Often, when we are faced with a challenge like completing a project, we can tend to focus on what isn’t there to meet the challenge – deficits in the plan, shortcomings in the membership of the team, weaknesses in skill sets, or lack of cooperation with others. Spending time focusing on what isn’t there isn’t usually a very helpful way to start a task, complete a task or instigate change.
Minimising weakness isn’t development. It’s damage control. However, many organisations fall into the trap of taking their employee’s strengths for granted and focus on minimising their weaknesses. Indeed, many people apply this to their personal lives too. This risk management way of living is very common. People become expert in spotting the areas in which their employees struggle (or perhaps family members), and delicately rename them ‘areas of opportunity’, or ‘things you need to work on’. Of they are packed to training classes, so these weaknesses can be fixed. Of course, this is necessary sometimes – perhaps a communication course might be helpful for a team member who is clearly smart but has difficulty in articulating ideas. But as a general strategy for like and management, it doesn’t tend to work too well.
The challenge is to work with what we have. What we have is probably relevant. If we can stay with the attitude that everything is a useful gift, then perhaps we start to see ways of getting value from anything that circumstances have to offer.
Milton Erickson had some interesting things to say about what he called utilization – using whatever his clients brought. This included all aspects of that person’s environment resources, strengths, abilities or disabilities, relationships, attitudes, problems, symptoms, vocations, hobbies … the list is endless. But he concept remains simple: if it’s part of the patient’s life, it may be useful in reaching the therapeutic end goal. If the patient brings it in, it’s probably more potent than anything the therapist can introduce to the situation.
This utilization principle is probably something we can apply in other contexts too. Move away from a damage control mindset. Don’t just examine under a microscope when mistakes are made – learn when they aren’t made too – and seek to make that happy circumstance happen again.