A 5 Step Project That Fuels Energy and Performance
“A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all.” Peter Drucker
5 step project:
#1. List the top three strengths of each direct report.
Reflect on strengths by asking yourself:
- What are they doing when they’re at their best?
- What are they doing when their energy goes up?
- What’s their most important contribution?
- What are they doing when they enjoy bringing value to others?
Don’t rush. Reflect and record your insights.
#2. Discuss your observations with each direct report.
- I’ve been reflecting on your strengths. (Discuss the reflection questions in #1 above.)
- I’m not sure, but I think your top three strengths might be ….
- What comes to mind for you, when you hear my observations?
- What would you add to the list?
After conversation, adjust the top three strengths of each direct report, where appropriate.
Bonus question: How might I help you maximize your strengths?
#3. An exploration with the management team.
Print the “top three strengths” list and distribute it to the management team. You may distribute your list to your direct reports, but that’s not the point of this exercise.
Management team discussion:
Each leader, in turn, discusses their direct report’s strengths and asks their colleagues the following four questions.
- What might frustrate this person, based on their strengths?
- What would you say to a person with these strengths that might fuel their energy?
- How might I help this person reach higher?
- What might help this person feel supported?
(Questions #3 and #4 navigate the tension between challenge and support.)
#4. Performance questions.
- How will you work to maximize each direct report’s strengths? (Challenge and support.)
- What will you avoid that might frustrate or hinder them?
#5. Discuss, adapt, and execute your action list with each direct report.
How would you adapt the above project?
(Feel free to send an email to explore a customized development experience for your team with Dan Rockwell.)
This project is a culture-builder when done with the management team. But you could use this project for a series of one-on-ones with each direct report.
VIA Character Strengths Survey (Free tool that each direct report could take. Compare your list with survey results.)
StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Book with strengths assessment.)
Our team has taken the StrengthsFinder test and completed workshops doing just what you indicated in your blog. When we stopped focusing on weaknesses and focusing on strengths, our team became much stronger and more engaged. We openly discuss the parts of a project that we can best contribute and work together on the parts that may play a little less to our top strengths. We also restructured jobs around each individual’s strengths. Of course we all have things that we don’t like to do or don’t fill our bucket but we were able to minimize those types of tasks for each person. For example, one person didn’t like scanning and coding documents. Through our discussion, we learned that a different team member loved that part of their job but didn’t like typing documents. The two switched those two tasks within their job. Accuracy went up and so did morale.
Focusing on strengths is an absolute winner in the workplace!
Wow Gina! Thanks for sharing your story. Your experience is repeated over and over with teams who rise about weakness-centered leadership.
There seems to be some vulnerability in this approach. We have to acknowledge what we aren’t good at in order to function in our strengths. Some teams don’t trust each other enough to do that.
Dan…….lots of great points.
Here’s a few more to consider.
1. Think about the top accomplishment each of your direct reports had in the last 6 months. What are the top three skills or traits that helped them excel and achieve great results.
2. Add, subtract, multiply and divide.
add–what small action could they add to their strength that would make it even stronger?
subtract–what is one thing they should stop doing that will improve their strength?
multiply –what can your direct reports do to use their strengths in more situations?
divide–how can you divide up the work so everyone is utilizing their strengths to the max?
Thanks Paul. Brilliant. Reflecting on past accomplishments is so necessary when you remember that bad is stronger than good. You’ll have to commit to reflecting on the good because remember the bad comes natural for most of us.
I turn this around. I ask direct reports the questions you lay out in number 1 and number 3, rather than guessing. I find if I guess, I often guess wrong. Only they can tell you what makes them feel “strong.”
Thanks Cara, Yes. I think the process can go either way. I chose the approach offered in this post to allow leaders the opportunity to be proactive on behalf of their direct reports. It’s always important to examine and evaluate our observations about others.
Thanks again for jumping in.
Over the years focusing on ones strengths have definitely made my life easier, knowing that the “A” is best suited for this, the “B” team for that, etc. Really comes down to understanding everyone’s capabilities and how they can contribute to the best of their abilities. Keep in mind we have to build them up and challenge them from time to time to go outside their comfort zone, build their weakness into a strong suit.
Thanks Tim. I’ve fallen into the trap of expecting performance out of weakness. It frustrates everyone and creates negative relationships.
Every flower blossoms differently, if we want performance go to the “A” team.
Posted for Lalit Bhojwani…
I am going to replace the word strength into weakness in the above five steps. Let me see what will be happen. That is what we generally do.
What I’ve seen a lot of is organisations is that they will develop a plan like this, do all the tests and never implement sections 4 and five above. Recently a number of colleagues did training where a great deal of use was made of the StrengthsFinder book/system. Since they came back from the course, the book and the methodology hasn’t seen the light of day. Not because they aren’t interested, but there’s a massive disconnect between training, planning and coaching the skills and the day to day reality where this stuff is seen as a curiosity at best or an irrelevance and waste of time/effort at worst.
Thank you. I used the online VIA strengths analyser and found it very helpful. I’ve also used “Now discover your strengths” (Buckingham & Clifton). And you’ve inspired me to order the StrengthsFinder book, too! Best wishes, Michael