Know yourself and your development team

Recently Documentum’s VP of Platform Engineering shared his professional mantra: Execute on your strengths and manage your weaknesses. A quick search on the phrase manage your weaknesses suggests that this is a fairly common philosophy. A number of references substitute identify, develop, etc. for execute when it comes to your strengths, but the general meaning holds true.

I actually prefer develop your strengths over execute on your strengths. It’s not uncommon for me to experience someone else’s strength to the point of it becoming his or her weakness; the same has been true of the exercise of my own strengths. To me identify is too passive–what do you do after you know what they are? And to me execute borders on being too static–strengths of today can become weaknesses or assumptions or common tomorrow. Develop conveys the notion that even strengths require proper thought and action.

Don’t try to overcome your weaknesses while ignoring your strengths. It’s all too easy for your strengths to atrophy to the point of adding to the weaknesses you’re so focused upon.

Discovering Your Strengths provides an overview of the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths. Talent (strength) is defined as any recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied. Weakness is defined as anything that gets in the way of excellent performance.

From this book’s introduction:

Most organizations are built on two flawed assumptions about people:
1. Each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in his or her areas of greatest weakness.
. . .
These are the two assumptions that guide the world’s best managers:
1. Each person’s talents are enduring and unique.
2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.

A previous mentor of mine used a potluck as an analogy of these two right assumptions. First, there must be a meal (i.e. a viable product or service outcome). Second, if each participant can bring their favorite dish (i.e. exercise his or her talents or strengths) in the course of producing a meal, the event (i.e. the release of the product or service to its marketplace) will be highly successful. The challenge is inviting the right cooks to produce the meal (i.e. forming a team based on individual strengths that can produce the required product or service).

Now, discover the strengths of your team mates and give them room to thrive and Wow! you.

Update 12/1/2008: For more of my book reviews and to see what else is in my book library (i.e. just the business-related or software-related non-fiction therein), please visit my Books page.