Mining for Gold in People

Monday, September 29 2014

Many companies still focus on what people are not doing well, no matter how much we hear about the importance and the advantages of leveraging strengths. This focus on what is not working can cause mediocre rather than superior results.

Concentrating on strengths means ensuring that people are in roles that motivate and inspire them. It provides them with the opportunity to use their strengths 80-90% of the time. For example, companies often promote their best salesperson to the position of sales manager, which requires him or her to spend a large percentage of time developing others… not always the strength of a top sales person. Mediocrity can ensue.

Michael Jordon was a great basketball player, who tried to become a professional baseball player. He did okay, but he did not shine. Baseball was not his strength.

As Peter Drucker says, “You cannot build performance on weaknesses.” If people are going to put effort into developing skills, those skills should complement their key strengths. This makes development a win/win.

If an individual’s core strength is business development and driving results, then complementary skills to develop might be:

  • Problem solving
  • Strategic thinking
  • Innovation
  • Accountability
  • Providing feedback and recognition
  • Creating a high performing team
  • Prioritizing
  • Goal setting
  • Setting clear expectations

In an HBR article, Making Yourself Indispensable, John Zenger and Joseph Folkman liken developing these complementary skills to cross training for athletes. A great marathon runner becomes a more accomplished athlete by developing muscles through swimming or yoga.

The first step is helping the individual to identify strengths and the complementary skills to be developed. Often these complementary skills are blind spots, areas that they are totally unaware of, yet apparent to others.  A 360 Assessment can help an individual become aware of the skills that need to be developed to support the core strength.

Leaders look for and find the gold in those who work for them. Empower people to use those strengths to create enhanced results.


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