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Building Strengths versus Fixing Weaknessesby zengerfolkman October 12, 2009

Recently, several groups of executives went through The Extraordinary LeaderTM at a large bank. A few months after the program was completed we asked them to participate in a follow-up survey. Participants were asked if they felt that The Extraordinary LeaderTM training program provided them with valuable insights and tools to help them become better leaders. 93% of the program participants responded positively to that item.  It is apparent that leaders find the concepts and approaches taught in this program extremely helpful.  One of the major insights taught in the program is the value of focusing development on building strengths. Most people believe that the way to improve is to work on weaknesses. In our research on extraordinary leaders we found that what differentiated great leaders was not the absence of weakness but rather the presence of a few profound strengths. In the follow-up survey we asked people if they were focused on fixing weaknesses or building strengths. We found that 88% of the participants indicated that they were focused on building strengths.  We then compared the responses of those focused on building strengths to those that were fixing weakness and found some very interesting results.

When asked if they had created an excellent development plan to guide their efforts to improve, we found the following differences between those building strengths verses those fixing weakness:


When asked if they had taken the time and made a real effort to work on their personal  development plan, we found the following differences between those who were building strengths verses those who were fixing weakness:clip_image003When asked as a result of the use of The Extraordinary Leader 360 feedback process, report and tools, if they felt they had improved in their overall leadership effectiveness, we found the following differences between those building strengths verses those fixing weakness: clip_image004Finally, we looked at the impact of their improved leadership on the business results of the team: clip_image005This study clarified once again for us the value of focusing on strengths in an individual’s ongoing development process.  Those who directed their efforts to developing strengths created better plans and made more concerted efforts to improve. They also felt like they had made more of an improvement in their leadership effectiveness and were making a greater impact on their business. 

There is a time, however, when it is necessary to focus on weaknesses.  When leaders have a fatal flaw, focusing on fixing the weakness is the right thing to do. But, the message to remember is when leaders focus their development efforts on building strengths, their motivation is much higher and their perceived impact is significantly greater.

—Joe Folkman, President

Interested in finding out more about why developing your leaders is absolutely vital to your organization? Download our free article, Leadership Under the Microscope and start the process of becoming extraordinary.


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