Don’t Just Assess Your Team’s Performance, Cultivate It!

It’s a good time to consider our roles as managers in helping people achieve their potential. In addition to assessing what they’ve done, take the time to consider what you’ve done — and can do — to help them achieve what they might.

Excellence requires opportunity, as does skill building; this is one of the greatest gifts you can give people. It also helps organizations retain employees and improve productivity.

Use These Three Tips To Cultivate High Team Performance And Create Opportunity:

1. Self assess your cultivation performance: Reflect on how much time and effort you invested in creating opportunities to excel and cultivate skill building opportunities for people on your team. How many opportunities did you provide — and did the person know it was an opportunity to excel or skill build? What impact did they have? Candidly compare this to your own experience and ideals.

2. Plan to cultivate talent and opportunities for 2015: Start with a map of skills individuals on the team already have and skills they should build over the year. Layer in excellence they’ve demonstrated and where there is potential to demonstrate excellence in new areas. With this information, develop your roadmap for what you’ll do to create these opportunities. Make it actionable with quarter by quarter actions you will take; hold yourself accountable for your plan.

3. Take pride in the effort and the outcome: Individuals on your team should succeed because of you, not in spite of you. More importantly, helping and watching other people thrive is one of the most gratifying things you can do. Take the effort personally; observe how you feel when your people stretch, grow, learn and excel. A happy professional consequence of your efforts: you’ll be developing your own skills as a leader. Talent development is the hallmark of great senior executives.

Lead by example and put the roadmap into practice in the new year to increase the competencies, capabilities and satisfaction of your team. Join the conversation on this and other topics to share what works best for you.

P.S. Workboard can help you be more efficient in distributing opportunities to excel, in building the fact base to support performance promotions, and quantifying and comparing the impact of people on your team — and your team’s impact on the company.

Build on Strengths, Avoid Weaknesses

At your next set of performance reviews, what are you going to talk about with your employees? You may discuss what goals were met, next year’s objectives, or where their performance needs improvement. But new research suggests that more than fixing flaws, managers should be concerned with building on strengths.  In a recent Forbes article, Joseph Folkman shares research that reveals that “70-80% of leaders and employees benefit more from improving what they are doing right.

If someone on your team is a great writer but lousy at spreadsheets, the tendency is to try to help the employee improve his or her spreadsheet skills. A better practice is to hone this individual’s writing skills. People are less likely to make huge strides in something they’re bad at or hate doing, yet there is a common notion that doing more of those actions builds a more well-rounded employee. On the contrary, as Folkman says, our strengths are what make us successful. The following tips will help you learn your employees’ strengths, build on them, and ultimately reach more goals with your team.

1. Be a good listener

Performance reviews should be a dialogue, a time for managers and employees to have an honest discussion about what hinders performance and what gets the most positive results. Talk to your employees about areas where you see them struggling, as well as where they see trouble for themselves. Explore what they do that has the most impact, what they love doing, and where those intersect. Let your employees give honest feedback, and listen well — chances are they already know where their strengths lie.

Ask them to relate their feedback to examples of actions they’ve performed and successful initiatives in which they’ve participated, then do the same with your own feedback. Grounding the conversation in real examples helps illuminate the path forward.

2. Cultivate strengths

Don’t let your conversation on building strengths and boosting impact end after the formal performance reviews. Cultivating your employees’ strengths is an active process. Weekly one-on-one discussions and periodic informal feedback are the best ways to reinforce what you discussed. Work with all your employees to let their strengths shine, and provide them with the resources to utilize and enhance their abilities on a daily basis. Consider this a business strategy – the more they can relate their strengths to your goals, the more goals they’ll meet.

3. Beware the fatal flaw

This is Folkman’s single caveat in his discussion of strengths in the workplace. He defines a fatal flaw as “a competency in which you receive strong negative feedback results (and/or poor performance review results) or below average capability in an area that is mission critical to your job.” The latter portion of the definition is the most important. Everyone has flaws, and we need to accept that to work with the premise of strengths-based coaching.

A fatal flaw is different in that it prevents someone from performing their job in spite of their strengths. This idea should be approached with caution since not all flaws are fatal flaws, but Folkman does advocate addressing a fatal flaw before playing to your employees’ strengths. Beyond that, build strengths and watch as you realize more goals and achieve higher productivity!

