Making the Case for Leaders to Focus on the Strengths of their Workers

A new study out by Gallop (Rigoni & Asplund, 2016) makes the case for managers to focus on their employees strengths that will get the work done and achieve organizational goals. According to the study, 67% of workers are engaged when their managers use a strength-based approach by recognizing and honoring their strengths. Workers value being recognized for what they’ve brought into the organization and being allowed to use their skills and talents – this is what keeps them involved in the work they do, as well as the organization overall.

A strength-based approach focuses on what an employee is doing well, versus only tending to them when something goes wrong. This reminds me of how a Transformational Leader works, as well as the practice of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) (Cooperrider, 2005). When focusing on what is going well, it creates a positive feeling that makes one want to keep doing the positive actions they’ve been doing. The negatives tend to come out but not in a confrontive way; they will come naturally, becoming less threatening which can allow the worker to feel less fearful or defensive, and more open to any suggestions for improvement. Also, when positives are recognized it leads to a worker wanting to do more, ala self-empowerment and self-efficacy.

If focusing on strengths will increase not only engagement levels but also openness and positivity towards the leader and the organization, why aren’t more using these practices? I am not sure how many in leadership role, or potential role, really think about the types of leadership models they can adopt, nor am I sure if the average person actually takes to determine the type of leader they want to be. Knowing the various options available will make for a better leader and a better organization. Focusing on strengths is one to model after.

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