Last week I sat down with two Founders to review a proposed team structure that will support their growth plan. What was really cool about that discussion was that one of them repeated back to me something I’d said to him 12 months earlier. He said, “Steph – you told us to play to our strengths – and that has stayed with me ever since”.
These two have extraordinary strengths – one a creative innovator, the other a detailed operations and process gun. They decided that to grow their business, they would hire a General Manager who would run the whole team – including them. Of course – as Founders and Directors – they would still have a majority vote on strategic direction and decision making – but hiring a GM to run the day-to-day will free them both up to play to their strengths and get back to doing the work they love best.
Playing to people’s strengths is about taking the path of least resistance to best results.
Strengths are natural talents that have been finely honed over years of practise and refinement. They are the things we are both naturally talented at and enjoy doing. By this very definition, if you’re good at something but don’t enjoy doing it – then it’s not a strength. We are all born with talents – natural predispositions that are linked to our genetic makeup. But a talent is just latent potential until it becomes a strength.
Talent = Latent potential
Talent + Investment (practise, coaching, development) = Strength.
Research shows that when we play to our strengths, we achieve far greater gains in performance than if we address our weaknesses. A comprehensive study of over 19,000 employees across 34 organisations published by the Corporate Leadership Council in 2002 showed that the purposeful application of strengths enhances performance by up to 36%. In contrast, emphasising weaknesses led to a 26.8% decline in performance.
In addition to enhancing performance, the purposeful application of strengths is also proven to correlate with:
Leaders who know this, work with people to find roles that match their strengths, and coach them to leverage strengths in the achievement of stretch goals.
Gallup research reveals that very few of us are actually using our strengths and talents at work. The Gallup “State of the Global Workplace” reported the global aggregate from Gallup data collected in 2014, 2015 and 2016 across 155 countries. The report indicates that just 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their job. Two-thirds are not engaged, and 18% are actively disengaged.
This means that less than one third of the world strongly agree with the statement “at work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday”. In contrast, employees who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their job, than those who do not.
Jim Clifton, Gallup Chairman and CEO summarised that “the current practice of management – which attempts to turn weaknesses into strengths — doesn’t work. Moving to strengths-based workplaces will change global productivity and growth overnight”.
A strengths-based approach is one of the best opportunities we have to realise the enormous pool of latent potential that exists in every organisation. Adopting a strengths-based approach empowers people, lifts energy, motivation and performance. And with far less effort.
If you’re interested in discovering your strengths and how to put them to work within your business – let’s chat.