This article was based on episode 249 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get two months of Fast Forward membership for free. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
As managers, we often focus on fixing problems. We look out for what’s going wrong, such as what gaps need to be filled, what skills someone needs to develop, and what issues need to be addressed. Yet how refreshing it can be to start thinking about what’s going right. By focusing on strengths, we can actually build a much happier, more productive team.
Joining me to share his insights into strengths-based management is Scott Whiteford. Scott is the Director of Leadership Analytics and a leading authority on how to develop talent. He teaches companies how to develop leaders and build effective teams through a strengths-management approach. Scott shares here the keys to developing roles that better suit your teams’ needs and the process of discovering what talents people can bring to the table.
WHEN TO CONCENTRATE ON STRENGTHS VS. GAPS
There are, of course, appropriate times to think about your team’s deficiencies. When considering the knowledge or hard skills of your teammates, it makes sense to think about what’s missing and how to fill them. Capitalize on strengths, however, when looking at your teams’ talents. Is one of your teammates amazing at building relationships? Are they caring, with great insights? Or are they a highly focused individual able to stay calm during even the toughest situations? The soft skills that your employees embody are the strengths that set them apart from the rest. By building on them, you can create opportunities for each person and the team collectively to really shine.
FIGURE OUT WHAT YOUR PEOPLE WANT
Sometimes even employees themselves feel clueless to their own strengths. In these cases, online assessments can be amazing tools for opening our eyes to what we bring to the table.
Consider asking your team directly what it is they want to do. During employee reviews, don’t focus on what they need to do to get to the next level. Instead, ask them what they like about their job and what they envision for their role in the long term. Have them consider their ten year plan. Where do they see themselves? These insights can open our eyes to the qualities they can and want to contribute to our organizations.
While it’s not always possible, don’t try to stuff an individual into a role; instead try to create a role that fits the remarkable individuals on your team and what they have to offer.
WHEN YOU DISAGREE ABOUT ROLE FIT
It can be awkward, however, if your employee wants a specific role that you really don’t think is right for them. In these cases, open up the conversation. Ask them what it is about the role that excites them. By pulling apart the job description, you can start to understand from their perspective what it is they’re looking for. This might help you and them decide on an alternative role that fits them better.
BE CONSISTENT TO BE EQUITABLE
If you apply this strength-based approach across your team consistently, you will avoid any hurt feelings when you give opportunities to one person and not another. By taking an individualized approach to each teammate, everyone will understand and appreciate that you’re giving each person what they want and need, rather than picking favorites.
For example, one person on your team may have the opportunity to attend a conference while another may get to present to a client for the first time. In each case, you’re leaning into the individual’s strengths and future vision. A personal strength-based approach will help everyone feel both seen and valued, and create a collaborative rather than competitive atmosphere.
Learning your team’s strengths will also help you know who can step in and fill the holes in your own workload. Managers can’t do it all. Compensatory strategies are healthy and necessary for any successful leader. Leaning on our teammates to fill in gaps is an important tactic. Our managerial ideal is not a leadership atom but a leadership molecule where together, by leaning into our strengths and capitalizing on them, we can collectively make an enormous impact. And actually enjoy coming to work while we’re at it!
KEEP UP WITH SCOTT
Scott LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottwhiteford/
Talent Plus LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/talent-plus-inc/
Get access to a free talent assessment and report when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 249 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.