One great thing about working with a wide variety of clients and with people from all ‘levels’ of professional services firms is the opportunity to discover the different challenges, cultures, working styles, ambitions and personalities of firms and their people.
We are currently helping several clients to support their teams in building greater self-awareness, stronger relationships and collaboration through a 360 feedback process. This involves individuals rating themselves, and the collation of ‘observers’ ratings and comments, against bespoke questions and statements which cover identified essential ‘competencies’ required to drive performance in role (and therefore, performance of the firm).
A very common theme that comes out of the 360 coaching conversations is the sense that everybody feels the need to be excelling in every area in order to be performing and building their career.
“To progress I need you to be doing excellent client work, and bringing in business, and building a wide network, and building your profile, and being technically strong…..oh and being a people leader. Off you go…”
If this perception is ‘true’ then the danger is that the firm creates teams of professional ‘all-rounders’ who are able to deliver (maybe to a good level) across all the key competencies ‘independently’. Why a danger? Because we believe there is a better way of utilising people to achieve better individual and collective performance.
Let’s take a step back. We often talk about the Strengths / Weakness paradox. Imagine a coin and replace heads and tails with strengths and weaknesses. If an individual has a natural strength, then the flip side will be a directly opposite weakness. Take someone who is naturally great with people, who builds trusting and supportive relationships which bond teams together. I would imagine that the individual has received a lot of ‘developmental’ feedback aimed at addressing the flip side of this strength – in order to be ‘better’ in role.
‘You need to be tougher, to embrace conflict, to push them harder’
A natural ‘introvert’ who is strong at analysing data, rational thinking and risk mitigation may struggle with the need to spend external time ‘walking the room’ to develop business.
Someone who has a natural ability for innovative thinking and idea generation is likely to be ‘encouraged’ to be more practical and rational.
This makes sense of course. We want people to be able to manage well in their roles and to be capable of delivering quality. But, if people focus on addressing these natural ‘weaknesses’ (or the lower scores on their 360 reports), as a consequence they may well be diluting their natural strength on the other side of the coin. The individual who now consciously only focuses on tried and tested, practical solutions will obviously no longer be as innovative.
Back to ‘the danger’. We love this quote…
“trying to be good at everything means we are not great at anything”
We often hear about the importance of playing to people’s strengths, but if focusing on developing ‘weaknesses’ is diluting strengths then we are doing the opposite. The 360 process is a fantastic way to gain a better understanding of the strengths and development areas of individuals, but it is important to:
Taking the last point, the simplest way to manage ‘weak’ areas is to create opportunities for people to work with polar opposites. If someone is great at the big picture, then find a detail focused person to work closely with them. This is what we term ‘interdependence’ which is the basis of effective collaboration across teams and organisations. Individuals, within teams, playing to their strengths.
Whilst ‘independent’ working can create silo’s and selfish behaviours, ‘interdependent’ working encourages team working and knowledge share.
And it will help you to fulfil your business potential.
If you would like to discuss how your firm could take steps to maximise its potential, please contact Kate on 01892 610060 to arrange a free meeting with one of our consultants.
theGrogroup are experts in advising organisations on how best to improve performance by effectively executing and embedding required change. We do this through our proven framework; clarifying strategy and change needs, enabling people through skills, behaviours and mind-set development and creating the systems, processes and infrastructure to lock in change as the new normal.