Focus on what is going well?

April 19, 2010
We have always been told to work on our weaknesses.  And I think in general that is good advice, but lately I have seen more and more people talk about focusing on their strengths or focus on what you do right (warning, I just bought Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard).  And I do think this is excellent advice.

I had one employee who would get grouchy at times (especially if she felt she was dealing with incompetence or stupidity – you've meet these types of people before right? "old grouchy man" in a young persons body), but she did a great job most of the time and was well liked by her peers.  I talked about this employee before in my The Rules for Managing People post.  I took her from a front line role, where she could get into trouble and moved her to a tier 3 role where she excelled.  She would study at night and on weekends to strengthen her technical skills to be better at tier 3 support.  Later she even took on a QA role to help stop some of the customer support issues we were experiencing.  I could have worked with the employee to improve their attitude (and I did and continued to do so honestly), but it would have been a battle for both of us.  It would get better for a few days, but then the employee would slip back into their normal behavior. Frustrating for the employee and frustrating for me.  I would have ended up having to fire the employee I bet.  But by focusing on their strengths and what they did well, I ended up with an awesome Tier 3 support person and later the best QA person the company had.

I focused on what this employee did well and their strengths and in the end it was rewarding for the employee and for the company (and, honestly, for me too).  I could have focused on what was wrong and tried to "fix it."  But I don't think I would have ended up with even close to the same results.

So next time you look at an employee, instead of focusing on what she's doing wrong, try looking for something new she does right that you never noticed before.  And reinforce that behavior! 

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