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Management: Learning how to get the best out of people

By Jennie Wong
Jennie Wong
Jennie Wong, Ph.D., is a nationally syndicated columnist, executive coach, and the creator of the product quiz website

What are your greatest strengths? What are the greatest strengths of each of your employees? And how can you best manage all of those strengths?

You might find it easy to write down a list of the weaknesses you’re working on in yourself or are trying to address in each of your team members. However, research by Gallup and others has shown that this focus on our flaws leaves a lot to be desired.

In the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths,” Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton point out two flawed assumptions that are rampant among managers: that we can learn to be competent in almost anything and that our greatest room for growth is in our area of greatest weakness.

Their research, however, shows that the world’s best managers assume the opposite. That our talents are enduring and unique, and our greatest room for growth is in the area of our greatest strength.

Here’s how you can become more like the world’s best managers.

Start with your own strengths

The easiest and most logical place to begin is with yourself. Think about the things you’ve always been good at. Maybe these are qualities that have even been criticized when you’ve taken them to extremes. For example, my nearest and dearest will tell you that I’m exasperatingly argumentative, but no one will dispute that my assertiveness is a strength, too.

There are also a variety of tools available that can help you understand and articulate your strong points, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the DiSC assessment (which stands for dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness), the MindTime framework, and the Clifton StrengthsFinder. And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one; using multiple tools will generally start to reveal common themes.

Find your employees’ strengths

Once you’ve gained a deeper understanding about where you personally excel, it will be very natural to start looking for and spotting strengths in those around you, including your team members and your family. You might even find that a perceptual switch has been thrown: Suddenly that shy person looks like a great listener, and that pushy vendor looks like a model of perseverance.

If you notice this happening, congratulations! You’ve successfully shifted to a strengths mindset. And adopting a strengths mindset is a critical step in learning how to get the most out of people.

Putting strengths to work

Now it’s time to put your new perspective into action, once again, starting with yourself. As an entrepreneur, business owner or manager, how can you engineer your company, your team and your time to do more work that utilizes your strengths?

If you’re wondering how you’re going to make time for more of what you’re good at, I’ve got good news for you. You can probably stop doing something you dread. Let’s say that you rate going to networking events right up there with getting a root canal. Ask yourself why you’re going to networking events – maybe to drum up new business – and come up with a way to achieve the same effect using a strength, such as writing great newsletter and website content, for example.

Then consider each of your employees in the same light. What duties can you shift away from their areas of weakness in order to unleash more of their talents?

This approach to managing yourself and others can create tremendous business results as well as increasing satisfaction, retention and joy. Give it a try and let me know how it transforms your company.

Jennie Wong holds a doctorate and is a Charlotte-based executive coach, the author of “Ask the Mompreneur,” and the founder of the social shopping site Follow her on Twitter @DrJennieWong.
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