Focus On Their Strength: Strategies For The Modern Manager

Manager-effect-on-engagmentMany employees are subjected to the massive limitations of a one size fits all approach where they are expected to be great at everything and rated as such. The problem with this approach is that it focuses too much on weaknesses that will never really get changed much and instead neglects those innate talents and abilities. Empathy, strategic thinking, multi-tasking, humility, appreciation, organization – these are things that are behaviors, they are part of how you normally operate. To take someone who does not embody a behavior and try to force them into it is like putting a square peg into a round hole. You may be able to slightly improve them but you will never be able to change their fundamental wiring.

Part of being a good manager is to identify what unique talents each person has and to amplify those talents by putting an employee in a role that focuses on that which they naturally excel. Focusing on weaknesses in areas of innate talent is usually not going to produce any significant results. For instance strategic thinking requires someone whose mind is naturally in tune with all the facts simultaneously, can see the figures, the competition, the inner workings and has vision for where the company could go. For the people who are really good at this, it’s a natural talent and part of how their brain is wired. It’s of course important to measure these things but it will be counterproductive to penalize people for not naturally being good at everything.

Knowledge – This is the thing we can all learn. Competencies based on knowledge can and should be pushed upwards.

Skills – Skills can be learned but depending on your innate talents you may be more inclined to be better or worse at something. Some people are entirely unsuited to learn a particular skill, no matter how hard they try they may never be able to ice skate while for someone else it may be incredibly easy. Some people are naturally inclined to work on automobiles and others to program computers. The key is to find those natural abilities and find where they would best excel in your organization.

Behavior – This is part of who we are and quite hard to change. Most modern successful managers consider trying to “fix” behavior a waste of time and better to focus on strengths. If you were in a relationship with someone and they always focused on your weakness (what they want to change about you) how long would you stick around? It’s much better to focus on the behaviors/talents that are unique and apply those into skills that best benefit the company.

The popular CBS show Undercover Boss usually has a CEO or other top line executive fumbling around doing some sort of manual labor. Now a chief executive is a very specific set of talents, analytical, focused on people and strategic. Their natural behaviors and talents are not well suited for that kind of work, in many cases they come off as clumsy and slow as they tend to be analytical and cautious and too worried on outcomes. The likewise would most certainly be true if you took one of those workers off the assembly line and put them in the CEOs chair. Suddenly their natural talents are out of line with the job they are in.

Steps to building a better organization:

1) Identify the key strengths of each employee. For instance they may always deliver on time, might be self-starters and entrepreneurs, full of empathy for the customer, or hard-working and focused, they might be creative and full of ideas or have natural talents to lead. Some can remember everything they read, others can help engage an issue from all sides in a meeting, others are brutally frank in their opinions – all of these strengths are necessary for a functioning organization. To accomplish this you can use feedback from the employee, performance reviews, and peer reviews. DeepTalent was designed to accomplish this automatically and make it easy to identify core talents.

2) Put an employee in a role that utilizes their strengths. If someone has a natural propensity for entrepreneurship they should lead the best opportunity. Empathy for the customer is perfect for customer service or marketing, those who remember everything they read make great compliance officers and any meeting lacking full discourse can add someone who is open and hits an issue from every side.

Employee Focus

Every person has their weaknesses and faults. Some will be too shy and quiet, while others will talk way too much. Some will be too aggressive, while others may seem content to just punch in and punch out. But each of those people also possess unique strengths and attached to their perceived weakness is also great opportunity for moving the company forward. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t circumstances where you will want to try and improve on a behavior, only that it’s unlikely you will move the needle significantly but sometimes even a little improvement is worth it. By focusing on strengths a good manager gets the right people in the right roles and brings out where they naturally shine. Not only does that make the company more successful and competitive, it also means lower turnover since employees who use their talents are more likely to be happy.  The University of Warwick has found that happy employees are not only less likely to leave but also at least 12% more productive. So in the end a focus on strengths benefits everyone and it’s one of the reason why the world’s best managers are so successful. It’s not just about getting the right people, it’s about bringing out their unique talents and putting them into the correct roles that suit them.