I recently spoke with someone who just received a resignation from a key staff member. He was discussing with me whether to have someone fill the position on an interim basis, or to appoint multiple people to assume responsibilities during the vacancy.  

“Area A is doing very well,” he said. “So we can just have someone internal handle that. Whereas Area B is a mess, so we will need to bring in someone from the outside to lead it, plus I am thinking of hiring another person to handle some duties in an off-site location and we could really use a consultant to help us know how to best structure the area.” 

I was struck at how freely resources flowed to solve a problem, rather than to enhance the area that has strength. A well-run area will languish if left to less than optimal oversight and  support, while it is less likely that a problem will be solved by throwing copious amounts of money at it. Yet, it is a natural tendency and people do it all the time.

“…Managing your problems can only make you good,” writes Jim Collins, “whereas building your opportunities is the only way to become great. Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.”

The whole StrengthsFinder and strength movement developed because research shows that playing up your strong points will take you further than working on weaknesses. Expanding on that A in English will prove more fruitful that trying to bring the D in Math up to a B. Forcing someone to become a “detail person” will backfire if their real gift is in extemporaneous public speaking. Asking a staff member to be less blunt may not get you as far as embracing their role as a truth teller for improvement of the organization.

You should not assume well run areas will continue to be strong without on-going attention. I believe within your “areas doing well” lies your greatest opportunity to grow, develop excellence and make a significant difference. You’d be wise to put your resources there instead taking success for granted.

— beth triplett

[Several people reading this blog may think that they know the identity of this real speaker/example, but rest assured they do not.]

Good to Great by Jim Collins, 2001, p. 58-59

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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