Strengths based leadership – are you working to your strengths

Leadership strengths

The staggering truth is, that 80% of the global work force is not.

I ran a workshop recently with a large corporate on the topic of Strength Based Leadership. It was really interesting in so much that not one single delegate really knew what their innate strengths were. By implication it is probable that they are not leveraging their strengths to their best advantage in the organisation.

To explore the point further, do you know what your innate strengths are?

Perhaps a good start point would be to explain what is meant by the term, strength.

To do this we will refer to an outstanding piece of work by international best-selling authors Marcus Buckingham and Don O. Clifton called Now Discover your Strengths. It is a very pragmatic book, which enables the reader to conduct a Strengths Finder Profile, which identifies the readers talent themes. The book also provides case study with tools and tips to enable the reader to understand and develop a Strengths Based Organisation.

The authors describe Strength as follows:

  • Talents are your naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour.
  • Knowledge consists of the facts and lessons learned
  • Skills are the steps of an activity
  • Talents, knowledge and skills combined create your strengths.

I am sure like me, you know someone that at work you can see ‘is a natural’ at whatever he or she does. The simple reason is probably that they are working to their strengths. That may seem like an obvious statement, but the research project connected with this work (2 million candidates) highlights that only 20% of the workforce globally are actually doing, what they do best, on a daily basis.

Throughout my career I have been subjected to all manner of performance management systems, which usually resulted in a list of weaknesses, that I should work on. In the politically correct world we now live in, we no longer call these areas weaknesses, but development opportunities. Oh please, let’s say it how it is.

I often wondered why I was being asked to work on my weaknesses which always seemed counter intuitive. Sure, if one of my weaknesses was’ mission critical’ (e.g. if I was an accountant and I was poor at figures) it would need to be addressed, but why not work on my strengths also.

Put another way how many people do you know that really excel at something they really do not enjoy doing and have no talent for the subject or activity?

So, it was a breath of fresh air to read through this piece of work, complete the online profile and find out where my true talents lie. I was quite surprised by the descriptions of my top 5 talents. To get some third-party feedback I gave the profile to my wife to comment and she wholeheartedly endorsed the analysis.

I suppose I was attracted to the strengths work when I read the case of Tiger Woods who is recognised as the most naturally talented player the professional golf arena has ever seen. He is also the worst professional golf player on the tour at getting out of bunkers. The reason why of course is, he never practices getting out of bunkers he solely practices missing them.

The robust research conducted by The Gallup Organisation asked the simple question: At work do you have the opportunity, to do what you do best every day?

They asked 198,000 employees working in 7,939 business units within 36 different organisations. Those people who answered ‘strongly agree’ to the question were 50% more likely to work in a business with lower employee turnover, 38% more likely to work in a more productive business unit and 44% more likely to have better customer satisfaction scores.

The research also saw those organisations that increased the number of employees who ‘strongly agreed’ saw increases in productivity, customer loyalty and employee retention.

This is very compelling evidence when looking at our leadership role in any organisation.

Traditionally most organisations take people strengths for granted and focus on minimising their weaknesses. This is not development in many cases, it is damage control, and as such is not a strategy for world-class performance.

I am convinced a move to strengths-based working could provide the sort of difference between good and great performance both individually and organisationally. If you are one of the 80% who do not know what their strengths are, now is your chance to find out.

Reference: Now Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Don O. Clifton
ISBN 978-1-4165-0265-3

 

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