Coaching Employees Towards Their Strengths

Coaching Employees Towards Their Strengths in a Post-Pandemic World

There is an interesting dichotomy within the business world. Every senior management team wants their employees to be top performers, and yet so many companies are not investing in talent development programs to make that happen. CEOs who recognize that an investment in their staff is an investment in the company’s long-term success, generally become a more competitive force within the marketplace.

Some of the resistance to consistent talent development initiatives is because leaders often struggle with the hard conversations required to transparently share performance feedback. If the culture within an organization “frowns” on weak areas and “smiles” on strengths, it is no wonder employees do their best to hid their flaws or avoid doing anything that will stretch them into a new level of growth.

Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman address that feedback challenge in their article on Chief Learning Officer called “Let’s Change the Underlying Philosophy and Pattern of Feedback.” In the article they state, “Productivity experts argue that organizations work best when feedback between colleagues flows freely. Best practices are shared, problems are resolved more rapidly, and employees feel truly included. One of the forces that retains people in organizations is their belief that they are learning and growing. Feedback from one’s colleagues or manager is one of the strongest elements of accelerating learning on the job.”

Another challenge many companies have is treating employees simply as a number and then expecting them to continue performing at higher levels year after year. When leaders promote a learning and growth culture, starting from the top down, it becomes easier to develop a foundation of trust at all levels of an organization to coach employees to capitalize on their strengths while at the same time acknowledging and improving their weaker areas.

One way to begin improving your talent management style is to redefine the word Leadership within your organization. Leadership is generally defined in relation to people overseeing teams. I would challenge you to adjust that concept to this: Leadership is a set of skills any person at any level of an organization can develop which will enable them to take ownership of their work at a deeper level and perform their responsibilities with a higher degree of excellence.

That small change could make a world of difference throughout your entire company to improve employee relations and talent retention. Forbes magazine issued a list of 100 leadership qualities in Jo Miller’s article “100 Leadership Qualities:  What’s Your Signature Leadership Style.”  What if you gave that list to all your employees and asked them to rate themselves on a 1 – 10 scale for each one, and then used that self-assessment as a baseline for leveraging their strengths to higher performance?

Miller makes that case that “Developing as a leader is not about changing yourself. It’s about becoming yourself [emphasis mine]. When you emulate someone else’s style, you cancel out your own. You feel like an imposter, and that’s no way to lead boldly and effectively. Think of these key attributes as a platform from which you can lead, rise, and thrive—without selling out your soul. As you learn and grow, stay anchored in these strengths, and what you can uniquely contribute as a leader. Give yourself permission to show up as you are and grow from there.”

As companies across the globe transition through the next stage of coronavirus recovery, additional difficulties within talent management initiatives may occur. This includes the lingering emotional trauma people still carry from watching their finances and personal situations unravel when world shut down for almost three months. Therefore, it is important to be aware of underlying emotions while implementing talent growth initiatives.

Many people are still wondering how they’ll ever get their businesses and personal lives back on track, let alone how to grow into the next level of performance in the marketplace. Richard Tedeschi tackles this difficult issue in an article titled “Growth After Trauma” in Harvard Business Review.

Tedeschi says, “Although posttraumatic growth often happens naturally, without psychotherapy or other formal intervention, it can be facilitated in five ways: through education, emotional regulation, disclosure, narrative development, and service….As you help your employees process their pandemic trauma through those areas, people will often experience growth in personal strength, improved relationships, appreciation for life, and spiritual growth.”

Over the next few months as employees become comfortable with their “new normal” and leaders begin to adjust company culture to focus on coaching programs designed to develop their strengths, I believe teams will have a more natural commitment to each other and to the organization’s success.

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