(Vs. frustration, disinterest, de-motivation)

If you desire to excel in your business or role you must work to your strengths, or to the way your are hard-wired.

This may sound obvious but frequently managers put a great deal of effort into ‘developing’ their people’s areas of weakness, and towards being ‘well-rounded leaders’ themselves. Unfortunately the result can only be a life of struggle, growing to hate your job or ultimately failing.  These findings are convincing, from copious data based on the work of Don Clifton, who spent four decades studying the strengths of great leaders.

The most effective leaders are always investing in their strengths. And when leaders focus on and invest in their employees’ strengths, the odds of each person being engaged goes up eightfold, from 9% to 73%. And we know what engagement means to productivity. Make sure you identify your ‘signature themes’ – those areas you are hard wired in – this could be one of the most enlightening and affirming steps you could take.

The Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 is the tool that identifies and reports on your signature strengths. It is an online assessment available through the book, Strengths Based Leadership 2.0 (Tom Rath and Barry Conchie). I recommend every manager put your team through the StrengthsFinder. For the price of a book, the initial report is free – and this is sufficient for work from – even more effectively using a skilled coach.

Here is an example of strengths based leadership creating making creating extraordinary success…. The President of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain, Simon Cooper, sits in the Influencing domain of strengths, with Maximizer his top strength. Through study Cooper established 90% of customer attachment to brand was emotional,  e.g. how employees ‘bring the brand to life’ every time they interact with guests.  Your people create memories, not things. So the President often asks his associates what their guests like to buy. He then brings the real lesson with the next question: “now tell me what they can’t buy”.  Working strongly through his Maximizing theme, Cooper identified the company’s core value proposition – delivering intangibles like smiles, relationships, caring service.

It turned out the things customers can’t buy that created true engagement with the brand. Based on this Cooper compensates his leaders based on their ability to foster this kind of true engagement, instead of basic loyalty, because they are “in the business of trying to win the hearts and minds” of each guest. This built a legacy for the Ritz-Carlton of “guests for life”. The company regularly measures the level of engagement. While most companies consider the 95th percentile excellent, the Ritz-Carlton considers it “red zone”; a hotel only registers “green” when they reach the 98th percentile. Cooper’s talent for influencing actually serves a greater purpose of running an organization upon which the well-being of over 40,000 families depends. Playing to his top theme, Maximizer, has powered his organization to great success.

How about you – do you know your signature strengths? Are you playing to them every day at work? The benefits of engagement – productivity and inspired performance – lie in this truth.