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January 2012
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What is Strengths-based Performance Management?

There are two core elements to any performance process: performance measurement and performance management.

 

Performance measurement is concerned with how we track, monitor, record and measure the outcomes of performance. The emphasis should always be on outcomes – what the person achieves – rather than inputs, which relate to how they got there.

 

Performance management is about the conversation that supports the performance. How we set goals, work to achieve those goals, receive feedback and calibrate along the way. Managers have a crucial role to play in effective performance management, since they help (or hinder) us in delivering our best performance.

 

Strengths-based performance management puts strengths at the heart of this process. When people use their strengths they are more likely to achieve their goals and objectives, as well as gaining a host of other benefits.

 

The central premise of strengths-based performance management is that using strengths is the best way to achieve outcomes. Hence, the measurement is still always focused on outcomes, but the management will be more focused on harnessing strengths.

 

As you’d expect, we put this into practice in our own work at Capp, using a balanced scorecard that links individual objectives to our corporate strategy. Each objective has a strength aligned to it, so each member of the team is encouraged to use their strengths as the best way to achieving their objectives.

 

With strengths linked to objectives in this way, it also becomes easier to highlight where people might need help, so we use the Realise2 4M Model to align strengths and goals across the team, using complementary partnerships and strengths-based team working to achieve more together than would ever be possible on our own.

 

After all, as the late, great Peter Drucker prophesied in The Effective Executive in 1967, “the unique purpose of organization is to make strength productive…one cannot build on weakness.”

 

Despite this, many companies thought for many years that measuring performance against generic competencies was the answer to everything. But the times they are a’changin… There is a better way, as strengths-based performance management shows.

 

What are your performance management experiences?

 

Share your comments on The Capp Blog and let us know if you get to use your strengths at work, or if your company is stuck in a competency mindset of everyone being good at everything (tip: they’re not, however hard they try).

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4 Responses to What is Strengths-based Performance Management?

  • Lisa says:

    Strengths-based performance management is definitely (IMHO) superior in many respects to “performance management as usual”. However, there are still systemic faults in a performance management system that a mere flip to strengths does not overcome. True feedback should be on-going, consistent and timely. It should, of course, support personal, team and organizational goals, and the ultimate outcome should be the development of the individual.

    Performance management, as it is implemented in most organizations, does not do this. It places emphasis on annual meetings (feedback is not on-going or timely). Furthermore, much performance management is tied to financial outcomes (raises, bonuses, etc) and this circumvents the development of the individual, as the employee is likely to set easily achievable goals and not admit to any errors, thereby annulling much potential learning.

    In addition to implementing strengths-based performance management, we should also be considering an entire overhaul of the performance management system to truly develop and grow employees and workplace cultures.

    • Alex Linley says:

      Thanks for your comments Lisa. I agree with much of what you say. A flip to strengths is not the panacea that solves all ills, but it is certainly a very positive step in the right direction. As you rightly say, timely feedback is especially critical in any performance management situation, not least because people may struggle to identify and name their own strengths, so delivering feedback that helps them identify what they do well and love to do can be a powerful antidote to some of the more negative status quo. This has been the focus of much of our work in strengthspotting, which was a chapter in my book Average to A+, as well as being the subject of at least two of our research papers in the last couple of years.

  • Gill How says:

    Explicitly naming and aligning strengths to goals is a great idea. Buonacorsi piloted a similar idea in a workshop recently, with ten coaches and independent consultants, where we looked at how we could use our strengths to attract the work we loved. I got the idea from many of my colleagues who often seemed to think that marketing was something that they hated, and yet they loved their work. Turning it round, could our own, unique versions of marketing (attracting work) be as much fun and as energising as the work itself? Looking for energisers with a new twist seemed to give some great results with some great feedback. Getting and being explicit seems to be the key.

  • Alex Linley says:

    Thanks Gill, great to see that you are getting good results linking strengths and goals as well. The essence of this is all about helping people tap into their natural intrinsic motivation and energy, which is the engine room of why strengths deliver the performance they do. At Capp, we’re running a research programme on strengths and goals at the moment, so watch out for more findings on this in the future.

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