Ignoring Employee Strengths

Imagine, on the table in front of you, there is an 8 oz. glass, an Ipod Nano, and a down comforter.

Which is best?

Which is best depends on what you need, doesn’t it? While you may want the Nano under the Christmas tree, it won’t much help if you are thirsty, and it won’t keep you warm on long winter nights. Each has its strengths and performs best when the task draws upon those strengths.

So why don’t we think the same way when it comes to employees?  

I once worked with a manager who was frustrated that one person on her team of three wasn’t very good with detail work, while another struggled with keeping up with all the reading their field required, and the third, well the third wasn’t very good with customers.

This manager had tried everything to get her people to overcome their weaknesses. She was frustrated because she couldn’t make the down comforter play music.

She was ready for drastic measures and asked my advice. I told her to stop ignoring individual strengths and to reapportion the work so everyone can do what they do best.

Playing to people’s strengths worked for her team, it might work for yours as well. Think about the work your team is responsible for as one big jigsaw puzzle. Instead of trying to force people into a preassigned spot in the puzzle, give some thought to who fits where best.

Often minor changes in assignments can make major adjustments in attitude and quality.

Copyright 2007 Cindy Ventrice


3 Responses to “Ignoring Employee Strengths”

  1. 1 Jeff December 14, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    Capitalize on their strengths. And there needs. Obvious, yet needs to be shouted from the highest management mountain. So, I am glad you took the time to share the thoughts.

    The same holds true with recognition. Sometimes people aren’t just motivated by the money. The key to great recognition is understanding the employee’s need.

    I spoke at a recognition event and did an activity with people that gave them a chance to provide some much needed recognition to the group. Read more here: http://www.whaddyathink.wordpress.com


  2. 2 cventrice December 15, 2007 at 6:27 pm


    You are right, of course, recognition is also about individualization. I talk a lot about this in Make Their Day in the chapter, A Lesson From a Fortune Cookie.


  3. 3 Tom Rausch April 21, 2008 at 8:10 am


    Thank you for speaking to strengths. There is vast untapped potential lurking in organizations because of untapped strengths. Too often managers and employees are not consciously developing work to match strengths.

    In addition to “Now Discover Your Strengths” Tom Rath and Gallup have published “Strengths Finder 2.0” The book comes with a log-on to the new and improved strengths test which gives the individual valuable feedback on their particular set of strengths.

    Lesser known is the VIA Character Survey which can be taken here, at no cost. http://www.viasurvey.org This measures character strengths and can reveal another facet of personal strengths.

    Too often leaders focus a lot of energy on fixing their employee’s short-comings. The problem is that fixing weaknesses does not lead to excellence, even though Gallup statistics reveal that 51% of working Americans believe that it does. The truth is that capitalizing on strengths leads to excellence. We discuss this topic at our blog, located here: http://www.leadershipbeyondlimits.com

    Thanks Cindy!Your advice is spot on.

Comments are currently closed.

My name is Cindy Ventrice. I am the author of the best-selling book Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works and the companion guide Recognition Strategies That Work.

My work has been quoted in The New York Times, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Workforce Magazine, and Tim Sanders' book The Likeability Factor.

Visit my website www.maketheirday.com today!

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