In a world starving for connection and still believing in perfection, the concept of being perfectly flawed has been a huge breath of fresh air for me! The concept of examining our flaws is in serious need of reframing. As I have worked with leaders from a multitude of sectors, I frequently run across leaders who have been examined repeatedly in detail and have arrived at that place where they are having difficulty remembering the value of their strengths and in some cases even what those strengths are.
Imperfect Assessment Tools
The power and influence on leaders of constant performance reviews, imperfect assessment tools (and they are all imperfect) that identify your flaws and weaknesses and the scratchy parts that they have to change in order for you to get promoted can help leaders end up in a version of flaw diagnosis hell.
This trend was starkly illuminated when I was working with a leader in the natural resource sector. He was considered a high potential leader for the C suite, “but” just wasn’t viewed as being assertive enough.
What was striking was one of the assessment tools we had to work with was the Strength Deployment Inventory. In this tool, this leader’s score was considered to be in the Directive and Task-oriented area for his personal motivation. This score would seem to be in stark contrast to the feedback he was receiving from his boss and his subordinates as people in this area usually get feedback that they are considered to be too aggressive or assertive.
As we explored this further, the source of this became obvious. Other assessments earlier in his career had given him the feedback that he was too assertive or pushy or hadn’t listened to the other members of his team. In responding to this feedback, he had repressed the very strength that had helped him achieve much of his success.
Help Others Lead
As I played with the concept of Perfectly Flawed with this leader two things became clear. First, when he did get overly assertive, it did have a negative effect on his team. However, using vulnerability as the leadership tool in those moments by simply recognizing the overdone strength in the moment it also became the space when some of his team members had an opportunity to step up and add their strengths to the team. That moment of humanness when his strength went too far was the moment when he would invite his team to help out and step into their own leadership strengths.
To be clear this approach is not about being blind to what isn’t working…it is about being clear on where our strengths aren’t working anymore and then (and this is the hard work in the perfectly flawed concept) to really value and trust and understand when to let another leader on your team carry the moment/meeting/day.
Understanding Your Strengths and Weaknesses
I am running across a few companies who are scrapping their assessment programs and shifting to just having the conversation and I am very excited by this trend.
The example I shared above is neither unique or uncommon in my practice as a coach. The confidence that this leader was able to step into and the opportunities he created for his team didn’t come from examining his faults…it came from clearly understanding his strengths and how his weaknesses were the perfect compliment for those strengths.
How Can you Improve as a Leader?
Do you want to learn more about how you can use your strengths and weaknesses to become a better leader in your organization? Sign up for one of our workshops today. These 3-day classes will help you identify what leadership tools will work best with your strengths and weakness.
I was introduced to the concept of Perfectly Flawed by Lesley-Ann Marriott, a fellow coach. It came up in a discussion about marriages and at one point she accused me of being perfectly flawed. Thanks Les! Perfectly Flawed has been a valuable concept ever since and has led to some very intriguing coaching moments.
About the Author
Dave Busse is a partner at Essential Impact, an award winning leadership coaching company. Along with his EI team, Dave has helped hundreds of companies in a wide variety of industries implement coaching for specific changes in organizational culture.
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