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Unas spotlight: Strengths vs Waste Soapbox

Though I’m a very positive person, today I feel the need to get on my soapbox about the money and time that is wasted on training and development trying to fix peoples weaknesses. Why is it that people can know something intellectually and yet not act on it? How many people are out there in organisations that know that it is better to focus on and develop people’s strengths but don’t actually do it?

Research has shown that when people spend too much time working in their areas of weaknesses they are likely to burn out over time. A key source of stress is people not working in their flow. From a Talent Dynamics perspective what I mean by flow is somebody being on their path of least resistance, where they are doing what they are naturally good at and really adding value helping others to be more effective. When people are out of flow they often find the work more challenging, it usually takes them longer to do and is likely to be of a lower quality.

Here in lies what I call ‘the curse of competency’. This is where people have the ability to do an activity, even though it isn’t an area of strength and usually would be done much better by somebody else. Often this task or activity will repeatedly crop up in appraisals as a point to work on.

Yet when training and development budgets are spent on developing people’s strengths and their associated skills then you can anticipate a much higher return on investment. Development doesn’t stop just because you have discovered somebody’s strengths and areas of flow! You can now be much more focused and discriminatory about where you invest.

You can bet that your employees will not want to waste their time acquiring knowledge or learning skills that will take them out of flow either. Being in flow often taps into their inner motivation and means that they have much more fun at work too, which will increase retention of your best performers.

So what can you do today about this? Well if you’re responsible for training and development budgets, see if you can get to the bottom of poor performance. Is it really a lack of skills or knowledge, or is the person out of flow? If they’re out of flow then no amount of development is going to help them very much. You simply can’t develop what isn’t there in the first place…

Instead look to work with them and their line manager to tweak their accountabilities. What do they love doing? Where do they think they can really add value? Sometimes it’s just about letting them do something in the way that suits them and their strengths. Teach them the strategies that work best for their strengths and watch their performance soar.

 

 

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