How to Build a Strengths-Based Organization
5/11/2010Today, progressive organizations are increasingly focused on fostering a strengths-based culture, in which employees work collaboratively with their managers to identify, develop and apply their strengths in the workplace.
CIE’s Professional Development Center (PDC) regularly offers a workshop entitled “Building a Strengths-Based Organization.” Below, instructor Melinda Figeley Dean, SPHR, offers some tips from this workshop.
- Make hiring and promotional decisions based on each person’s individual strengths. Most organizations promote people based on their technical skills (e.g., the employee with the best engineering skills is promoted to Engineering Manager; the employee who has extraordinary talent as an accountant is promoted to Accounting Director). However, the skill sets necessary to be a successful engineer or accountant are different than the skill sets necessary to be a successful leader. Managers need to collaborate with each employee and candidate for hire to identify his/her individual strengths (Melinda recommends the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0™ assessment for this purpose), and then make hiring and promotional decisions based on those strengths. When employees are placed in roles that call upon and leverage their individual strengths, they are empowered to perform at their highest and most productive levels.
- Give up the principle of the "well-rounded employee." As youngsters, most of our teachers recommended that we focus on improving in those areas in which we performed poorly. As adults in the working world, our supervisors point out our weaknesses in performance appraisals, and recommend that we "fix" them in order to be promoted in the future or to earn a larger raise next year. The principle is an old one, institutionalized in our culture: we must be well-rounded people in order to be successful. However, recent research indicates that no person is completely well-rounded, and that the most successful leaders are neither well-rounded, nor do they possess similar skill sets. Each of us is endowed with certain talents and innate preferences which are rather immutable. Rather than repairing our weaknesses throughout our lives, we actually grow the most in the areas in which we are naturally strong. Managers can get the best results from people by abandoning the notion of the 'well-rounded employee' and instead focusing on identifying, applying and developing the natural strengths that each employee brings to the organization.
- Make assignments to teams based on the strengths that each person brings to the team. Too often, assignments to teams are based on the assumption that we should construct teams in which each of the members has similar ideas, perspectives and skill sets; otherwise, the team will experience conflict and have little success in carrying out its mission. This assumption fails to recognize that a successful team requires a wide variety of skill sets, none of which can be possessed by a single member. For example, each team needs a person who is skilled in coalescing people and gathering required resources; a person who has talents in influencing others in the organization; and a person who is strong in executing plans and activities. The most successful teams in organizations consist not of people with similar ideas and skills, but of people with complementary skill sets and strengths.
Organizations that leverage the strengths of their people can produce empowered and engaged employees, and a more productive organization that fully utilizes its human talent.
Please visit the PDC Web site to review the wide range of workshops and seminars available.