By Mike Roarty and Kathy Toogood
“By celebrating what’s right with the world, we find the energy to fix what’s wrong.”
So says award winning National Geographic photographer, and Stephen Covey co-author, Dewitt Jones. His years of capturing the beauty, splendour and potential of developing nations convinced him that this could advance their cause more than berating their deficiencies. But does this outlook hold true for the modern leader and their people?
Today’s leaders strive for top results for their team and their organisation in a tough economic climate. Naturally they want to have a team that loves to be at work, really makes a difference and creates something of real value for everyone involved. But no matter how hard everyone works and how much they achieve, sometimes employees seem stressed and de-motivated. And that means they are not achieving their optimum potential.
And so what do we do? We hold an appraisal to see what’s going wrong.
Conventional wisdom has held for many years that our weaknesses represent our greatest opportunities for development, and that we should focus on fixing weaknesses (our own and our teams) in order to increase our chances of success. However research over the past decade has challenged some of these principles.
Focusing on what people do well can deliver measurable business returns, both in terms of hard results such as increased revenues and reduced costs as well as having a positive impact on “lead‟ indicators of future success such as customer engagement, improved morale, discretionary effort and personal wellbeing (a major contributory factor in absenteeism rates).
Research has shown that those who use their strengths more are happier, more confident and have higher levels of self esteem and congruency. This results in people who have higher levels of energy, experience less stress, are more resourceful and resilient and are hence more likely to achieve goals, perform better at work, be more engaged and more effective at developing themselves.
For example, recent research across the last decade shows that:
So, with all that evidence in mind, why do many employee appraisals and development programmes continue to focus on what’s not working? And even those businesses that focus on what people are good at sometimes miss a critical element of a real strengths focus.
It’s not just about what you’re good at
Ask yourself, which of your key strengths are the ones that also really inspire and motivate you?
The answer to this question touches on a fundamental part of the definition of a strength. A real strength is more than simply something that you are very good at. It is also something that energises and motivates you.
A focus on strengths is a focus on what people are good at that also energises them, rather than just a focus on what they are good at. A focus on strengths is also a focus on building on people’s strengths rather than a focus on fixing people’s weaknesses.
Follow the leader
Ascentia’s core philosophy has always been to use the natural strengths of an individual as a platform for growth because we have gathered ample evidence across the last eleven years that a strengths focus achieves the best results.
The leader of the team or business wishing to move towards a strengths focus has a critical role to play. A strengths focused leader is one who adopts and demonstrates the following principles, beliefs or mindset in their behaviour:
Strengths-focused leaders work at their optimum potential by being authentic and playing to their own strengths, recognising that they are not strong at everything and that others can bring the strengths that they may not have.
They view their own and others’ weaknesses from a position of strength – looking at how the team can use its collective strengths to address any significant weaknesses.
Strengths can be overused and underused. A strengths-focused leader recognises that for strengths to be most effective they need to use them at the right time, in the right situation, and the right amount.
Finally, strengths-focused leaders celebrate strengths and what is working, which gives people the energy to address their weaknesses and what is working less well or not working at all.
Alongside their work with Ascentia, coaches Mike Roarty and Kathy Toogood have developed the MOST Model, which gives leaders an easy to remember framework for comprehensively incorporating a strengths focus into everything that they do as a leader, in order to get the most out of their people, their potential and their performance.
Supported by a strengths-focused mindset, establishing strengths in a team or organisation follows the following 4 steps:
|M||Identify and develop My own strengths|
|O||Identify and develop the strengths of Others|
|S||Apply a strengths focus to day-to-day Situations (1-2-1s, team meetings etc)|
|T||Apply a strengths focus to Typical people processes (Performance & development planning etc.)|
Ascentia’s core philosophy has always been to use the natural strengths of an individual as a platform for growth. Ascentia works with organisations to assess employee strengths and competencies and align them with organisational goals. We design bespoke programmes for our customers including some or all of the following elements:
Mike Roarty & Kathy Toogood, who lead the company’s work on strengths-focused leadership, have strengths around creativity, strategic thinking, growth, learning and a focus on results. They use these strengths with individuals, teams and organisations to support them achieve great outcomes in ways that motivate and energise them towards even greater results, learning and fulfilment.