Strengths: Smashing Performance for 2017!

As we near the end of the year many companies will be turning to review their year and thinking about next year. Managers will be coming to write their team members annual reviews. A lot of time is spent on that process to create a picture of the year and to give feedback to really help staff develop, and make plans for the forthcoming year.

During the appraisal process, a manager should not only reflect on what’s happened and what went well; there should also be a development conversation. Many managers as they go through this will identify areas of perceived weakness; which they believe focusing on improving will help their team members overall performance. Usually they will provide constructive feedback, with relevant examples that will enable the person to identify where and how improvement can be made.

Whilst I believe that weaknesses, especially those that are key to an individuals ability to perform in their role are important, I think many managers are missing an opportunity to build on strengths.

In a sports team individuals play to their strengths. They have a position/event that their strengths provide them with some natural advantage. When we learn to play sports we find we are attracted to these events and tend to perform better in them. It is because they energise us more and we get into ‘the zone’. This is where professional sports coaches focus; attention is placed on building and marginal gains that enable them to differentiate good to great.

By working with strengths we are able to positively nurture talent, in a way that engages and builds well being. Something happens when we work with our strengths, the work of Martin Seligman and Mihály Csíkszentmihályi show the interrelationship between using strengths and being in ‘flow’ which develops performance.

In flow we can get into the zone and everything comes together and we are highly competent in our actions, engaged and focused. It occurs when we are using our strengths and we reach an optimum balance between skill and challenge levels. When these levels are not in balance, performance is affected:


Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

If we want to optimise performance we need to be thinking about what peoples strengths are and how they can best employ them in relation to their optimal skill and challenge levels to develop. By doing so the individual will feel engaged. Csíkszentmihályi showed people are also happiest when in a state of flow, a state of concentration and absorption.

The Corporate and Leadership Council analysed over 90,000 employees from 135 organisations and found that line managers working on strengths increased performance by 36% compared with a weakness focus, which decreased performance by 26%. It makes sense to build on our innate strengths and even when working with weaknesses consider how we can reposition our strengths to best tackle them.

If we think back to the example of the appraisal and the developmental feedback the manager provides his team member with, will the focus on weakness really deliver? If you reflect yourself how you feel and what happens for you when you focus on your weaknesses as opposed to your strengths, consider the difference in your motivation and performance levels. If we know about our strengths and our team members’ strengths we can work to create something that enables our staff to perform better and deliver from a better place.

One significant barrier is that most people are not clear on what their strengths are. Working with a tool like Strengthscope™ enables people to identify their signature strengths. We have coaching and development programmes that equip managers and individuals to use and engage with new ways of way of thinking and positively build using their strengths. Strengths can help you deliver in new ways and enable you and your team to smash your targets for 2017!

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