Building a successful business is difficult, but notwithstanding the threats of competition, market-driven margin shrinkage, and the ever-increasing technology demands, the principles remain simple.
Create something of value that people want, at a price they’re prepared to pay, and deliver on your promises consistently.
However, as soon as you throw people into the mix – the people whose job it is to deliver – the waters get muddied. Investing in the right people, then giving them the tools and incentives they need is one of the toughest pieces of the puzzle. It’s where many businesses struggle, and it’s an area where the old top-down industrial-age paradigm fails.
Giving staff a set of tasks to perform and a commensurate remuneration package is no longer enough. The simple reason is, it ignores a fundamental driver of performance – personal strengths.
Most of us are competent at many things, terrible at others and outstanding in just a few. The trouble is, we rarely get to do the things we’re brilliant at and instead, spend most of our time doing stuff we’re competent, mediocre or terrible at. This is like buying a Porsche Macan Turbo luxury SUV, then spending all your time tackling the rocky trails of the High Country. It’s going to struggle. Sure, it’ll be incredible along the occasional fast and well-graded dirt road but it’ll be hopelessly ineffective everywhere else.
Plenty of job roles are approached the same way. We hire brilliant sales professionals but then we force them to prepare onerous reports or Powerpoint presentations. Or we force gifted engineers or software techs to deliver sales pitches to prospective clients – or worse, put them on stage at a convention. Some are born for that; most aren’t.
Employers who don’t identify and leverage their people’s unique strengths operate from the only alternative there is; from weakness. Forcing people to do stuff where they flounder is pointless. No one wins.
The same approach is actively promulgated in schools, where children are taught to work harder on their weaknesses rather than build on and maximise their strengths.
Given our brief time on this planet and how much of it is devoted to work, people do a whole lot better (and are much happier, too) if they dedicate their energy to something that truly resonates with them; something that comes naturally and just feels, ‘right‘.
I believe that if ever there was a secret to happiness, this must surely be it. Doing something that excites you every day and getting paid to do it.
There’s been plenty of research on this subject, and the results are no less startling that they are believable.
Possibly the largest study ever conducted on the value of personal strengths commenced in the mid 20th century by Donald O. Clifton from Gallup. It was later augmented my best-selling author, Tom Rath, culminating in the world-famous assessment called StrenghtsFinder 2.0. After surveying more than 10 million people from around the world, they distilled their findings into 34 core talents, the most dominant of which people could uncover for themselves by undergoing their assessment.
One of the most compelling findings of their research is the response to a simple statement. The statement goes something like this: “I get to do what I’m best at every day.” Two-thirds of respondents disagreed with this declaration and of those, 100% of them said they felt emotionally disengaged from their job. Moreover, the one-third who did agree with this statement were six times more likely to be engaged in their work and more than three times more likely to be enjoying an excellent quality of life.
As the famous business guru, Peter Drucker said, “Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. And yet, a person can perform only from strength.”
The key mantra for Gallup’s decades of research is quite simple – the key to human development is building on who you already are. In other words, despite what you’ve believed since you were a kid, you can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be a great deal more of who you already are.
A business where everyone on the team is playing to their strengths; where the areas in which they’re lacking are delegated by those who revel in those tasks, will outperform a business that ignores this principle. It’s incumbent on ambitious employers to be very cognisant of each team member’s unique strengths; then to put those strengths to the right tasks.
The outcome is an engaged and loyal workforce plus a highly effective and exciting place to work. It’s the ultimate win/win.