Book Review – Hidden Strengths

51TolZGzuhL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_The full title of this book is Hidden Strengths – Unleashing the Crucial Leadership Skills You Already Have. It’s a great descriptor of what the book has to offer, and is written by Thuy Sindell and Milo Sindell.

I’ve had a lot of team leaders in my career. Some were good coaches, some were bad. In reading the book Hidden Strengths, I think I had a realization about what differentiated the better ones.

There are so many team leaders who try and drive their teams to better performance by focusing on the gaps – the performance attributes that a particular employee seems to be missing. This can be important, especially when the gap is in areas that are critical for that particular job. But it also can be a force to reduce the contribution of that employee, causing them to focus on what they aren’t so good at over an area where they could make a bigger contribution.

That is the premise of Hidden Strengths, a compact yet thorough book that I would recommend to individuals in any organization who are planning some focused development, particularly in leadership capabilities. Just like any other investment, your choices for where to spend your time or money on personal development should consider the risk and return of that investment.

Core to the book is the authors’ model of leadership skills. Twenty-four in total, in four groups of six. These groupings of skills are well thought-out, and although there are countless models of skill sets to consider, using this made sense to me in the context of their hidden strengths model. The skills are grouped by Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading the Organization, and Leading Implementation.

I took the assessment, and as I have had several assessments of different types over the years, I found it to be aligned pretty well with how I understand myself. The assessment is provided on-line via a clever registration technique for those who have the book. The report is a ranking of your strongest to weakest among the skills, and provides some solid guidance for creating a plan that you can use to improve your leadership capability.

Why I Liked It
Almost every year or two I decide to look at how I can create a greater level of organization of my work. Whether it is Getting Things Done or just better utilization of the many To-Do list apps out there, I generally don’t make a significant improvement. To no surprise this was my lowest ranked skill. I will likely never get really good at this.

My top strengths were exactly the things that I am most frequenty rated high in. Not just in assessments, but in formal feedback from leaders.

When I reviewed those things in the middle – the items that are between my strengths and my weaknesses –  I found some capabilities that I rely on but, if developed further, could be significant. In my most current assignment, I have had to rely on my abilities to Listen, Collaborate, and Influence others. Areas that I have capabilities, but could improve upon. Spending time investing in those would be far more valuable than taking one more pass at trying to make use of Microsoft Project.

And that’s the key message of this book. Leverage your Natural Strengths and build on the Hidden Strengths.

What did I learn about those good coaches? They were the ones that pulled me aside and told me what I was doing was good, and then told me how to polish that capability to make it stronger.

  • My first HR boss, Bob, who told me that I had a great way of helping people understand things through humor, and then coached me about when NOT to use it (Listening, Service Motivation).
  • The leader who told me that my writing was good, but advised me on how to make it better (Influencing Others, Assetiveness).
  • The one who led me to my first experience of progressive discipline that led to termination of an employee (Resilience).

I think this book is a great tool for someone who is trying to figure out a personal development plan that they can make work. Diversity at work means we can’t all be everything for everybody. But when we can bring our best to work, everyone wins. And I think this approach, and this book, can help that be a reality for many.

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