I’m a problem solver. It’s what I do. It’s part of who I am. And that strength is what makes me good at IT. When someone says, “I have a problem,” I’m like a race horse that just heard the bell for the next race. But a strength can become a weakness when we don’t know how to moderate it. In a previous job, I got in trouble because I didn’t know how to say no. When someone would call and ask for my help in getting data they needed, or to help on a project, I would naturally say yes. It’s what problem solvers do. But in the end, I was so overextended on time, it would take months to get caught up. I was trying to help too many people, and in the end, I didn’t help them, the company, or myself.

I was reading the article “Adjusting Your Leadership Volume” by Bob Kaplan and Rob Kaiser and it reminded me of that period in my life. They have a good example related to performance reviews. “Let’s take the case of Fred, whose coworkers describe him as ‘berating’ his people. How would you rate him on the following item: ‘Direct – tells people when he is dissatisfied with their performance.’ A 5 right? That seemingly good grade doesn’t distinguish between being very direct and being too direct” (p. 14).

Knowing how to adjust the “volume” of your leadership depending on the situation is tricky. We even have to do it for each person in addition to the situation. Just like people learn differently, whether by seeing, hearing, doing, or reading, people need different methods of motivation in order to correct a problem or to stay the course in a demanding project. Figuring out the level we need to use is crucial to our success as managers.

I like this quote, which puts our strengths and weaknesses in perspective, “The idea of volume control goes all the way back to Aristotle, who postulated that what is good, virtuous, and effective in thought and action is the midpoint between deficiency and excess” (p. 14).

— Kaplan, B. & Kaiser, R. (2007, Winter). Adjusting Your Leadership Volume. Leader to Leader. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/114030679/ABSTRACT.

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