Will looking at what is wrong in your business lead to making things right? Not necessarily. It may be better to focus on the strengths, and build from there.
I just attended a keynote speech by the author of Now, Discover your Strengths – Marcus Buckingham. His job in part was to entertain – but he had a powerful message – the power of positivity.
“Build on your strengths and manage around your weaknesses.” If we are feeling good about ourselves, then our level of engagement goes up. Quite simply love what you do and do what you love.
He posed the question: “At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”
Buckingham pondered why do we conduct exit interviews with people leaving an organisation when really it’s a case of looking at those who are engaged and happy at work, to find out what they like and do more of it. He says we have a tendency in the west to look at what is wrong, with the hope that in studying that we will find out what is right.
Our role as leaders is to become students of excellence, to focus on what is right, to focus on the good things and make more of it. However he proclaimed that his concern is that even though he has sold two million books on strengths, we still view our workplaces as if something is wrong.
In fact, he says that his research shows that we are actually in decline. In 2005, 17% of the workforce said that they spend most of their time playing to their strengths – this has declined by 2007 to 12%. (I wondered if that is because now we are more aware of our strengths, so we know we are not playing to them.)
As leaders, it is important that we play to our strengths. We have to lead by example, coach our people based on their strengths. He asked: “How often do you feel an emotional high from your job – or that you’re so focused that you loose track of time?”
The fascinating thing is that our strengths don’t change – as you grow you become more of who you already are. While some think that people grow from their weaknesses, in fact they grow the most in the areas of strengths, and they are the greatest source of growth.
The greatest contributor to a team he argues is not the person who will take on anything to get the job done – a great team member volunteers his strengths to the team.
Basically believe in your strengths – trust what makes you feel good. And as leaders it is our job to work out how to use collective strengths powerfully.
While we as an organisation (RedBalloon) have engaged the Gallup organisation to formally discover our people’s strengths, Marcus said there is a short version you can do to get an indication of your strengths. Simply carry a piece of paper with you for a week and write down everything you “Love” and everything you “Loathe”. And review them based on success, instinct, growth and needs. How do you feel before an activity and how do you feel after it?
Marcus summed up with what to me was the best ever definition of the difference between a manager and a leader.
A manager’s job is to discover the strengths of each individual. Find out what makes them unique and what their passions are. A manager’s role is to focus on what makes people different.
A leader’s job is to rally people for a better future. To cut through the differences and discover what people share – focus on what people have in common – values, vision and alignment.
(The opposite of a leader is a pessimist.)
I for one will make sure that we focus on celebrating what is great – rather than dwelling on what we did not get done – to look at what we did achieve.
To read more Naomi Simson blogs, click here.Naomi Simson is the founder and CEO (Chief Experiences Officer) of RedBalloon Days, Naomi is passionate about pleasure! Backed by enthusiasm, energy and drive and recently named one of Australia’s best bosses (Australia’s Marketing Employer of Choice), the Entrepreneurs Organisation (Sydney Chapter) President 2007 – 2008 and mother of two, Naomi also inspires others as a regular speaker, writes a blog and has recently completed her first book.