Why Do We Want To Focus on Strengths? Is That Missing The Point?


Leaders who are recognized as getting the best results from those around them are referred to as Resonant Leaders in Emotional Intelligence language. Increasingly we are seeing evidence that focusing on the strengths of others garners better results in terms of real and sustainable change than looking to ‘fix’ perceived weaknesses.

Think about every performance review you have experienced, whether in your education or work worlds, and ask yourself what information stands out for you?P1020352

How did you feel after one of the reviews that mostly recognized the good stuff you accomplished but had one area to ‘improve’ for the next review period? The nature of almost every performance review system I have seen in my experience has that requirement to note an area for improvement.

Now, of everything that was written and discussed during your reviews, what became the thing you focused on? What left you with that feeling that you might never quite get ‘there’, wherever there may be? What detracted from the glow of a job well done in the days following that review? When I ask clients, friends and colleagues this question, inevitably it is the negative, need to fix this, data point that comes to mind. It evokes frustration, a sense of being unfairly evaluated, and a lingering sense that one might never reach their career goals. Alternatively it can also leave one feeling that it is the leader who just doesn’t recognize good performance or is incapable of sharing positive recognition. This applies in our lives outside of work and school as well so the implications are significant.


Focus on Strengths

If the research suggesting that negative emotions are stronger than positive emotions is accurate, and I believe it is, then it makes sense that we over emphasize the positive to balance the scales.  Yet, if one ‘improvement’ note on an otherwise positive review can overshadow the strengths recognized, how will a leader be a resonant leader, encourage sustainable change and still ensure they are reducing performance concerns? Sounds like a dilemma stated that way but like any such situation most of us can think of leaders in our lives that managed it.

Will you join me in looking at ways to create our own Resonant Leadership, find sustainable ways to create change we want to create, and begin to spend more time recognizing the strengths of others and less on the elusive ‘fix’?

Two questions related to this idea, one personal and one community based:

  1. How might we handle performance issues without losing the positive to the negative?
  2. What do we need to consider in the Digital Era, when ‘outing’ the negative can be both positive and negative?
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