Building a Culture on Strengths

  • 7 mins read

Much has been documented on the advantages leaders have when they strive to discover their employees’ strengths and make the best use of them. According to Gallup surveys, 67% of employees who feel that their strengths are used and appreciated by their leaders are engaged in their work. This compares to a general engagement rate of 15% in the workplace as a whole.

Employees who are permitted to use their strengths are more interested in what they’re doing and apply themselves more fully. They are more productive, inspired, and loyal. It has been long shown that when organizations lead people through their strengths, they benefit in many ways: higher sales and profits, lower turnover and absenteeism, and better customer reviews.

Clearly, it’s to your advantage to maximize the use of your peoples’ strengths. The strength of the organization depends on the applied strength its employees. But this is more than just assessing peoples’ skills. Leaders who establish a culture of strength-mindedness instill a collective focus on and value in the strengths of people. It’s a focus that must be engrained into everything and everyone.

Discover People’s Strengths

For you to know the strengths of your people, you first need to know your people. Focusing on strengths is inherently a focus on people: their abilities, interests, knowledge, and aspirations. Technical strengths are only a portion of the picture. Strengths are also measured in the softer skills: character, courage, confidence, and communication. Leaders who spend time with their people, getting to know them, have the greatest ability to assess these kinds of strengths and know how they can be applied in the workplace.

Many personal strengths are revealed through one-on-one conversations. Another way to discover character strengths is to observe how your people handle themselves, how they behave, respond, and make decisions. Getting insights from coworkers or other leaders adds to the collection of information on a person’s strengths.

Technical strengths are often more straightforward to judge by reviewing a person’s work: its thoroughness, accuracy and inventiveness. You can see peoples’ strengths by how well they tackle challenges and find solutions to problems. Their values are revealed in how they take on their responsibilities. Making note of these things gives you a good sense for the strengths of your people.

Channeling Skills into Teams

In today’s dynamic environment, leaders get great benefits by grouping their people into multidiscipline teams to make the most of their strengths. Structuring teams with a diverse set of skills and personalities feeds synergy and motivation. When paired with other skillsets, people inspire one another and learn from each other. The sense of unity reduces barriers and creates a collective drive to solve problems with creative solutions. Leaders are better able to forge a focus on goals rather than specific work assignments, leading to a higher rate of productivity.

With teams, empowerment is more viable, where authority is pushed down to the lowest level possible. People develop a greater spirit of self-sufficiency and decision making, providing higher levels of ownership, pride and interest in their work. They share their strengths and develop new ones from their teammates. They use their strengths to embrace challenges and have a more positive outlook when they’re given these freedoms.

You can utilize peoples’ strengths even more by creating workplace layouts that maximize collaboration and communication within each team. A combination of private and common spaces, with appropriate noise abatement and elbow room yields maximum engagement. Team members are naturally led to combine strengths with the different disciplines and backgrounds of their teammates, letting them get to know, trust, and influence each other. The power of interaction can compensate for a lacking in certain strengths.

Matching Projects to People

Leaders who select projects for the strengths of their people have a far greater success rate than those who simply dole out work without strength considerations. Intentionally crafting projects that specifically challenge the strengths of a person or team are also more successful. People are more inspired and inventive when forced to use their strengths, especially when they are pushed to their limits.

Projects come is varying degrees of complexity and difficulty. Leaders who want to maximize their peoples’ strengths will assign projects toward the lowest level of capability that can pull off results. This creates a challenge that causes people to lift their game, grow, and find fulfillment in ways they never thought they could.

Growing Peoples’ Strengths

Gallup and other survey takers have shown that one of the aspects people value in their jobs the most is the opportunity to learn and grow, specifically through additional learning and training. People want to get better at what they do, to be stronger contributors, and more qualified to advance to greater responsibilities. Leaders who provide their people with these opportunities see them not only advancing their current strengths, but developing new ones. As a leader you have no better ability to succeed than when your people are continuously raising their capabilities and the desire to use them.

Another significant way people can grow is to take on the role of trainer or instructor, and share what they know. Establishing in-house training programs is a great way to grow strengths in everyone. It also raises the candidacy of people for potential advancement or involvement in more complex projects.

Developing the strengths of your people is beneficial through the reputation they develop, both within and outside your organization. Internal expertise is obviously beneficial for organizations that rely on winning projects from the business community. It also pays dividends internally, when other employees seek out your team experts to learn and grow additional strengths. Forget the politics of keeping your peoples’ strengths to yourself. Everyone wins when you enhance your entire organization by sharing what you have.

The Strength-Based Philosophy

The most productive and effective organizations, the ones that have the most engaged and creative people, are the ones that have a culture focused on the strengths of their employees. The emphasis is on what people can do, not on what they can’t do. None of this happens by itself, but only through the living example and specific direction of the primary leader. These are leaders who have the philosophy that strengths are the primary focus of everything their organization attempts to do.

Such a culture invests heavily in its people, encouraging and rewarding the use of strengths. Create programs to discover and track the strengths of your employees. Offer training and teaching experiences continuously. Establishing a team structure allows people to maximize and share their strengths. Trusting people to apply themselves and be stretched beyond their comfort zone causes them to meet challenges and find new solutions.

Leaders in strength-based cultures assess their people’s performance not just on quantifiable results, but on the effectiveness of their personal development. How well do they use their strengths, and how do they maximize them or develop new ones? Leaders who are focused on strengths often coach their people directly, cultivating more talents and strengths. Setting up a system of internal coaching is also a powerful way to enhance and develop strengths, build networks, and increase collaboration.

Your strength-based culture must teach communication skills, where strengths get enhanced and used to connect people and forge a spirit of unity. Leaders who instill a mindset of helping one another get the greatest benefits from the strengths of their people, where they feel fulfilled and valued. Applying a collective focus on peoples’ strengths can fashion a culture that will boost your business better than any other approach.

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