Invest in Your Strengths

A friend once told me that there are two ways to achieve a wonderful lawn. One way is to go after all the weeds, pull them up, treat them with weed killer and just keep after it. The other way is to put the best fertilizer you can on the grass, water it and let it squeeze out the weeds over time. The second way sounded better to me.

If we ourselves are a lawn, how do we spend our time? And how do we develop our teams? Are we focused on the weeds or the grass?

The truth is, we are probably a bit of both. We see something in ourselves that is not as strong as it needs to be and we worry about it; we try and work on it. Maybe we are not as outgoing as we think we should be, maybe our presentation skills are not all that sharp. Whatever the issue, we focus on it. We try and pull all the weeds. And at times we do get dialed in on our strengths. We feel a real energy in our careers and our personal investments and then all of a sudden seem to show great fruit.

There is a great book that touches on the concept of investing in strengths, hiring for talent and basically ignoring the weaknesses on teams. It is called First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman. The key idea I remember from the first time I read the book was that the reason you hire for talent, and talent matched to the role, is so that you can pour your time into wildly productive people who then do amazing things. Not so that you won't have a bunch of problems to look after. It is lawn focused, not weed focused.

 

Invest in Your Strengths

 

A friend once told me that there are two ways to achieve a wonderful lawn. One way is to go after all the weeds, pull them up, treat them with weed killer and just keep after it. The other way is to put the best fertilizer you can on the grass, water it and let it squeeze out the weeds over time. The second way sounded better to me.

When I first became a manager, I would spend the least amount of time with the strongest members on my team and the most amount of time with the ones who were struggling. However, I was wrong in that I was missing the opportunity to invest even more of my time with them and seeing their accomplishments excel even more.

Why did I make this mistake? One reason is that I did not see my "not as strong" team members as really being weak. I did not think that the time I was spending with the folks who were struggling was really different. I actually counted it as an advantage to have some extra strong folks who did not need my time. When you and your best people spend time working on advancing your product or service that is already good, then you can have some amazing results. Watering the already green lawn.

At Benefitfocus, we utilize First Break All the Rules in our management training and certification program. All of our managers go through a course on the book, and we discuss this concept at length. It is very valuable and one we could all need reminding of from time to time.