Originally published for the print edition of Ke Ola Magazine, January-February 2021 Hawai‘i Island issue.
Links are additions made expressly for the readers of this site and ManagingWithAloha.com.
This is the 8th article in the 3rd Series on Managing with Aloha written for the joint study of our Ho‘ohana Community and the business community of Ke Ola Magazine readers. Previously, article 7: The ‘Ohana in Business Model: Our Economy Done Better.
Strengths Management with Aloha: Our Talent, Skills and Knowledge
Eighth in Series Three on Managing with Aloha | By Rosa Say
Live a good life with great work.
As Alaka‘i Managers, mentors, coaches and trainers in the workplace, this is the four-part strategy we employ as the basis of how we treat our people:
— We hire/select people for their TALENT. We consider talent to be innate, in-born and naturally occurring.
— We train people to develop their SKILLS. Skills are the learned activities relevant to the job and mission at hand.
— We give access to the KNOWLEDGE our people need. Knowledge is learned information; however, access to it cannot always be assumed.
— We define COMPETENCY as the workplace fit required to function well in your operational culture.
How then, do a person’s strengths factor into this?
Strengths are TALENTS applied, and in use. We often think of talents as qualifications based on past experience, i.e., there was opportunity to use one’s talents, and they did so to discernable result. Our best growth and self-development will happen within our strengths, since one’s talent comes naturally to them.
What about weaknesses?
This is an important distinction—weaknesses are NON-TALENTS applied the best a person can manage them, and we will always be forced to compensate for them in some way until we redesign the work in favor of strength-sourcing instead.
Alaka‘i managers will accomplish this by applying their strength/weakness shifting strategies to work activities (i.e., performance), and never to a person’s character or personality. For instance, do not diagnose weaknesses as bad attitude.
This is why one of the worst things a manager can do—‘worst’ as in fundamentally useless and a huge waste of time—is devote a person’s performance appraisal to that depressing conversation about their weaknesses, and everything which may have gone wrong. When necessary, that’s an on-the-job conversation which should happen in specific context, making it a teachable moment.
Here’s another way to look at this, keeping in mind that a weakness is a non-talent, which you CANNOT turn into a talent: If you keep trying to coach a person’s weaknesses, the best you can do is improve from weak to not horribly bad. Coach a person’s strengths, and you can improve quickly and dramatically, from good to great. Wouldn’t you rather have a workplace culture which functions vibrantly with many greats, over a rather mediocre one, which only functions passably, maybe, with a bunch of not bads? Of course you would! So would your customers.
“Never give an order that can’t be obeyed.”
—General Douglas MacArthur
Whether you call them performance appraisals or annual reviews, devote those organizational practices to talking about a person’s strengths instead: celebrate how their strengths continued to be their best signatures on work, and how they served the mission of the organization well, and in noteworthy ways. As we like to say in Managing with Aloha, catch your people doing something right, and ‘catch’ it with recognition and appreciation. Catch it over and over again: strength affirmation is something you cannot overdo!
Consider goal-setting in a review conversation, to be the exploration of new venues in which the strengths you have identified and celebrated can be further employed.
As we have noted in our previous series, always remember: human energy is your greatest resource, and motivation is an inside job. Channel existing energy effectively, and inspire to create more of it in self-motivation.
Another useful tip: an easy way to see the difference between strengths and weaknesses, is to look for struggle and ease. We largely struggle with assignments due to our weaknesses. Conversely, we will sail through work easily with our strengths.
Here is your homework between now and our next issue: define the ways specific to your business tasks (i.e., jobs) and market or industry focus (i.e., mission and vision) you can compensate for a person’s weaknesses as you coach them, by redirecting their work in the realm of their strengths.
Strengths management is a person-by-person endeavor. It may be that you reassign them, or introduce them to others in a new partnership or team. It may be that you tweak the work itself, re-framing it in a way that gives them more successes—there truly are a lot of possibilities when you shift your thinking this way, and no longer hammer people for their weaknesses, making them irrelevant instead.
My favorite thing about Key Concept 7? As transformational as it can be for the workplace, strengths management is just as wonderful for parenting. Children—ALL children—are packages of strengths awaiting our nurture.
We ho‘omau kākou,
Strengths Management is Key Concept 7 in the Managing with Aloha philosophy: We explore our individual assets — our human TOOLBOX. Next issue, we’ll talk about Key Concept 8: Sense of Place.
Read more about Strengths Management in this index archived on www.ManagingWithAloha.com
Postscript: Ke Ola is published 6 times a year, and distributed in print on Hawai‘i Island and by subscription. I have therefore made a practice of archiving the articles on RosaSay.com for those within our Ho‘ohana Community who may want to read them after their scheduled distribution.
You can access all 40 articles I had written for Series 1 and 2 via this index. The introductory columns for each series may be read at the following links:
Series 1: Why Values? And Why “Manage with Aloha?”
Series 2: Aloha Intentions
Series 3: Ho‘omau Kākou.