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Joe Batten’s classic on Tough Minded Management offers some straightforward and insightful thoughts on how managers can significantly improve organizational performance and bring it closer to achieving true organizational potential. As Batten emphasizes: at his best a manager is impatient not with the weaknesses of his subordinates but rather, with the unused potential which is lying dormant in all of us. The approach is one of identifying and developing the strengths of the organization and the individuals that comprise it.
Let’s look more closely at some of Batten’s more poignant observations and consider the implications for our own firms and the client organizations we advise:
Stretch (confront your possibilities). People are basically happier when their work provides them with stretch, pull and challenge.
Develop people’s strengths. Management is essentially the development of people, not the direction of things. Each person is the sum of their strengths. Weaknesses are only missing strengths; they only confuse us and indicate what the person is not. Key in on the unrealized potential of the organization and the people in it.
Expect performance. Performance is clearly what matters as the only reason for being on a payroll is to contribute to organizational objectives. Remember, the vital stuff, the constructive essence in all people is the sum of their strengths and the tough-minded manager expects these strengths to be used. Belabor the time-worn adage that nothing speaks more eloquently than results.
Care. Care enough about your people to search out their strengths (their best possibilities) and expect their best. Employ the principle of high expectations. Second-rate expectations suggest second-rate regard for others. First-rate expectations say clearly and distinctly, “I think you’re first rate – I esteem and value you.” Remember, expecting high performance and caring are not mutually exclusive!
· Phases of strengths management:
1. Strengths identification. Determine the reality of the individuals – their strengths – and thus determine the real capacity and potential of the organization.
2. Strengths classification. Determine precisely what the relative kinds and types of strengths are. Know what you can extract, expect and utilize from your “bank of organizational strengths.”
3. Strengths development. Design policies, procedures and practices to increase the strengths and the effectiveness of all personnel, in terms of performance.
4. Assignment of strengths. Shift from role orientation to goal orientation, thus bringing strengths fully to bear. The implications here for high individual and organizational morale are enormous. Essentially, the proper and full use of one’s strengths is the greatest single need of people.
5. Synergy and expectations. Employ the principle of “high expectations” and synergize to make the organizational whole greater than the sum of the individuals within it.
6. Strengths measurement. Overhaul all policies, procedures, processes, practices and programs to reflect strengths emphasis. Only then can proper measurement of the strengths of people, money, material, time, and space be undertaken.
7. Control of strengths. Achieve through positive listening, compensation related directly to demonstrated strengths, and performance appraisal that builds on strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.
Joe Batten challenges all managers to make the quantum leap from “judging” others on the basis of their weaknesses to “evaluating” them according to their present and potential strengths. Let’s help develop an organizational climate (in our own and client enterprises) that allows work to be a pleasant and rewarding part of life.