Leadership, a strength-based approach to performance.
Updated: Jan 18, 2021
As we enter the new year and start to ready up for the future workplace, we thought it would be timely to share a strengths-based approach to goal setting and appraisals. For many people, including business leaders, the process of strictly controlled organisational appraisals is tiresome. It is fair to say, reviews are often focused on deficit models and individual weakness. The assumption that focusing on an individual's weakness can radically transform their performance at work. What makes this worse is that we often see our people focus on tasks they are weaker at for the year, and then we tell them in their appraisal that they performed adequately, and as a result, they didn't quite make that top performer bracket and the higher end of their annual salary increase.
However, what if we looked at this more practically with more emphasis on strength use. By focusing solely on an individuals’ weaknesses, we remove people's chance to make their most significant contribution at work. Our people can shine when they understand their contribution to a greater purpose. Strengths use within teams have been suggested to improve work satisfaction, job performance, engagement, and wellbeing.
Give your team time to prepare and ask for three short work stories from their year. Acknowledge that you understand they will have experienced aspects of work that hindered, challenged and used their strengths.
When has your work been hindered, and what prevented you from achieving your goal, and what did you do next?
When was a time that your work challenged you positively, and how did it provide you with growth?
When did you get to use your greatest strengths in your work?
The fourth story. This is your part to share, but not in an area you feel needs work, but instead of a time that you saw them at their best. Explain why you thought that this was them at their best and what strengths it demonstrated.
Look to understand hindrance and challenges. With the above questions, we are trying to understand what our team feel hinders and what challenges them, as well as the job-person fit and if they feel that they use their strengths in work. You can read a bit more about hindrance and challenge demands here.
Discussion on weaknesses. Look to encourage teamwork. When an individual can identify a personal weakness and find someone within the team to support them with that task, celebrate it. Explore how the hindrance demands might be affecting the individual's engagement and wellbeing, as well as the business goals. Is it preventing them from growing, and can you understand if a particular weakness is behind the hindrance? Providing support for strengths use doesn't mean your team has a free for all or you shouldn't address problematic behaviour. You can still work on these areas but consider bringing that weakness to an acceptable level and co-design the development with the individual. Explain why you are working on it with them.
Focus on Win-Win goal setting. Our leadership responsibility is to find the connection between business goals and our peoples' strengths and best selves. We still want to establish measures, and there are plenty of ways to do this; a quick internet search will help. Ask what your team should be doing that connects them to use their strengths and how this could benefit them and in turn the organisation.
Check-in regularly. Don't wait a year. Don't wait for six months. Check-in regularly to see how they are getting on, are they hindered, or challenged positively, have you facilitated the use of their strengths with the right projects?