The workforce is made up of humans. Human workers, human weaknesses, and ultimately human error. Fortunately, all human’s also have strengths. While negativity biases might lead you to only focus on weaknesses and errors, new research suggests that better performance comes from focusing on strengths rather than trying to fix weaknesses.(2)
Knowing our strengths and how to cultivate them allows us to develop effective teams, overcome challenges, and successfully reach our goals.1 Using a strength comes naturally; no one must tell you to put it into action. But sometimes a strength may be unknown to employees and therefore underdeveloped. As a leader, it’s important to understand the strengths of your team members and develop the strengths to improve performance.
Research has found that a more effective approach to improving performance is focusing on employee strength development, as opposed to weakness improvement.(2) Employees perform better, have higher levels of engagement and are found to be more loyal when their leaders focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.(1) To accomplish this, leaders should assess each of their employee’s strengths and find opportunities for utilization. A useful tool is a free online survey created by the University of Pennsylvania called the VIA (Values in Action) Survey of Character Strengths.(3) Research has shown that identifying strengths alone increases employee productivity by 7.8%. The results are even greater for teams that focus on strengths daily, increasing productivity by 12.5%.(2)
Furthermore, Gallup created the Strengths Orientation Index which measures how employees utilize their strengths at work.2 The index consists of four items that identify how well a company cultivates employee’s strengths. The items include the following:
- “Every week, I set goals and expectations based on my strengths.
- I can name the strengths of five people I work with.
- In the last three months, my supervisor and I have had a meaningful discussion about my strengths.
- My organization is committed to building the strengths of each associate.”(2)
An organization whose employee’s “strongly agree” to all four items is the best at strength engagement.(2) Therefore, this list represents what can be done to further promote and nurture the strength-based approach to performance and company success. You may be now asking yourself: how do I achieve all four of those results?
First, do not assume that your employees know their strengths. Arrange a team building session for employees to discuss the results of a strengths assessment (VIA or Employee Skills Assessment) and facilitate a group discussion to talk about the overall results to better understand the strengths of the group. Knowing the strengths of others allows us to apply and take advantage of the unique qualities of our peers, which ultimately supercharges capabilities as a team. Have your employees post their top five strengths in their offices or workspace. Posting employee strengths can be a daily reminder of their individual strengths and how the team benefits from knowing how each person thinks, feels, and acts naturally.
As a leader, another action you can take is deliberately incorporating strengths into performance reviews and evaluations. When evaluating an employee at the beginning, interim, and end of the year be sure to have a rich conversation about what they do well and what they have accomplished thus far. Also, use this time to help employees set strength-based development goals.
Team development all starts with awareness of top qualities and attributes. Share desired behaviors with others to inspire personal development and identify positive examples. Most importantly, take advantage of what YOU bring to the table and be an example for your team.
If you’re interested in strength cultivation and strength-based team development, reach out to HigherEchelon directly for specific tips and ideas to improve your organization.
- “How Successful Organizations Maximize Employee Strengths,” available Edge Training Systems, Inc., Paul O’Keefe, January 18, 2017, http://connect.edgetrainingsystems.com/blog/how-successful-organizations-maximize-employee-strengths
- “How Employees’ Strengths Make Your Company Stronger”, available Gallup News, Susan Sorenson, February 20, 2014, https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/167462/employees-strengths-company-stronger.aspx
- “VIA Survey of Character Strengths”, available University of Pennsylvania, https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/user/login?destination=node/434