Good managers build on strengths not weaknesses

New research published by the CIPD shows that line managers can improve the performance of their teams by focusing on building their strengths, rather than trying to fix their weaknesses.

The guiding principle is, ‘How can I take this person’s strength and turn it into performance?” which is the only way success is possible. And yet not everyone has that skill except really great managers, and really inspiring business leaders, the downside they are rarer than many think.

So, how to tell a really great manager from a bad manager? 

The good manager knows that not all employees work the same way. They know if they are to achieve success, they must put their employees in a position where they will be able to use their strengths. Great managers know they don’t have lots of people working for them, they know they have lots of individuals working for them.

A really great manager is brilliant at spotting the unique differences that separate each person and then capitalizing on them.”

‘Strengths-based performance conversations’ aims to move managers away from a deficit-oriented method, which is focused on identifying and fixing the weaknesses of team members, analysing what has gone wrong and considering how that can be avoided in the future. The new study of performance management outcomes in the civil service shows that that employee performance can be improved by a simple training intervention focused on building strengths instead of fixing weaknesses. These results can be boosted by a more extensive intervention, which includes wider communication and changes to HR policy, as well as management training.

The CIPD research centred on workplace interventions in three government organisations: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the (NOMS, now called Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, or HMPPS) and the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), as well as work with the Civil Service Employee Policy team. The field study involved before-and-after measures, comparing control groups who were not given any training or support with treatment groups who attended a training workshop on leading strengths-based performance conversations. In the VOA there were additional interventions including a change in HR policy on performance management.

The feedback from employees after the study suggests a marked improvement in how useful performance conversations were when they focussed on strengths-based conversations. Overall, the interventions led to a 9.7 percent increase in employees agreeing with the statement, ‘My meetings with my line manager help me learn and develop as a professional’. There was also a 7.4 percent increase in those agreeing with the statement, ‘My meetings with my line manager help to improve my performance’.

Working around strengths is about seeing opportunities rather than problems!

Nobody is perfect, we are all flawed in one way or another. But we are all unique and all carry a host of skills and attributes which have the potential to become powerful tools in our arsenals… we just have to realise it!


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