The career path of a professional engineer is often filled with opportunities to use his or her strengths and talents to rise to any challenge and become a good leader. But is it possible that some individuals are hindering their growth by relying too heavily on their strengths?
Dan Ryan, a senior consultant for the Human Capital Group, believes that an overdependence on strengths is preventing many people from becoming better leaders, particularly in a time when organizations are faced with unprecedented challenges that may need unique solutions.
When times are easy going, people tend to try something new, but difficult times don’t encourage venturing into the unknown. Engineers often display strong analytical and problem solving skills, which can overshadow their soft skills. “If you’re under the gun and you know there’s a way that you can get something done, you’re going to revert to where you feel the most comfortable or the area where you know you are the strongest,” he says. “For people that are technically gifted, they typically become very analytical and very tactical in how they approach things.”
Strength preferences are often revealed when dealing with people and conflicts. Good leadership requires the ability to effectively deal with conflicts and negotiate resolutions. Ryan says that these situations show whether someone is stronger in developing relationships or obtaining results. In tough situations, some people are more interested in preserving a relationship rather than focusing on the outcome. “Likewise, some people are so results-oriented that they don’t care who they step on in order to get results,” says Ryan. “Neither is right or wrong. But you need to understand which area is more important.”
The first step to overcoming your strengths and improving your development is to become self-aware. Several tools can help. The simplest tool is to seek feedback and listen well. “An effective leader is always seeking feedback,” says Ryan. “It’s not that they are always going to try to make people happy, but they need to seek to understand how others view what they are doing.”
For the full article, read the May 2009 issue of PE magazine. [ return to top ]