Most executives recognise that one of their biggest challenges is closing the gap between the potential talent and the real strengths and energy of the people they lead.
It’s a sad truth, but just 30% of employees are actively committed to doing a good job. According to Gallup’s 2013 Workplace report, 50% of employees merely put their time in, while the remaining 20% act out their discontent in counterproductive ways, which negatively influence their colleagues, missing days on the job, and driving customers away through poor service. Gallup estimates that the 20% group alone costs the U.S. economy around half a trillion dollars each year.
What’s the reason for the widespread employee disengagement?
Most leaders’ pay’s too much attention to what’s “wrong” with those they lead and fail to understand how they could help build on those areas they are “strong in”.
As one CEO puts it,
“We have a workforce that has the ability and appetite to do a great job in all areas of our business. If we can transform them—tap into their strengths through effective leadership—there will be an awful lot of people out there doing an awful lot of good.”
It’s not that those who lead you sets out to be poor leaders. The problem is that some of them and you, lack a clear understanding of just what change it would take to bring out the best in everyone in order to achieve the highest impact.
I believe that leaders can obtain this understanding through what Dr Rebecca Newton calls “Strength Spotting”.
Dr Rebecca Newton is a well-known business psychologist, leadership advisor, and is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has also been a Visiting Fellow at Harvard and is a frequent contributor to both Forbes and the Harvard Business Review.
In others words she knows her stuff…. I had the privilege of hosting Dr Rebecca at an event earlier this week where she spoke to a group on the importance of building on your strengths and not your weakness.
While listening to her I realised that so many of us who lead teams have gotten this wrong. We tend to focus mainly on the weakness of those we lead and not give enough emphasis to their strengths. When leading others, we should not start out by addressing their weakness, or even our own weakness. Not because we are not going to get to it, but we will get to it and improve on them as we work on our strengths.
So here is the BIG question……Why Strengths Matters?
According to Dr Newton our strengths are our energisers. They are the things that energies you, gets you to perform at peak and are the images that are the drivers within you. Since this is the case you need to spend most of your time building your strengths and the strengths of the people you lead.
Research has shown that when an organisation focuses on strengths, employee engagement may increase from a range of 9% to 73%.
The Corporate Leadership Council found that focusing on strengths in appraisals leads to a 36% jump in performance vs. a 27% decline when the focus is on weakness.
Organisations supporting their people to use their strengths have seen 38% higher probability of greater productivity and 44% high probability of customer loyalty and employee retention.
Think about a time when you were performing at your best, feeling totally energised and absorbed in your work.
- What were you doing?
- What was it you enjoyed?
- What results did you get?
In building your strength you need to be versatile. Versatility is a great component of leadership as it gives you the ability to be flexible in dealing with people of different strengths. As a leader your job is to awaken the possibilities in other people. How you do this is by identifying and playing to their strengths. When you do this you will have employees who are great performers, you will have greater customer retention, and will see greater profits. Leading with strengths build a culture of strength in your team and organisation for the better.