Have you ever noticed how much energy you consume by trying to “fix” your under-performers? When this happens, your strongest employees unintentionally feel sidelined. However, when you invest in their success, they’ll feel valued for their contributions and will become even more productive. This is a strategy that pays big dividends.
Leveraging Strengths (vs Fixing Weakness) Improves Performance
According to Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in First, Break All the Rules, the most effective mangers spend the most time with their top performing teams and employees. Why? Because it’s productive. These managers do three things differently:
· They nurture talent into high performers rather than control and instruct.
· They realize that people need to be rewarded (not ignored) for outstanding performance. The more you give, the more you get.
· They understand that when top performers are given room to grow, they make the biggest contribution to the business. Developing their strengths is job one.
Leveraging Strengths Increases Momentum
Focusing on the strengths of your most productive teams increases their motivation. When they are inspired to achieve, they’ll add more value than if they’re told what not to do. With a positive focus, you’ll get better results, faster.
Fixing the weaknesses of your less productive teams requires a push to correct a negative. Attending to the weakest links diverts attention away from the high performers who are propelling your business forward.
Kim Cameron in Positive Leadership suggest that leveraging employee strengths is a key leadership strategy; it gets you performance excellence, something far greater than simply an acceptable level of performance. Attending to weakness only helps people rise to what is acceptable performance.
Leveraging Strengths Counterbalances the Negative Bias
All humans, and the systems they create, have a negative bias. Threats keep us alive, but rarely help us perform well at work. Paying attention to the negative, grows the negative.
Like most businesses, remodeling firms exist to solve problems—a negative. Their purpose is to improve what’s wrong: correcting the built environment, reducing errors, controlling deviances and increasing predictability. Off-setting this negative bias requires a diligent counter balance: strengthening what is working vs what is not. This renews sustainable employee connection, engagement and long term healthy relationships.
Here are specific tips on leveraging strengths to improve performance, build momentum, and counterbalance the negative bias, adapted from Positive Leadership:
· Use positive feedback to focus on employees’ strengths, not their weaknesses.
· Use language and images to describe what you want--your vision of outcomes. Avoid addressing what you don’t want, problem fixing, or what you want to get rid of.
· Give five positive statements for every negative one—the “5 to 1 rule”. It takes this much effort to compensate for the negative bias.
· Identify two to three simple actions that will enhance individual and team strengths. Keeping it simple avoids overwhelm.
· Examine what you are doing well and do more of it. Help your most motivated teams and employees be even more successful. When momentum is already strong, the cost is low to keep it going.
· Minimize weaknesses or develop work-arounds to lessen their impact. Avoid fixing weaknesses that are operationally expensive, complex to manage, and add limited value to the customer experience and bottom line.
Lead by investing most of your time with your strongest employees. Leverage what is working well and counterbalance the human bias towards the negative with attention to their strengths. Payoffs are big.