Thursday, January 12, 2012
#7 The Deficit Attention Disorder Deception (Grow Most Fixing Weakness)
The seventh deception works in tremendous synergy with the sixth. Not only do we often believe that our core personality can be changed, most of us believe that we grow most by fixing our weaknesses. We have “D.A.D.’ or Deficit Attention Disorder. If we want to grow, most of us will pick an area that we are weak. If we want to help our children, our students, our spouse, or our employees grow we will almost always try to help them overcome a weakness. But if you really want to grow and develop the most, or help others, choose to develop talents, those areas where you already have great natural ability.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s there was a relatively famous company going around the country conducting speedreading courses. During that time period, the Nebraska School Study Council asked the University of Nebraska to launch a major 3 year study to determine the best way to teach speed reading. In one study on reading improvement they compared the % of improvement contrasting poor readers with gifted readers. The findings were dramatic. The first conclusion aligns perfectly with current research being conducted by the Gates Foundation. That is, the best teachers got the best results, independent of who was being taught. The second conclusion was not a surprise. The best results came when the best teachers interacted with the best students. But the third conclusion was startling, to even the most experienced of the researchers. Setting aside who was doing the teaching, going through the same program, poor readers increased their reading speed from 90 to 150 words per minute. That’s almost double…not bad. But gifted readers increased their speed from 350 to 2900 words per minute. In a nutshell, the fastest readers grew and profited the most from the training.
At another place I will present the biological and neurological underpinnings to this. You come pre-wired to grow exponentially in your natural talents. But again most of us don’t believe that. The assistant director of Cincinnati public schools, George Reavis wrote a wonderful story in 1940’s that is in my experience a very accurate commentary on our education system.
Once upon a time, the animals got together and decided to start a school. They adopted a full curriculum that was easy to administer and designed to develop a well-rounded animal. There were classes in running, swimming, climbing, jumping and flying.
The duck was a very good swimmer… actually even better than his instructor. He passed flying but only barely, and failed running. Before long he was asked to drop swimming and stay after school so he could practice running. The running practiced caused problems with his webbed feet to the point he became only average in swimming. Average was acceptable, so no one worried too much… except the duck.
The rabbit started at the top of his class in running, but he was asked to drop that and stay after class and work harder on his swimming. He developed a nervous twitch from so much swimming, and that negatively impacted his running.
The squirrel was naturally a fantastic climber, but he was constantly frustrated in flying class because his teacher wanted him to start from the ground. He regularly got cramps from over exertion and ended up with only a C in climbing and a D in running.
The eagle was always in trouble for being a non-conformist. In climbing class he beat everyone else to the top of the tree, but he used his own methods for getting there.
Then one day, a wise old owl came to be the new headmaster of school. He re-arranged the curriculum so that ducks could spend most of the time swimming, rabbits could spend most of their time running, squirrels could spend most of their time climbing, and eagles could spend most of their time flying. The animals went on to get very good high paying jobs doing what they loved and were good at.
I’m guessing your time in school, like mine, may not have ended that way.
This is so ingrained in our culture. We absolutely believe that the path to success is more about fixing our weaknesses than amplifying our strengths. This has been verified by Gallop Polls and Surveys and can be confirmed in most families where a report card is brought home. Marcus Buckingham regularly tells the story about the proverbial kid who brings home 2 A’s, 1 C, and an F. Then he rhetorically asks which grade gets the most parental attention. In most every family the answer is the F. Buckingham suggests that the parents role is not to ignore the F but most of the attention should be placed on the A’s. My experience is that this suggestion is hugely counter-cultural. 80% of American families would place most of the attention on improving the F.
Leadership author and speaker John Maxwell has good way of explaining the importance of strengths focused development. He will draw out a graph that looks something like this:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Then Maxwell, who authored the book, Talent Is Never Enough, goes on to explain:
“You’ve probably heard somebody say, “You can do anything as long as you put your mind to it.” Sadly, as nice as that sounds, it simply isn’t true. In watching people grow, I have discovered that, on a scale of 1-10, people can only improve about two notches. For instance, I love to sing; that’s the good news. The bad news is that I can’t carry a tune. Now, let’s be generous and say that, as a singer, I’m a “two”. If I put lots of money, effort, and energy into developing my voice, perhaps I can grow into a “four”. News flash: on a ten-point scale, four is still below average. With regards to my career, it would be foolish for me to focus my personal growth on my voice. At best, I’d become an average singer, and no one pays for average.”
Maxwell continues, “Don’t work on your weaknesses. Devote yourself to fine-tuning your strengths. I work exceptionally hard on personal growth in four areas of my life. Why only four: Because I’m only good at four things. I lead, communicate, create, and network. That’s it. Outside those areas, I’m not very valuable. However, within those areas of strength I have incredible potential to make a difference.”
I have about 4 decades of experience in the workplace. This includes about a decade growing up in a family business, a decade founding and building my own small business, a decade working as sales rep for 2 large companies, a decade working as trainer and manager for a large company. I have served on the boards of 2 non-profits. All of this experience overwhelmingly confirms everything I have just written. And my experience with golf actually suggests that if I am 5, and I work really hard I might actually regress to a 3. In an area of non-talent, hard work might actually in some cases send you backwards.
Your Moment of Truth: You will grow most by developing your areas of natural talent!
Coaching, Class, and Collaborator Comments
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