Strengths Based Leadership

Jeff Whalan is the former CEO of Centrelink. Two things he said about his role there really struck a chord:

I’ve got a strong view that the role of a CEO is to serve those who work with you,  to enable them to be the best they can.”

“Late in my career I’ve realised the importance of a strengths-based approach.  Most of us focus on people’s deficiencies and faults but it’s far more important to remind people of their strengths. That builds self-confidence and they perform far better.”

I remember talking to a lawyer last year. She told me that she had felt really confident and motivated in her role until she had her first appraisal.  This concentrated on all the things she did not do so well and a plan was put in place to help her improve those areas she was weakest in.  She said that she instantaneously went from someone who loved her job, and felt successful, to someone who hated her role and felt a complete failure.  Not only did her performance, overall, deteriorate but her weaknesses showed only marginal improvement.  A complete vindication of Jeff Whalan’s perception. 

I asked what she did about it,  and she answered:  ‘I found another job where I felt valued’. Badly applied performance appraisal has the diametrically opposite effect to the one intended, and is probably worse than no formal appraisal system at all.

The interview with Jeff is in the July 08 edition of  AFR Boss Magazine. The website is quite confusing but I have tracked it down and you can read it here!

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