Issue Number 23: Leadership: Play to Their Strengths – The Orangutan or the Goat

Being aware of your own strengths is the first step to recognizing the strengths of others. Playing to their strengths is not just a good way to get along with people, it is critical to properly delegating work.

It can take a great deal of thought and time to match the right task to the right person, but some people just rush through it. Some assign a task to a person because he is strong and brave and not at the meeting. Others assign work to the first available person. I have heard of one person who assigned work alphabetically. None of these work very well.

Let’s say you have a task that requires quick thinking, good balance, and a willingness to accept risk. You could delegate that task to someone who has those strengths (an orangutan in our imaginary organization), or you could delegate it to someone whose availability is his only skill set (yep – the goat). If you take the time to play to the strengths of others, you will be able to delegate far more effectively. You will match the right task to the right person, know which combination of people will make the best team, and know how to communicate with people in the language and on the frequency that works best for them.

Think of this as an investment. The time you invest learning how to delegate intelligently will almost certainly be far less than the time you will spend cleaning up after people if you delegate the right task to the wrong person.

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