The strengths method as a lever for success and effective interface in project management

The strengths method as a lever for success and effective interface in project management

How to generate motivation?  This is the one-million-dollar project management question.

Project managers cope daily with the following challenges:

  • How to get the people involved in a project to cooperate and engage them?
  • How to make them do what you want?
  • How to develop your authority?
  • How to make the project team creative, loyal and committed?
  • How to get them to share their hard-earned information freely?
  • How to skillfully motivate sub-contractors to meet project deadlines (which you as the project manager will get credit for)?
  • How to get employees to help their colleagues who are stuck in a task?
  • How to persuade employees to stay overtime when it’s required (sometimes at the expense of their private lives)?
  • How to get the team to cover risks in time and in the right way and handle them efficiently?

In short, to give the best that worker can give.

All of these are challenges of project managers in today’s world, especially in light of the fact that most project managers are matrix managers without formal authority, ie, without the “carrot and stick” – the ability to reward or punish that exists in classic management.

Many studies have examined the issue of motivation. How to generate motivation, what to do and what to avoid. What all have in common is the understanding that motivation is primarily an emotional issue rather than a logical one, driven by salary, conditions, etc.

Here I would like to present one of the least known but very effective methods that I use in working with organizations and managers, which is the Strengths method.

Gallup, one of the world’s most recognized and respected researchers, has studied the subject of motivation for more than a decade and found that the most influential parameter of motivation, output and customer satisfaction is identifying and using the innate strengths of the employee / manager.  From this perspective, the ability of managers in general and project managers in particular to identify their strengths and those of their project teams and other involved parties, and to engage them through their strengths, is an important and valuable element in the success of a project and an organization in both the short and long term.

In this article, I will explain a little about the method and how to use it. It is important to note that the subject is very complex and requires familiarity, experience and skill with the method to implement it well.

A strength is a talent in some activity, an ability, a skill in a field, an emotional or intellectual ability developed in a particular field, e.g. the ability to teach, an organizational ability, a technical ability, listening, empathy, an artistic or analytical ability, a sense of humor, an ability to sell, to persuade, to command (cut wheat from chaff) a desire for diversity and changes, and more.

This strength, which is innate potential, also has an acquired element – that is, the more we use a strength the more we develop a greater ability to use it in a certain field, in our way of thinking or action, or our approach to things.

In the model I have developed, it is possible to identify strengths through 4 parameters that exist simultaneously:

  • Things that a person enjoys and loves doing
  • Things that a person is good at
  • Things that are easy to do or learn, that come naturally to a person
  • Things that a person finds significant, interesting, exciting

Examples of strengths include:  An ability to teach, an ability to organize and plan, an ability to carry out tasks efficiently, interpersonal skills such as empathy, the ability to listen, empowerment, an ability to sell or persuade, an ability to lead, good manual skills, technical skills, analytical skills, systematic thinking, order and neatness, self-discipline, responsibility, integrity, an ability to distinguish between essential and minor details, effectiveness (doing the correct thing), an aesthetic ability, an interest in areas of knowledge such as children, technology, innovation.

It is important to note that these are just examples.  During my work as a coach I have found about 70 strengths.

Most people have difficulty identifying their strengths for the following reasons:

  • Education that focuses on weaknesses and recognizing the disadvantages rather than the positive
  • Strengths are taken for granted and therefore difficult to map
  • Strengths are challenging to isolate and identify; For example, “I’m good with people” is not a strength but a lot of strengths together, such as curiosity about new people, listening, empathy, emotional intelligence, conveying knowledge, influence and more.  Similarly, “creativity” is not a strength, since it is possible to be creative in a technical way, or with people, or in systematic thinking,

In a professional diagnosis, these obstacles can be bypassed by means of questionnaires and inquiries that help to overcome the barriers.

