In our work with clients, building great teams and businesses, we often focus on what’s known as a ‘strength based approach’. This approach focuses on the development of a team’s strength (what they are already good at) not just those capabilities that might need improvement. This balanced approach often flies in the face of the ‘deficit model’, which focuses on what individuals and teams are not good at and tries to take remedial action.
Not only can this remedial action be exhausting and resource consuming, but it isn’t good fun – and doesn’t feel good. This might undermine the motivation and energy required for high performance (performance is a factor of both skills and confidence, and energy to apply those skills). This more balanced approach to developing capability and performance sounds logical, right? So how come all teams and organisations don’t do it?
Time is the enemy here. When we have limited time and resources to dedicate to developing capabilities we often focus on the things that stand out as weaknesses. In fact, leaders often identify the development needs of their team and the individuals making up that team based on their observations. Part of a leader’s role is to fix problems as they arise, so these observations can be skewed towards weaknesses or under performance. This means a leader’s radar scope can be tuned into ‘trouble shoot’ and ‘problems’ mode rather than looking at the things their people are doing really well.
The evidence is in – we need to make time for a better balanced approach to development that incorporates our strengths based philosophy. Gallup has conducted research in this area over a number of years and their results are pretty conclusive. In a 2012 article Dr Jim Asplan, who is Chief Scientist at the strengths-based development centre at Gallop, noted that his research showed that:
- People who use their strength everyday are six times more likely to be engaged in their work
- Teams that focus on their strengths everyday have 12.5% greater productivity
- Teams that receive strength based feedback have 8.9% greater productivity.
So, let’s forget the myths and start looking at the evidence. Let’s support our people to apply and develop their strengths, as well as develop efficient capabilities so they not only enjoy their work but contribute to the success of their organisation.