Wherever your team are located right now – remotely or physically, some together, some apart, research shows us that when people play to their strengths, they are more likely to perform well. The business case therefore for bringing strengths into everyday management performance conversations with employees include:
- Higher levels of well-being, motivation and self-confidence at the individual level
- More effective teamworking, problem-solving and improved relationships at the team level
- Focusing on strengths during performance management conversations has a significant impact on employee performance, improving performance by over 36% on average.
Today’s podcast focuses on how to empower your team using strengths in your one-to-one conversations as a manager. My name’s Dr Paul Brewerton, the strengths guy, living life through a strengths lens and podcasting each Monday in time for your week ahead.
My podcast today assumes you have a working knowledge of our strengths assessment tool, Strengthscope®. If you don’t have that knowledge, the first question to ask yourself is ‘Why not?’. You can find out all about it here.
The first step is to complete your own strengths assessment and understand your own strengths before all else. Followed by asking your direct reports to complete theirs. Then:
1. Discuss what each of their top strengths means to your direct report, why each is important to them and how it energises them. In short, ask them to tell their ‘strengths story’. You’ll be amazed at how individual the stories are that you hear and how much you learn about how each member of your team uses and combines their strengths to get the best from themselves and their work. And they may well be unaware quite how valuable and valued these strengths and strength combinations are.
2. Next, ask them to talk about how they have used their strengths, or could use their strengths even more in their role and what benefit that would bring to the team and to the organisation. This is a general question designed to stimulate some thinking around how someone’s strengths may have more value than they thought in their current context, so be encouraging and offer your own views. In fact, tell your direct report which of their strengths you have seen and what value you feel each has brought.
3. Another important area to consider is overdrive risks. These are risks which typically show up for people under pressure or when stressed, or maybe when they are super ‘in flow’ and get a bit carried away in the moment. The net result of a strength in overdrive can vary, but almost always the consequences don’t match the intention, such as overwhelming someone else with the strength on display, or leading an audience to have a reaction which wasn’t what was meant. So my Leading strength in overdrive might look like me ‘taking over’; or my Collaboration strength in overdrive might look like me abdicating responsibility and not taking ownership for something.
As the next element of your conversation, consider your direct report’s overdrive risks: which have you seen, which are your direct report aware of, and how do you both feel this could affect their performance? Then move on to working up some strategies to limit these risks.
4. The next area to explore is how your direct report can use their strengths to achieve their current goals. Ask which strength or strengths they can use to address their current challenges and which risks might show up for them – identifying strategies with them to maximise their strengths and minimise their risks. So I might have a project to deliver that is running behind schedule, involving some suppliers who aren’t meeting expectations.
Maybe I can use my Leading strength to get the project team aligned around the goal and my Courage strength to give some clear feedback to the suppliers, then lean on my Results focus strength to get the project over the line. Re overdrive, I’ll need to avoid my Courage strength going too far and demoralising the suppliers and I’ll need to keep checking in with the team that they are still with me, rather than letting my Results focus and Leading run away with me. You see the approach: your strengths become your ‘go to’ tools enabling you to get things done and giving you confidence that you can get there.
5. The last point is all-important: keep up the strengths talk. Once you have started a strengths dialogue, it’s important that this continues. Speak each week or at least each fortnight with your direct report and check in on what value they have delivered using their strengths to address their current goals or challenges and what has been successful for them as regards strategies for managing risks. Make it part of your normal day to day check-in conversations.
Now to recap on a few tips to get the best from each strengths conversation with your directs.
Bring a positive mind-set
Using Strengthscope® in day to day conversations with your team works best when you bring in a positive mind-set. Look for positive aspects of behaviour and performance to identify where someone is most engaged, energised and effective, so you can build on that base.
Remember that strengths aren’t skills
Strengths represent those aspects of work that energise someone the most and usually indicate where they might be the most effective in their role and career, or have the potential to be. People can become more skilled in using their strengths, but skills alone may not indicate where someone is most energised, or has the greatest potential.
Remember that strengths in overdrive may be a risk
People are often unaware of their strengths being overused in certain contexts. The negative consequences of this can present a risk to them, their role and, potentially to the organisation.
Know your own strengths and risks
Before you speak to your direct reports about their strengths, make sure you understand the strengths that you can bring to each conversation that may be helpful, and those which may have a tendency to go into overdrive. Plan to bring your best self to the conversation. Your Empathy or Developing others strengths might be particularly useful if used well in a strengths conversation, for example, whereas your Results focus or Decisiveness strengths may reduce your effectiveness, if they tip into overdrive.
Have strengths conversations
Know the strengths of each member of your team and encourage them to use those strengths when working on tasks or projects or when under pressure. Also, know the risk areas of each of your team members which may show up when they’re under additional pressure or in new circumstances – particularly drainers, where they don’t have energy or strength, and strength in overdrive risks, where they may start overdoing strengths as that can lead to exhaustion, if you miss it.
So that’s a quick introduction and reminder to empowering and enabling your team with strengths. When these discussions become part of day to day conversations with your direct reports, you will see their confidence grow, a greater sense of ownership and engagement with tasks and ultimately an increase in performance – as I mentioned, this can go up by 36% on average when used in performance management conversations. That’s it for this week. Till next time, stay strong.
This podcast is now available on all major podcast platforms. Find it on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, Stitcher, ACast and Soundcloud. Check out the back catalogue and subscribe to get them every Monday morning.