Find the Gifts, Forget the “Faults”

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
The Gift Teddy Madison 300x199
L.L. here, thinking about someone I know. She's a great problem solver, always looking for weak points in a process or project, always ready with a creative solution. This is the kind of woman I would hire if I was looking for a good bridge engineer (assuming she had an engineering degree!) This same person tends to focus on people's weaknesses and ignore their gifts. She spends a great deal of time trying to help others see how they should change or mend their ways. It is not unusual for her to recommend that a person take a class to get up to speed in an area that clearly isn't his forte. Buckingham and Coffman have advice that might disturb this kind of people-fixer who has happened to land in a managerial role: look for the gifts and talents in your employees, and stop trying to fix their weaknesses. Here is their mantra: People don't change that much. Don't waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough. From this perspective, the manager's job is not to ferret out and fix weaknesses, but rather to find gifts and talents and capitalize on them. "Try to help each person become more and more of who he already is," say Buckingham and Coffman. The implications are many. Performance conversations get framed differently. Training is provided only for a gap in skills, rather than as an attempt to rewire an employee's basic, recurring ways of behaving. For instance, supports might be put in place to work around a lack of organizational talent, in order to allow an employee's real talent to shine (without penalizing her for stuff that keeps falling through administrative cracks, or requiring her to take classes on how-to-get-organized). If I had to give this a religious slant, I might say it's a bit like Paul's "the eye cannot say to the hand." Or maybe that should be the engineer should look for gifts in the publicist even though he can't—and has no desire to—build good bridges. Gift photo by Teddy Madison of Exodus Photo. Used with permission. Post by L.L. Barkat, as part of a continuing series on the book First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently