The strengths-based approach to managing teams

The management approach of the manager contributes greatly to the level of employee engagement. And employee engagement is very important in any organization. So before exploring the strengths-based approach, it would help to refresh ourselves on what exactly employee engagement is and why it’s very important.

Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.

Employee engagement does not mean employee happiness. Someone might be happy at work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are working hard, productively on behalf of the organization. While company outings and end-of-year parties are fun–and may be beneficial for other reasons–making employees happy is different from making them engaged.

Also, employee engagement does not mean employee satisfaction. A satisfied employee might show up for her daily 8-to-5 without complaint. But that same ‘satisfied’ employee might not put in extra effort on her own, and will probably be easily lured away by a recruiter with a 10% increase in pay. Satisfaction is not enough.

So put in a different way, employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.

This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their organization. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.

When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort. Examples are: The engaged computer programmer who works overtime when needed, without being asked; the engaged bank officer who visits the office on Saturdays to ensure the ATM works, even if the boss isn’t aware.

Engaged employees lead to better business outcomes. Hence, an organization with high employee engagement might therefore be expected to outperform those with low employee engagement, all else being equal.

Employee engagement is that critical. And the fact that the manager influences it makes the manager’s approach as critical.

The strengths-based approach is a management approach that considers the strengths of an employee over all else. It does not ignore weaknesses. In fact, it works on them for the benefit of the employee and the company. However, they are not the primary focus.

What is at the core of the strengths-based approach is the recognition that every employee has both strengths and weaknesses and has several times more potential for growth building on their strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses.

Hence managers with the strengths-based approach do not play team members in areas where they have weaknesses and expect great performance, without support. Rather they play them in the areas where they will use the best of their natural talents, learn more quickly, and produce a greater quality and quantity of work.

Employees are actually asking for this type of management approach because when they say they want to develop their skills, they are really asking to develop their strengths. They want their strengths and passions to be aligned with the right projects.

Research shows when people are able to use their strengths every day, they are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, and 15 percent less likely to quit their jobs.

Hence the strengths-based management approach is worth it and recommended. To start building the culture in your organizations, managers should:

  • Invest in their team members’ strengths
  • Build well-rounded teams out of individual team members who are not
  • Understand the needs of their team members and support them

Strengths-based management approach calls for organizations to build on what their employees are good at instead of what can be fixed. It enables everyone in the organization to celebrate their strengths, helping to create a more engaged, happier and more fulfilled employee base with increased productivity and innovation.

“Everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

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