Focus on Strengths to Build a Great Team

Remember the World Series of 2016? You know the one just before the elections? It was incredibly exciting to see the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians fight tooth and nail to clinch the title and end their decades’ long World Series drought. Every player on both teams stepped up their game at the most pivotal of moments.

But imagine if their coaches had told them at the beginning of the season, “Yeah, you’re really good at what you do, but to be better we’re going to work on all the things you don’t do well.” This wouldn’t make any sense. Why would anyone tell left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman that he should develop his right arm?

In the workplace, there is often an emphasis on developing employee weaknesses to improve results. Oftentimes, the company will showcase their top producer’s methodology and tell other employees to simply follow that person’s model to produce more and be successful. The problem is that this approach often pushes employees to do something that’s not in their nature. While some workers might see improvement with their performance, this approach will fail if the top producer and other employees have significantly different personal talents, tendencies, and temperament.

A right-hander might be able to copy some of the techniques of another right-hander with a similar physical build and flexibility, but those techniques aren’t likely to work for someone with a different physique and talent. Even less likely, telling a left-handed pitcher to develop his right arm will not improve his performance. His right arm might get a little better, but it will never be as strong as his left. And while working on his right arm, his left arm will lose some of its conditioning and strength, and the pitcher will see poor results.

The Better Way

What if managers and executives took the time to identify the innate talents of the people on their team and focused on maximizing the talents that come naturally to each person?

Rather than training everyone to emulate the top producer’s techniques, smart managers understand and accept a key concept: people with different talents can achieve the same results, but their approach will be different. The challenge for management is to be flexible enough to allow their employees to use different approaches to reach the same goals.

Management should explore the individual strengths of each person on their team and help their employees nurture and use the talents they already have. Remember it’s okay if employees in the same position use different strengths to meet their goals. The important thing is creating the best probability those goals will be met.

Another management challenge is to be versatile enough to coach employees in a variety of techniques. This can be a good place to hire a consultant, such as an executive coach or leadership coach, to pinch-hit for training in any areas where management is relatively weak.

By helping people maximize their own talents, management can enable lower performing employees to improve their game and raise the effectiveness of the entire team. Managers and executives who find ways to help their employees maximize the effectiveness of their employees’ individual skills will themselves enjoy greater long-term success. They are better able to develop and retain their employees and consequently improve their team’s effectiveness.

Training people to follow an unnatural talent takes away from their success, erodes their confidence, and prevents them from improving their natural skill. Discovering a person’s individual talents and developing them will result in greater success, confidence, and commitment to their job. It’s a win-win for everyone!


Julia is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at,, (@JuliaHolian) and


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