time doing anything about our strengths? They’re already strengths!”

Here’s why!

Peter Drucker once said, “The primary job of a manager is to make strength productive.” Most executives spend too much time improving weaknesses and not enough time leveraging strengths. With the velocity of competitive change that exists today, by the time an organization builds a new core competence, it’ll likely be irrelevant. Leveraging existing strengths is also a less expensive proposition than building or buying new ones.

Today, I spend much of my time helping individual executives develop and implement actions that’ll propel their own performance. The challenge is similar. People almost always want to focus on improving their weaknesses. I constantly hear comments like the following: “My company’s CEO thinks I’m a really great creative thinker. She doesn’t believe that my “follow-through” is as good as it needs to be.”

This person’s usual approach would be to craft a development plan focusing on improving follow-through. Here’s the problem: Depending on how large the deficit, this person’s follow-through skills may only become marginally better, and then only with a lot of work. Both the organization and the individual might be better off figuring out ways to leverage his strengths.

I’m not advocating the neglect of skill deficiencies. What I am saying is that organizational leaders and their associates generally expend too much energy and money on deficiencies and attend insufficiently to augmenting or leveraging existing capabilities.

Next month, I’ll take this examination one step further. Even when people sufficiently acknowledge and exploit their strengths, they rarely integrate an equally important consideration: What are they really passionate about? Being skilled and being excited are equally important dimensions of personal effectiveness.

Additional Thoughts: Needs, Wants, Values and Priorities

I once worked with an executive who stated with certitude that his family was his number one priority. He also lamented the fact that he spent virtually no time with his wife and kids. I responded that priorities are defined by how and where we spend our time and that, by definition, his family was not his number one priority.

During the next month, develop a list of your needs, wants and values. “What’s the difference?” you ask. A need is something you must have in order to be your best, such as time, space, money, love, information, food, etc. A want is something that you relate to by trying to acquire or experience it, such as a car, a vacation, a house, a promotion, etc. A value is something that you naturally gravitate to or that is prompted from within and not by needs or wants. The same thing can be a need, want or value for different people or for the same person at different times. Here are some guidelines:

• If there is urgency, it’s probably a need.
• If there is a craving or desire, it’s probably a want.
• If there is a natural and uncomplicated pull, it’s probably a value.

Next, complete a “calendar audit.”

Look at your calendar for the last couple of months. Take every bit of time, personal as well as business, and compare your expenditure of time with your needs, wants and values.

Last, create objectives and action plans to better align your words and your actions.

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