Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.
-Marilyn vos Savant as quoted in The innovator’s Mindset (C0uros, 2015.)
Last week I had a moment when I thought I needed someone to tell me what to do to train for the Mt Washington Auto Road race in June-so I reached out to my first running coach-the person who got me started-and I quickly realized I did not need a coach. Two years after he decided he did not want to coach me anymore, I am still running, but I am also doing a lot of other things I never thought I would be doing at my age. As a coach, he looked at me as someone with deficits and he would need to provide a lot of “coaching” to help me overcome those deficits. He doesn’t even know me anymore.
My last coach also wanted to “fix me”, focusing my strength and conditioning training on all the things I was not good at; I improved my running form and I got stronger, but I ended up sore and tired more often than not, feeling demoralized and lacking confidence in everything. I even stopped going to the gym for awhile, and stopped running. I thought there was something wrong with me. It turns out, George Couros (The innovator’s Mindset, 2015.) hit the nail on the head.
An environment where the message is always “(you) are not good enough” can be demoralizing…
The Tom Rath management research study that George shared (p.126) can explain further what happens when leaders (managers) ignore you or focus on weaknesses instead of strengths. The end result? Active disengagement. I wrote about this so often on this blog, and always attributed it to something I was doing wrong, or my personality, when in actuality, the person I was paying to provide coaching and guidance was either coming from a deficit model of instruction or ignoring me completely.
How easy is it to engage learners?
We only get better when we find those who truly elevate us…Leaders are meant to unleash talent by bringing their people’s strengths to life, not ignoring them.”- George Couros
After politely declining my former coach’s offer to charge me an outrageous fee for a running plan I reached out to my cousin who coaches at the collegiate level to ask what I should be focusing on-I love her. She looks at me from a place of strengths, not weaknesses. Instead of telling me I am old, and slow and have accepted quite a daunting challenge, she said, “I love that you are going to challenge yourself this way!” We do not talk often, we live in different parts of the country, but she stays in touch via social media and she gets me. She looks at what I have accomplished and what I am able to do and inspires confidence in me to be better, to do more.
I shared her thoughts with my present strength and conditioning coach who also looked at my strengths and said he would help me run strong and injury free by building upon my strengths being mindful that I am “in season” as far as running goes. His supportive attitude and “strengths-based” coaching combined with giving me some autonomy over my training have encouraged me to reach further and try new things. I no longer feel a sense of disengagement. Attitude is contagious-a positive attitude inspires positivity in practice and in life, and it doesn’t take much:
- Get to know your people- be a good listener and be genuinely curious
- Pay attention and offer feedback-don’t ignore
- Reward risks and problem solving- hint: you need to know your people first to know what that looks like for individuals