During the next couple of months, many managers will be conducting mid-year performance reviews. These reviews often consist of a progress check on key goals and initiatives, but may also include a review of a development plan. It has been my experience that these plans usually focus on areas of skill deficiencies or weaknesses. Logically, it would appear that overall performance would improve if each employee improved their deficiencies, but research has shown that it is easier for an individual to improve their strengths rather than their weak skill sets. This may be counter intuitive, but helping employees continue to increase their strengths can have a larger impact on organizational performance then focusing only on developmental needs.
Additionally, another benefit of focusing on strengths was recently found by the Gallup Company. Their study determined that when managers focused on strengths instead of weaknesses, employees were significantly less likely to be disengaged from the workplace and had increased motivation. I am not suggesting that a manager not focus at all on their employee’s weaknesses, but I believe helping them to recognize and continue to build on their strengths will bring a better likelihood of improved personal and organizational performance.
If you are a leader who will be conducting performance reviews in the near future, and you are currently not doing so, I would ask that you to begin to focus on the individual and group strengths of your teams. There are many simple tools and assessments that can help you do this, but it can also easily be done by reviewing an employee’s job responsibilities and a having a discussion about their performance. Once you have determined the strengths across your team you can begin to focus on communicating to the group and explore ways that will capitalize on each individual’s particular strengths. One way to do this could be to begin to consider team member’s strengths in determining project assignments and responsibilities and look for appropriate alignment.
Changing to a strength focused style may be uncomfortable for many managers, but it is exactly that uneasy feeling that may allow you to have the greatest impact with your team.