How to Build the Best Workplace on Earth

Posted by:

In the current (May 2013) issue of Harvard Business Review, there’s an article called Creating the Best Workplace on Earth. In it the authors talk about what employees really need to be their most productive. Among the six factors they identify is this one: employees need an environment where they can discover and magnify their strengths. In other words, they need an environment where they can develop and grow. As the authors put it, “The ideal company makes its best employees even better.”

Do you remember the annual performance appraisal? Fortunately, it’s starting to go the way of the dinosaurs, but you still see it every now and then. Everybody hates/hated annual performance appraisals! To the person giving the appraisal, it’s an interruption of the work that really needs to get done (at least, that’s how it’s generally approached), and to the person on the receiving end, it all too often felt like being in a police interrogation room. I speak from experience; I’ve been on both sides of this dreaded instrument. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular form of torture, here’s how a typical performance appraisal goes:

Appraiser: Are you ready to get started, Tom?

Victim: I guess so.

Appraiser: Okay then. Here’s the stuff you’re doing well. [Appraiser lists two or three items.]

Victim: Thank you.

Appraiser: And here’s the stuff you suck at. [Appraiser lists seven or eight items.]

Victim: Um…okay.

Appraiser: For the next year, we—and, by the way, when I say “we,” I mean “you”—need to work harder on the stuff you suck at. That’s where I want you to put the bulk of your time and energy.

Victim: Um…okay.

Appraiser: Good talk, Tom! See you again next year.

Motivational Speaker Bill StaintonOkay, first—and you’ll find this surprising—some employees fail to be motivated by this exercise! I know, weird, huh? But here’s the second thing. This manager wants Tom to focus on what he does worst! In other words, she wants Tom to play to his weaknesses. Now, if that’s the instruction she gives to everybody on her team, she’s going to have a team that spends 80% of their time doing stuff they’re no good at! What kind of results do you think she’s going to see?

I’ve got a better idea. What if, instead, she leads her team members to spend 80% of their time focused on what they do best? What if she lets them play to their strengths? The difference in the results her team produce would be off the charts! She’d also see less turnover, greater loyalty, and higher job satisfaction among her team members. Remember, employees need an environment where they can discover and magnify their strengths. It’s one of the ways you build a great workplace.

Take a look at your team. (And, if you’re a solopreneur, that’s you!) As a leader, what can you do to make sure each member of your team gets to spend at least 80% of their time doing what they do best? Do you even know what that is?

It’s your job to find out—that’s why you’re the leader!


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.
  Related Posts
  • Dennis Bauer says:

    Hey, Bill! Been there, received that… when working for the largest aircraft manufacturing company in the Pacific Northwest.

    Working to your strengths is similar to my philosophy of “navigation” in life… don’t start with the end in mind… start from where you are. You have to know what your assets, your gifts, your talents and your abilities are before you know where you can go. You’re getting to the moon if what you’ve got is a Chevy. Work to your strengths, whatever it is you’ve got going for you right now. Thanks for the reminder, Bill!

  • Bill Stainton says:

    Thanks Dennis! And, of course, I’m not saying we should ignore our weaknesses — just that we shouldn’t live there. Spend 80% of your time focusing on your strengths (and when you do that, Dennis, don’t you find that you have more fun?!), and work on your weaknesses the other 20%. Or go see a movie. C’mon, you deserve it!

  • […] an earlier post I talked about why you should try to spend 80% of your time, energy, and resources focusing on your […]

  • >