Each piece in chess moves differently. A player has to think carefully about each pawn’s unique abilities and deploy it to an advantage. Author and performance trainer Marcus Buckingham says that great managers do something similar – know and value the strengths and idiosyncrasies of each employee.

Such managers help build a strengths-based organizational culture. One where people are encouraged to use their inherent strengths than focus on overcoming weaknesses. The results: increased sales and profits, reduced safety incidents, and more engaged employees.

Why is this approach effective? Because the more hours a day that adults believe they use their strengths, the more likely they are to report having ample energy, feeling well-rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot, learning something interesting, and being treated with respect.

Brandon Rigoni and Jim Asplund of Gallup share what managers can do to create this rewarding culture:

  • Know your strengths and build on others’ too. When managers are open about their strengths, employees feel comfortable identifying and building their own too. As a leader or manager, encourage your team members to know their co-worker’s skills and accept differences. It nurtures partnerships within the team.
  • Help employees through challenges. Get your people to recognize their talents and draw upon it when they feel challenged. Do not assume that employees know how to use their strengths. Instead, provide recommendations and support systems, such as strategic partnerships with other team members, to help them apply their skills.
  • Harmonize team capabilities. Assemble teams thoughtfully to bring together employees with complementing skills. The strengths of one member cancel out the other member’s weaknesses, and vice versa. Together, the team accomplishes what could not have been done separately.
  • Keep strengths top of mind. Remind your team about their strengths consistently. Shine a spotlight on a team member’s exceptional abilities in a meeting, or review how each employee is utilizing his/ her positive skills in current projects. You could also display a chart highlighting each member’s strengths in a common area.
  • Keep the approach individual. Employees differ in their need for feedback and recognition. Recognize what motivates and discourages each person, and tailor your feedback delivery around it.

As Buckingham reminds us: average managers play checkers, where all pieces are uniform. But great managers play chess, integrating the abilities of all pawns into a coordinated attack. Good luck with your next moves.

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