Better for Managers to Focus on Strengths More than Self-Awareness?

Recently, I read an article in which the author argued that self-awareness is not as important as a focus on strengths. This gave me pause.

Isn’t an awareness of strengths part of self-awareness?  I was discussing it with my wise and learned colleague, Bill Milnor, who remarked “Self-awareness is at the foundation of everything.”  I agree with Bill!

Which brings me back to the question:

DOES A FOCUS ON STRENGTHS CREATE MORE VALUE THAN A FOCUS ON SELF-AWARENESS?

Self-awareness is necessary for coping with challenges and for managing our own emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Without a certain level of self-awareness, a person has difficulty getting through life. People with major blind-spots find themselves emotionally triggered too often, without awareness of how they got there.

A manager or a leader must have a basic level of self-awareness in order to be effective.

But, here’s when it does make sense to focus more on strengths than on self-awareness—when you’re focusing on someone else’s self-awareness.

When it comes to supervising or leading others, their natural talents provide the greatest opportunity for growth, so more attention to developing an individual’s inherent talents will benefit both the individual and the organization. They may welcome your attention to understanding and developing their strengths and join with you in the effort. For many reasons, this kind of attention can produce great results.

At the same time, it may not be beneficial for you to work at helping a supervisee to become more aware of their inherent weaknesses. For one thing, when someone who has control over a person’s work and pay points out their weaknesses, it is quite natural that the individual will become defensive.

It is also important to realize that an individual’s inherent weaknesses offer little opportunity for growth and contribution.

So, when it comes to the self-awareness of others, it often is not helpful to try to open another person’s eyes to their own blind-spots and weaknesses. You will get much farther by focusing on and nurturing their inherent talents and strengths.

But, when it comes to your own growth and development, it is very worthwhile to continue to develop your own self-awareness. It may be especially worthwhile to develop greater understanding of your inherent talents and to work to develop them into great strengths. This effort may even help you find the greatness (elevated nature) in everyone and everything, and to find it in your own way.

HOW CAN YOU BECOME MORE SELF-AWARE?

  1. Develop a discipline for self-reflection. Journal about your activities, beliefs, and decisions. Review periodically to see what you can learn about how your view of the world shapes your decisions and your actions. Reflect on the ways your perspectives add value. When you find that an action or a decision you have made isn’t working out, ask yourself whether you were following flawed assumptions that merit reconsideration. Peter Drucker recommended that leaders make a note of what they expect will happen whenever they make a key decision, and then compare the results 9 – 12 months later to see how they compared with what you expected. The purpose of this exercise was to develop your self-awareness.
  2. Seek feedback. Sometimes people you work with recognized when you were about to make a mistake and could have helped you avoid it, if they had felt you would be open to feedback. Model the attitude that mistakes are learning opportunities and invite feedback from others. This is for gathering additional input before taking action, from people with different perspectives, and is not giving away your authority or responsibilities.
  3. Seek out a coach or a mentor. A mentor is someone who has greater experience and skill at something at which you are working to become very skillful and successful. So a CEO mentor would be someone with even greater successful experience as a CEO who can guide you based on their own experience. A coach is someone with the skills to elicit your best, helping you achieve your most desired goals through goal-setting, accountability, and cultivating the habits that lead to peak performance. Coaching, with a skilled coach, has is very effective in helping people move to their next stage of development.

How do you see the relationship between self-awareness and focusing on strengths?    

By Dr. Ginny Trierweiler

Get in touch at drginny@masteringmission.com or 720-443-5056

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2 Responses to Better for Managers to Focus on Strengths More than Self-Awareness?

  1. Lori Reineke, Ph.D. says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I found it very thought-provoking and insightful. I agree that insight is essential for both work and personal relationships. I think focusing on one’s strengths alone can lead one to decreased insight. I believe everyone is trying their best to follow their own values and to “survive” despite the unique challenges of their own particular situation. So it is natural for us all to see ourselves as good and doing the best we can. Unless we have low self-esteem, we tend to be quite aware of our own strengths. It is not natural to look for our own weaknesses or to challenge our own beliefs, even though we know no one is perfect. It is only in being open to feedback from a trusted person that we can achieve this – whether a mentor, coach, therapist, or friend. Without insight, we will not be aware of how we affect others and will instead make the same mistakes over and over. The higher one’s position, the less likely one is to receive realistic feedback, and so the greater the need to seek it out from an objective person. I know it is very hard to be open to feedback, but I also know that it creates a more rewarding life and better relationships with others. I am sure you are a very insightful and helpful coach to write such an article!

    • admin says:

      Lori– thank you so much for taking the time to read and to share your insights on this post. I agree so much with your observations. “The highest one’s position, the less likely one is to receive realistic feedback.” I know that CEOs have to be more cautious in seeking feedback because there is more tendency for people to take advantage of that opportunity to gain more power for themselves– whether through offering criticism or offering flattery to gain advantage. It is very important for people in positions like that to have a trusted coach or mentor to help them continue their own growth and development!

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