Unlocking potential – where people can be the best they can be at work


This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2019 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2019 this involves 15 free events, workshops and training sessions taking place between 25th February and 26th March, along with thought leadership videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Sponsors – the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Curium Solutions and CIPD - all events are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more here.

How you and your business can benefit from a Strengths Focused Approach:

Does your company struggle to:

  • Attract and retain talent, including Millennials?
  • Improve employee experience and engagement?
  • Achieve higher productivity?
  • Increase innovation and problem solving skills?
  • Reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing?
  • Increase agility and pace?
  • Improve stronger teamwork and supportive behaviours?

Take a few minutes to think about the people in your workplace.

Who are the people you least enjoy working with?  What is it about each of them that generates this response in you? Now consider their characteristics and make a list of them.  Having completed this list, score yourself in terms how you feel where 1 is very low energy/positivity and 10 is highly energised/positive.

Now consider those people that you most enjoy working with?  What is it about each of them that generates this response in you? Now consider their characteristics and make a list of them.  Having completed this list, score yourself in terms how you feel where 1 is very low energy/positivity and 10 is highly energised/positive.

The first group are often referred to as the “mood hoovers,” they suck up all the positive energy from the room.  The second group are often referred to as “radiators,” they ooze both energy and positivity.

Fiona Anderson

Now consider the difference in your score after considering the mood hoovers and then the radiators. How much impact did the radiators have on your own positivity and energy?  How much better can you perform with increased positivity and energy?

A strengths focused approach is based on positive psychology. Research shows that people who understand and apply their strengths significantly outperform those who focus mainly on fixing their weaknesses:

“Companies where the focus is on amplifying positive attributes… rather than combatting negatives…. Perform better financially and otherwise”
Bronwyn Fryer – Editor Harvard Business Review, 2004

“Optimising strengths increases engagement by up to 73%”
Rath and Conchie, 2008

“Customer retention is 44% higher in companies where people are allowed “to do what they do best every day”
Harter et al, 2002

What are strengths?

“Strengths are the underlying qualities that energise you, contribute to your personal growth and lead to peak performance.  Strengths reflect our passions and values and enable us to perform at our peak, in both good times and during tough, challenging times”
Brewerton and Brook, Strengths Partnership Ltd

Those who understand their strengths know what energises, enthuses and excites them. With this knowledge they can then identify how to stretch and further develop in these areas. A strengths focussed approach, helps boost confidence, resilience and resourcefulness.  It helps individuals, teams and businesses to excel:

Years of research prove that individuals and teams playing to their strengths significantly outperform those who don’t in almost every business metric”
Marcus Buckingham, Management Guru and Author, 2009

What about weaknesses?

Even such a positive and highly energised approach does help individuals and teams identify their weaknesses.  These are areas of “performance risk”. They are the areas that they are least likely to perform well in because, put simply, they don’t enjoy doing them!  In this situation the individual is encouraged to consider the impact of such risks.  If they are essential to the role, then the individual can consider: how their strengths can compensate; who in their team would be better suited to this area of work; are they in the right role or, work exceptionally hard to develop their skills here.  The latter approach, the “deficit approach,” that is currently most common in performance management, is recognised as being the least productive for the individual, teams and the business.

Weaknesses can also be strengths that are used in overdrive.  This knowledge can help individuals to understand the impact that this can have on others and help temper their overuse.

Transforming Performance Management:

Strengths can be threaded through recruitment, promotion, regular one to ones, appraisals, leadership development, individual and team development, coaching………….They can be the catalyst for culture change and increased productivity throughout a business.

Introducing strengths based performance management is not for the faint hearted. Unlearning and breaking habits of a lifetime requires new skills and commitment from Executives and throughout the business.

And finally….is the phrase “Performance Management” still appropriate or is it intrinsically linked and tarnished by the deficit approach?  If so, then what is a more appropriate phrase? 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Need to find out more? Then please contact us.

Fiona’s passion, belief and expertise is in culture change - inspiring, energising and embedding personal & organisation wide transformation, for the benefit of all.

+24% increase in staff motivation in 6 weeks is one example of how valuingYOU can add value to your bottom line.

Fiona Anderson