Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Talking strengths

I came across an amazing statistic yesterday - it was hidden in a paper by the Corporate Leadership Council on what drives individual performance... a subject dear to the heart of most learning and development professionals. The 2006 CLC's survey of 28,000 people, had distilled out what organisational 'levers'  impact individual performance and found that the vast majority of performance management practices make minimal positive difference. Shocking indeed!

However, stunningly, what did make a big difference was talking performance strengths - that's the conversation that helps employees to know what their strengths are in the first place and and secondly help them figure out how to use them. Conversations that emphasized performance strengths drove a 36.4% improvement in performance, a particularly amazing figure when the same data showed that conversations that emphasized weaknesses  lead to a 26.8% decline in employee performance.

Now I think this is big news for all of us involved in learning and growth in organisations and real affirmation for the positive psychology movement. Many managers and leaders I meet seem to have an assumption that development = fixing our weaknesses, and therefore performance management conversations must be about identifying our gaps and plugging them. This data would suggest that this approach is not only unhelpful but potentially detrimental. So are we teaching managers how to have strengths-based conversations or are we perpetuating the 'fix the fault' approach to development?

Corporate Leadership Council (2006) From Performance Management to Performance Improvement: leveraging key drivers of individual performance. For a copy of the paper click here.


  1. Sarah Netherclift7 August 2012 at 13:54

    Excellent article, Alison. I suspect a lot of people can relate to this from a personal perspective - but it's great to see evidence. I do enjoy reading your articles.

    1. Thanks Sarah - good to know it's interesting!