Are Working on Gaps Always the Best Approach? [Guest Post]
Guest Post: Shawn Patterson is the Senior Director of Corporate Services at DTE Energy where he is responsible for the Supply Chain, Fleet, Facilities, and Continuous Improvement organizations. Shawn has held numerous positions in multiple industries and is passionate about influencing lean transformations in organizations.
We are all familiar with the typical Gap Closure Plan. We identify where we want to be, we determine the gaps between the current state and ideal state (usually through rigorous data analysis), and we define action items to close those gaps. We Â rely significantly on Â this cycle for personal development and for organizational improvement. While this approach should not be judged as bad per se, an ever increasing body of research suggests that leveraging strengths at a personal,Â team, and organizationalÂ level may be an even more effective approach to optimizing performance.
When we focus primarily on gaps in performance, personal skills, etc, we are by definition pinpointing areas of weakness. The critical question is whether we can do anything significant about those weaknesses. How many of your team members spend significant amounts of time trying to work on perceived personal deficiencies? Though they should certainly be aware of those gaps and seek to mitigate the consequences, it may be a waste of time trying to get better at something that just isnâ€™t in their DNA. Conversely, how much time does your team spend finding their real strengths and seeking ways to leverage those skills in the work that they do everyday? It is really amazing how few peopleÂ are really in touch with the one or two distinctly unique strengths that others see in them.
The same opportunity plays out at a team level. We spend very little time focusing on the accomplishments that are made and introspection as to how the team worked to make that happen. Instead, we typically jump on failures and root cause in great detail the reasons why it happened. Think of the positive energy and upticks in engagement that we leave on the table when we stay gap focused, not strength focuses. As in the discovery around personal growth, at the end of the day, we may be asking the team to deliver in ways that is just not possible. Itâ€™s not in their skills set.
Iâ€™m trying to approach growth and development of my team and my leaders by thinking more about leveraging strengths and recognizing patterns of success. I freely admit that I am very wired to find gaps so this presents a new opportunity Â for me. I am finding though that working from a position of leveraging strength feels a lot less like paddling a boat against the current.