Volume 11, Number 1
Talk To Strengths
by Danny Cox
Cox, a professional speaker in Tustin, California (phone
800-366-3101; email Mach175@aol.com).
He is author of Leadership
When The Heat's On (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1992).
The team-building process leaves many managers sweating
bullets. Why bosses are so intimidated by their employees remains
one the great mysteries of life. Usually, the more intimidating a
manager tries to be, the more he or she is really compensating for
his or her own sense of inadequacy. Passive managers are likely to
be accused by their staffers of being insensitive to individuals
within the organization. Either way, it's the rare manager indeed
who has enough self-esteem to deal with the strengths and
weaknesses of his or her people.
To make the transformation from mousy manager to effective leader,
managers must get outside of themselves and appreciate everyone in
the organization for the role each person plays. The sooner
managers learn the secrets of people building, the easier their
job becomes--especially at performance evaluation time.
"My company wants me to discuss people's weaknesses with
them!" cries the terrified manager. The manager has a right
to be upset. There's no faster way to put somebody off than to
criticize them, even under the guise of a "performance
evaluation." Instead, leaders talk to their staffers'
strengths. Good news makes both the giver and receiver feel
better. Dry handshakes follow a strength discussion instead of
Addressing people's strengths is not only good for making the
manager feel more comfortable, it's also a tremendous opportunity
to build morale and productivity within the organization. When a
manager addresses someone's strengths, it builds the person up and
empowers the individual to do more of what is best for the
company. Positive people tend to draw others up with them.
When a manager points out an individual's weaknesses, the opposite
happens. When strengths and weaknesses are mixed together in a
performance evaluation, the negatives win out. That's human
nature. Anyone who has worked in an office environment knows how
devastating negative energy can be.
To start an epidemic of positive energy, all managers need to do
is make a conscious effort to seek out strengths in their team
members. Many managers balk at the thought of searching out the
positive, but it's not that difficult once a manager makes a list
or two. Start by observing people's working behavior in broad
categories and then get more specific. Look for how active the
person is, how attentive to detail? Is the person cheerful,
friendly, creative, helpful to others, customer-oriented, civic
minded, dedicated, enthusiastic, experienced, honest, humorous,
mature, organized, patient, positive, punctual, reliable,
sensitive, self-starting, stable, thoughtful, tolerant,
trustworthy, versatile? These are only a few positive
characteristics managers can observe and then reflect back to the
If a manager seeks out and shares just one positive aspect in a
staff member's performance per day, no matter how minuscule, the
evaluation in that individual's enthusiasm will be astounding, and
every day will be performance evaluation day.