Balance Out Your Team's Strengths and Weaknesses

Don’t spend time trying to turn your employees’ weaknesses to strengths. Balance your employees out.

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Do you hear what I hear?  It’s okay if you don’t.

As you know, there are all kinds of people in veterinary medicine. We all have our strengths, and we all have our weaknesses … when we’re honest with ourselves. When you put a variety of people together in the workplace, it would be ideal if the strengths and weaknesses created a complete picture, like different puzzle pieces, working together to create an image. 

I was talking to “my good friend, Val” and she was taking this concept one step further — to employee development, performance evaluations and job fit. This is sorta how it goes. We take a person who has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and let them loose at the practice.  What they do good in, great, “no news is good news” is often the management tool we use when things are going well.  That’s because if you do something wrong, you WILL hear about it.  This could be an informal conversation, or it could occur during the annual performance evaluation (you’ve got that, right?).  Val’s point is, we take someone and say very little about what they do well, but spend an awful lot of time fussing, fixing, training, morphing, yelling, threatening … you get the point … about the things they do wrong. 

Why can’t we put together a team where the individuals complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses? Julie the tech might not have a very good, natural, bed-side manner when it comes to delivering client service, but she is excellent in the lab. Great, keep her in the lab where she excels, and focus the client service tasks to other team members. Why spend a lot of time and energy trying to push Julie into delivering excellent client service, when we have Janet who is great with the clients, but wouldn’t know a thing about running a lab. 

Ying, Yang, you may have heard of it.

Here’s how this plays out in my life. We have Joy, the Cavalier, who is now deaf. But I will say, she’s the best sniffer in the house. Then there is Georgia, who some of you may know, for her ordeal with glaucoma and the eventual surgical removal of both eyes. Obviously, they each have a deficit, but it’s different for each. So, Georgia will hear something outside, something suspect, and her body posture will change. That alerts Joy (who can see) to look around and figure out what Georgia hears. Then she starts to bark, and Georgia, who cannot see, ramps up and starts barking her fool head off.  She has absolutely no idea why she’s barking, and usually she’ll kinda circle around, not even knowing where the threat is coming from because she can’t see! 

It’s quite amusing to watch. I have a pair of guard dogs who rely on the other’s strength to fulfill the job of alerting the household to danger.  (Or, the mailman. Or, the neighbor mowing the lawn. Or, the kid riding his bike by, you know, dangerous things like that!)

But of course the point is, they depend on each other’s strength (vision for Joy, and hearing for Georgia) to get the job done.  We do not get angry because of what they CANNOT do, we instead find a way to benefit what they CAN do.  Just a thought.

Oh, and funny thing, when my daughter returned to school after Georgia’s bilateral enucleation, she would mention it to a peer that Georgia has no eyes … and they would ask, “so can she see?” In Katie’s word, “duh!”  

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