I was born left-handed. It was not a problem to me or my family, but one of my teachers saw being a lefty as a condition that needed to be fixed. With overwhelming enthusiasm, she began “investing” in me, forcing me to use my right hand, especially for writing. The result: I lost the ability to write with my left hand, and unfortunately my right-hand script is still a total disaster.
Although this happened a few decades ago, I often recognize the same approach when I listen to some managers. After performance review season, they ask me the same question: What did we do wrong? During the last review we pointed out the employee’s weaknesses; we provided him/her with training; and we had numerous conversations; but this year’s review shows how little change has occurred.
The manager is frustrated, the employee is losing confidence and motivation, and the atmosphere in the organization is getting worse. Why? Because the energy and resources have been focused on overcoming a weakness instead of enhancing a strength.
Three Reasons for Under-performing:
- Lack of knowledge
- Lack of experience
- Personal quality
The first two should not be considered as employee’s weaknesses, as they are outside their control. If an organization wants its staff to grow as professionals, it must provide the necessary training, opportunities for experience, and a motivating environment.
It is a completely different story when it comes to the personal qualities of each individual employee. We are who we are, and it is almost impossible to force a fundamental change, and often causes an opposite effect.
For instance, you have on your team an excellent machine operator, with many years of experience, reliable and hard working. You decide that he will be a perfect leader. What you forgot to consider is that he prefers to work alone! After a while, you see that his team doesn’t perform any better. You put him through leadership training and assign him books to read. Unfortunately, he remains the same lone wolf he always was, and he is not getting any closer to becoming an effective leader. As a result, your organization lost twice: no skilled leader and now an unhappy, dissatisfied employee.
Bottom line: Don’t ask an accountant with an incredible eye for the smallest details, who has no imagination to provide you with continuous improvement ideas; don’t expect an introverted engineer to become your best salesperson; forget about converting a talkative employee into a silent statue.
Focus on employees’ strengths and find ways to use them to the advantage of both the individual and the business.