Are you fully leveraging your strengths?
Many people and organisations are missing out on great solutions, morale and productivity by not recognising, acknowledging and leveraging their strengths.
Something goes wrong. A team is in crisis. Sales are down. A project is over budget and behind schedule. You’ve just lost another valued employee to the competition. When any one of these things happens in an organisation, the default response often is ‘Find out what went wrong and fix it.’ Somewhere in the problem solving cycle, it is important to identify the source of the problem-and the improvement required. But what happens if the default response is ‘Ok, let’s first look at what is working in this situation or in similar processes in other parts of the organisation?’ The responses to those questions build a corporate inventory of strengths and a new context for the problem analysis. The root cause discussions no longer just focus on what went wrong, but start with drawing on the strengths of ‘what is working’. Suddenly you are getting more ROI from your strengths as they become an integral part of problem solving. This applies to teams and individuals as well as organisations.
A Current Strengths Inventory (CSI) is an ongoing record of your identified strengths. It becomes the frame of reference for conversations, actions and decisions. Providing clues to what differentiates you as an employer and a product or service provider, it is possibly some of your most valuable intellectual property. An external person can conduct a detailed CSI, and report on how to better leverage your systems, people and output strengths; but anyone in an organisation can start to build a CSI. The initial CSI usually uncovers strengths that are taken for granted and not leveraged as the significant differentiators that they are,
If you are a manager, starting your own CSI is easily integrated into your regular discussions. At team meetings, in one on one conversations or performance reviews, ask some of the research based CSI Starter Questions in the box to the xxx. Discuss with the team or individual how the responses can be used to enhance engagement and performance. Document the responses, regularly add to them and refer to them in decision making, problem solving and general discussion.
It takes some people time to get used to this approach- especially identifying their personal strengths. But once they experience the benefits, they adopt it and contribute to the cultural transformation that occurs. Blame seems to dwindle. People look for and use the strengths in others as well as themselves. People are engaged. The default response to problems becomes ‘what is currently working’ or ‘what can we learn from when this was not a problem?’ before analysing root causes and prescribing fixes.Research has shown that an antidote to burnout and a key driver of performance is employee engagement. Three key characteristics of engagement are absorption (getting lost in a task), vigour (can’t wait to get to work to start it) and dedication (I have to do this right and will keep at it until I do). According to Gallup, people who feel their strengths are used and recognised are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. Gallup estimates that lost productivity due to disengagement costs the US 300 billion dollars a year. It is likely the figures for Australia are similarly high.
In many organisations, a large number of people report that they only hear about what they do wrong, and rarely about what they do well. Many take this as an implied permission to complain and disengage. A strengths based approach makes it everyone’s responsibility to acknowledge and incorporate individual and organisational strengths into their daily practice.
This is not a rose coloured glasses approach. It is about proven drivers of performance that build the internal capacity of organisations. Accountability, performance measures and a results driven culture are all assumed to be part of a strengths based approach. Gallup research shows that strengths building initiatives lead to improved business outcomes in retention, productivity, profitability, engagement and safety through greater employee engagement. People are not an organisation’s greatest asset-fully engaged, accountable people regularly able to do ‘what they do best’ are.
previously published in In Business magazine. http://www.in-business.com.au/