Focus on Strengths

“We confide in our strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of others, without fearing it.”   Thomas Jefferson

At the time, I did not understand the concept of the power of synergy.  However, I soon found out that it means one plus one is sometimes greater than two.

My best boss paired me up on a project with another employee who I was not particularly fond of working with. We were both trainers and the woman who was assigned to be my partner was very skilled at creating workbooks and doing research. My strengths were in the front of the room—it was easy for me to make people laugh and it always seemed that being in front of the room was effortless. Typically, I was surprised they actually paid me to do this job. However, I was always missing the deadline for creating workbooks. I could sense my manager was becoming a little frustrated with this shortcoming.

When my boss assigned the project of working together, I questioned her ability to lead. I wondered how my boss could put us together; we do not even like each other, much less working together. Nevertheless, she said our strengths matched—whatever that meant.

Therefore, we worked on a few projects.  She would create the workbooks and do the research and I would read the workbooks and use my front room skills to educate and entertain. After awhile it became apparent we were jelling as a team, but we still were not particularly fond of each other.

However, after a year I began to realize what my boss meant by the power of synergy.  The two of us together were able to produce more and better training programs. We were able to produce more than we could ever produce by ourselves. My best boss ever, knew the power of synergy, by putting teams together and looking at each of our individual strengths and weaknesses, she was able to create a stronger team.  She recognized that I was strong in front of the room and she knew that my new partner was very strong in research and developing workbooks. The employees got a much better training program and they got our great workbook that they could use as a reference tool long after the training session had ended, which helped to reinforce their learning. In addition, they got my storytelling and my humor, which allowed the ideas to stick. At first, I thought this arrangement was absurd, but after working with it for over a year and a half, I began to realize the power of synergy. I had to tip my hat to my best boss, because she had used that power of synergy to create a very strong training team.

My recommendation to all managers is to use the power of synergy to create a stronger team.  The other great lesson is that my boss did not try to fix our weaknesses.  She recognized our weaknesses—she overlooked them—but she utilized our strengths.  A year later, I asked her how she came up with the idea.  She said she had read the book “First Break All the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham and she recognized the power of focusing on peoples’ strengths. She said when she was a new manager, she tried to focus on fixing weaknesses, but she realized this is a futile attempt at absurdity.  She said, “You cannot take an introvert, send them to Dale Carnegie training for two weeks and turn them into Martin Luther King.” She said, further, that you could take an extrovert, send them to Dale Carnegie training and make them a much better speaker. She said now she just tries to focus on utilizing peoples’ strengths and minimizing their weaknesses, or balancing their weaknesses through team member strengths. She said by putting us together she took my strengths of presentation skills and my partner’s strength of research and documentation and made us a much better team. The two things I walked away with from this learning point was to use the power of synergy and focus on peoples’ strengths. If I can do that as a manager in the future, I can make an impact on the lives of the employees I work with and I can make a strong impact on the organization I work at. If I can do those two things then it was worth it for me to have chosen the path of being a manager.

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