Ambitious Managers Should Work as Hard to Fix Their Serious Weakness(es) As They Do to Build on Their Strengths

Are you a manager and want to get promoted? Identify your weaker points and fix them. As a manager, do you want to coach your people more effectively? If so, be candid, show tough love, do not ignore their serious weaknesses.

Having assessed and coached 6,500 senior managers, my experience tells me you should ignore the common “wisdom” that managers should just try to coach their people to improve by getting better at what they already do well, rather than trying to fix their serious weaknesses. After all, they say, we all know that people do not really fix their weaknesses. Nonsense!

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In this blog I use not Treating People With Respect as a typical weaker point that can hold back someone’s career. Other career derailers might also be: poor as a Team Player, weak at Organization or Planning, having limited Technical Expertise, poor at Decision Making, and many more competencies that if someone is poor at, they probably will not get a promotion to a job requiring that they be at least good.

I’ve sat in on a thousand meetings in which managers were considered for promotion, and the people who get promotions of course have many strengths. However, the most important consideration almost always is that they have no “fatal flaws,” no “Achilles Heels,” no “career derailers;” in other words, they could not exhibit any serious weak points. Topgrading Professionals have helped thousands of leaders improve, not by ignoring their weaker points but by helping them overcome them. I encourage you to be hard-hitting in your coaching.

This can work on a large scale. One of my projects as a consultant to General Electric when super-CEO Jack Welch was there was to teach GE leaders to show more respect for people. Our research showed that leaders earning a rating of 7+ on a 10-point scale on Treating People With Respect when rated by A Players got much better operating and financial results than leaders rated lower than 7. I organized the training, thousands of leaders were trained, and thousands improved a lot. Jack fired several leaders who got excellent operating results but continued to NOT show people respect.

The blog posted last week, Successful Start-up CEO Offers 5 Keys to Success, included this quote by a very successful CEO, TJ Johnson: “[The hard-hitting Topgrading coaching to change my negative leadership style] has been a life changer for me and a process that I value a great deal. It’s not over. I’m still working to improve my leadership skills. I have always had a relentless attitude of improvement. I now believe I channel that passion in a more effective way because of my Topgrading coaching. I was skeptical at the beginning but I’m a devoted believer in and a practitioner of Topgrading today.”

For management jobs, my experience is that high performers who want to earn promotions quite naturally maximize their strengths every day. They know they are great at product launch projects, public speaking, analysis of financial reports, etc; they love exercising their strengths, read articles and go to seminars to strengthen them, but often ignore working on one or two competencies they must have in order to get promoted. In our experience as Topgrading Professionals we give the tough love feedback when coaching because too often their managers have ignored those weaknesses, thinking hard hitting feedback might be de-motivating and fruitless.

In my 3 editions of Topgrading I break out 50 competencies into groups including competencies that can be significantly improved in one year (personal organization, writing, hiring, and even treating people with respect), and those competencies that generally can’t be improved a lot (honesty, drive/energy). The vast majority of competencies can be improved with coaching.

In summary, to advance your career, devote as much energy and time to fixing your serious weaker points as you do maximizing your strengths. And as a manager, be honest and direct with your people and create developmental plans that do NOT ignore the weaker points that might, if not improved, hold them back.

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