Does Success Equal Strength?

When I was first married I made a critical cooking mistake.  With a stroke of luck and a recipe from my mother, I made an apple pie with a terrific pie crust.  For about fifteen years after that, I was known in our house and among our small circle of friends as the “pie crust guy.”

There was only one problem with that handle.  You see I really don’t enjoy baking. In fact, I don’t like to cook at all.  Make one good pie crust and from that day forward, you’re known as the “pie crust guy.”  You see I had some success at making pie crust, but I was certainly not drawn to it, I didn’t loose all track of time while baking and I wasn’t looking for the next opportunity to bake a pie.

So do I have a strength in pie crust baking?  Marcus Buckingham, author of “GO, Put Your Strengths to Work” would say NO.  He would argue that just because I had success at baking pie crust, doesn’t mean it’s a strength.  To be a real strength, according to Buckingham, you not only have to have success baking pie crust, you have to look forward to baking, loose all track of time while you are baking, and then look forward to the next opportunity to bake a pie crust.

Leaders make this mistake all the time when building teams.  They will identify a person that is good at doing something and put them in that exact spot or worse yet, put him in what seems like the next logical spot.  “O’Neill is good at baking pie crust, so let’s promote him to pastry chef!”

Leaders have to look beyond success to build teams that will endure and grow.  Being good at something and having success with it is not the wrong answer to the question, it’s just an incomplete answer.  Members of your team will grow the most in their areas of interest.  Not once in my life have I picked up a baking magazine but I’ve read dozens of articles on how a variety of restaurants are managed.

Look for the pie crust baker in your leadership team.  If they have a passion for baking, feed it.  But don’t assume that just because they were successful at baking the crust, they want to bake crusts for the rest of their careers.  A person’s true strength, a strength that can be leveraged, means they are successful, are drawn to the activity, love it while they are engaged and can’t wait to do it again.

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