Jan 15, 2011

Amplifying Strengths and Talents - HR's Achilles' heel?

So someone asked me "Why do people in organizations spend so much energy focusing on what is not there? Why don't they polish and make what's already there, and grow that? When customers pay you, they pay you for your strengths, not for what you're doing to remove your weakness"

I agree. We spend too much time, effort and energy focussing on "I lack this. This is my weakness" kind of thoughts. When we get feedback from our managers. Or when we give feedback to our subordinates.

I remember when I had read Marcus Buckingham's book "First Break all the Rules" - he said the strengths based thinking is usually not transferred to organizations, because careers are not designed to maximise on strengths. In the book he gave the example of a law firm, and how when a lawyer grows in his/her career- the focus sharpens from a generic area to a specific area. Compare that to a typical corporate career where people usually see an expansion in their skills - and therefore the need to develop newer and newer skills - until they hit what is known as the Peter Principle.

The way to really leverage the concept of strengths in an organization is to look at not one career path and therefore a pyramid, but a multitude of alternate career paths (earlier posts here and here) , taking off from each role. Giving rise to fractal career ladders.

Such careers will not just leverage each employee's inherent strengths but also contribute to the organizational knowledge and innovation, reducing the need of people to blend in - and encouraging their individuality.

The question is: are organizations really mature enough to embrace the creativity and the chaos that this calls for?