Employees often have a well of potential that remains buried by managers who focus on working with their flaws. Instead of pursuing the ideal of a well-rounded employee, great leaders bring out their teams’ strengths and help them learn to use their talents for the good of the organization. Incorporating the idea of strengths-based coaching into your managerial style will lead to enhanced productivity and fantastic results for you and your company.

Soul Search — Then Job Search

Written by career consultant, Maggie Mistal

Most of us assume that the best way to find a job is to look at what’s available in online listings, or to follow someone else’s advice. However, these methods often lead to unfulfilling career choices.

You only need to look at the latest job satisfaction surveys to recognize how unfulfilled most workers feel. For seven straight years, The Conference Board has reported that less than half of U.S. workers are satisfied in their careers. So what can you do to find job satisfaction and fulfillment while still making a great living?

Uncover Your Core Genius

“Core genius” is the special contribution that each of us brings to our professional life. It’s what you are in this world to do that only you can do. It’s the unique package of skills, experiences, passions, interests, talents, abilities and attitude that you possess.

Take my client Laura Rolands. Laura was a hard-working Human Resources executive at Chrysler. She’s also a mom. When Laura’s son was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), she got to work and investigated how to best help him with attention strategies at school and in life. Through this experience and through our career coaching work together, Laura realized she had a talent and an interest in helping people with attention issues.

It led Laura to start an attention coaching business shortly after accepting a voluntary buy-out from her position in the automotive industry. Her business is in a relatively new field, focused on coaching people to overcome challenges associate with ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Actually, you don’t need a diagnosis to benefit — anyone who feels overwhelmed or distracted in today’s hyper-connected environment will find value in Laura’s services. Her clients have developed time-saving personal routines, and have improved their academic and business performance.

The Path to a Successful Career Fit

In 10 years of coaching, I have seen that we are each uniquely built to fulfill a specific purpose. And I am proud to have many success stories such as Laura Rolands. However, too often people take their unique talents for granted. In fact, the real challenge is that most people have no idea what their purpose is. That is where I help.

I believe the best way to find your purpose — your core genius — is to conduct a formal Soul Search, and get specific about all the elements of your ideal career. It starts with helping clients assess themselves in 8 essential dimensions, as part of the “Soul Search, Research and Job Search” process I developed.

These elements include: 1) your top interests, 2) key motivators, 3) skills you want to employ, 4) ways you want to contribute, 5) best qualities, 6) best work environment, 7) activities you enjoy most, and 8) salary and benefits.

Soul Search Before Job Search

By working through exercises and self-reflection questions, we prioritize what’s most important and brainstorm career possibilities that match those elements. You can gain even deeper clarity with my downloadable (PDF) Soul Search workbook.

This workbook contains over 30 pages of exercises to help professionals uncover the eight core elements of your core genius. The insights developed from each exercise are designed to correspond with a section of your own personalized career guide. This helps you easily organize and interpret the information as the basis for brainstorming new career possibilities and making sound decisions about the best options for you.

So stop looking at want ads and instead start talking to anyone and everyone about the ways you are already of service. Carefully process all of that input, and you’ll see viable new options ahead. Take seriously the value you bring to the table, and (like Laura Rolands) believe that you can get paid to deliver it. Let others know about the high-value service you are prepared to provide. Then deliver it consistently and professionally. Soon, you’ll find you have more than enough work in your new role — and you’ll be making a living while loving what you do.

Have You Discovered Your Core Genius?

Are you in touch with your core career strengths? What steps did you take to gain that awareness? And how have you applied it to your career? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

Maggie Mistal(About the Author: CNN dubbed Maggie Mistal “one of the nation’s best-known career coaches.” A former Learning & Development executive at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she is a certified life purpose and career coach who, for seven years, hosted “Making a Living with Maggie” on SiriusXM, and now airs a monthly podcast on iTunes. Maggie has been featured across major media, including NBC’s Today Show, Fox Business, CNN and The New York Times. Connect with Maggie on Twitter, or LinkedIn or Facebook.)

(Editor’s Note: For a limited time, in conjunction with her February 2014 appearance at #TChat Events, Maggie is offering special pricing for her “Soul Search” career planning workbook to anyone who mentions #TChat when contacting her. Don’t miss this opportunity to get a fresh perspective on your core genius!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

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