How do the best leaders turn their employees weaknesses into strengths?
I’ve been saying for a number of years now that perfect practice makes perfect. I’m not exactly sure who I’ve borrowed the turn of phrase from, but it’s sure helped me assemble a high-functioning team and organisation that continues to identify weaknesses and leverage these for future success.
I’m also guilty of saying that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary organisations comes down to one thing: the ability to take time out from business as usual to reflect on the organisation as a whole, and identify shortcomings in the organisation.
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For whatever reason, some leaders I’ve come in contact with are unwilling to take this time out and put their organisation under the microscope. I’m here to tell you that this is an archaic way of conducting business, and in 2021, it’s unsustainable. Complacency is the enemy of progression, and will almost certainly lead you down an unprofitable path.
So, having said that, how do we turn weaknesses into strengths? Obviously, a SWOT analysis is a key part of assembling the puzzle here. It will help you evaluate where your strengths reside inside the organisation, and which areas of your operations need a helping hand. This is part of the first step in the journey to turning around your weaknesses- simply acknowledging them.
A SWOT analysis, by definition, helps you analyse your operations for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. While two of those are directly related to what we’re talking about today, the opportunities and threats are inextricably linked. When conducting your SWOT analysis, don’t leave any stones unturned… this is an opportunity for you and your team to put every aspect of the organisation under the microscope, and it’s an invaluable learning exercise, so don’t be afraid to jump in and get your hands dirty.
Everything from your accounts to your end deliverable – and everything in between – needs to be given some attention by those conducting the SWOT analysis. On that note, rather than assign the task to one or two individuals, break it up into each of your organisation’s divisions to conduct the primary analysis and then hand it over to someone outside that department.
The reason behind this is to allow those who know the department intimately to analyse, and then get an outside – that won’t be biased – to do the same, and note if there are any differences. I mention this point because getting someone from outside that department can eliminate the subjectivity that comes with being in a certain department for a number of years. The word bias might be a bit strong, but there is indeed a level of subjectivity that can skew the purpose of a SWOT analysis when it comes to analysing their own operations.
How the Best Leaders Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths
From here, we move to the responsibilities of the executive team- the management figures. Management has a responsibility to soak up all this data and look for what can be turned around. This is why I’m often pushing for organisations to do this on a regular basis, as you’ll have a more effective data set to compare and contrast results over a period of time.
It’s definitely a good thing to get your first one done, but if you haven’t got anything to compare it to, it’s a difficult feat to determine whether or not you’re on or off-track. Again, as I’ve mentioned, acknowledging that an organisation has flaws is the first step of the process; some leaders are too proud – particularly if they were the one that implemented a policy and they’re too stubborn to admit it’s underperforming – to admit wrongdoing.
Eliminating pride and reminding everyone in the organisation that this is a learning experience is often forgotten, but essential.
From here, you can begin to do your research as to industry-wide trends or compare how your competitors are tackling similar problems to the ones you’ve identified in your SWOT analysis. Don’t be afraid to experiment, so long as you remember to trial this process change, and check back in the days, weeks and months following to see if the data reflects a change for the better or if it’s underperforming. Experimenting new policies can usher in a new chapter for your organisation and it can be invaluable when it comes to avoiding disruption for your organisation.
Realise that at the base of whatever decision you make are two important stakeholders: your employees and your customers. You don’t want to implement a policy that offends or violates either of these stakeholders, so keep this in mind as you’re experimenting with policies.
Sure, you might be able to increase something for a period of time by cracking the whip on some of your employees- but this is both unsustainable and unethical as a leader.
Look to how you an optimise, automate or make a division more effective by asking those divisions in your organisation what they need, what they’re currently lacking and what the ideal version of their department looks like, and move from there.