23/03/2011

By Jackie Grier, Management Intelligence and Life Orientations Ltd

When we recruit someone we look at their skills and experiences. We may be sufficiently skilled to judge their strengths and weaknesses, although it is unlikely that an interview process will reveal the richness and complexity of an individual’s unique potential.

After a couple of months of them being in role, we then start to get a handle on what they can and can’t do. We may get a feel for their likes and dislikes in terms of activities but not many employees really reveal their preferences to their managers. At this point, we may decide they need some “on the job” coaching or send them on a training course (time management, assertiveness, finance for non-financial managers) to try to get them to operate more effectively.

How often do managers truly look at the strengths of their employee and really put them to work. Their strengths are why we employed them in the first place, but we pour precious management time into considering how to bring them “up to scratch” and squander ridiculous amounts of money on set-piece training courses which are not designed for that individual and their own particular needs or motivations.

Using a different approach can really pay dividends. It starts with an accurate assessment of the strengths and limitations of that individual, which could have been done before they were even offered the job. Someone’s behavioural preferences and underlying personality together with a good critical incident interview will tell far more about potential than any number of interviews and will really cut down on management time.

Unpacking someone’s preferences will give a good indication of what will motivate them once in post and the amount of stretch required by them to carry out less rewarding tasks (in their own frame of reference). This gives management a picture of the focus that individual will put into the role.

And here’s the novel bit. If their strengths and preferences are completely “the money” for that role, then think about compensating for the parts they are not interested or skilled in, rather than making them expend disproportionate energy in getting “up to speed” in that disliked area. There is probably someone else who could pick up on that. A great example of this is the highly motivated, successful, hands on salesman who is rubbish at doing their paperwork. If he/she is paid their bonus on the number or value of sales, there is a double wammy built into the system to encourage them to avoid spending time on non-productive activity. So get an administrator to talk to them while they are on the road and fill in the paperwork for them. Then you get more out of your salesman who maintains his/her motivation and ability to earn.

There seems to be a “you must eat your greens” mentality in British management which is detracting from talented individuals doing what they do best.

So capitalise on strengths and augment their performance with someone else’s skills.

But what about latent potential? In development, we are very keen to find someone’s undeveloped skills. A good assessment will also uncover this rich potential.

On a development centre recently, we observed a very young female manager handle a disruptive colleague exquisitely. Each time he bossily proposed a way forward, she took a quick look round the group to see its reaction then assertively and skilfully deflected his suggestion, sometimes getting him to put it into practise without involving the whole group. She also managed the group processes and kept the energy levels high.

At the “wash up” the analysis was all about “what did they do well” rather than “what needs fixing”. In her case we innate consultancy and facilitation skills and discussed whether, with some formal training of consultancy models to give her more process skills (augmenting her skills), the organisation would benefit from having its first internal consultant to facilitate project teams, decision making processes and mediate in disputes.

What a positive way to think about someone’s skills. If she is left as a manager, she will only use those skills from time to time and will have to do other things that she isn’t nearly as skilled at, or even hates doing. Giving her the opportunity to grow her strongest abilities will really create a motivated individual and provide a fantastic resource for the organisation.

The Lifo® method enables managers and business owners to identify employee’s strengths and put them to work where not only will they perform at their best but will be motivated to do so.

Increased self-awareness of their impact on others will also ensure employees are more motivated and effective leading to greater retention of staff in the workplace.

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