Every organization that we are a part of has a human development strategy. Whether it is intentional or not, there is a strategy at work within every organizational structure in our society. From our families, to our schools, our workplaces, our churches, our non-government organization, the public sector, cities, counties, states, even the federal government, that strategy is in motion. What we know is that the default strategy is the deficit assumption. The deficit assumption denotes that a person’s greatest potential for growth is dependent on fixing their areas of weakness. The accepted truth that is believed is that weakness-fixing will lead to success.
Shifting the Focus
In First Break All the Rules, the Gallup organization offered a different perspective. What if we shifted this? Instead of trying to fix our weaknesses as a path to success, what if we focused on developing our strengths? We believe how an organization answers that question will define their culture and the potential available to all the members of that organization. When we focus on our strengths personally, we can become more effective through higher engagement, thus producing higher levels of confidence, competence, and creativity. When individuals function this way, they can learn to manage their deficit so that it doesn’t become a major obstacle or a liability, without positioning their weakness as the focal point of personal growth. People derive exponentially greater benefit from focusing on their strengths rather than trying to develop their weaknesses.
34 Strong is helping companies nationwide develop strengths-based organizational cultures founded on a strengths assumption rather than deficit assumption. We believe this is a vital shift that can transform the engagement level and eventually the bottom line or external impact of companies and organizations. One of the ways we help organizations make this shift is through their exit interviews.
Most organizations conduct an interview before an employee leaves the organization to ascertain certain feedback. Typically HR sits with the individual and asks them why they are leaving, and where the organization can improve. They then take that generally negative feedback and work to amend or fix what they learned. But what if instead of an exit interview, we conducted staying interviews?
We challenge our clients to meet with the people in their organizations who are some of their strongest assets. Why not find out why they stay, what is going well and where the strengths in the organization lay? In learning these, an organization, much like an individual, can double down on their strengths. We are not suggesting companies ignore the areas of glaring weakness, because if there’s a liability, it must be managed. However, we are suggesting a greater emphasis in the areas of strength. Organizations can create thriving cultures and reap the greatest benefit when they lean into their unique strengths as a team.
An organizational culture built around strengths-based performance metrics means that every person is aware of what strengths they possess. At 34 Strong, we engage organizations in a three year, four phased approach. We provide organizations with a basis for knowing how to start at the selection process. Next, the on boarding, and through the ongoing strengths-based development of each team member. We believe that keeping strengths at the helm of every decision will create the greatest outcomes. Leaders who understand strengths can strategically build an interdependent, complimentary team culture. This gives each team within the organization the potential to function where the sum of the strengths are exponentially greater. This synergy allows the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.
The Next Steps
A strengths-based culture doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, diligence, effort, communication, and investment. Rarely do we get to start at the beginning with a company. When we’ve had that opportunity to help a new organization build a strength based culture upfront, it is incredibly fulfilling. However, most often we find ourselves partnering with long standing organizations that have deeply entrenched held beliefs of human development. While it can take years to shift beliefs, the work is worthwhile. This lays down tracks, like a railway, that the organization can run on for decades to come.
We are seeing organizations transform their cultures through a strengths-based approach worldwide with tremendous results. In Gallup’s 2015 analysis of strengths-based cultures worldwide they showed marked improvements in profit, customer metrics, fewer safety instances, less turnover, and higher engagement. A strengths-based organizational culture is a fundamental shift in the developmental philosophy that leads to a distinct transformation in the overall culture within an organization.
When you are ready to create the workplace culture that you envisioned, where people are engaged, valued for being valuable and play to their Strengths, 34 Strong will be here to help you make that a reality.
Brandon Miller is the Co-Founder and CEO of 34 Strong Inc. and co-author of the book Play to Their Strengths (June 2019), a book written with his wife, Analyn Miller, on parenting our children from a strengths-based lens. Brandon’s top five strengths are: Maximizer, Achiever, Activator, Strategic, and Arranger.