Everyone has a finite amount of time to develop personal and professional skills. There is a long standing debate on employee development: do I help my employee work on their weaknesses or do I help develop my employee’s strengths?
In the book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman present findings from interviewing over 80,000 successful managers. One of the core findings from this survey is the belief by most managers: “People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough.”
This is a tremendous insight for managers! Instead of continually focusing on the weaknesses in your employees and trying to fix them, focus your efforts on enhancing the strengths of each employee. Great managers identify the strengths of their employees and focus their efforts on fitting them into the right position, building their strengths, and improving specific areas. Successful managers work around weaknesses or compensate for them.
On a more macro level, it’s important for you to hire employees with different strengths and weaknesses in order to compensate for the weaknesses of any particular individual. A diverse team of employees allows you to maximize your strengths and hide the weaknesses.
You must select a team which have core strengths in the focus area of your department. For example, you should not staff a programming team with employees with mediocre development skills but great marketing skills. The core purpose of your team demands core strengths in those areas.
As a manager, you will have teams which have too many of the same type of employee or weaknesses which are harder to overcome. It will be your task to overcome this weakness on your team by dramatically improving strengths or changing members of the team to change the mix. Thinking about strengths development, there are five core tasks for managers:
- Hire diverse talent with strengths in core focus of your department.
- Determine the right people for the right positions and projects.
- Create a development plan to improve the strengths of each employee.
- Delegate tasks and projects to the individuals and groups who can successfully execute.
- Hold each employee accountable.
How Do I Develop Employee Strengths?
- Talk with your employees regularly about their development. Understand what they believe their strengths and weaknesses are.
- Encourage your employees to develop their own individual development plan with strengths in mind.
- Provide cross training opportunities for employees to develop their strengths with strong performers on your team.
- Create training opportunities for your employees including on-the-job training, special projects, training classes, mentoring, rotation assignments, external activities, and online training.
- Set goals with your employees for a specific date to improve a specific strength. Help the employee create a plan to meet the goal.
- Develop your employee’s strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.
- You need a diverse group of people in your team with core strengths in your team’s core purpose.
- Assigns positions, projects, and tasks based on employee strengths.