* This article was featured on the Wharton Magazine Blog
Our strengths define who we are. They make us unique. The surprising part is many people do not know their strengths and others do not effectively use them. To the extent we can use our strengths, people are six times more likely to be “engaged” in their jobs and more than three times more likely to declare they have an “excellent quality of life in general,” according to research from the Gallup organization.
Why is this important? Because people and organizations perform at higher levels and people feel happier and more satisfied when using a strengths-based approach to life and work.
Yet the feedback we receive often focuses on our weaknesses and what we don’t do well, a tack also known as a weakness-based approach. Instead of telling your employee that she needs to be more patient or stop micro-managing a project—a strengths-based approach would let the employee know that you appreciate her strength of taking action and driving a project forward or taking ownership, but shifts the focus to taking action with thought and impact or taking ownership of the key priorities instead of every detail. In a strengths-based approach, we maximize and leverage a person’s strengths while managing any weaknesses, which is more impactful. Since the goal is to have the person hear, digest and implement the feedback, a strengths-based approach builds a platform for greater success.
Whether you are an individual contributor, manager or C-suite executive, you have specific strengths and it’s your responsibility to know what these strengths are and how to use them.
Managers and executives who oversee others also need to understand the strengths of people on their teams and place people in the appropriate roles. To do this, executives need to understand the business and markets well enough to know how to match employees’ strengths with specific projects and goals.
Often, employees are disengaged and under-performing because they are in the wrong role, which fails to utilize their strengths. As a result, the individual and company perform at sub-par levels. Someone who can influence and persuade others may be a better fit for a sales role rather than an accounting role—even if she is proficient with numbers. The work is to apply your top strengths to better execute, influence, build relationships and think strategically.
Questions to consider:
What are your top three strengths and how effectively are you using them on a daily basis?
Managers need to consider: What are the top three strengths of each person you manage and how can you help each person apply their strengths to key projects?
We are all “good” at many tasks, but for people and companies to excel, employees need to be developing their unique strengths that add real value.
Alissa Finerman is an Executive Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, speaker and author of Living in YOUR Top 1%. She works with managers, C-suite executives and teams to leverage strengths, shift beliefs and achieve meaningful goals. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked with Neutrogena, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Milken Institute, LA Business Journal, Prostate Cancer Foundation, and NBC Universal. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website.