Do What You Do Best and Then Do It Better

Over a year ago I read an article in Communication Arts by Tim Williams titled Keep Your Best People Doing What They Do Best. At the time I had just left my previous employer where I had been for over 6 years.

Each year during the annual reviews I would get 10 minutes of how much I was appreciated and what I was good at and then we would focus on what I could do to improve for the remainder of the hour. I’m glad I was one of the above average performers. Yes the feedback made me a better person in the end but there has to be a balance to constructive feedback.

T. Williams struck a chord with the following:

The fact is that if you have people with exceptional talents, chances are they will also have exceptional weaknesses. (In fact, these weaknesses are likely to be mirror images of their strengths.) The sooner you accept that fact, the happier you’ll be as a manager.

There are many great points that he goes on to make but here is what I love about this article.

Effective managers don’t waste their emotional energy complaining about how their people don’t do their jobs. Instead, they place them in positions where they can succeed and focus their efforts on building their personal strengths, not “correcting” their personal weaknesses.

I’m not advocating that we let truely bad behaviors go unchecked but I think there has to be a balance. In my previous employment a manager had to come up with 2-3 documented things that you needed to improve upon so that you could improve the next year and get your merit increase.

I think it all starts with the job interview. If you can identify candidates that meet the bar in all areas (and hopefully excel in a few) then you won’t have to be in the position where you have to raise them up just to be successful. Instead the good employees will constantly take their game to the next level.

posted by Matt Miller on Sunday, Aug 27, 2006