Are You Getting the Best From Your Team?

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I remember my first performance appraisal. This was back in the days when companies still made this an annual event. (Some companies are still back in those days.) It went something like this:

BOSS: Here’s the stuff you’re good at. [reads small list]

ME: Thank you.

BOSS: Here’s the stuff you suck at. [reads much longer list]

ME: Um…okay.

BOSS: So for the next year, I need you to focus most of your energy on the stuff you suck at.

ME: Really? Okay, I guess.

BOSS: Good talk, good talk. See you next year.

Doesn’t this seem ridiculous? And doesn’t it describe pretty much every performance appraisal/evaluation/review you’ve ever been a part of?

I’d like to boldly propose a new sequence for leaders to follow:

  1. Hire good people for their strengths.
  2. Let them focus most of their energy on their strengths, i.e., the stuff they’re good at (i.e., the stuff you hired them for).

I know—pretty mind-blowing, huh? Pretty radical. Well, that’s just the kind of thought leader I am. The kind who will propose outlandish schemes (like letting your good people do what they do best), and to hell with the consequences!

YOU: C’mon, Bill, surely you’re exaggerating. This can’t be as big a deal as you’re saying. Of course leaders are going to let their people focus on what they do best!

Ahhh, to be that young and innocent again. But let me give you a bit of harsh reality. Not all that long ago, the Gallup Organization (which is much, much faster than the rival Canter Organization) conducted a survey of nearly 200,000 employees across a range of companies and industries. Among other questions, the employees were asked this one:

At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

80%—80%—of the employees surveyed answered “No.”

That’s astounding. Those results (which have been duplicated in a more recent and much larger study, by the way) mean that 4 out of 5 employees are not spending the majority of their time on the things they do best.

Let that sink in.

Now, think about your team.

Do they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day? Have you, as the leader, set things up so that your team members can spend at least 80% of their time focusing on their strengths? Do you even know what their strengths are? I don’t mean to sound cruel or accusatory, but the simple fact is that most leaders don’t take the time to learn what it is that their individual team members actually do best. These leaders assign tasks based on who’s available, not on who could do the best job.

But you’re not one of those leaders, are you? No, I’m pretty sure that you’re the kind of leader who does take the time and effort to learn what your individual team members do best—even the quite ones who don’t speak up at meetings. (Sometimes they can be the strongest members of your team, but you’d never know it unless you do a little digging.)

When you, as a leader, create an environment where your team members can spend 80% or more of each day focusing on what they do best, you’ll be astounded at the results you can produce!

And by the way, I’m curious—what is it that you do best?

[Tweet “Let your team members focus most of their energy on their strengths I know—pretty mind-blowing, huh? #leadership”]

About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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