“Do not teach a pig to sing – it wastes your time and annoys the pig.” — Anonymous
Focusing on one another’s weaknesses may come naturally to most of us, but assessing and managing our strengths pays off much better in the long run.
All too often, we spend a lot of our resources and time trying to improve each other’s weaknesses through corrective action, evaluations, workshops and seminars, and we can completely overlook someone’s obvious brilliance and special talents.
Imagine if we put that same energy into developing and utilizing each other’s strengths. We would have greater motivation to perform better, enjoy the journey more and arrive at our destination quicker.
The truth is that we are most engaged in our work when we feel that we are doing our best and competently contributing every day. We can leave work with a powerful sense of accomplishment that enables us to return with renewed energy and optimism.
Several years ago, I read a story in the management book, “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker, the management guru of the last century.
He talked about how Gen. Ulysses Grant’s appointment to head the Union Army was the turning point of the Civil War. For three long years, the North had made no headway. Lincoln had appointed generals whose main qualification was their lack of major weaknesses.
Grant, on the other hand, had weaknesses. One was his love of drinking. His strength, however, was that he could plan and win battles. It was a tough lesson for President Lincoln, but one we can all learn from.
Businesses that fully leverage the strengths of their human talent produce empowered, engaged people, higher morale and a more productive organization.
Here are some strategies on how to build a strength-based organization:
• Give up on the principle of the well-rounded employee. Recent research indicates that no person is completely well rounded. Each of us is endowed with certain talents and preferences. We can get the best results from people by identifying, applying and developing the natural strengths that each person brings to the organization.
• Make hiring and promotion decisions based on strengths. Collaborate with each employee or candidate for hire to make hiring and promotional decisions based on their strengths. When people are placed in roles that call upon their individual strengths, they are empowered to perform at their highest and most productive levels.
• Get to know your people’s abilities. You can do this by meeting with them individually and discussing their strengths and weaknesses as they see them. You can also understand their strengths by analyzing their productivity or having them complete aptitude, personality, strength-finder or similar assessments.
• Provide career-growing opportunities. Make it known that if people have a talent that they would like to develop to enhance their career within the company, you are willing to nurture that strength. Offering training, support and encouragement will often motivate them to actively discover and enhance their strengths.
• Develop teams based on strengths. For example, each team needs a person who is skilled in gathering required resources, in influencing others and in executing plans and activities. The most successful teams consist not of people with similar ideas and skills, but of people with complementary skill sets and strengths.
• Consider cross training. Partner talented individuals with staff members who show an interest in that same area. Such opportunities will allow strong individuals to develop their talents and training abilities, and the trained staff members will have opportunities to strengthen skills in their area of interest.
• Transform staff frustration into opportunities. If an individual is concerned about a company or employee issue suggest that this person use his/her strengths to resolve the problem. Present a time frame for the solution, and arrange a meeting at that time. Offer the support, tools and resources that encourage the implementation of the solution.
The goal is to manage around people’s weaknesses so their strengths can be freed to develop and become so powerful they make the weakness irrelevant.
If we concentrate on everyone’s weaknesses, we are going to struggle. If we concentrate on strengths, we will succeed.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at email@example.com.