A motivated team needs to continually grow and move forward. Understanding the strengths of your employees can help you spot the potential for growth, delivering greater efficiency and better results from your team.

Planning for Growth

Spring is all around us, with signs of new growth everywhere. Although we may have finished our physical growth spurts many years ago, we never lose our potential for growth. We always have the ability to increase our knowledge and skills, and to make better use of our strengths. 

For organisations, the same is true. To be effective in the fast-paced uncertain world of today, organisations need to constantly grow and develop their offerings. It might be that there are issues to overcome, a bottom line to increase, or a disruptive rival to keep up with. Whatever the reason, development and growth are generally expected if your organisation is to continue to perform well.

The starting point for this growth is usually the team. Team development is high on the priority of most business and organisational leaders when it comes to planning for growth. And with good reason. Stats show that engaged employees increase customer loyalty by up to 44 percent. And a 5 percent increase in customer loyalty can increase bottom line by up to 85 percent.

It’s no wonder then that developing employee’s skills and harnessing their strengths is a highly productive activity for any organisation who wants to grow.

What Are Your Talent Needs?

The starting point for growth is to identify where you have strengths in your team and where there are needs in your organisation. Measuring the personal strengths of your workforce will help you to see where certain strengths are well represented. You will also be able to see any imbalances and talent shortfalls that might exist and where potential within your team can be developed in alignment with your organisational requirements.

Problems arise within organisations where a team, or even the entire workforce are lopsided in terms of personality strengths. A team made up of mainly results focussed people, whose strengths are in execution, might well be missing opportunities to build strong relationships with customers.

In the same way, teams made up of task centred individuals, might not be engaging in visionary or creative problem solving. For instance, when dealing with challenges arising from disruptive technological change.

By using strengths as a starting point, you can better understand your team’s potential and identify where particular skills are under-represented. You can also see where potential strengths are not being utilised in the most efficient and productive manner or motivations are being missed.

For instance, one of your team might be doing tasked with something that is de-energising for them, but they do it as part of their job. If you discovered another team member found that task energising, you could swap the tasks around so you are making the most of what people find motivating on the team.

Once you have this data, you can begin to plan the development of your existing team, as well as recruiting for missing areas or talent short-falls. One thing not to do, is to assume that a talent short-fall can automatically be filled from within your existing workforce.  If you’ve hired all the same type of people, you might need to bring in someone with different strengths to enable your team to really perform.

Weakness Bias in Employee Development

Traditionally, employee development plans have tried to help employees develop skills they are less able with, focussed on “overcoming weakness” and “learning new talents”, rather than engaging strengths and utilising existing motivations.

The reason this happens is because of the strong “negativity bias” that is present traditionally in our society. It’s very common to find that most people don’t understand what their strengths actually are. And even if they do, they often haven’t purposefully developed them, or learned how to use them in the best way for themselves or their organisations.

Traditional models of employee assessment often don’t help. Research shows that there is an 80/20 split that many performance reviews naturally fall into. Eighty percent of the time is spent focussing on weaker elements and areas where the employee falls short, and just twenty percent reviewing strengths and any positive achievements.

The result is of this kind of split is that employees become overly obsessed with their weaker skills and abilities. They spend too long trying to develop a skill that does not fall in their strength zone,  which at best they’ll only be able to be ‘acceptable’ in. And less time on the tasks they are good at and which motivate them to work harder.

This has a detrimental impact on their other work. Without the motivation of using their strengths, performance drops and employees quickly become disengaged with their tasks and the organisations objectives.

Flipping the 80/20

A simple approach to counter this effect is to flip the 80/20 split completely on its head. This would mean spending eighty percent of the time on positive performance and developing dialogues about strengths – how to use them with purpose and how to develop them. In this way, employees can begin to learn the value of their strengths.

They also begin to learn how they can work collaboratively to optimise strengths and achieve their individual and team goals. It enables team members to help one another in weaker areas where they are less effective and have lower levels of motivation. It also helps team members understand each other better

Weaknesses and other issues are not to be completely forgotten, however. Twenty percent of your time should still be focussed on discussing and addressing areas that are limiting in an employee’s role. But the focus should only be on those weaknesses that are directly relevant to the role and can’t be done by anyone else on the team.

Pushing the Comfort Zone

Focusing on a person’s strengths is not a licence for them to drift. Without a challenge to use our strengths in new and different ways, it is human nature for us to tick along, doing what we like, without realising our full potential.

In developing your team, there will always be the need for employees to push themselves to achieve results. But they are far more likely to be successful if this push is within an area of strength.

Additional training in those strength areas can be highly productive. A complicated project that requires a range of strengths can stretch all the members of a team beyond their comfort zone. It can teach team members how to apply their strengths in new and different, helping them grow and develop in alignment with your organisations goals and objectives.

By giving them the freedom, support and coaching to find their own pathways, your employees can achieve results based on their unique strengths, skills, beliefs and background. This is highly motivating and can lead to real, long-term success and development.

Identify Potential for Long-Term Success

Achieving longer-term success in your team requires strengths-building to create and manage the diversity in your employees. By focusing on utilising strengths more effectively, you can create an organisation where people learn to appreciate and value others for their strengths, skills and perspectives.

If you’d like to learn more about how to engage in a strengths based team development programme, talk to Co-Creation for more information.