For those of you who don't know it, I'm a runner! However, the other day I headed out and found myself going straight into a strong head wind. At times, it seemed that no matter how hard and fast I tried to run, it felt like I wasn't moving at all. Not a great feeling – expending all that effort and energy and not moving forward. And yet, that's often how we can feel at work. We're working hard and putting in long hours but it feels like things are just not moving how we want them to.
While effort and discipline are keys to any success we achieve, they aren't the only factors that affect how well things turn out. As individuals, each of us has strengths (which we use to accomplish tasks) as well as areas for development (which may hinder us in completing our tasks). However, being fully aware of our strengths and developmental needs is often the area in which we struggle the most. For instance, as individuals, we all have "blind spots" where we may believe we have a skill (or at the very least we think they are not a weakness), but in reality, these areas are seen by others as definite developmental needs.
Whether it is a skill we fail to recognize and use or a training need we ignore, we often blindly continue performing our tasks the same way. Of course, as a consequence, we achieve the same results. These may be good results at times, but often we repeat the same mistakes over and over because we fail to grow our strengths and improve our developmental needs. Talk about running hard and getting nowhere!
Our ability to contribute to the success of our organization hinges on our ability to become the best we can become. Whether it's goal setting skills and discipline, relational skills (conflict management, empathy, etc) or an attitude change, we will forever remain as underperformers until we focus on developing in our areas of weakness. Our personal leadership performance is the sum of all our actions and the failure to identify and use our strengths and the failure to develop our needs will leave us performing at less than our best.
Group performance requires trust, the ability to manage conflict, accountability among team members and commitment to a common set of goals. Therefore, when any one individual is running hard but not getting anywhere, imagine the situation when a whole team or department is doing the same thing. If several performers are not utilizing their strengths and challenging themselves to change and grow, their combined performance will be lacking.
The goal for every leader is to create a character driven culture within your organization. This means that each individual strives to become and perform at their best and each team strives to grow and challenge all members to contribute in a manner that moves team goals forward. When this is accomplished, success just happens – goal are met, conflicts are healthy and the organization is dynamic and responsive.
When I turned around on my run and had the wind to my back, it reminded me of the power that's created when everyone is running in the same direction. It also reminded me of the role that training, development and coaching plays in helping individuals to gain this personal power by maximizing their personal leadership effectiveness. Finally, my run that day reminded me that a character driven corporate culture does not run heedlessly into headwinds, instead it adapts and acquires new goals and changes direction so that the power of the wind is at its back.