One of the basic steps to designing a business strategy is a SWOT analysis.  The reason we perform a SWOT analysis on the business is that it gives us a clear idea of what the company can do and what it needs to improve to be better.  SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors.  Opportunities and threats are external factors.  When it comes to dealing with individuals and teams, strengths and weaknesses are essential for success. 

However, strengths and weaknesses are relative, and most employees often don’t know where they lie.  Strengths are easier to identify because people are usually quite proud of their abilities and likes showing them to others.  Weaknesses, on the other hand, are less perceptible.  Some people go to great lengths to deny it.  Some disguise it from others.   An effective leader or manager can uncover strengths and weaknesses and use this knowledge to promote engagement and drive productivity. 

This week’s article on strengths and weaknesses applies to everyone.  I hope you will find the article interesting and will use the tips I share to become a better manager or leader. 

Team strengths and weaknesses

Your team comprises of individuals.  Everyone comes with their unique personality, educational background, experiences, knowledge, and beliefs.   Strengths are the skills and abilities that are easy for the individual and allow them to shine in an activity.  Weaknesses are skills and abilities that don’t come easily to someone and can slow down performance.

Benefits of strengths and weaknesses

Understanding our strengths and weaknesses is important for personal development as well as organisational success.  Here are some benefits of strengths and weaknesses

  1. Builds self-awareness and confidence

A person learns about their strengths and weaknesses through self-reflection and evaluation.  This helps them build self-awareness and develop confidence. A person who knows their strengths can leverage these strengths to advance their careers or achieve their goals.  It makes them better at their jobs and more successful in their lives.  

  • Enhances motivation and commitment

Self-aware staff are more motivated to work.  They know their strengths can bring value to the organisation and their weaknesses can hinder performance.  If their weaknesses are acknowledged and supported by their leaders, the staff will be motivated to overcome their weaknesses by finding ways to improve or learn to work around them.   

  •  Increases engagement, teamwork, and productivity

Staff who have self-awareness are more engaged with their jobs, their colleagues, and the organisation because they believe their contribution matters.   A staff who believes they are a valued member of an organisation is more likely to want the company to succeed.  They are confident in themselves and their abilities and are keen to support others in their team to succeed as well.  

  • Reduces staff turnover

Happy staff do not look elsewhere.  Helping your staff understand and use their strengths and supporting them through their weaknesses shows you care about their future and wellbeing.  Given a choice between a great working environment and a bigger salary, most employees would choose the former. 

Focus on strengths or develop weaknesses? Which is better?

Throughout my career, people have asked me if they should focus on their team’s strengths or their weaknesses?  I usually answer: ‘Both’ because there is value in both.  The best approach I can advise is to focus on strengths and manage or develop weaknesses.  The same applies to you – the manager, by the way.

Focus on strengths

An individual’s strength is their value add to the world. The combined strength of a team can become a powerful tool to drive productivity and produce results.  Knowing your team’s strengths help you make better decisions in every aspect of managing.  Let’s say you are running a media campaign.  You would assign the media watch tasks to a team member who is a digital native and familiar with social media.  The team member who is a natural creative may be given the assignment to design the layout and the one who is good at networking may be asked to leverage on his or her outside contacts.  

Manage or develop weaknesses

While you are focusing on the strength, you also need to be aware of the weaknesses and decide whether you want to manage these or develop them. 

Remember, not all weaknesses can be turned into a strength.  Sometimes the best a person can achieve is average even though time and money have been spent on developing them.  This is where your role as a leader is crucial.  You have to know your team and understand their limitations as well as their potential.  It is important that as their leader you do not begin on a premise that the weakness can be eradicated.  That is not always the case, and you may have to manage the weakness in a way that still makes the individual feel like a valued member of the team.  It is a balancing act that requires you to have self-awareness. If you have self-awareness, you can guide your team to also develop self-awareness and self-worth. 

How to identify weaknesses in your team

Strengths are easy to identify because they shine so brightly.  Weaknesses are harder because people become clever at disguising them.  So, how can you identify weaknesses? 

Here are 5 simple ways to identify weaknesses:

  1. Have real conversations
    Don’t wait until the performance review to broach the subject.  Start your conversations daily.  Open and honest communication is important if you want people to tell you the truth about themselves.   The more real dialogues you have with the team, the more you can help them reflect and understand their abilities.  You can break the ice by offering to describe your strengths and weaknesses and inviting the rest of the team to participate.
  2. Listen and observe
    Listening to what others say and observing how they work are good ways to pick up what they can or cannot do.  I am not suggesting you spy on your employees but rather be more observant and aware of the going on around you.  For example, if you have an employee who is naturally friendly and happy, this person can become a good source to diffuse a tense situation.  An employee who is too quiet may be disengaged, uninterested or unassertive. Or he/she is naturally shy and reserved.  Be careful when making assumptions. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.  A good manager considers every observation objectively and only make distinctions when they have seen their staff acting differently in a different environment. 
  3. Check enterprise social activity
    User profiles and posts are effective when trying to understand your employees. Many enterprise organisations have social networks or social intranets that are used for communication.  Employees build profiles within these systems.  Some of them post to these mediums. 

    User profiles and posts can provide a wealth of information about an employee’s likes and dislikes, fear, interests, experiences and so forth. Managers can use this information to better understand their employees.  For example, a staff who is a foodie may be a good team member to assign a project in the food & beverage industry.  A staff who likes travel can become a valued contributor when bidding on a contract with a travel company.
  4. Run competitions
    Friendly competition amongst team members is an effective way to foster teamwork and to identify talent. For example, if you are trying to find a team leader, you may want to design a fun contest to find the natural leader amongst the team.  A word of caution: Any activity that pitches one against the other can attract unhealthy behaviours like rivalry, resentment, and loss of confidence.  Be sure to address any issues immediately. 

What to do with staff weaknesses?

You know what to do with a staff’s strengths but what do you do with a weakness?  Identifying the weakness is only the start. As a manager, you have to decide whether you want to ignore it, develop it, or work around it.  The only way to know is for you to understand this individual as a human being, not an employee.

Professional strength

Finally, I would like to take a small detour to discuss professional strength.  Many of our personal strengths can be translated into a professional context.  The next time you are applying for a job and cannot decide which strength to highlight, try asking yourself these four questions:

Is it relevant?  Is the strength you want to showcase relevant to the role you are applying for. 

Is it a real strength? Do you actually possess this strength or is it wishful thinking?

Is it demonstrable? How can you showcase this strength?

Is it current and relevant? If the strength is outdated, is it still useful in current times? Can it be adapted?

The questions posed above can help managers start a meaningful dialogue about an employee’s strength during a performance review.  I hope this article has inspired you to help your team discover their strengths and weaknesses.

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