I once worked as a partner in an international consulting firm. As a part of that assignment, I helped executives learn to think strategically. Strategic thinking and strategic planning are distinct but equally important disciplines. While strategic plans are frequently and inappropriately linear extrapolations of the past, real strategic thinking requires vision and creativity – “what if” thinking.

In those days, I invariably took clients through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. Executives detail their organization’s current strengths and weaknesses as well as current and prospective competitive, economic and regulatory opportunities and threats. The ultimate objective is to develop plans that will leverage strengths and improve weaknesses, while exploiting opportunities and alleviating threats.

During completion, executives initially focused on weaknesses, their thoughts being: “Why should we spend our time doing anything about our strengths? They’re already strengths!”

Here’s why!

Peter Drucker once said, “The primary job of a manager is to make strength productive.” Most executives spend too much time improving weaknesses and not enough time leveraging strengths. With the velocity of competitive change that exists today, by the time an organization builds a new core competence, it’ll likely be irrelevant. Leveraging existing strengths is also a less expensive proposition than building or buying new ones.

Today, I spend much of my time helping individual executives develop and implement actions that’ll propel their own performance. The challenge is similar. People almost always want to focus on improving their weaknesses. I constantly hear comments like the following: “My company’s CEO thinks I’m a really great creative thinker. She doesn’t believe that my “follow-through” is as good as it needs to be.”

This person’s usual approach would be to craft a development plan focusing on improving follow-through. Here’s the problem: Depending on how large the deficit, this person’s follow-through skills may only become marginally better, and then only with a lot of work. Both the organization and the individual might be better off figuring out ways to leverage his strengths.

I’m not advocating the neglect of skill deficiencies. What I am saying is that organizational leaders and their associates generally expend too much energy and money on deficiencies and attend insufficiently to augmenting or leveraging existing capabilities.

Next month, I’ll take this examination one step further. Even when people sufficiently acknowledge and exploit their strengths, they rarely integrate an equally important consideration: What are they really passionate about? Being skilled and being excited are equally important dimensions of personal effectiveness.

Copyright 2012 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit http://www.randgolletz.com.