POST WRITTEN BY Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council
Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership development & careers.
A frequently repeated leadership tip is, “Play to your strengths.” It’s advice that’s not only a bit vague, but also misleading: Often leadership involves having to deal with situations we’re not accustomed to or that make us uncomfortable. And, like a lot of one-size-fits-all personal advice, “play to your strengths” doesn’t really give any useful information to go on.
Luckily, seasoned business coaches know how to provide guidance that’s not only helpful for any leader, but also gives practical insights to build from. To help you break away from the generality of “playing to your strengths,” 10 experts from Forbes Coaches Council provide practical leadership methods that can really help you grow professionally.
1. Create Opportunities Of Controlled Challenge
Strengths are easy for you; rely on them, but don’t miss opportunities to develop your other skills. Relying on just your strengths can hamper long-term growth as you face situations that challenge your strengths. Just like developing employees, you want to create situations of controlled challenge and failure. Take on situations that will challenge and develop skills that are not your strengths. – Tony Mickle, Big Box Coaching
2. Don’t Let Your Blind Spots Become A Liability
Your strengths are trusted tools that you should use consistently, but don’t ignore your blind spots, which are habits or unskilled areas that you are not aware that you need to develop. These growth spots could potentially derail your career. Have a 360-degree assessment or get informal feedback from trusted colleagues to raise your awareness and work on developing in these important areas too. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLCF
3. Be Open To Continuous Improvement
We all have strengths and weaknesses; the difference is about being honest with yourself and others about mitigating your weaknesses. Being authentic and open to continuous improvement will help one’s career go much further versus “playing the game” of strengths. – Jacob M. Engel, Yeda LLC
4. Cultivate Self-Awareness And Emotional Intelligence
The way we see ourselves (our identity) is often not the way we are perceived (our reputation). As such, leaders need to cultivate the self-awareness and emotional intelligence to be mindful of elevating their consciousness so that they can continuously uncover their blind spots. Eliminating the blocks that inhibit or diminish their leadership potential will serve to enhance their strengths. – Carolina Caro
5. Identify Your Soft Spots
When people move into positions of leadership, what made them successful individually may not continue to work long term. As the number of your direct reports grows, so does the impact of your weaker areas. Identify your technical or behavioral soft spots and improve them so your office culture can thrive. We’re only as strong as our weakest link, so strengthen the areas that your team depends on. – Erik Fredrickson, Erik Fredrickson Coaching
6. Don’t Hide Behind Your Strengths
Some leaders are so focused on their own strengths that they will limit the ability of their team members to share their strengths in different areas that can benefit the organization. Don’t hide behind your strengths and cut off potential areas of growth because you are not as comfortable executing with new skills, technology or ways of thinking. Know when to tap into new resources and talent. – Tonya Echols, Vigere
7. Make Sure The ‘Dirty Work’ Still Works
I love helping people and companies create talent strategies, but I don’t play only to my strengths all day, every day. I am willing to delegate things I don’t like doing, like hours of accounting or building sales proposals. But I am willing to make sure I can do them if I need to. I try to make sure those things I delegate that are not in my highest strengths and that I consider “dirty work” get done right. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
8. Don’t Limit Your Perspective
True leadership requires vision and 360 perspective. The challenge with only “playing to your strengths” is that it can limit the leader’s vision into one single perspective: the strengths. This limited perspective can make the leader stagnant and even irrelevant in the long run. That’s why true leaders must expand their vision to see what else is possible, especially about their own growth areas. – Shiny Burcu Unsal, Be-Live in U International NLP & Coach Training Inc.
9. Don’t Rest On Your Laurels
“Play to your strengths” can be misinterpreted to mean you have mastered the skill and it does not need further development. Leaders think they are already great at it, so they can focus development time elsewhere. Leaders are better when they build up their strengths, especially during this fast-changing business environment, which makes skills in one minute and out the next. – Kelly Tyler Byrnes, Voyage Consulting Group
10. Consider What’s Actually Needed
Effective leadership requires addressing the needs of whatever or whoever you serve—the mission, your team, your constituents, etc. What happens when your strengths don’t align with what’s needed? Shaping the situation to your strengths instead of focusing on what’s needed will set you up for failure. If you want to be an effective leader, identify the best path and rise to the occasion. – Scott Swedberg, The Job Sauce