Manage This … Focus on Strengths

Focusing on positives at work strikes some as “touchy-feely.” But here’s some news for all the business school classmates who said stuff like that about Human Resources in general: Research shows it makes good business sense. I’m going to discuss two approaches to this — the first is focusing on people’s strengths; the second is a concept called Appreciative Inquiry, which will be covered in April’s issue.

Many managers spend a lot of time focused on their own and their employees’ areas for improvement, under the misguided assumption that will significantly improve performance. But, developing people’s strengths has a much greater impact on a company’s bottom line than focusing on improving their weaknesses. The obvious exception is when a weakness is so glaring that it can’t be ignored. For example, a complete inability to get along with others.

A great resource for this concept is Now, Discover your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. Based on the Gallup study of over two million people, they focused on the concept of developing strengths and came up with definitions for areas of strengths. An example that stood out for me has to do with Tiger Woods (and I’m not even a golf fan). Apparently, while he excels in other areas of golf, his weakness is his ability to chip out of a sand trap. Instead of spending long hours trying to improve that, he spent a minimal amount of time working on it so that it would not ruin his overall game. Then, he spent much more time perfecting his greatest strength, his swing. Applying this to the workplace would revolutionize most managers’ ideas of developing their people and themselves.

Another tool was developed by professors at the University of Michigan (Ross) Business School. The Reflected Best Self Feedback helps people discover their “best self” and determine ways they create value for other people. This enables them to create jobs that best use and develop their talents, versus focusing on areas of weaknesses.

You can start doing this with your own people by focusing on their strengths: look at what they do really well and talk to them about how they can develop those strengths further.

To learn more specific ways how to develop people using strengths, contact Halmi Performance Consulting ( or 510-336-0654) to receive one-on-one coaching or training.

Manage This … the April edition will discuss Appreciative Inquiry, a unique way to approach meetings. More details right here on the second Monday in April.

Please feel free to call or write with questions or comments. I welcome your feedback.

Please pass this to others who would benefit from it.

If you want specific references for any of the material, please let me know.

Manage This … is a monthly eZine by Kerrie Halmi, Halmi Performance Consulting. Visit

March 2006:

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