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Maximize Strengths, Minimize Weaknesses
Posted: July 01, 2005

Good managers know how to ferret out the strengths and weaknesses of their employees—then figure out how to build those strengths and minimize those weaknesses. This is a big job and the reason managers are such an important aspect of successful businesses.

Of these two jobs, the most important is to recognize the strengths of employees and to help reinforce self-assurance. To do this, a really great manager won’t praise an employee for working hard. Instead, the manager will tell that employee that her success is due to her growing ability to use specific strengths on the job. Doing this will give the employee an optimistic outlook on her effect on the workplace and will give her more confidence in facing future challenges.

If the employee repeatedly fails at the goal, it may be that some weakness needs to be strengthened. First the manager must assess whether the failure is due to a lack of skill or knowledge. If this is the case, all the manager needs to do is provide the education, experience, etc., necessary to bring the employee up to snuff. However, if the failure is due to a lack of talent, then the manager will have to find a way of managing around the problem. One thing that can be done: The manager can find a partner whose strength balances the weakness of the failing employee. If this tactic is not a possibility, then the manager will want to help the employee develop a discipline that will help her overcome her weakness. For instance, if she has trouble being direct with others, then a visualization exercise, in which she imagines how her mentor might handle the situation, might help.

Adapted from “Great managers understand their people,” by Marcus Buckingham in the Harvard Business Review

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