You run a business department, a division or an entire company. Everything is going smoothly, everyone respects your abilities and no one complains about you. You are a good, talented business leader. But are you exceptional? Because in these difficult business times, true success requires nothing less.

DEVELOPING EXCEPTIONAL STRENGTHS, WHERE TO START

Try this CPO model with three important filters for identifying a behavior that could be expanded into a strength, where C stands for “competence,” P for “passion” and O for “organization need.”

The basic premise of the CPO model is to consider each of its three key filters when selecting a competency for development into a strength:

1. Competence. The first consideration is to measure the level of competence.
What are your current inclinations and abilities?
What are you already reasonably effective at doing?

2. Passion. What charges your batteries? It is one thing to be reasonably effective at some leadership competency that is compatible with what the organization needs, but it takes on a different cast if it is something for which you have little or no enthusiasm.

3. Organization needed. What does your organization need from you right now in your current position? Regardless of what you are currently effective at doing, the value of developing strengths that will enhance your career and help you become a more competent leader is obviously specific to the organization in which you work and the current position you hold.

The ideal situation occurs when these three CPO elements come together. It is perfect when the individual can be working on a competency that he or she is already reasonably good at doing, when that competency is something that the organization highly values, and when the individual has an intense interest in and passion for building the competency.

 

Strengths Can Be Developed

Effective leaders are created through a mixture of “made and born,” and the weight of evidence is clearly on the side of leaders being made. The development of strengths is a complex process. The process involves six elements or stages:

1. Learn the basics. Young employees in an organization watch how the boss conducts a meeting. They watch how the boss delegates an assignment. They watch how the boss responds to questions regarding the organization’s services, or how he or she replies to a question about the firm’s products. Some have estimated that possibly 70 percent of what we learn is via this informal process.

2. Learn through formal development. Content for formal programs is extremely varied and ranges from specific skills, such as coaching, giving presentations, delegating, solving problems, or interviewing, to broader topics, such as understanding emotional intelligence or being more inspirational and motivating.

3. Build in feedback processes. One way of increasing the value of formal development is to add feedback into the learning experience. This feedback provides people with a clearer picture of their abilities.

4. Do cross-training. Cross-training is a type of nonlinear development. When athletes aspire to become more than just casual participants in a sport, they often turn to cross-training. Aspiring runners, for example, take up cycling, swimming and weight lifting. From the research that identified the 16 differentiating competencies of the most effective leaders, we have identified between five and 12 companion behaviors for each of them. The correlations of the companion behaviors to the differentiating competencies are statistically significant.

For example, the companion behaviors to the competency of practices self-development are mostly those that describe the leader’s involvement with others and their development. These include listening, being open to the ideas of others, respecting others, exhibiting honesty and integrity, and taking the initiative and being willing to risk and challenge the status quo.

Competency companions provide a new and more complete pathway to developing a strength. A person who gets a high score on one tends to also get a high score on the other. This suggests that raising the score of one will have a high likelihood of raising the score of the other.

5. Learn while working. Strengths may also be developed by deliberately creating opportunities for improving our skills through practice in the normal course of daily work.

6. Create sustainability. This final step in building a strength is the one that locks the strength into place. Sustainability and follow-through come from:

• Creating a supportive environment from managers,
peers and subordinates.
• Providing clearly defined outcomes for the
development.
• Establishing well-defined accountability and
responsibility for participants’ implementing and
applying what they learn.
• Building systems that provide visibility.
• Implementing various methods of follow-up, such as additional sessions, telephone calls and accountability partners within the organization.

 

Sustaining Strengths

Another key to success in developing a strength is extensive follow-through. People don’t win the 100-yard dash by running extremely well for 50 yards and then coasting.

Two elements are important. First, you must obviously be motivated if there is to be a sustained effort to develop strength. Determination and stick-to-itiveness are essential.

Second, linking your efforts to the genuine elements of motivation will escalate success. If the skill you’ve chosen gives you greater autonomy in your work, a higher sense of mastery in what you are doing and the sense that you are working toward a higher cause or purpose, this will clearly expand your motivation.

Persistence in developing a strength hinges on knowing how you will use it and what specific steps are required to put this strength into place. Practice that leads to better performance calls for a person to do something new and challenging with an improvement goal in mind.
The environment that surrounds a leader is complex. It starts with the culture of the organization. It includes the roles of the immediate manager, the peers and the subordinates of the leader involved.

 

Building Strengths With Multi-Rater Feedback

The multi-rater, or 360-degree feedback process is unparalleled in its ability to provide a comprehensive and yet granular way to help in the development process.

Inspiring leaders don’t stand before the assembled troops and declare, “I want you to be just a little above average.”

The better message to participants is that the organization needs them to be performing like the very best. So rather than reporting data to managers that show how they compare with the mean average, why not show them how they compare with the best?

Because the 360 is administered to the subordinates or direct reports, it is possible to incorporate a mini employee survey right into the 360-degree feedback instrument.

The 360-degree process affords the opportunity to ask the manager, peers, direct reports and others about their perception of what a person in a specific job or position should be focused on achieving.

Make the process a positive, not a negative one. The great joy for most participants can be the opportunity to identify and celebrate strengths.

Ensure that the survey process is not laborious. The objective is to acquire sufficient assessment information from each rater to provide validated survey results, but do it in the minimum amount of time. This requires a survey and software design that is well conceived and structured. The 360-degree feedback process is not perfect, it just happens to be much better than any other technique that has been developed to help leaders grow.

From the leadership gurus of Zenger Folkman, How to Be Exceptional provides a revolutionary approach to leadership development. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses and how to overcome them, focus on your strengths — and learn how to magnify them.

When you magnify your leadership competencies to the level of exceptional, employee engagement increases, productivity rises and profitability soars. Learn how to make your business and career dreams a reality.