Strong weaknesses or weak strengths?

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I read a report recently, and typically I can’t find it now, that looked at how much leadership coaching is focused on developing strengths versus addressing weaknesses.

As I recall there were some regional differences (and some of that may have been cultural) but for the most part coaching – certainly at the executive level – is an exercise in developing strengths.

There may be some obvious reasons for this. Coaches tend to be an optimistic bunch and may just be happier working in that context. External coaches are paid to get a result and that commercial reality may mean they see quicker and easier wins focusing on building strengths.

But the other point of view is perhaps best captured in the title of Marshall Goldsmith’s recent book “What got you here won’t get you there!” In other words it may be the individuals strengths which have delivered them to their position today but it may be their weaknesses that are now keeping them stuck.

On the subject of weaknesses, in my corporate days this was a word that HR seemed to want struck from the lexicon entirely. All sorts of other phrases were offered as substitutes: development areas, training needs, learning points, etc. Most people I think always recognised that there were things they weren’t very good at whatever we called them.

Personally, I don’t see it as an either or choice. I consider the people I coach best placed to determine what they need to do to solve problems or move towards their goals and this may mean addressing a ‘weakness’ or it may mean developing a ‘strength’.

But that’s just my view, what do you think?

• When you’re coaching are you conscious of addressing strengths or weaknesses?
• Does it matter?
• Is it different for Internal and External coaches?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

By the way, the most interesting answer I ever heard to the old cliché question of, “What do you consider your weaknesses?”, was “My strengths. If I over-play them!” How would you respond to that?

Oh, and if anyone can remind me where I may have seen this reported, can you let me know, so I can download it again.

Matt Somers

Matt Somers

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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