BRIDGING THE GAP
Khun Niyom is the chief executive of a leading organisation. I have coached several senior executives under his command for quite some time. I meet with him regularly to give him feedback about their progress.
"Coach Kriengsak, how do you identify the strengths of my leadership teams?" he asked me the other day. "They are impressed with your ability to spot their strengths. Then, it's easier for them to channel their energy and focus the development effort on strengthening their strengths. I want to learn from you. How can I be able to identify the strengths of others?"
"Khun Niyom, that's a very good question," I reply. "I haven't really thought about it before." After some reflection I begin, "There are three factors that I have done in identifying people's strengths: Belief, Tools, and Skills.
"I've developed my belief in focusing on people's strengths from these books: First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman; Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton; Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath; and Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham. The first three were published by the authors during their time with Gallup Inc, which has leaded the strengths movement for the past 30 years.
"Based on its extensive research, Gallup begins with the assertion that each individual has unique talents. Hence, each individual performs best in a different role and under a different method.
"If we learn about each individual's talents and try to unleash those talents into performance, then everyone can excel.
"Basically, we have to find the talent in each of us. Then, we have to develop these talents into strengths. Don't try to change weaknesses into strengths."
"Coach, what about weaknesses?" asks Niyom. "Do you ignore them?"
"No, we have to manage them. But we have to put the majority of our effort and focus into strengthening their strengths first. Then, we can find ways to do damage control when it comes to weaknesses."
"Coach, how do I know my talents?"
I explain to Niyom about the online Strengthsfinder test developed by Gallup. It will help each person to learn more about his or her top five talents from a menu of 34 talents in all. If you buy the books Now Discover Your Strengths and Strengthsfinder 2.0, you will get a PIN code to do the online test.
"Coach, I get it _ start with the belief in focusing on develop strengths first," says Niyom. "Then, identify talents by using the tool. Now what's next?"
"The third factor is skills. There are three critical skills: observing, asking and listening. Once someone has the information about his or her top five talents from the tool, I will ask each individual to explain each talent. I also will ask for several examples of each talent.
"When people tell others about their talents and offer examples, it's crucial that I pay full attention observe the person.
"I observe body language and eye contact a lot. When people talk about their strengths you will hear passion in their tone of voice. Their eyes will be sparkling and lively. You will see that people change their gestures compared with their normal mode of conversation. If you're really watching them, you will see the difference. I will take notes and remark on those passionate activities in my notebook."
"Coach, what if some of my people have not done the Strengthsfinder test. How can I learn about their strengths?"
"Usually, if I don't know about the talents, here are some questions that will help me to learn more about the potential strengths of each individual:
- What do you enjoy doing most?
- What are the things that you do better than others?
- What are the tasks that you learn much faster than others?
- What are the tasks that you really enjoy thinking about?
- If you don't have any time constraints, what is the first thing that you want to do?
- What are the tasks that you want to do now even if the deadlines are still very far away?
- What do other people tell you that you're very good at?"
"Thanks Coach. I think I have a better idea now about identifying people's strengths. What do I do next?"
"Khun Niyom, from Go Put Your Strengths to Work, I've developed the following questions as guidelines to facilitate individual development plans for each strength:
- What must you do to upgrade this strength?
- What books must you read?
- What training must you attend?
- What research must you do?
- Who must you shadow in order to learn/observe from him or her?
- Who must you meet (friend, mentor, coach, teacher, boss)?
- Who must you teach?
- What can you do in order to better this strength? What else?"
Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the TheCoach brand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/TheCoachinth. Previous articles are archived at http://thecoach.in.th
About the author
- Writer: Kriengsak Niratpattanasai