The best leaders help people do what they do best. They provide support for areas where their employees are weak and they find ways for them to use their strengths. Here is an example:
Melissa is a great speaker. Her presentations are captivating. People are spellbound whenever she gives a talk. Her “gift of gab” has made her one of the best sales executives in her company for three years in a row. This was not always the case. Four years ago she almost got fired.
Melissa works for a company that has a big sales culture. This company has a number of reports that a sales executive is required to complete on a weekly basis. Some of these reports involve accounting forecasts and complex projections. Melissa is terrible at accounting. When she was completing these reports her numbers were routinely off by a wide margin. Her work in this area appeared sloppy and disorganized. Her boss (at the time) sent her to class after class to help her improve her accounting skills. Each class made her even more miserable and her reports became worse.
Just when this accounting mess was about to really harm Melissa’s career, her boss left the company. The new leader – a wise man named Paul - sat down with Melissa and asked her what she enjoyed doing and what she did well. Melissa explained that she loved to speak in front of groups and she loved to develop relationships. Paul spent a few weeks watching Melissa. He also had similar conversations with her peers.
Paul found one of Melissa’s peers, Gene, who was great at accounting but a terrible speaker. In fact, Gene was about to quit because she could not handle the stress of giving presentations. Paul pared Melissa with Gene and allowed them each to do what they did best. He combined their sales territories and they have been the most productive team in the history of the company.
Business Pundit says that leadership studies don’t work. They work if you use them to help you find out where people have natural talent. Just as a construction worker uses several tools when building a house, you should use management studies, interviews, observation, training classes and any other resources that are at your disposal, to help your people become successful.
Relying on one tool to help people improve is like a construction worker using a hammer to paint the wall. It’s just not a good fit. He uses all of his tools to get the job done. The hammer is great for pounding nails and leadership assessments are good for providing insight. Use all your tools. The leadership study is just one tool in your tool kit.