[This post is part of a series on Coaching Highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students. If you don't see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you'll get more value than reading just this post.]
When your 360-degree feedback report features this chart and you want to start improving something, what do you start with?
Keep in mind, you don’t need a 360-degree feedback report to have to decide what to work on. Today’s post applies to any time you want to pick something to improve yourself.
You know from two days ago to focus on one meaningful thing at a time, but which?
Nearly all the students I work with pick the farthest down dot, in this case Influencing Others. Their logic is that they want to fix their greatest weakness. I have no problem with this strategy, but it’s not the only one.
I recommend that they consider what area will have the greatest chance of success and suggest a couple other strategies that might have greater chances of success. Which one will depends on the person and what motivates them. Only you know what motivates you — whether you’re working from a chart like this or some other resource starting you off.
I recommend starting with what will succeed best because success will motivate working on the next one most. The strategy of fixing your greatest weakness may have your greatest chance of success, but not necessarily, so before embarking on a potentially challenging and long-term path, you may want to spend a few minutes to consider alternatives to increase your chances of long-term success.
A range of starting strategies
Fixing your greatest weakness: most students go with this strategy.
Keep in mind, no one is perfect in every area. You can never stop yourself from having a greatest weakness. Also, teams work best when they build on strengths. If you can find people strong in your areas of weakness, your weaknesses won’t be problems.
Strengthening your greatest strength: this strategy can make you a specialist — the go-to person for it at your company or environment. You work on the upper-right-most dot.
Increasing your self-awareness: this strategy can reduce the differences between how you and others see things. Such misunderstandings can create insidious, hard-to-understand problems. You work on the dot farthest from the line.
Working on your area of greatest need: the chart says nothing about what your environment demands. If your work or something else in your environment requires, say, motivating others better than you know how, working in that area may increase your chances of success.
Working on what you like most: maybe you have an affinity for one area and you know you’ll like it most. Expecting you’ll enjoy the process — that is, to experience the most reward or emotions you like — most may motivate you best.
Your area of greatest resources: do you have a mentor in some area? Or can take a class in it?
The fastest: do you expect you can finish a transformation in one area fastest?
Least resistance: do you expect any areas to have the fewest problems?
Other directions: you may want to get ideas from other areas — for example, the qualitative feedback or some other source of ideas.
You’re probably getting the idea and starting to think of your own strategies, even if you’ve never gotten a 360-degree or any other type of feedback.
Remember your goal
If your goal is long-term leadership development, remember, your first area of improvement is only one step. You want to use it to make all future improvements easier, not just achieve one improvement.