HR Matters Magazine Issue 11 July Leadership Success Profile *

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1 HR Matters Magazine Issue 11 July 2010 Leadership Success Profile * Ability to lead employees(89%) Resourcefulness (81%) Decisiveness (75%) Managing change(69%) Straightforwardness & composure (68%) Building & mending relationships (67%) Doing whatever it takes (67%) Employing a participative management style (64%) * Using the Center of Creative Leadership s (CCL) Benchmarks, a leadership development assessment tool that rates skill levels of 16 key leadership competencies. Sulynn Choong is a Positive Change Consultant/Coach with Human Capital Perspectives and the Founder/Chief Engagement Officer at the Asian Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (ACAPP). 0

2 OPINION Strength-based Leadership - what does it mean? by Sulynn Choong July 2010 In a world predisposed to finding fault and highlighting weaknesses, Gallup research in the 1980s found that we gain more from focusing on developing talent into strengths than from fixing deficits. In other words, people do better doing what they do well naturally. Although training may yield improvement in areas of weaknesses, it is less efficient and effective than putting the same effort into talent development. Taking this into organisations, Gallup also discovered that when more individuals become aware of their talents through measurement and feedback, they are more likely to realise their own potential and commit to augmenting their talents with knowledge and skills, turning them into real strengths over time. Strength-based leadership leverages on the personal talents and strengths of the leaders and employees of an organisation, in addition to building on the firm foundation of its competitive and operational strengths. The pivotal difference from convention is the focus on what is good and going well within the organisation the people and their talents, the efficient ways in which they work and learn, connect with customers, and the personal strengths of the leaders themselves. This is a move away from the blame culture and the focus on deficit management. It is a shift towards harnessing what is working well in pursuit of desired goals instead of investing in problem identification, dissection and problem-solving. What constitutes a strength? According to the Merriam-Webster s Medical Dictionary, a strength has the quality or state of being strong: capacity for exertion or endurance; a degree of potency of effect or of concentration. Simply, a strength may be any quality that is strong, resilient, and highly valued as useful and impactful. So when we build customized competency models for organisations, we are describing strengths relevant to their purpose. In reality, we find as many definitions of strengths as there are profiling/assessment instruments. It is a shift towards harnessing what is working well in pursuit of desired goals instead of investing in problem identification, dissection and problem-solving. For instance, the Values in Action (VIA) Strength survey highlights which 5 of 24 socially desirable character strengths (e.g. social intelligence, hope, humour), are our signature strengths i.e. strengths which we own, celebrate and frequently use. The Gallup Strengths-Finder describes and measures 34 workplace strengths - talents refined with skill and knowledge that deliver near-perfect performance in a given activity. The oft-used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) presents thinking strengths in 16 Type profiles, and hot-off-the-press Realise2 invites you to rate 60 different attributes according to three dimensions: energy, performance and use, whereby your ratings are then combined in different ways to determine whether an attribute is a Realised Strength, an Unrealised Strength, a Learned Behaviour, or a Weakness.

3 How does a strength-focused leader work? The strength-focused leader, no matter which level he comes from, is aware of his own strengths viz. the things he does well and enjoys doing, learns fast and integrates into his wisdom naturally, and the values that lend wings to his work and shape his leadership vision. This leader puts his strengths to use, weaving them into the major domains of his life, while looking to augment his own performance in his weakness areas with either the engagement of others who embody the strengths that he lacks or through self-development initiatives. She is confident and comfortable with ambiguity because she understands that she cannot be expected to do it all by herself and is quite happy to reach out to others for support. The organisation flourishes as a result of the high level of integrity, commitment and connectedness fostered by the emphasis on strengths. What difference does it make? For a start, roles and responsibilities are allocated according to the strengths that people have, and they enjoy rapid learning curves in their assignments. Employee engagement is evident in that people are focused, relaxed, yet goal-oriented. They are more likely to be non-competitive, appreciative and have high regard for each other s strengths, empathising and supporting each other in areas of challenge and weakness. When people have the opportunity to do what they do best every day at work, companies enjoy 44% higher probability of success on customer loyalty and employee retention, and 38% higher probability of success on productivity measures, according to Gallup. The strength-based organisation has a growth mindset which emphasises focus on learning and the firm belief that perseverance and effort can take anyone to success. Making mistakes is a lesson on how not to do something. It is okay not to know something I will come back with the answer, or I will show you someone who knows. When something goes wrong, we learn from the situation and not go on a witch hunt. When we learn something new, achieve a target, overcome a challenge, we celebrate and build on that positive experience as we move towards higher goals. Where s the catch? Not all strengths are equal. According to the Center of Creative Leadership, researchers - who examined data from more than 438,000 individuals in 7,500 organisations, including many Fortune 500 companies - found that the most highly valued leadership competency is the ability to direct and motivate others, to judiciously use power, to develop others, and exhibit organisational values.likewise, in Strength-based Leadership, Tom Rath and Barry Conchie asked people why they follow their leaders, and four themes emerged on what followers need and want from the most influential leaders in their lives: trust, compassion, stability, and hope. We didn t see followers talking about vision directly, clarity, or purpose. The irony is that is what the literature talks about most of the time. Leaders do need to think about where the company is going strategically, but there are basic things they need to do on a regular basis to maintain relationships. This is neither surprising nor out-of-place. As leaders, we are expected to lead people. Being able to communicate, connect and engage our people in the pursuit of organisational objectives is paramount. Even if you consider yourself a thought leader, the ability to inspire and capture imagination and attention is essential. Strength Development Sometimes it may seem like there is no obvious direct link between what a leader does best with what she needs to get done. For example, the character strength of capacity to love and be loved may be incongruous in the corporate world and yet we saw how employees value compassion,

4 a manifestation of love. The leader can learn to integrate aspects of love e.g. caring, consideration and compassion into how she relates to her people, with some determination and good coaching. According to Clifton and Harter (2003), people can more efficiently effect a change in their behaviour when they fully integrate their identified strengths into the way they see themselves. Further, it is far more efficient that we focus on the talents we have and manage around our weaknesses (e.g. hiring those who have complementary strengths). These days, internet-based services make strength identification, interpretation and even development highly accessible. For example, Realise2 enables people, anywhere in the world with an internet connection, to identify and develop their strengths. Last but not least Organisations can benefit greatly from adopting a strength-based leadership model. People who use their strengths can focus on their work and tend to be significantly more productive than people who are frustrated and constantly struggling to overcome their weaknesses. Strength-based leadership is not rocket science. Anyone can do it. Begin to acknowledge, appreciate and praise team members for what they do well, and focus on their efforts and progress made towards their goals rather than the variance from their targets. You d be amazed at the resultant difference in engagement, energy and performance in the workplace. Give it a try! Useful links VIA Strengths Survey Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 MBTI Sixteen Profiles Realise2 Reference Center for Creative Leadership (2005). Too Much of a Good Thing: Beware of Your Strengths. A Leadership Gap: When Strengths Don't Meet the Need. Clifton, D.O., & Harter, J.K. (2003). Investing in Strengths. In A. K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & C. R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp ). San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler. Gallup Organisation: Interview with Tom Rath on Strength-based Leadership

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