Organizations tend to emphasize the negative in employee reviews. Don’t follow that path. Great leaders realize there is more leverage in accentuating the great. Every person you lead has a superpower, some signature strength, that makes them amazing. It’s your job to figure out what that superpower is and nurture it and get optimal value from it. Any hack can find what people stink at and harp away. Furthermore, if your managing a team, the real goal is to get the most out of the team, not just to optimize to the individual. Where I wish to challenge you is in the area of applying a bit more probabilistic thinking to this process versus just feel. So…stick with me through the nerdy bits below.
Billy is the supervisor on your team, and he proudly works for you. He is twenty-seven years old and talented. He very badly wants to get promoted. He is enthusiastic, smart, and has real potential. Like any young employee, he has some strengths, but also has some weaknesses.
Let’s assume that Billy is really strong in his skills of persuasion. On a typical one-to-ten scale, let’s give him a score of eight. He is charismatic and an excellent presenter. It’s clear to you and the leadership that if that skill of persuasion was nourished, it could be a major value-driver for the organization, your customers, and Billy himself.
But what folks rarely stop to do is pause and ask themselves a key question: how valuable is this strength that Billy has? We rush to assign a value on the classic one-to-ten scale, but we rarely dwell on the significance of that numerical assignment and how, as a leader, you really do need to understand it because it shapes your understanding of your team and, ultimately, your team members’ understanding of themselves.
If you use the first chart below (Exhibit A, the Unit Value chart below), you can see that the numbers assigned take on a nonlinear, almost exponential form to them. To be clear, these values I have assigned are for illustrative purposes and are meant to convey simply that as someone gains more expertise, the value they in turn produce increases exponentially (rapidly and scales) in step-change fashion, not just in small increments. This is why someone who is a ten when it comes to presentation skills is not simply two times more valuable than a five but rather five times more valuable. What it means, for example, is that if you can get that person from an eight to a nine—from great to greater—you will create and drive twenty units of value for the organization as the chart shows below. For Billy, getting him from an eight to a nine will not be easy, but it’s very possible and within his constitution and abilities to achieve it. Furthermore, that move from an eight to a nine creates massive value to your team and organization.
Now, let’s assume Billy is a mere four in organizational skills. His call notes are solid, but not always delivered on time. He occasionally needs a reminder or two on random assignments. If you as his manager can get him to a five, you will only score an incremental five points of value for your organization. And let’s face it, it will be much more difficult and take dramatically more time than getting his presentation skills to a nine. For Billy, focusing on his organization shortcomings would be going against the grain.
So why all this math and curve illustration? The point is to show you that it’s important to be probabilistic in how you evaluate talent. Take yourself out of the feel business and replace it with a more balanced approach. When you reevaluate Billy through a more math-based lens, it’s very clear that getting him from an eight to a nine is the single best investment you can make, accentuating his superpowers.
Given this, why do reviews among account people always, always focus on the negative, regardless of the value of improvement? First, there is a human instinct to manage by highlighting an employee’s deficits. Second, people in general, tend to appeal to the heart first and the math second, or last, or never.
If you apply some basic math to this logic, you can see that managing to the strengths is better. This is not to say you shouldn’t address areas of development, but rather think of it as risk mitigation, not elimination. Besides accentuating the strengths, it is also important to recognize attributes that are culturally important and contagious to the interpersonal dynamics of your team, which is particularly important for client leaders.
Focus on understanding the signature strengths of your employees and use a balanced, fact-based approach to accentuate the great. As you tear into 2021, perhaps ask yourself one big and direct question:
- Have you been focused enough on your team’s superpowers?
If you found this interesting or you have stories about managing to strengths throw it in the comments section. If you realized you manage too much to the negative like most, throw that realization into the comments section. If this might help someone else, please re-share the article. If you like this content and have not yet subscribed, its free, and easy (one button) and you give out zero information in exchange for practical content. If your looking for more content like this, check it out at More Articles, or buy the book at www.thegreatclientpartner.com
Have a great Monday. As my good friend once reminded me, Monday just means there are 4 more days to solve hard problems.
Talk soon. – Jared