Leading with your strengths

08 Jun

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      Marshall Goldsmith, winner of the Thinkers50 Leadership Award 2011, believes too many leaders are stuck in their ways. His presentation: ‘What got you there won’t get you there’, and recent research conducted by people management consultancy, Capp, suggest that the failure to realise this results in ineffective management and burnout.

      At a time of increasing pressure to get more women into the boardroom, fellow Capp director Alex Linley and I offer examples of how female leaders can align their leadership strengths to situations and strategy. In this way, we ignite leadership performance and resist overplaying strengths.

      Strengths, strategy and situation

      In our experience of coaching leaders globally, we find that encouraging talent to use an executive barometer – a way to balance strengths, strategy and situation – provides leaders with an effective tool for managing strengths according to differing situations and scenarios.

      This approach, when used explicitly in the development of female talent, allows women to be crystal clear on which strengths they need to adopt, according to the situation they are in and the goals they seek to reach.

      What is 3SP?

      The Capp 3SP model recognises that:

      Strengths used in the absence of context (situation) and direction (strategy) are just hobbies. They are things that we do well and enjoy doing, but they might not really make a great difference if what we are doing is wrong for our environment, or doesn’t fit with what we want to achieve.

      Strategy in the absence of environmental awareness (situation) and an understanding of the capabilities to deliver it (strengths) is just wishful thinking. We might know where we want to get to, but if we don’t know where we are at the moment, or the capabilities that we have to help us get to our future destination, we’re unlikely to reach our goal.

      Situation knowledge provides context, but in the absence of a direction of travel (strategy) and a means to get there (strengths), it is just wallpaper – providing a nice backdrop to what is going on around us. We know where we are, but we don’t have enough about us to be clear on where we want to get to, or how we will get there.

      Yet, when we bring these three factors together, we get each of the necessary foundation blocks: an understanding of where we are now (situation), where we want to get to and the direction of travel to get us there (strategy), and the capability to help us make the journey (strengths). Combining these three elements helps us to deliver a competitive and comprehensive performance.

      How it is integrated

      We build the 3SP model into Capp’s female leadership development programme by:

      Working with the situation
      Alongside aligning strengths to strategy, the 3SP model also helps individuals to use their strengths in accordance with their current situation. For female leaders, daily challenges may become long-term obstacles to achieving their strategies and goals. Some of the daily challenges female leaders face include influencing with impact and using power bases. Here, it is critical for women to look carefully at the situations they are trying to influence and the outcomes that they want to achieve, before carefully crafting a combination of their strengths and power bases to take action.

      Having strategic conversations
      From our experience in developing leaders, we see that women are not always as specific as their male colleagues when it comes to setting strategic goals. Indeed, some women pride themselves on ‘never having a career development plan’.

      We encourage women to:

      • Be clear about what they want to achieve
      • Take some career risks
      • Be strategic in what they choose to be involved in.

      Through leadership coaching, we encourage talent to use their less used (unrealised) strengths. We also encourage them to think about a number of areas, including:

      • What daily activities can you delegate to give yourself more time to focus on strategy?
      • How could you put your unrealised strengths to work?
      • How might using your unrealised strengths be perceived by others?
      • How will you resist using the same strengths each time to achieve your strategy?

      A winning combination

      By encouraging leaders to understand their situation, be clear on their strategy, and harness their strengths – regardless of the characteristics and behaviours that they used to get to their current level of success – they use this winning combination to ensure their performance allows them to reach the future heights that they desire and deserve.

      View our chapter in Coaching for Leadership to read more about the 3SP Model and to explore the three types of high potential.

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      Written by Nicky Garcea, consulting director, Capp

      Nicky Garcea is the consulting director at Capp (www.cappeu.com) where she heads their Women in Leadership programme. She has been working with women in management and in senior level positions in blue chip organisations, including AVIVA, BBC, Barclays Capital and Thomson Reuters, for the past ten years.

      She is experienced in coaching senior women going through transitional phases i.e. returning to work and going for promotions, amongst others.

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