August 30, 2011
As individuals and leaders we have beliefs and we make assumptions. In most circumstances our beliefs and assumptions have served us well, helping us navigate our personal and professional life challenges and capture opportunities. Increasingly, management thinkers and writers encourage us to focus on our strengths, to shine a light on them and shape our jobs so that what we do each day draws largely on our natural and developed talents. To offset our strengths we are encouraged to build a team around us that has complementary talents so that the full spectrum of work that needs to be done is completed effectively. A core thesis behind this strength based approach is that we all have areas that are not our ‘natural talents’, areas we can improve to some extent say from ‘bad to not-bad’ (a Markus Buckingham line as I recall) however we will most likely not build ‘mastery’ in.
I must say that the positive organizational scholarship and strength-based movement inspires me and resonates with my experience as a professional and leader. My increasing use of and appreciation for the work of Robert E. Quinn and his introduction of the Competing Values Framework reinforces the importance of leaders being self-aware and ensuring that they do not rely on their strengths to a fault!
I’ll introduce Competing Values Framework in detail in my next post, but for now, I’ll say that none of us want our personal beliefs and values to be an impediment to our organization’s success, so what can we do about it?
There is no silver bullet, however, I have listed a few considerations to reflect on:
- Open yourself to the possibilities that ‘my way or the highway’ is not an optimal approach. Challenge yourself to listen and observe what others are saying, doing, believing about your organization, its performance and its future including their ideas about what’s needed to move it forward
- Ask a trusted colleague to help you surface your assumptions about important decisions, supporting a healthy challenge that opens your mind to new possibilities or angles. When comfortable, start to open yourself to others on your team – it’s ok to be vulnerable, we don’t have to have all the answers!
- Build your team to complement your strengths
- Build your team’s effectiveness to ensure constructive dialogue is a norm, that your team has a foundation of trust, asserts their perspectives, explores possibilities together and holds each other to account for follow-through on decisions / agreements.
- Implement change that ‘rounds out’ your organization’s focus.
- Solicit feedback to gauge your progress to ensure you are taking a more ‘balanced’ approach to leading your organization.
What do you think?
 Robert E. Quinn is a Faculty Member at the University of Michigan. He has co-authored a number of books on the Competing Values Framework over the years.
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