Avoiding the Weaknesses Trap of Performance Feedback

There is this myth of employee performance that states,
“If you fix weaknesses in a person, the individual will
become stronger.”

The reality is that fixing weaknesses will not produce
excellence, but rather just an average performer.

I read a great article from a Harvard professor, who
decided to give her students a mid-term evaluation as a
way to motivate her students.  She rated the students
against the class average on 5 attributes:
1. Analytical Thinking
2. Theoretical Contributions
3. Creative Contributions
4. Use of Empirical Evidence
5. Presentation Skills.

Within a few days of presenting her students with the
evaluations, she noticed the following:

A. Every student wanted to know what he/she could do to
improve the lowest rated attributes because nobody want to
have weaknesses in their performance.

B. The students spent more time trying to improve their
weaknesses and ignored their strengths.

C. The overall quality of discussions in class diminished
dramatically as students stopped playing to their
strengths.

The same thing happens in business.  Managers often engage
in a misguided attempt to correct weaknesses and create a
“well-rounded employee,” which diminishes the employee’s
overall contribution.

HR CONTRARIAN POINTER: The weaknesses trap states, “Fix
what’s wrong and let the strengths take care of
themselves.”  The reality is that strengths will diminish
as a person works on weaknesses.

I recommend trying something new in management.  Let’s try
to maximize the strengths of an employee to the point that
the strengths overwhelm any relative weaknesses.

If you would like to read a great book on managing
weaknesses and enhancing strengths, I recommend the book,
“Soar with Your Strengths,” by Donald O. Clifton and Paula
Nelson.

SPECIAL OFFER: I often write-up a summary of important
points of books that I like.  I have written a 4-page
summary of the book, “Soar with Your Strengths.”  If you
would like to receive a free copy of my summary, send me
an email with the subject line: Soar With Your Strengths
and I’ll email the summary to you.

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