• Are you growing people’s strengths? You cannot afford not to.

    Employees value the opportunity to develop and grow – maybe even beyond the role they were hired for. This is especially true of millennials, as shown by a number of studies.

    According to the Gallup report How Millennials Want to Work and Live, 87 percent of respondents said development opportunities are an important job feature. Additionally, staffing provider, LaSalle Network, surveyed 6,000 recent college graduates about the most important factors they consider when evaluating a company to work for. The LaSalle survey found that 71 percent of respondents said opportunity for growth was the number one factor when considering a new role. And Pew Research Center’s 2016 Report on The State of American Jobs stated that 87 percent of workers believe they will need additional training and skills to keep up with current and future changing technology in the workplace.

    In evaluating professional development offerings and opportunities to grow, employees may look for employer-offered online training or onsite workshops and company support as they pursue additional work-related education.

    In my work as a coach, I have found that people want to get better at what they do, to be stronger contributors, and more qualified to advance to greater responsibilities. Leaders who provide their people with these opportunities see them not only advancing their current strengths, but developing new ones. As a leader you have no better ability to succeed than when your people are continuously raising their capabilities and the desire to use them. In fact, I would argue that if you aren’t making the development of your people your highest priority, you won’t succeed for long as a leader.

    Another significant way people can grow is to take on the role of trainer or instructor and share what they know. If you aspire to be a servant-leader, you will know that the best test of your skill as a leader is that those you’ve led will be encouraged to turn around and teach those who come behind. Establishing in-house training programs is a great way to grow strengths in everyone. It also raises the candidacy of people for potential advancement or involvement in more complex projects.

    Developing the strengths of your people is beneficial through the reputation they develop, both within and outside your organization. Internal expertise is obviously beneficial for organizations that rely on winning projects from the business community. It also pays dividends internally, when other employees seek out your team experts to learn and grow additional strengths. Forget the politics of keeping your peoples’ strengths to yourself. Everyone wins when you enhance your entire organization by sharing what you have. To paraphrase a popular saying, it diminishes you not at all to light another person’s candle. Indeed, it’s why I do what I do. There is no moment so satisfying as to witness the spark of learning and growth.

    The Strength-Based Philosophy

    The most productive and effective organizations, the ones that have the most engaged and creative people, are the ones that have a culture focused on the strengths of their employees. The emphasis is on what people can do, not on what they can’t do. None of this happens by itself, but only through the living example and specific direction of the primary leader. These are leaders who have the philosophy that strengths are the primary focus of everything their organization attempts to do.

    Such a culture invests heavily in its people, encouraging and rewarding the use of strengths. Create programs to discover and track the strengths of your employees. Offer training and teaching experiences continuously. Establishing a team structure allows people to maximize and share their strengths. Trusting people to apply themselves and be stretched beyond their comfort zone causes them to meet challenges and find new solutions.

    Leaders in strength-based cultures assess their people’s performance not just on quantifiable results, but on the effectiveness of their personal development. How well do they use their strengths, and how do they maximize them or develop new ones? Do they use their strengths to build the strengths of others? Melinda Key-Roberts, Ph.D, a senior research psychologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, noted that military leaders develop subordinates in several ways, including—

    • Constructing a positive organizational climate.
    • Influencing self-development.
    • Encouraging the growth of subordinates through mentoring, coaching, counseling, and careful job assignment based on individual talent.

    Leaders who are focused on strengths often coach their people directly, cultivating more talents and strengths. Setting up a system of internal coaching is also a powerful way to enhance and develop strengths, build networks, and increase collaboration.

    Your strength-based culture must teach communication skills, where strengths get enhanced and used to connect people and forge a spirit of unity. Leaders who instill a mindset of helping one another get the greatest benefits from the strengths of their people, where they feel fulfilled and valued. Applying a collective focus on peoples’ strengths can fashion a culture that will boost your business better than any other approach.

    Does your organization have a strength-based philosophy? Are you growing peoples’ strengths? Are your people growing those around them? I’d love to hear from you.

    You can reach me by email, by phone at (503) 459-8393, or on LinkedIn.