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Why Leaders Should Focus On Strengths, Not Weaknesses

Motivating others is one of the most significant issues we face in leadership. Strength-based approaches can be a powerful tool for increasing motivation and performance. Comparing the impact and the cost of it, I believe strengths-based strategies are a worthy investment for leaders, yet it seems this approach does not get as much space in leaders repertoire as it deserves. In this article, I'll be delving into two issues: what makes a stengths-based strategy so impactful and the ways leaders can better leverage the strength-based approach in the workplace.

The Impact Of A Strengths-Based Strategy Based on Martin Seligman's work with positive psychology, the VIA Institute on Character and Gallup have done research on strength-based approaches in the workplace. In one of the studies, Gallup found that employees feel more confident, self-aware and productive when focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses. In turn, this leads to higher employee engagement, increased performance and significantly lower attrition rates. The research results make more sense when we analyze the outcomes of our relationship with strengths. Our strengths are great resources for increasing our energy and making us feel dynamic. It's not uncommon to lose track of time when focusing on an area where our strengths shine — it's an experience you may recall from your youth. Usually, these are remembered as joyful moments.

The result of putting our strengths into what we are doing is joy, energy and feeling alive. So, why do we accept the loss of joy? The answer is so familiar: While living in a "fixing" environment, we focus on our weaknesses to fix, rather than the strengths we alread have and can act on. Author Marcus Buckingham puts it another way in his book Now, Discover Your Strengths. He asked which grade parents would focus on when their kids bring home their report card if it showed an A in English, an A in Social Studies, a C in Biology and an F in Algebra. The majority of the parents (77%) said they would focus on the F in Algebra. This illustrated how, unfortunately, we are so used to focusing on our weaknesses since the very beginning of our learning journey.

There is a common belief that we have got to fill the gap. Otherwise, we will be weaker. It's the idea that only if are weaknesses could be corrected, we could be fixed and feel complete! The problem is this mindset causes a definite feeling of insufficiency. This sense of "I'm not enough" invites other negative emotions, like anger, fear and anxiety, which do not help us to get motivated or boost our creativity so that we can better think of solutions to the problems that we face. We all know that it takes a lot of energy to "fix things" and minimize our weaknesses. The painful part of this approach is that while we have so many valuable resources, we spend a vast amount of our energy trying to get a little bit better on our weaknesses. Making weaknesses the center of attention starts at home and school at an early age, and consciously or subconsciously continues at work and in every part of our lives. Therefore, the most outdated approach in leadership is to focus on weaknesses and fixing them instead of giving some of that space to strengths. Focusing on weaknesses instead of strengths is a disadvantageous attitude.

How Leaders Can Leverage A Strengths-Based Approach There are many effective tools that can help leaders capitalize on strengths at work. The most significant step in transforming from a weakness-focused mindset to a strength-based approach involves two things. First, the leaders' intention to focus on strengths. When leaders identify and concentrate on well-articulated strengths in the given context, employees will likely view their managers as resources that bring motivation, success and life into the workplace.

Second is the ability to develop awareness and competencies for assessing strengths before putting them into practice. The more we infuse these into our daily routines, the fastest it soaks into the work culture. These assessments could be practiced in daily, weekly and monthly meetings or retreats. You could design a project or group exercise to be completed as a team that involves various kinds of tools and methods, like peer group work, coaching dyads or similar workgroups. In my decade of experiencing coaching groups, I've had the opportunity to witness excellent examples of groups working with strengths, harnessing the power to increase motivation, the level of communication and trust within the team.

Leaders could also add KPIs to performance appraisals, depending on the strengths employees could put to work and the actions required to follow through. At the team level, the team could decide on their strengths and could have a list of competencies that they will put into action. Leaders could organize a specific workshop after a team assessment for strengths, focused on the actions that they can take to implement those specific team strengths on a regular basis. On both the individual and team level, it helps to focus on the strengths and action plan at certain times, like at the beginning of the meetings or at the retreats, to specify the intentions of how to put specific strengths into action. Leaders often look for better ways to elevate leadership skills to achieve more significant goals. Strength-based management is one of the most critical leadership approaches that can motivate followers. In my experience, you will reap the rewards of this transformation, and it will significantly contribute to a healthier work culture in your organization. Source:


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