The Squiggly Career: How to be a chief strengths spotter

When leading remotely, it's more important than ever to make sure your people spend their time on what they do best.

by Sarah Ellis

All leaders cast a shadow. As we struggle with new pressures under coronavirus lockdown and adjust to the globe's biggest remote working experiment, teams will be looking to you, their leader, more frequently and closely for cues on how to feel and behave. If you want to lead an engaged and productive team in the current climate, you need to adopt a strengths-based leadership approach.

The "why?"

Gallup found that employees who use their strengths are six times more effective and engaged in their role. In an environment where people are encouraged to use their strengths, leaders benefit from employee "discretionary effort" – the extra time, energy and effort we apply when we enjoy our work. As Jim Collins’ research in Good to Great highlights, one of the most critical tasks a leader undertakes is getting the right people on the bus; the value of these people is only realised if they're supported to do their best work. Here's how to develop a strengths-based leadership approach:

Strengths spotting and sharing

People often find it difficult and uncomfortable to identify and be confident about their own strengths; we are all our own worst critics. As a leader, your role is to be "chief strengths spotter". Observe and share with your team the moments when you see them at their best. This will help people to understand and appreciate the impact they are having. And watch out for generic praise: "brilliant" and "well done" is nice to hear but provides no insight into why something was great. If you want someone to continue or increase how they’re adding value, be specific. That might sound like: "I see you at your best when…" and "What went well about that presentation was..." and "Where I observed you had most impact in that project was..."

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