We managers look for good results. When we get them, we’ll celebrate, so that’s a good thing — stop for the appreciation of MAHALO, and say, “Thank you!” and “Well done!” It’s the pause that refreshes before we continue with our next project, so celebrate wildly.
However know this: A lot of work process is either over or temporarily suspended at that point in time where you see results. Most of the work is over, and you’re within an in-between place, or at an ending.
How did those results happen?
What we work with best as Alaka‘i Managers (i.e. where we serve others best), is within the work that comes before we get results. We help people grow in their strengths, and we help them make their weaknesses irrelevant, compensating for those weaknesses in the best possible way. When we excel in these efforts, we’re managing well. The results everyone achieves will surely get easier, become better, and happen more frequently.
Strengths and weaknesses are big-bucket words though: They’re plural, with an assortment in each bucket. They’re a collection of our talents when hits or when misses, and we often don’t realize what they are, specifically, until we’ve done the coaching work involved in diagnosing them. Further complicating matters, is that not all strengths and weaknesses are created equal: A strength for one person can very naturally be a weakness for another.
So here’s a management hack that can help you. Instead of going crazy looking for specific strengths and weaknesses, or getting lost in the specificity of labeling them, look for struggle and/or ease in all the work which happens. To be realistic about this, you’ll usually be working with one person at a time anyway (as we spoke of a while back, in Managerial Batching: 1, 2, 5 and 7)
Human energy flows and surges when work is done with ease; there is a wonderful tendency where good begets more good. Conversely, our working energy stalls and sputters when there’s any kind of struggle in the process. Struggle is a sign of a person’s weakness, whereas ease is a sign of their strength. You may still have to do more diagnostics to wade through context, and discover root cause (such as when a process obstacle or relational barrier is the culprit), but you’ll be halfway there. You’ll know where to help them, and why — you’ll also have the work at hand to immediately work with them on gaining improvement, which is way better than having a theoretical airy-fairy discussion about it.
Start with process, then match it to your people.
There is often another bonus in this hack: We’ll circumvent our natural tendency to take strengths and weaknesses personally. Employees don’t always ask for help when they should, because they don’t like exposing their weaknesses — no one does. When we replace these words with struggle and ease, people make an easier connection to the work itself and can look at it more objectively as they actually perform it, keeping that work (task and process) at arm’s length from their vulnerability — they evaluate work for their own struggle or ease along with you, and can ask for very specific help, such as supplemental skills training, or access to additional knowledge.
In fact, you may even find they begin to bring processes up on their own, asking for your partnership in reevaluating them. Begin to insert the struggle and/or ease vocabulary into your next team huddle: Look for your opportunity to ask how one of your workplace projects are going, by asking, “Where are we finding ease with this, hitting our stride, and where are we still struggling?”
Start with a focus on team process instead of on individual people, and comfort will grow from there, as the vocabulary seeps into your work culture bit by valuable bit.
As Alaka‘i Managers,
— We Hire/Select people for their TALENT. (Talent is innate; in-born and natural.)
— We Train people to develop their SKILLS. (Skills are learned activities.)
— We Give Access to the KNOWLEDGE our people need. (Knowledge is learned information.)
Strengths are TALENTS applied, and in use. We often think of talents as qualifications based on past experience (there was opportunity to use one’s talents, and they did). Our best growth and self-development will happen within our strengths.
Weaknesses are NON-TALENTS applied best a person can manage them, and we will always be forced to compensate for them in some way until we redesign the work in favor of strength-sourcing instead.
Alaka‘i Managers will accomplish this by applying their strength/weakness shifting strategies to work activities (i.e. performance), and not to a person’s character or personality. Do not diagnose weaknesses as bad attitude.
Aloha! Just joining us?
We are devoting the month of August to a value exploration of work ethic:
- Today’s Work Ethic: Work for you 1st
- We Earn Our Keep, Integrated
- This article! Managing Energies: Struggle & Ease. How does this discussion in regard to strengths versus weaknesses, and talent versus skills versus knowledge, relate to work ethic?
- Related Context: Alaka‘i Managers are the new Energy Bunnies.
Recommended Reading in our Archives on Strengths Management: