In Conversation with Graham Weston: On Maximizing Strengths & Effective Leadership

Graham Weston

San Antonio

RACKSPACE, WESTON URBAN,
GEEKDOM and COMMUNITY LABS

Co-founder

This week, the Texas Business Hall of Fame had the pleasure of hosting an intimate Q+A with Graham Weston. Graham, a San Antonio based entrepreneur and 2019 Hall of Fame Inductee, has a unique background spanning real estate, technology, and science. He is the co-founder and CEO of RackspaceGeekdomWeston Urban, and his most recent venture, Community Labs.  

How has he been able to successfully pivot into so many different sectors and industries? Graham attributes much of his success to understanding and capitalizing on his strengths, and the strengths of those around him.  

Graham explained that he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age. However, Graham worried that his weaknesses might hold him back. Graham revealed that one of the biggest things that helped him was reading the book Soar with Your Strengths by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson. Graham said that the book allowed him to recontextualize his strengths and weaknesses in a way he could “activate on.” With this new philosophy, Graham was able to become a more effective and impactful leader.  

Graham advises that entrepreneurs and business leaders should take the time to learn and understand their own strengths. He recommends the CliftonStrenghtsFinder book and online test. Through a series of questions, the test will determine your top 5 strengths. Graham said that his five greatest strengths – maximizer, self-assurance, ideation, strategic, and individualization – guide his business and leadership decisions daily.  

Below are some key takeaways from our conversation with Graham.  

The more time you can spend using your strengths, the happier you’ll be. 
This motto was a guiding principle at Rackspace, explained Graham. The idea is that an individual will be happier- and therefore more productive- if their job allows them to use their strengths. According to Graham, “Your strengths define your daily direction. We ultimately have to obey our strengths – they are so prominent in our thoughts and ways we operate; we end up manifesting our strengths every day.” If you have an employee, make sure their role capitalizes on their talents and strengths.  

Weaknesses are relative.
Just as it is important to understand your strengths, you also need to acknowledge your weaknesses. You can’t be good at everything, but you can find or create a job that minimizes the impact of your weaknesses. Graham’s approach to addressing weakness is not about trying to fix or change anything. Graham says the two most important things that helped him address his weaknesses were “having the humility to find partners and collaborators to help me do the things I’m not good at” and “not being defensive about the times I failed.”  

Lack of Experience is not Weakness.
When asked by one of our alums how a young business can attract more qualified candidates, Graham offered an alternative approach. He explained the principle of “HPLE” or “High Impact, Low Experience” employees. Young companies often do not have the resources to hire the most experienced candidates. However, this gives small businesses the opportunity to bring in people with unlimited potential. Graham says to look for candidates who seek “challenges and growth as their primary form of reward and engagement.” Finding a potential employee who is mission-driven and adaptable will help set you up for long-term success. 

Thank you to Graham for sitting down with TBHF and our alumni for such a thoughtful and engaging dialogue. If you are interested in further reading materials on the topic of strengths and leadership, here are some recommendations from Graham.  

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath 
First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham 
Differentiate Or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin 
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie 

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