If the notion that strengths-based coaching is a weakening agent has ever crossed a business leader’s mind, leadership consultant and author Evan Hackel cautions that leader to think again.
It’s no secret that everyone has their weaknesses, but in today’s fast-paced marketplace, can anyone afford to devote a significant amount of time and energy on turning someone’s weakness into a strength?
Not really, said Hackel, CEO of Tortal Training. One of his strengths, as gleaned by Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0, is ideation, so it makes sense to him to spend a good deal of his time in that space. “If I look at my weaknesses, it makes no sense to try and make me good at those things,” he said. “It would frustrate me.”
Before leaders start even thinking about strengths-based coaching, he said, it’s important to look at whether staff members are in the right roles — given their strengths — to begin with. “If someone is in a role that doesn’t match their strength, I try to encourage them to find a different role so that every position is filled with somebody who has those strengths.”
When anyone, whether they’re a top-of-the-house executive or a front-line employee, is trying to work within an area of weakness, they’re liable to be miserable in their position, do a poor job and, because of their poor performance, work against the company’s goals.
Leaders should consider the statement: “Your next best customer is your last customer,” Hackel said.
A business’ existing customers are likely to buy from it again, and that same perspective can translate to a person’s strengths. “Your best successes are much more likely to come out of the things that you are currently successful at,” Hackel said.
With that in mind, getting staff in the right positions is critical to an organization's health. Once staffers are in roles that allow them to play to their strengths, coaching with a strengths-based approach should produce a fruitful experience for all involved, the business included.
Hackel said when leaders focus coaching on strengths, they’re positioned to help a protégé build upon what they are already doing well and to give positive reinforcement, which has been shown to encourage adult learning.
Learning leaders can do a few things to effectively incorporate strengths-based coaching into their development strategy:
Get the team aligned on strengths. There’s a range of tools available in the market to assess strengths. It’s important that everybody is working with the same definition of strengths and the same method with which to identify them across the organization.
Get to know and understand each other’s strengths. Doing so might mean moving some staff out of demonstrated areas of weaknesses toward strengths. Or it might mean helping them take their impressive work in a particular area to the next level.
- Fine tune what you’re asking for. Hackel said identifying strengths and running an organization from a place of strength starts before prospective employees even reach their new workspace. With an understanding of the strengths best suited for a given job, those involved in the interviewing and hiring process can assess whether candidates’ extant strengths are indeed a match with the position.