If you had to list 3 things that annoy and frustrate you about people you work with or 3 strengths and the ways the people you work with add value and contribute to the team, which would be easier for you?

When I ask this question in my Strengths Leadership Team Seminar, the answer is typically that it’s much easier to find what’s wrong with people than what’s right. This is a mindset that is often found in corporate America but is slowly changing as a strengths-based approach becomes more widely used. Many companies look to develop their people by identifying their weaknesses and then design an improvement plan. This approach does not usually excite people to focus on what they’re not good at. Whereas, a strengths-based approach focuses on identifying strengths and figuring out a plan to help employees use their strengths more often in their role. This approach does excite people to put their strengths and natural talents to good use. The result with a strengths approach, per Gallup research, is a workforce that has higher engagement, satisfaction, productivity, and profitability. Just to clarify, the strengths-based approach does not overlook weaknesses, but it only focuses on weaknesses that get in the way of success. So for the sales manager who frequently travels but is not great with travel logistics, she can still be successful in her role by partnering with someone who is good with details.

Gallup research also shows that teams who focus on strengths are 12.5% more productive. People learn faster, work harder and stay longer thereby reducing turnover. As you look for ways to identify a partner, here are some steps to consider:

  1. Identify your top 5 strengths and understand how they help you be successful in your role (you can take the Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment to identify your strengths).
  2. Clarify your goals so you understand what you can contribute and what strengths you need in a partner.
  3. Bring in a partner who complements your strengths and helps you manage around weaknesses.
  4. Brainstorm how the partnership can resolve various challenges and achieve specific goals (different partnerships may be needed to achieve different goals).

Here’s how partnering can be more effective. If you are an Activator (defined by Gallup as people who make things happen by turning thoughts into action; Activators learn by doing and can be impatient with too much) and like to walk out of a meeting and jump into action, a potential partner depending on the goal could be someone Strategic (defined by Gallup as people who create alternative ways to proceed; faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues). The Strategic person has the ability to see the forest rather than a single tree. The combination is powerful because you have someone who can move various ideas of a project forward (Activator) and a partner who can see the bigger picture and thoughtfully consider the best way to step forward (Strategic).

Partnerships become a key strategy as we build effective teams and leverage our strengths. This approach allows us to accomplish key goals that could not have been accomplished alone and partner around weaker areas. The better you understand your own strengths and what you contribute to your team the more effective your partnerships will be.