Common Core Math Order Of Operations latest 2023

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How to Leverage Your Strengths for Peak Performance

Ask almost any business leader how to most effectively develop people and develop teamwork and you’ll hear, “draw on the strengths of employees.” Yet when it comes to their own careers, many managers still focus the majority of their personal development efforts on consolidating their weak spots.

Sometimes this is due to well-meaning criticism from superiors. Other times, managers moving up the career ladder try to emulate those who came before them.

While all managers need to hone their communication and people skills, learning these skills and adding knowledge is simple. Recognizing, developing and deliberately exploiting one’s own strengths is more difficult.

Many programs are available to help the ambitious manager improve performance, but a review of typical business practices reveals a common mistake. From individual development plans to performance reviews and 360-degree assessments, efforts to help people change for the better often focus more on weaknesses than strengths.

From our earliest years, we are programmed to believe that our greatest potential for growth lies in our most deficient areas. Think about it. If your child received an A in English and a C in math, where would you focus your attention the most?

This is not necessarily wrong. In fact, everyone can and should develop a basic skill in several important areas. The problem is that this philosophy can perpetuate the focus on weakness long after core competence has been achieved.

Social psychologists have found that focusing on strengths leads to better performance, greater productivity, and increased satisfaction. In fact, honing your abilities to their greatest potential can essentially render your weaknesses irrelevant.

Today’s business environment offers many more opportunities for advancement than ever before. But to take advantage of these opportunities, you need to recognize your most important skill areas, work to develop them to their maximum potential, and then match your strengths with the right challenge and the right role.

To maximize your effectiveness, follow the lead of successful organizations. The most successful companies identify their core competencies and then work to develop them to maximize their potential. Functions that the organization performs less well are outsourced, markets that don’t fit core competencies are dropped, and divisions that don’t add to the company’s strengths or advance its purpose are sold or spun off.

Reaching the next level of performance involves identifying and improving your core competencies – your strengths – rather than trying to fix every weakness. Delegate all possible activities that do not match your strengths and only deal with the weak points that prevent you from doing what you do best.

Determine your strengths first

Although it seems like most of us should be aware of our strengths, we often confuse strengths – what we do well – with traits (our personality characteristics) or work habits (the conditions in which we work). Many of us also take our strengths for granted. By doing what seems absolutely natural and logical to us, we fail to recognize that we are in fact creating results far beyond what others might have expected.

Harvard psychologist and pioneer of multiple intelligence theory, Dr. Howard Gardner, points out that people have many more areas of intelligence – or abilities to produce useful results – than previously thought. Where traditional IQ tests measure language and math abilities, we now know that other abilities such as interpersonal intelligence – the ability to understand and communicate well with others – and spatial intelligence – the ability to create or plan in multiple dimensions – can have significant value.

So how do you determine your greatest strengths?

One way is to examine your own past and present performance and try to discern a pattern of successful behavior. What comes easy to you that might be harder for others – negotiating a tough contract, analyzing financial data, creating an advertising strategy, leading a team?

Or you can use feedback analysis as described by management guru Peter Drucker in his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century. Each time you undertake a key activity or make an important decision, write down your expectations. Then, a few months later, re-examine your expectations and the actual results you have achieved.

Co-workers, family members and friends can also serve as resources to help you identify your strengths. In the January 2005 issue of the Harvard Business Review, management professors Laura Roberts and Gretchen Spreitzer and their colleagues offer a Reflected Best Self Exercise, in which you actively solicit feedback from those who know you well. However, it is essential for this exercise that the comments focus on describing specific areas where you excelled – not areas where you could use more work.

Match your strengths to your tasks

Once you know your strengths, you need to figure out how to best use them. In the past, organizations managed the careers of their employees, but today that obligation belongs to each of us. You are responsible for knowing yourself and determining where and how you will perform best.

Often the difference between success and failure is not learning additional skills, but rather determining how, given your strengths, you can adapt to the demands of your specific job.

This is especially important when the nature of your work changes. Jack was a star sales manager for an educational products company. His ability to build strong relationships with his team and develop his people led to a drop in turnover and a significant increase in sales.

Jack also worked well with his colleagues, leading brainstorming sessions that resulted in a new integrated product and service offering – with significant profit margins for the business. Jack’s abilities both in the office and in the field caught the attention of company executives who saw him as a natural leader. When the opportunity presented itself to grow in his career, Jack jumped at the chance.

Jack had the advantage of following in the footsteps of Ellen, an admired veteran. Unlike Jack, Ellen had worked her way up through the finance ladder. She spent three weeks helping Jack transition into his new role before leaving to lead operations in Europe.

Yet a few months into his new position as regional manager, Jack found himself increasingly frustrated with his job. His productivity was down and his old sense of eagerness to get to work every morning was gone.

Working with Jack, we began to see that his strengths were largely interpersonal and creative. He shone working with his team, giving presentations and coaching his direct reports. But most of his work now involved written reports, formal strategy sessions, and routine management tasks that no longer had much to do with Jack’s greatest skills.

After identifying his strengths, Jack began to redesign his work to better match his

capacities. He began spending more time in the field, visiting clients and prospects to gain a first-hand understanding of their needs.

He used his natural team spirit and creative abilities in meetings with representatives from the sales and product design departments to brainstorm ways to better meet customer needs. He found an assistant who was good at writing reports and organizing data and started delegating those tasks as much as possible.

With this new focus on his areas of greatest skill, Jack felt renewed satisfaction in his work. His productivity and performance have greatly improved. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and while many encourage you to work on your shortcomings, the key to high performance is to seek out what you do exceptionally well and focus on it.

Armed with this self-knowledge, you will be better able to determine how you can best contribute, both now and in the next phase of your career.

Your greatest successes will come from placing you in a position where your strengths can encounter opportunities for their regular expression. And, as maximizing your strength becomes a habit, you’ll be in a better position to help those around you maximize their abilities, which will lead to greater productivity and satisfaction for you, your team, and your organization.

© 2007 Dr. Robert Karlsberg and Dr. Jane Adler

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