Early in my career, I would put a lot of effort into creating the best strategy to solve a problem or implement a solution at work. My husband had several years more of management experience than me, so I would go to him for advice. The problem is, the advice he wanted to give was often not the advice I was looking for.

Typically, I would have the problem 95% solved, or the solution 95% developed (or so I thought). I just wanted him to listen to what I had worked on so far, then give me his perspective on how to reach 100%. Instead of meeting me at 95%, he would question my assumptions, test my logic, and most often recommend a solution that was far broader in scope and scale than what I had envisioned.

At the time, these conversations were about as much fun as have your spouse to teach you how to drive. I would end up feeling frustrated and inept, and no closer to a solution. Fortunately, not only has our marriage survived these conversations, but as I built my confidence as a leader, I have a newfound appreciation for seeking out the perspectives of others – including my husband’s – to stress test my ideas and broaden my perspective.

This process is what Gallup researchers suggest are the three A’s to Strengths-based leadership. Here is a closer look at the process:

1.    Annoying. Perhaps the most important quality needed to succeed as a leader is self-awareness. Without self-awareness, you are in danger of thinking that your perception and reality are one in the same. You are annoyed when others stress test your ideas. It is self-awareness that allows the Strengths-based leader to walk the tightrope: to project conviction while remaining humble enough to be open to new ideas and opposing opinions.

2.    Appreciating. It’s human nature to want to be around people who think like we do. But it can be deadly for leaders to be cut off from challengers. Strengths-based leaders step out of the circle of people who make them most comfortable and seek out the opinions of those who have contradictory views. By opening themselves up to challengers, they gain an appreciation for looking at problems through different lenses, and broaden their perspective.

3.    Applying. It is impossible for any one individual to be above average in all areas of business, or “well-rounded”. Strengths-based leaders build well-rounded teams made up of well-lopsided individuals. A Strengths-based team is a group of imperfect but talented contributors who are valued for their strengths and who know how and when to apply each other’s strengths to achieve individual and team excellence.

Today, I still ask my husband for his perspective from time to time. But, instead of being frustrated when he doesn’t agree with me, I look forward to seeing what holes he can find in my logic, and what questions he can bring up that I hadn’t thought of. This exercise helps me stress test my working thesis, and create stronger solutions.

Question: Have you gone from annoyed, to appreciative, to applying the perspectives of others? How has that process made you a stronger leader?

 

Are you ready to start leveraging your team’s strengths and allow them to fire on all cylinders? Check out our StrengthsFinder services or email me at snasim@executiveexcellence.com directly to set-up a free 30 minute consultation.