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Many people focus on coaching to their people’s strengths. The argument is that it’s far easier to get people to improve the things they are good at then to focus on reducing their weaknesses.

To some degree, I get the argument, people are possibly more engaged because we are working at what they are good at and probably what they enjoy doing. Time to results is probably faster, because they are already strong in those areas and we are just improving it.

I’ve seen some examples like, “If they aren’t good at prospecting, then don’t waste your time…..” This argues for whole organizational designs with people specialized on doing what they are strong at and not what they are weak at. (There are some interesting Cost Of Selling and other issues with this.)

But I really struggle with this focus. What if some of the things we are weak on are critical to our ability to do the job?

The problem with the focus on strengths argument seems, at least to me, to ignore the fact that we have to be capable of doing the whole job–not just the parts we like or are good at. If we can’t do the whole job, we fail, we don’t achieve our goals, we become a performance problem.

Our jobs as leaders is maximizing the ability of each person to perform in their role. That means we have to focus on both what they do well–seeking continuous improvement, but also on what they do poorly–getting them to improve.

It’s important to our people as well. Not just from the point of view of their current performance, but for them to grow and develop in their careers. As they seek higher level jobs and new challenges, they need a balanced set of skills. The developmental and career paths of a person narrowly focused on what they do well is very limited.

It’s easy to coach strengths, but we aren’t doing our jobs or helping our people unless we look at the things they need to improve and help them with those. We need to coach both strengths and weaknesses.