Why your strengths are your biggest barrier to becoming a better manager

If you want to Be A Better Manager then please sign up using the box on the right.  

I have been helping develop better managers for more than 20 years now.  And experience has led me to the firm belief that eventually our strengths become our greatest weaknesses.

I am a very occasional and very poor golfer.  My golf bag has 12 clubs in it.

Of those 12 clubs I can hit about 6 with any degree of control.  The others are a complete lottery.  I should really take them out of the bag to avoid temptation.

So, almost whatever the situation I find myself in, I will choose a 5 or 3 wood, or an iron between 6 and 9 (inclusive).

Often I find myself in situations where these clubs won’t work.  In a bunker for example I will reach for one of the clubs that I really don’t know how to hit – my sand wedge – and hack away.  On a good day I will eventually make it to the green, where custom and practice suggest that I should reach for the putter.  Another club I have never been taught to use.

Why is it like this?

Because 15 years ago someone gave me a series of 6 golf lessons as a present.  For an hour a week for 6 weeks I stood on a plastic tee on the driving range with someone showing me how to hit an iron and eventually a wood.  An hour a week spent smacking buckets of balls into the shrubbery until a semblance of control was achieved.

Then the lesson stopped and I was invited to play a round on a course.  I stepped out onto the first tee and watched my partner hit a driver more or less down the middle.  Now I had never hit my driver in my life – but how hard could it be?  Its not that different from a 3 wood.

I actually hit the ball OK.  True it did ricochet off the roof of the clubhouse before finally ending up in the light rough 100 yards short of my partners ball. But at least I was on my way.  I vowed at that point to leave the driver in the bag until I knew how to hit it.

I scrabbled around in a hundred and a bit shots with about 6 lost balls.  But I completed a round.  The first of about 12 that I have completed over the last 15 years.

Because I can manage to scrabble around with the few clubs that I know how to hit – I have NEVER bothered to go back and learn how to hit a driver, a sand wedge or a putter.  I have also never learned what to so when the ball is lower, or higher than my feet.  I have never learned how to keep a ball low into the wind or throw it up and let the wind carry it.  I have never learned how to shape the ball right or left.  And that is what I have become a ‘better golfer’.  Because the few strengths I have got somehow get me by.

And I think many managers are the same.  If you are lucky you get a short introduction to management course when you start out.  And then you are left on your own.  Using whatever strengths you have to get by.  And when you find yourself in a context where you don’t know what you should be doing – well you just do your best and hope that before long your strengths will come back into play.

Our strengths stop us from having to learn new techniques and skills.

And if we are not careful, they trap us into mediocrity.

They can certainly stop us from getting better.

And, unless we are especially careful, we convince ourselves that this is OK.

So, we need to be honest in our self assessments, work out what it is that we need to learn to do better, and then give ourselves permission to once again do those things badly, in order that we might eventually learn to do them well.

We need to find ourselves a good teacher.  We need to find somewhere we can practice safely. And then we need to put what we learn into practice.

If you want to Be A Better Manager then please sign up using the box on the right.  

It might even help you with your golf!



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