The great business writer and management consultant, Peter Drucker, once said “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make the system’s weakness irrelevant.”
Great leaders often emphasize their individual strengths and surround themselves with executives whose strengths in other areas minimize weakness in overall leadership. Similarly, managers and supervisors should better leverage the individual strengths of all rank and file employees and align them so organizational weaknesses are minimized.
David Cooperrider, who developed the methodology for organizational renewal known as Appreciative Inquiry, once remarked that when organizations were surveyed with the question “To what extent does your company know your strengths and put your strengths into play everyday?” The answer was that only 20 percent of people agree that their organizations do this to a great extent. This suggests that 80 percent of employees feel that supervisors and teams don’t know or utilize their strengths very well.
Focusing on the strengths of our employees and co-workers is essential for achieving optimal performance. Then why do so many employees feel this is not the case?
Knowing and capitalizing on individual strengths must be a shared responsibility between supervisors and their workers. Employees need to clearly communicate these strengths so they are more obvious to their boss. At the same time, supervisors and managers must actively seek to understand and capitalize on these strengths.
“We’ve reached the end of problem-solving as a method of management capable of inspiring the growth and development of people, and creating the cultures of real innovation that are demanded by today’s complex and competitive business environments,” said Cooperrider. He goes on to say that all deficit-based forms of management analysis only lock organizations into where they are today and not where they could be.
In the same way that we often see other people in terms of snapshots, locked into boxes where we prevent them from changing and growing. We also tend to limit what we see as other’s strengths and aptitudes.
The prevailing problem-solving perspective focuses on a glass that is half empty. What the appreciative inquiry method does is take a more positive approach, seeking to find what is best in itself, discover more of what is good, and spread this around. Appreciative inquiry utlimately helps organizations with a strengths-based approach to incorporate multi-stakeholder innovation and sutainable design.
Using an appreciative approach can help us to see beyond the education, the resume and the job description to uncover the true gifts and strengths each employee has to offer. Then it is just a matter of aligning these with others inside the organization so that you can minimize weaknesses and improve productivity.
I contend that if you raise any glass high enough, it will appear fuller. Perspective is therefore essential to seeing what is possible. If you can take a point of view of abundance rather than scarcity, you may be surprised by the gifts and strengths you find in your employees.
Mark Craemer www.craemerconsulting.com