There are no two ways about it: managing teams is hard. With personalities as well as professional differences at play, it can be extremely difficult to get teams on the same page – let alone get them working productively toward the same goal.
It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. No matter what the industry, those working in project management can take active steps to improve both their management style and the efficiency of their team. Leaders can assess project management approaches to determine what will work best for their context and their team. One of these approaches is strength-based management. It’s a leadership style with over 30 years of research support, so it certainly warrants a closer look.
In this definitive guide to strength-based management, we answer all of your major questions about the leadership approach:
- What is strength-based management, anyway?
- What are the core principles behind this management approach?
- What are the building blocks of pursuing strength-based management?
- How are these building blocks relevant to building a team?
- How can you use strength-based management in practice?
The answers to these questions will help you get started on taking a new approach to managing your team – and to the whole idea of leadership!
What is Strength-Based Management?
Strength-based management looks to fill the gap between employees feeling recognized and working productively. The focus of strength-based management is in the name: the management approach focuses on the strengths of employees and team members, above everything else.
There are three essential parts of effective strength-based management:
- Good leaders focus on and invest in employee strengths;
- Good leaders build well-rounded teams based on these strengths; and
- Good leaders recognize and understand the needs of employees.
In a phrase, strength-based management equips individuals to be more effective and satisfied in their work by recognizing and acting on their strengths.
The concept of strength-based management is simple enough, but what does it actually look like in practice?
“The simple truth is that if we stop trying to ‘fix’ our employees and rather focus on their strengths and their passions, we can create a fervent army of brand evangelists who, when empowered, could take our brand and our products to a whole new level.” ~ Ekaterina Walter, writing for Forbes Magazine.
The ABCD of Strength-Based Management
In addition to the three foundational aspects of effective strength-based leaders, the strength-based management style begins with four essential building blocks – the ABCD of strengths based leadership.
- Align Strengths: Instead of forcing the issue, managers can simply ask team members where they think they would fit in and what their strengths are. This creates a more effective team.
- Build a Diverse Team: When considering hiring choices, take time to think about the whole picture. How will someone new fit into a team? What strengths will they bring to the table?
- Create a Culture of Transparency: Trust is the foundation of effective leadership. Remember, one of the key aspects of an effective strength-based manager is recognizing employee needs. Transparency in decision making and assignments is one of those needs.
- Don’t Manage, Empower: What if I told you your job as a manager is not to manage. A much more effective approach is to empower team members to make decisions on their own, hold each other accountable, and act on new opportunities for growth.
The “ABCD” of strength-based management isn’t just a catchy acronym with some good ideas. It relays the building blocks of what it means to construct a healthy and productive team. As a result, it also communicates what steps can be taken to become a good manager. Not many of these steps will come naturally to the average manager – so how can leaders use strength-based management in practice?
How to Use Strength-Based Management in Practice
As mentioned above, a shift to strength-based management cannot necessarily be achieved overnight. But managers can choose to take smaller steps that transition both the team and the leader into a strength-based approach to management.
The most important part of putting strength-based management into practice is using the leadership style to inform how we interact with the people that we work with – and the people that work for us. Using a strengths approach means highlighting service, team interaction, and support. One study highlights a few key strength-based principles that managers can start to use in practice:
- Look to understand the underlying factors of employee performance;
- Start encouraging a common language and values among the team;
- Look at resiliency as a goal instead of a measure – use it to inform your evaluations;
- Respond with respect and compassion to team members experiencing stress; and
- Choose to see the potential in people, instead of their deficits. This starts with small-scale, daily operations and can expand to an entire project with time.
Using these principles in practice, a strength-based leader will have a majority of the following traits:
- They are self-aware, knowing their own strengths and weaknesses;
- They put their strengths to use and take time to address their weaknesses;
- They communicate a message of optimism and confidence;
- They enable their team to take on responsibility while also taking self-care measures;
- They lead by example, and ask team members to do the same;
- They are transparent, in both relationships and project work;
- They create guiding principles for the team so that everyone is on the same page; and
- They are consistent (and consistently encouraging!)
What Strength-Based Management Means for Organizations
The goal of any management approach should be to improve team efficiency and engagement. Strength-based management takes a unique approach to this, placing importance on individual and team empowerment and expecting efficiency to follow. By creating a strong team culture, leaders can expect effective teams.
But strength-based management is about more than just good ideas or good intentions. It means taking action on your strengths, evaluating your weaknesses, and leading by example as a manager. If you are new to strength-based management, it is not an approach that can be achieved overnight. But using this definitive guide is a great starting point for ensuring a healthier and more productive team.
Once the foundation is established, managers can utilize project management software. Software reviews from real users on TrustRadius can help you to find out the best tools to highlight and harness the individual strengths of your team members to accomplish a more productive workflow and successful project.