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Focus on Team Member Strengths for Learning to Flourish

Carol François mage
Carol François

In my last blog, I used the metaphor of our home garden to illustrate the importance of creating optimum environments for effective learning teams to grow and flourish. The same is true for individual learning and growth. This month, the Learning Forward staff is reading StrengthsFinder 2.0 and using the StrengthsFinder assessment to identify our personal strengths as tools for increasing our overall team effectiveness. In essence, it's impossible to have a strong team until each team member understands what makes him or her strong individually.

What I like about the StrengthsFinder concept is that it encourages us to hone our strengths as the path to improvement rather than constantly trying to shore up our weaknesses. According to Tom Rath, author of StrengthsFinder 2.0, "...people who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general."

Gardeners don't waste time putting plants in poor environments then trying to coax them to produce tasty fruit or stunning flowers. Gardeners take time to find the right spot for their garden, feed the correct fertilizer in the correct dosages, and water appropriately. Want luscious tomatoes? Then focus on what the plant needs to yield the crop. Sure you have to pull up the weeds so the plants can flourish, but the focus is the plant's needs, not the weeds.

So it is with team members. Too often leaders focus on the weeds, i.e. weaknesses. They spend time developing elaborate improvement plans targeted at behaviors the team member never will, and often never wants, to improve.

Instead, leaders should seek opportunities to help team members gauge what they do well and then capitalize on those abilities. By building a team consisting of members with a variety of strengths and skills, the entire team becomes stronger as each member fills the gaps and complements one another.

Carol François 
Director of Learning, Learning Forward

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