Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > free advice: accentuate the positive

free advice: accentuate the positive

A call asking for some free advice is a fact of life in my line of work and rarely does a week go by without one. Whether the caller gets the advice they are seeking depends on how well I know them and last week’s call was from someone I have known for a while so I was at least prepared to listen.

The caller wanted me to cast an eye over some interview questions that they had prepared so we met for coffee to have a catch up. Looking at the questions one old staple was, I felt, worthy of comment; “What is your greatest weakness?” I asked why it was on the list and my friend told me that it was a common interview question and one that he had always hated to be asked when he was younger. So I asked him how he had dealt with it himself and what did he think his best answer was.

He said that he couldn’t remember specifics, but that he had usually tried to find something innocuous that would not impact too much on the job that he was applying for. He had just lied I suggested and he agreed so I suggested that it was a real waste of a question if he firstly couldn’t answer it himself and secondly was expecting the candidate to not answer truthfully.

The focus on weaknesses is something that always puzzled me in team building. I accept that it can be helpful to work with a team member to help them improve in an area that they are weak in, but I would much rather focus on people’s strengths. Every team is made up from a collection of individuals who are all different. It is the sum of those parts that is important and I prefer to, in the words of the song, accentuate the positive. It drives up overall confidence and that, in turn, will help to fire the team up. A confident team will also be a lot more ready to work for each other; they will watch each other’s backs and cover for weak areas in their colleagues work.

Over the years I have many times taken on someone who has been seen to be a problem or a failure in another part of the business. The vast majority of those people did very well working for me simply because I exploited what they were good at. They were happier and so was I because my team’s results made me look good.

So my acquaintance got his free advice; firstly don’t ask interview questions that you can’t answer well yourself and then to work on the positives more than the negatives when building and developing his team. It’s free advice for you too.

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