In a time when companies are having to review and restructure internally, unable to recruit additional staff due to fiscal restraints imposed by the current economic climate, business leaders need to focus on the talent within their businesses, ensuring that the culture and management practise delivers the full potential of all employees.
People designated as leaders because of their actions, rather than title alone, know that their success is measured by the success of their employees. Such leaders know that if they foster an inhospitable environment, then only the hardiest of employees will flourish. The most skillful leaders uncover and help nurture individuals potential, using missteps or mistakes as opportunities to augment and build on strengths. This approach elevates the performance of the group, and also supports and reflects well on the leader.
Make time for positive recognition. Whether in casual conversation or a formal performance review, think about and genuinely express positive feedback for the employee. Be specific about what he/she is doing well, and share examples. The benefit is two-fold: The employee knows what behaviours are most valued, and you help shift your thinking from ‘can’t do to there’s potential here’.
Identify ways to apply existing strengths in new ways. Thomas Edison saw sewing-thread as light bulb filament. How can you look at your employee in new, different ways? What qualities has your employee demonstrated, and how can these translate into needed skills? Start by throwing traditional title and responsibility-norms out the window. A receptionist with an unerring knack for detail could be an ideal project manager.
Ask the employee what she likes to do. There’s a funny equation applied to many promotions: People who excel at a specific job are promoted to management level. As a result, you’ve often taken the person out of the exact environment in which he/she succeeds and which they like, possibly reducing their success in the new position. Also, you cannot fully uncover a person’s strengths without their input. Tap into what they discern as their strengths by asking what they enjoy most, why, and in what role they believe they are of most value to the organization.
Get co-workers thoughts. As the business leader, you work with employees in different ways than they work with each other. Fertilize your assessment about an employee’s strengths with co-workers thoughts. A word of caution: This activity requires deft execution and should not be performed informally. Discussing an employee’s performance with other employees should never be done. However, implementing a 360-degree feedback loop or sharing kudos and thanks at staff meetings can provide insight into traits and behaviours that suit, and benefit, the entire team.
Look to history for clues. If you find yourself mired in thoughts about an employee’s weaknesses, spend time concentrating on why you hired them, what their resume and references told you, and what your first impressions were. There were reasons you brought this person on board; revisit those reasons to refresh your thinking about their strengths, contributions, and potential.
Turn a weakness on its head. Physicists know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Applied to employees, consider what’s the opposite of this weakness to unearth possible strengths. For instance, if an employee inconsistently completes projects that he developed in the first place, perhaps his strength is in generating ideas, not executing them.
Allow the employee to test-drive a new role. Maybe you’re seeing the employee in her specific role, yet more of their strengths would blossom in another role. Consider establishing a mini, internal internship program, in which employees shadow co-workers for a day to learn more about the roles and responsibilities available. This test-drive might spark new ideas about increased value from the employee, and allow you to see where a role-shift may make sense for the company. Ensure that the internship leads to valuable information for the company and the individual. Set clear goals and intentions for the exercise, including what we want to know at the end of this exercise.
All companies are different and so this information should be tailored according to the structure and direction of your business. The most effective interpersonal and organizational communication program is one that’s been tailored to meet the unique needs of your group.
Dylan*.consultant (pl.consultants) 1 A person motivated by and passionate about facilitating the right fit between talented candidates and inspired clients. 2 (consultancy) A dynamic group of people sharing a common focus, dedicated to recruitment, providing strategic added value to clients and helping to fulfil the ambitions and development of candidates.