13 Apr Develop a Stronger Team: Focus on Strengths Instead of Weaknesses

What’s a better result?

10% more than 10 apples OR 10% more than 80 apples?

Let’s do the math:

In the first example, we get a total of 11 (an increase of 1.)  In the second example, we get a total of 88 (an increase of 8.)  It’s easy to see that we get a bigger gain by starting with a larger number.

The same is true when dealing with our personal strengths and weaknesses. Managers often try to help their team members boost performance by improving on their weaknesses. For example, Bob has a hard time making cold calls because he’s shy, so his manager sends him to a training session.

gains

The problem with that traditional approach is that even if an employee improves on something they struggle with, they will still likely be relatively weak in that area (not to mention the fact that it puts the focus on the negative, rather than the positive.)  A better technique is to build upon the strengths of the employee.

Perhaps Bob is naturally gifted at project management.  Better to put him in a different role where his strengths are harnessed than try to force improvement of some perceived weakness.

The value of human capital to an organization can far exceed any other asset, but many workplace reviews tend to focus on where individuals need improvement. And while people shouldn’t ignore their weaknesses entirely, putting an emphasis on developing strengths is a tremendous opportunity for team leaders.

We’ve become so accustomed to trying to seek out people’s shortcomings that we’re missing out on possibilities to foster the innate personal strengths that each employee has.

Strength Train Your Team

Gallup studies have shown that people who spend time every day working on tasks that they’re already good at are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs. They find their work more rewarding and enjoy the tasks at hand.

Here are 4 Ways to Start Bolstering Your Team’s Strengths Right Away

1. Check in with your employees

Ask, “Do you feel you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?” Then shut up and listen. If necessary, use one of my favourite communication tools and say, “Tell me more.”

This will allow your team to feel not only listened to but that they have the chance to actively participate in team development and success.

When employees are allowed and encouraged to share their thoughts, business processes can become better streamlined, new products can emerge, and communication can improve. Workers who feel their voices are being heard are also usually happier overall.

2. Incorporate strengths into reviews

Reviews tend to be top heavy on shortcomings. This can be nerve wracking and intimidating, resulting in employees feeling worried, not good enough or even disengaged.

Try structuring performance reviews to help identify strengths. As a result, you will tend to see greater motivation, productivity and workplace happiness within your team. If it’s easier for you to name the weaknesses of your team members than their strengths, you might want to reevaluate how you view your team.

3. Open Your Mind to Other Possibilities

It could be that an employee’s optimal role might be in a different job from their current position. When we look at things without bias, we create a space for greater innovation and problem-solving.

Making some shifts in roles or duties of team members based on their strengths could mean the difference between lackluster performance and a team that excels. Managers can empower employees to discover and develop their strengths and then place them in roles where they can do what they do best every day.

most people have a hard time identifying strengths

4. Encourage and Acknowledge

Encouraging professional development and acknowledging employees strengths are incredibly powerful ways to bring out the best in your team. Surprisingly, most people have a hard time identifying their own strengths or simply don’t give it much thought. According to Gallup, one-quarter (25%) of American workers fell into the “ignored” category, and 40% of these employees were actively disengaged.

For tips on harnessing the power of acknowledgment check out my previous post, Acknowledgement: A Simple Gesture with a Powerful Result.

The Power of Positive

A team that is focused on strengths can create an environment of positivity, having a ripple effect into all areas of a business. Positivity can be contagious.  One small shift can expand to a department, a division, or an entire floor. Before long, a whole company’s attitude has changed.

Have you had any experiences with focusing on team members strengths as opposed to their weaknesses?  Have you seen any growth opportunities arise because of this shift in thinking?

I’d love to hear from you, please comment below.

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