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A Tale of Two Doggies

We have two dogs. Lady Clementine (Clemmy) is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Master Shakespeare (Shakes) is a Basset Hound. They are alike in many ways.

They're both tricolors. They're about the same height at the withers. They both have wonderful dispositions, gain weight easily and generate the phrase "How cute!" when they meet new human friends.

But there are limits to their similarities. Clemmy, like most spaniels, is quick and energetic. She chases butterflies and occasionally catches one. She loves to romp. If you throw a ball, Clemmy will chase it and bring it back. This stands to reason since spaniels were bred to retrieve game.

Shakes is a scent hound, bred to follow a trail. That means he expects to be in front and he expects to show you where to go. Throw a ball for Shakes and he won't even move. He'll just give you a look that says, "Now, why did you do that? You're just going to have to go get it."

Clemmy and Shakes both have many of the characteristics of their breed. But Clemmy is big for her breed, larger than many of the males. Shakes is slimmer than most Bassets. Even so, Shakes weighs almost twice what Clemmy weighs.

The two dogs are individuals. Each of the people you meet and supervise is an individual, too. They may look like some other folks you know. They may act like some other folks. But each person, like each or our two dogs, is his or her own, unique mix.

You'll be more successful as a manager if you pay attention to everyone's uniqueness. Find their strengths. Then build on those strengths.

Don't ignore their weaknesses, just make them irrelevant. You can make weaknesses irrelevant by re-assigning work. You can make weaknesses irrelevant by helping a person get just good enough.

Don't expect your spaniels to act like scent hounds. Don't hold your scent hounds to spaniel standards. Don't expect either of them to be as good at herding as a sheepdog or to take on terrier tasks.

Find what your people are good at and build on those strengths. That's way more likely to bring success than trying to fix their weaknesses.


Here are some books you may find helpful on this topic.

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
An excellent book on discovering your strengths. There's not much here about avoiding weaknesses and there's a lot of filler that I didn't find helpful. I did find the concepts and the evaluation instrument helpful, though. When I reviewed this material the book and audio packages all included a code that let you go to a web site and use the evaluation instrument for free. If that's still true, do it.

One more thing. I found the book padded. So I used an audio format and that's what I recommend that you do.

The Acorn Principle by Jim Cathcart
Jim uses tree examples, not dogs, but this is an excellent, book-length treatment of the material in this Tips letter.

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
As frequently happens, Drucker was there first. This book remains my choice for best business book of all time. I mention it here because, writing in the mid-sixties, Drucker included one of seven chapters on "Making Strength Productive."


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