MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Unlock your team's strengths

It's a difficult time for most businesses at the moment. Find out how to get the most out of your team - without new recruits.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

With spending cuts looming, there’s a good chance a recruitment freeze will be inevitable in many companies – which makes this the perfect time to start thinking about how you can get the most out of your team.

The evidence is clear that, where managers help their staff to focus on their strengths and how to use them, they are generally more engaged. So we asked Paul Fairhurst at the Institute for Employment Studies for the ten best ways for managers to start helping their team play to their strengths better:

  1. Identify their strengths – find out both what they’re both good at and also what they’re energised by. Try to find out what comes naturally for them; listen for when they get engaged by talking about what they do, look for those things that they do without even being asked.
  2. Set clear objectives – people need to know what they are being asked to achieve but not be told how they should go about it; a strengths-focused approach is also a very outcome driven way of working.
  3. Think how to use their strengths to achieve these objectives – have a one-to-one conversation about how they can best use their strengths to hit their targets.
  4. Manage weaknesses - everyone has weaknesses, and it’s hard to get good at areas where we are weak. Instead of pushing people in areas they’re weak on, think how they can use their strengths to compensate (rather than sending them on yet another training course to try and fix the weakness).
  5. Build a team – understand the strengths that everyone brings to the team and consciously decide how these should be used to achieve specific objectives; make sure that everyone knows each other’s strengths and where they can add the most value.
  6. Consider redesigning roles so that people can play to their strengths even more; maybe add in some new responsibilities that will bring out the best in them or switch tasks between people in the team.
  7. Remember that everyone is different – we all have a unique mix of strengths and good managers are able to treat people fairly while recognising these individual capabilities.
  8. Help people develop their strengths – there is a tendency for development to focus on eradicating weaknesses, but high performance actually comes from people getting better and better in their areas of strength. Find ways for people to build on areas that are already strengths.
  9. Give people positive feedback - let people know when they have used their strengths effectively as this helps them become more confident in their ability (and confidence is one of the biggest predictors of high performance).
  10. Don’t overplay people’s strengths – it’s always tempting to use our strengths in every situation – after all they’re the things we do naturally. But an overplayed strength can turn into a weakness, so help people recognise when they’re using a strength too much.

Remember, none of us use our strengths all the time - but if we can improve the percentage of the time that we do we will enjoy work more and be more productive.

- Paul Fairhurst is a Principal Consultant at the Institute for Employment Studies, where he provides strengths focused coaching and team development to client organisations. Visit or

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