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So, to repeat, I am aiming to write this blog with the simplicity that I advocated in Part One. That’s why it’s short-ish, to the point, not accompanied by a year’s research and uncomplicated. I hope so in any case.

And my intention is to offer four, just four, areas which any leader – existing or aspiring – could focus upon in order to really push their performance and positive impact to a different place. To be honest if every leader out there could focus on just one of them in 2014 it would drive positive change in all your organisations.

This second part is about Focusing on Strengths. I’m not the only person to be talking about this right now so where does this come from? Well a few years ago I was presenting on a New Managers’ course and had “done a Tony” on them. Authentic (too authentic?); open (too open?);  direct (too direct?). “Welcome to the club of people who are complained about in the pub on a Friday evening” etc.

Those three points were the feedback I received and the brackets were my internal demons pushing me to be my own worst critic. But at the end of the course the sponsor, as a Thank You, handed me her favourite book at the time. “Now, Discover Your Strengths” (Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton.) Some of you will know it.

Its over-arching message is more relevant today than ever before. With a backdrop of major organisational challenges, disruptive markets, societal issues and near macro-economic meltdown it would be very easy to forgive businesses for reverting to type and focusing on what made them successful in the past. And one element of that would be a big mistake.

I might repeat the following point as it’s so crucial in my opinion – businesses and their leaders need to be much more willing to recognise and play to people’s strengths, what they can do, than to focus on “weaknesses” , or what they can’t.

Businesses and their leaders need to be much more willing to recognise and play to people’s strengths, what they can do, than to focus on “weaknesses” , or what they can’t.

See what I did there?

Instead of this we can see an education system which is very quick to write  youngsters off on the basis of what they cannot do; companies which insist that everyone meets a certain level of all it’s wide range of “key competencies” and selection / leadership assessment processes which are averse to the ‘spiky’ candidate who is brilliant in many ways but maybe has one thing that they cannot do.

So what do we end up with?

Leadership cadres with insufficient diversity; genius overlooked; key talent discouraged and disengaged; year-end appraisals with their moderations and distributions out of which emerge genuinely talented people who are confused about whether they are valued; dumbing down to achieve satisfactory across-the-board performance when we should be encouraging individuality and excellence.

So my challenge is a simple one: you need to think more about what people can do and less about what they cannot. To increase the effectiveness of your leadership what are you going to do in 2014 to increase your, and your company’s, focus on people’s real strengths?