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Using strength-based leadership to achieve results

Recently we looked at the idea of adopting a work culture that embraces employee happiness and places it as a top priority. While this has shown to be a method for ensuring greater customer satisfaction, there are many ways to achieve greater employee happiness. A recent leadership approach that has been gaining traction with Forbes and typically results in greater workplace satisfaction is the Strength-Based Leadership model.

The central theme in strength-based leadership is matching employees to tasks based on their skills. This makes sense on such an obvious and fundamental level that it’s easy to dismiss as something that we would intrinsically just do. But that’s not how the human brain works. You see, we are wired to look for what is being done wrong – and then focus on fixing it. And how many times can you recall finding yourself conducting or participating in a performance evaluation that discussed what an employee was doing well and what they needed to improve upon? Strength-based leadership turns that notion on its head, and rather than telling an employee to improve in a certain area, you would simply align their duties with the things they excel at and focus on building a team with a diverse set of skills to meet all of your needs. Tim Rath, advocate of strength-based leadership, highlights the importance of this step when he states, “Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be.”

One unlikely organization that has actually found success with this leadership model and advocates for expanding its prevalence is the United States Army. In a recent Military Review article, author Melinda Key-Roberts indicates that military leaders will improve the likelihood of both unit and individual success by identifying their subordinates’ talents, providing individualized feedback, utilizing their strengths, building and maintaining a positive climate, and caring for and empowering subordinates. She cites that this will cause the leaders to “do more than develop well-trained subordinates-they develop future Army leaders.”

But the fact remains that the way businesses operate and succeed in the corporate world is vastly different than the definition of success found within military entities so you may be wondering what this has to do with you. Well, it turns out that when you implement this type of leadership, you contribute to employee happiness, which is crucial, but there’s another bonus in that it also improves efficiency within the organization. And who would know more about improving efficiency than military organizations. While humans have the capacity to learn and successfully complete most tasks in their professional life, the bottom line is that individuals are most engaged and productive when completing tasks in which they demonstrate proficiency. Based on a Gallup Poll conducted on this topic, productivity increased 21% when employees felt engaged by their work. 
To be successful with this management style, you must remember that rather than just managing employees, you can also empower them. Once you have a diverse team, you must spend time learning about each individual, tapping into their skills, and guiding them to matching tasks. When done successfully, this can result in a marked increase in ingenuity and enthusiasm. One example of this, given by Lisa Cummings of LeadThroughStrengths.com, relates to how a manager might approach an introverted employee. In the past, they may have been encouraged to get out there more, network more and ultimately, spend time outside of their comfort zone. With strength-based leadership, the manager notices they are better with 1-on-1 relationships so assigns them high-priority clients who appreciate the benefits of personalised attention. This small but profound change ultimately allows for happier customers, more satisfied employees and increased loyalty to the company by both parties.
Sarah Pearce is a professional speaker, business coach, social strategist and author of Online Reputation: Your Most Valuable Asset in a Digital Age.
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