When was the last time you sat across from someone, either trying to be hired or the one hiring, and had the question arise: “What is your biggest weakness?”
Why would anyone ask that question? Most of the time you are going to get an answer that has been canned and has been used the same way in 20 other interviews. And, usually, it is a lie or at least a fabrication so that whatever they answer is sugar-coated and you don’t get, or give, the true answer. My answer to this question is always, “Strawberry Sundays.” See, a crummy answer that tells you nothing about what type of worker I am, other than I probably have a good retort for most questions that is designed to illicit a chuckle and hopefully break the mood.
How about you ask this question instead: “What are the three things you do best?” That will get great responses and hopefully far better answers. These are more easily confirmed when calling their references as well. Because no one will give you the answer “You know, Bob really stinks at interacting with his subordinates in meetings.” But they will say, “Bob gets the most out of his sales force when he spends time in the field with them. The long term effects can be measured in months, not just days or hours.”
When you begin to focus on the strengths of your employees, you can better manage your time and workforce. If you know that Christy is great at follow up and gets the answers you want and backs up everything in writing, then she is much better at paperwork than Bob who can talk to anyone at any time who is probably better at sales. In this case, Christy can be a supporting member on the sales team, while Bob is out talking with prospects and closing sales for the company.
If you have a dedicated staff member who will do anything to help the team, but they have a low skill set, you can put them in places where they can do the most good. In the book, “The Truth About Being A Leader”, this is called low-skill, high-will. These people are at the best when apprenticed by someone who has honed their instincts. Take the supervisor who has gotten into their position “by sheer will” and have them mentor the person who may be trying to find their own way but doesn’t know where to start. Even in the higher ranks, you will see highly educated people who are good at what they do but need to get through a rough time that they are having. Especially if they ask for help, get them with the best person that you can.
Personally, I went to my boss and told him that I needed help and that I needed him to get me with someone that had gone through something similar and that was now successful. He got with a great mentor that I went to every week for about 6 months. We talked about everything and half the time it was not about work. It was trying to find how I was built, what my strengths were and how to harness what I was really good at and let someone else take care of what I really stunk at. I still will talk to him quarterly to check in and see how his family is doing, how mine is and then for the last ten minutes or so discuss what has been working lately for both of us. We have both learned things from each other as my background is not just insurance. It gave us both perspectives that we didn’t have before.
If you can tap into those experiences of your employees, or your boss or colleagues, and then proceed to build your team around their best skill sets, you, my friend, are a step up on the competition.
By Tim Kolacz
Tim Kolacz is an account executive with Hub International Insurance Services Inc. and can be reached at 951-779-8730 or Tim.Kolacz@hubinternational.com.