We hear it all the time:  A successful leader must find the strengths of team members in order to put them in a position to succeed.  That sounds great in theory, but how does a leader do this? 

A simple Google search on “Finding Strengths” will yield a multitude of great tools and tests that can be used.  These tools are certainly helpful, but I feel most individuals already have a good understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses.  

The real problem is people work to hide their weaknesses.  They think of them as flaws that will keep them from getting that next raise or promotion.  The key to finding the true strengths of each individual and putting them in the right position to succeed is:

Create a Culture where Weakness is OK

I believe my effectiveness in this area was due to intentionally communicating with my teams on how I would deal with both my personal strengths and weaknesses.  It is imperative for leaders to talk openly about both strengths and weaknesses.  The discussion with your team could look something like this:

  • Identify Your Strengths – My top strength is creating a values-based culture and building high performing teams. I love getting the best out of the collective talents of the group and doing everything in my power to help each individual succeed.
  • Identify Your Weaknesses – My creative and visionary skills are very weak. Ask me to create a vision for the future on my own and I will sit idle and paralyzed for hours.  By sharing my weaknesses, I illustrated to people to be comfortable that they were not going to be great in all areas. I committed to utilize them in their areas of strength so they could enjoy their work and thrive. 
  • Illustrate that Power is Perfected in Weakness – Knowing my weaknesses is actually a strength.  By recognizing it I was able to insure that I had people on my senior leadership teams that were extraordinarily good at building vision, and driving innovation and creativity.  Without them we would be in big trouble.

Once you have created this culture, people are open to sharing their own strengths and weaknesses.  The guesswork is gone and you are free to capitalize on each individual’s strengths. High performance follows!

 Building diversity of skills, strengths, and personalities on your team re-enforces the fact that each individual is critical because they bring their unique strengths for the overall benefit of the team. That then illustrates the importance of their work on the team, and will continue to drive their engagement towards the purpose and vision of the organization.

Conclusion: Knowing and publically recognizing your weaknesses within the team is a strength!

 How have you built a culture around strengths and an understanding that we all have weaknesses?

Bonus: This works in building a high-performing family as well. I am not good at keeping the financial books. My wife is an expert in that area. I realize that and stay completely away from all family financial operations, and allow her to excel in an area that she totally enjoys. 

Mark Deterding

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.                   2 Corinthians 12:9-10