We’ve all been there. We hear gossip around the water cooler. We’ve witnessed exchanges in meetings. We’ve seen the stars shine and the less-than-stellar reassigned. As a leader, it is our responsibility to soak in the environment and truly understand what is going on in our workplace. Who is excelling and why? Who is under-performing and why?
In order to lead a top-performing team, leaders need to do more than direct and delegate work. Truly effective managers are able to recognize the unique strengths of each team member and optimize all those natural gifts. If you’re in a leadership position, it might sound like a daunting task, but it’s not. The first step is paying attention, identifying each person’s strength and then managing around those essential skills.
The results include increased productivity, improved performance and higher employee engagement and retention.
Benefits of focusing on strengths
Building on employee strengths is much more effective in raising performance than trying to improve weaknesses. When employees become aware of their strengths, they become more productive. Teams that focus on strengths every day have greater productivity and individuals who use their strengths every day are more likely to be engaged on the job and less likely to leave their company. These are powerful drivers for higher levels of performance, profitability and productivity for organizations of all kinds. Managers are in the best position to recognize the strengths of their team members and they can empower them to discover and develop their strengths, and then place them in roles where they can excel.
Building on the strengths of your employees:
1. Name the strengths. Don’t assume that employees know their strengths. People often take their most powerful talents for granted. Meet individually with team members to discuss how they see their core competencies and strengths. Name each strength out loud, and ask how those strengths might be applied to their project.
2. Apply individual strengths to achieve the team’s overall goals. Help your team understand each other’s strengths and how these talents unite to create a powerful picture and improve teamwork skills. Speak to the strengths of individual team members in the presence of project members. Suggest how the team might take advantage of others’ strengths, and hear what the team has to say. And why stop there? Look beyond your projects to the wider organization to see whether demonstrated strengths can be used in neglected areas of the business.
3. Assign team projects based on employees’ strengths. You would never intentionally assign tasks based on weaknesses, but you might overlook strengths unless they are determined.
4. Incorporate strengths into performance conversations and reviews. Help employees set goals based on their core competencies and strengths.
5. Help employees align strengths with the expectations and responsibilities of their roles. In the best scenarios, team members’ strengths align with expectations; but sometimes things go a little off course. Make sure you nurture and guide individuals to focus on their core strengths and then give them goals that align with their talent and responsibilities. You’ll have happier team members. I promise.
6. Ask your organization for some “strength training.” Invest in a workshop or training to hone skills that identify and optimize the strength of your team members. Obtaining an outside source, like Maximize Your Leadership, provides an outside look – a fresh set of eyes – and can give you the tools you need to help your team thrive.
7. Open career growth opportunities or training for your team. Tell team members that if they have a talent they’d like to develop into a strength, you’re willing to support them. This encouragement may motivate employees to actively discover their talents and strengths and do what they need to develop their professional skills.
8. Offer training opportunities for employees who show strength in particular areas. Instead of waiting for team members to come to you, you approach them. Let them know what qualities you see in them, and make sure that they’re willing to build on these strengths.
9. Consider cross-training among teammates who have specific strengths. Form mentoring relationships by matching strong employees with teammates who show a weakness in a corresponding area. This cross-training lets strong employees develop their training abilities, while the mentees receive some good modeling.
10. Welcome career opportunities through special assignments or off-site activities. Let your staff decide whether to pursue these activities, even if it means shuffling tasks on your project. Don’t push. Developing strength starts with initiative and drive.
There are other side benefits to developing your teams’ individual competencies. Watching team members grow into their roles and develop their skills can be one of the most rewarding experiences in a career. After all, when you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime!
If you would like to schedule a workshop or training on how to focus on your team members’ fortes and how to work through their weaknesses, contact Joy today!