At our Culture Carnival, April Bembridge, our Chief People Officer, showed a report card which read as follows: English – A, French – C, Algebra – F.

    “Now, as a parent, if your child came home from school with this report, which grade deserves the most time from you?”

    Answers were mixed, but a large number of the audience chose the conventional option: F. F for “fail”. F for simply not good enough. The child’s English talents were ignored, and their potential was left untapped.

    In the world of work, the conventional management approach follows the same path. Weaknesses are put under the microscope, prioritised and “fixed” before strengths are built on. But why? We can’t all be great at everything, and nor should we try to be. Happiness, both in and out of work, can be found in the sweet spot between our passions and our talents.

    So, to boost employee engagement, productivity and profit, it’s time to fly in the face of convention, and draw inspiration from the title of Gallup’s “First, Break All The Rules” – an insight into what the world’s greatest managers do differently. It’s time, to take a strengths-based approach.

    Strengths-based theory: what is it and how can you follow it?

    Strengths-based theory was born from Gallup’s research into millions of leaders, managers, their teams and how they perform to the best of their ability.

    It’s built on a simple notion: everyone is better at certain things than others, and we, as humans, are happier, more engaged and more productive when we’re using those skills and strengths on a regular basis. Work evolves from a chore into a chance to impress. And a chance to succeed.

    To make sure your people are playing to their strengths every day, you’ll have to know and understand exactly what those strengths are. To get the ball rolling, online personal assessment tests such as the Clifton Strengths Finder are a great place to start.

    This test measures you on 34 wide-ranging themes of talent, ranking them in order and giving you a “top five”. Amongst these 34, your strengths may lie in winning others over, sparking action, communicating, or showing empathy or positivity.

    Now you have a clearer understanding of your natural strengths, it’s time to think about how you’re using them on a daily basis, and how you’re going to continue building on them.

    To do that, they’ll need to be tied into your team’s goals, tasks and performance management philosophy. And that rests on having the right managers in place; people with a desire to coach their team and hone their strengths continuously – not just in the short period after hiring or promotion.

    The benefits of a strengths-based culture

    Engaging and energising your people

    Gallup’s research has found that people who use their strengths every day are:

    • 6x more likely to be engaged at work
    • 3x more likely to enjoy an excellent quality of life
    • 15% less likely to leave their job
    • 8% more productive.

    So, your people are more engaged and more effective in the workplace when they’re using their strengths. But that’s not all. Gallup’s research also highlights an understanding of your strengths as a key part of not only meeting, but exceeding the demands of your family and day to day life, too.

    The benefits for your business

    The most successful, best-led companies around the world have all built and refined high-performance cultures. Their managers discuss their team’s strengths and create opportunities for them to flex those muscles every day.

    Unsurprisingly, Gallup’s research has found huge benefits to doing so. Businesses that take a strengths-based approach to development and culture boast:

    • 38% higher productivity
    • 50% lower employee turnover
    • 44% higher customer satisfaction scores
    • 10% to 19% increased sales
    • 14% to 29% increased profit.

    The power of simplicity

    As you’ve seen, strengths-based theory is based on a very simple notion: your strengths lie in X, so let’s make sure you spend more time using them, instead of wasting that time “fixing” Y.

    While the theory and its long list of benefits are simple, the challenge lies in building and consistently following a strengths-based model that works for your business and your people’s needs. Sure, it will take some time, and possibly even personnel changes, but once your people are working and developing themselves in their sweet spot, that’s when your business will hit its sweet spot, too.



    STEVE NOSS, Head of Creative

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