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Avoid the Remediation Trap: Focus on Strengths
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By steve
Sept. 23, 2013 5:20 p.m.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Organizational Psychology for Managers.
Our strengths are the things that we enjoy doing. The reason our strengths are strong is because we feel good when we succeed and so we do more. Weaknesses, on the other hand, are often things that do not provide any internal reward no matter how well we do them.
It is very easy to focus people on remediating weaknesses. Unfortunately, this produces neither effective growth nor motivation. There is nothing particularly satisfying about doing something that you never enjoy no matter how hard you work at it or how proficient you might become.
It makes much more sense to focus people on building their strengths. Legendary martial artist Bruce Lee used to say that if you built your strengths they would overcome your weaknesses. Bruce was quite correct: he became a formidable martial artist despite being nearly blind without thick glasses and having one leg so much shorter than the other that he needed special shoes to stand normally. Instead of bogging down in weaknesses, he focused on his strengths.
Focusing on strengths increases motivation and enjoyment. As people become better and better at what they do, you and they will find ways to negate or work around their weaknesses. Along the way, you are increasing their sense of competence, enabling them to take more autonomy, and building the relationship by showing that you care about their growth and development.
It’s worth noting that the Harvard Medical School special health report, “Positive Psychology: Harnessing the power of happiness, mindfulness, and inner strength,” found that focusing on strengths and what people are doing right increased performance by 36% on average. Conversely, focusing on weaknesses decreased performance by 27%. That’s what is known as a Dramatic Difference.
Finally, don’t worry that everyone isn’t good at everything. This is normal. We are not clones.
Balzac preaches real engagement with one’s own company and a mindful state of operation, especially by executives – who must remember that culture “just happens” unless and until they learn to recognize that their behaviors play a huge part in creating and cementing it. It covers the full spectrum of corporate life, from challenging bad decisions to hiring, training, motivating teams – and the secrets of keeping people engaged and learning – and/or avoiding actions which do the opposite. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to participate in creating and steering company culture.”
Sid Probstein
Chief Technology Officer
AttivioActive Intelligence
Stephen Balzac is an expert on leadership and organizational development. A consultant, author, and professional speaker, he is president of 7 Steps Ahead, an organizational development firm focused on helping businesses get unstuck. Steve is the author of “The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development,” published by McGraw-Hill, and a contributing author to volume one of “Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play.” Steve’s latest book, “Organizational Psychology for Managers,” is due out from Springer in late 2013. For more information, or to sign up for Steve’s monthly newsletter, visit www.7stepsahead.com. You can also contact Steve at 978-298-5189 or steve@7stepsahead.com.

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