Some Comments

  • There are no good or bad strengths.  We have all received “gifts” worth identifying and using as much as possible
  • According to studies, only a small portion of people are aware of and use their strengths
  • Employees or managers who use their strengths are characterized as
    • great assets – they will be very good at what they do
    • taking pleasure and satisfaction in their work, so they will invest more, be creative and experience less burnout
    • achieve greater satisfaction in interfacing

Recommendations for managers regarding strengths

  1. Identify your own strengths – they are your lever to success.  For example, people who are calm and harmonious will achieve results in a pleasant and peaceful way as opposed to commanding officer types who can “cut through things” easily and achieve results in this way.  People who have ideas and creative solutions will contribute in their way while caring, helpful and giving people will aid and give results in their way.
  2. Set personal and professional goals and pursue them in your own way.  Proper goals are defined in measurable form – content, quality, schedule, sales goals, etc.
  3. Distinguish between the goal, which defines the objectives, and the means, which is unique and different for each person.  For example, there are managers who achieve results through integrity or professional knowledge with a memory for details that make them authorities, or managers who have a connection with people who make others want to be in their company and cooperate.  A sense of humor, positive thinking, a memory for details, a systematic outlook, or process thinking are all strengths that can be used to leverage you to success.
  4. Avoid comparisons to others – focus on goals on the one hand and what you naturally have to give on the other hand and develop it, be focused on the optimal contribution you can make and the unique value you have to give to a project and organization.  This also relates to branding and positioning in the organization (a topic that is raised often in organizations).
  5. Identify the strengths of project team members to share them and encourage the people to use them as much as possible.  The idea is to enable everyone do what they do and love best within a framework of goals and boundaries.  For example, let someone who is analytical create reports and tables in Excel; encourage someone who uses creative thinking to give solutions; let someone who likes to teach be responsible for guidance; allow someone who likes to perform procedures be responsible in this area; encourage someone who connects easily with people to bring results in this way, compared to someone who is very technical and prefers to work on the computer who can shine and add value in their own way.
  6. Jim Collins’s Flywheel effect, which is documented in his book “Good to Great” and summarizes studies of companies that have achieved exceptional success globally (one of the best management books written), recommends selecting employees according to their talents (strengths) and adaptability to a specific role, rather than experience, knowledge, education, etc.  This is based on the assumption that the latter can be learned, but innate ability, such as approach and basic thinking, can not be changed and shaped.  For example, a person who likes to work alone will not become a “social animal” and if the job demands interpersonal skills and service to many people it will not be an optimal fit.
  7. Choose staff with a different set of strengths than you have, so that in total the team contributes a variety of skills and abilities.
  8. Formal and informal work by the team should be divided according to strengths.  For example, those who are good at teaching should train new workers; those who love to study and deepen their knowledge can learn new fields / technologies and make knowledge accessible to the entire team; those who have writing talent can contribute by preparing documents, presentations, procedures; those with good interpersonal relations can quickly bond with new people and can help friends interface with other departments, etc.; those who like to stand in front of an audience can give presentations and group instruction; those with organizational skills can organize fun days, social evenings, etc. The idea is that there is great variety among people and everyone can contribute something to the team.
  9. What about weaknesses?  It’s a good idea to identify your weaknesses and see how they can be compensated for with strengths or help, and encourage staff to give support to another employee when it is difficult.

Other uses for the strengths approach

  • To perform occupational diagnostics – to find a job or field of business that use as many of your strengths as possible and requires as few weaknesses as possible, to predict more success and satisfaction.  For example, a role that requires political abilities or selling skills is less suitable for people who do not have these strengths.
  • To make effective decisions in the field of employment, which will lead to both job satisfaction and economic abundance by accurately pinpointing the field and the use of as many strengths as possible and the development of strengths that are less used.
  • To improve a sense of interest and meaning to your work by identifying the strengths, values, management vision, etc.
  • To improve relationships – strengths are also a worldview that creates expectations in others to act and think like you.  With the help of this method one can understand different needs, understand and accept others more easily, with less criticism and more cooperation, and succeed in creating a constructive dialogue with good and effective communication.


I’d be happy to hear your reactions and questions

Betty Hanochi Zamir