Marcus Buckingham

Conventional wisdom holds that self-awareness is a good thing and that it’s the job of the manager to identify weaknesses and create a plan for overcoming them. But research by Albert Bandura, the father of social learning theory, has shown that self-assurance (labeled “self-efficacy” by cognitive psychologists), not self-awareness, is the strongest predictor of a person’s ability to set high goals, to persist in the face of obstacles, to bounce back when reversals occur, and, ultimately, to achieve the goals they set. By contrast, self-awareness has not been shown to be a predictor of any of these outcomes, and in some cases, it appears to retard them.

Great managers seem to understand this instinctively. They know that their job is not to arm each employee with a dispassionately accurate understanding of the limits of her strengths and the liabilities of her weaknesses but to reinforce her self-assurance. That’s why great managers focus on strengths. When a person succeeds, the great manager doesn’t praise her hard work. Even if there is some exaggeration in the statement, he tells her that she succeeded because she has become so good at deploying her specific strengths. This, the manager knows, will strengthen the employee’s self-assurance and make her more optimistic and more resilient in the face of challenges to come.

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