What you need to know:
- Many organisations are operating at only 20 per cent of their capacity because they remain startlingly inefficient at capitalising on the strengths of their people.
- We cannot all be competent in almost anything because each person has unique and enduring talents and we are wired to do certain things, a fact that we need to appreciate.
- Organisations that match the strengths of their employees to their day-to-day activities almost always outperform their peers and have low employee turnover and high customer satisfaction scores.
You can train a turkey to climb a tree, but it is more efficient to hire a squirrel. This is because a squirrel is cut out to climb trees, hence it plays on its strengths. Like the squirrel, we are all cut out to do different things, and do them well.
It is, therefore, appalling that many of us do not play on our strengths. Many employees work in areas where their strengths are not best utilised.
A research conducted by Gallup found that only 20 per cent of employees working in large organisations globally feel that their strengths are in play and that they have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday at their places of work.
In retrospect, this means that many organisations are operating at only 20 per cent of their capacity because they remain startlingly inefficient at capitalising on the strengths of their people. It is like driving a car with the handbrake on or having a 10-gear bike but using only two.
I attribute this inefficiency to the fact that many organisations are founded upon two fallacious maxims. The first is the assumption that each person can learn to be competent in almost anything.
The second is the belief that the greatest room for growth for each person is in his or her areas of weakness, which is almost a perpetual reminder in the employee appraisal process in many organisations.
In reality, however, we cannot all be competent in almost anything because each person has unique and enduring talents and we are wired to do certain things, a fact that we need to appreciate.
It takes a lot of effort to be competent at something that you are not wired to do. The turkey will eventually learn how to climb the tree after several training sessions, strategy retreats, and seminars, but the fact remains that it will never be half as efficient as the squirrel. By the time a turkey climbs one tree, the squirrel will have wound down a forest.
Have you tried writing with your left hand if you are right-handed? How did that go? It must have been a travesty. Yet this is exactly what happens in various organisations; we have put right-handed people in positions that force them to write with their left hands, and then we expect them to put forth stellar performances.
This might never happen. No amount of warning letters and performance improvement programmes will correct the situation. The sole remedy is positioning people in areas that match their strengths.
Organisations that match the strengths of their employees to their day-to-day activities almost always outperform their peers and have low employee turnover and high customer satisfaction scores.
This presents a tremendous growth opportunity to many organisations that are operating at 20 per cent capacity and only need to look inward to discover the wealth of untapped capacity that resides in every single employee. Just imagine the increase in productivity and profitability if they could double this number to 40 per cent or even triple it. The result would be astounding. How can we achieve this?
To start with, stop spending all your money on training people once they are hired. It is much wiser to spend it on selecting them properly in the first place. It is much easier for ‘A’ players to produce ‘A’ results than to train ‘C’ players to produce ‘A’ results. Hire the right “men” for the job.
Secondly, stop focusing all your efforts on fixing the “weaknesses” of your employees. Try instead to build their greatest strengths because that is where the most growth potential lies.
Thirdly, position them properly. Lionel Messi, the world’s best footballer, who plays as a striker, would make a lousy goalkeeper. Same game, same team, different positions and you will have killed his potential.
It is not enough to select good players; they must be positioned properly because that is the only way to get the best out of them. That is where their contribution to the team is at its optimum.
If your organisation has been operating at 20 per cent capacity, you probably think that most of your employees are weak. However, the truth is that no one is weak; they are just in the wrong terrain.
You will think that a fish is eternally weak and hopelessly stupid if you always judge it by its ability to climb a tree. Try putting it in a pool of water and your perspective will change.
Mr Mureithi is an author, executional speaker, and personal development consultant. firstname.lastname@example.org.