This is the last instalment of Murray feature exploring activities from this chapter of Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
Point 1 - Help people play to their strengths.
Murray's Key Points
- Consider what constitutes strength in this scenario –
A strength isn't just something you're good at. Its only a strength if it
literally gives you strength and provides you with boundless energy. In
turn; a weakness could something that you may be good at, but it drains the
life out of you.
- Focus your employees on activities that give them energy and
consider diverting the draining parts of anyone's job to others that have an
aptitude for these tasks. It is possible that this might create new
positions but if the result is a happier, more productive, and more loyal
workforce, the switch will pay dividends in the long run.
- Consider getting your team to document all the activities
they either love (energising activities) or loathe (draining activities).
Ask them to put forward suggestions on how to overcome these challenges.
You will get a more engaged team that are automatically 'on-board' with any
- Don't forget to apply this to yourself! Focus on
eliminating or delegating tasks that drain you. From my own personal
experience; I find getting bogged down in reviewing detailed tax returns
frustrating and draining. I had no energy left to think about clients'
bigger picture dreams and goals and even less energy to go out and discuss this
and possible solutions with them (what I really enjoy the most about my
job). I delegated this reviewing task to one of my team leaders who has
an incredible technical mind and loves the detail (but finds communicating with
clients draining and confidence sapping). Win-Win for both our firm and
Consider these traits when describing your team:
Good Manager - Speaks in generalities about his team… they are all
hard-working, responsible, diligent and fun etc.
Great Manager - Describes each team member with specific details about their
personality, strengths and achievements.
Read the Except
Help people play to their strengths.
What ultimately sets great managers apart from
the merely good ones is that they help with their people play to their
strengths. To understand how to do this requires a refined definition of what
constitutes a strength. A strength isn't
just something you're good at; it's only a strength if it literally gives you
strength, gives you energy. In turn, a weakness, is something that, though you
may be good at it, drains the life out of you.
Thus, a key function of great managers is
helping individual employees refocus and prune their jobs over time so they
focus more on activities that give them strength and less on activities that
make them weak. Though there will always be parts of anyone's job that are
draining, the companies that do better minimizing these will have a more
Coming back to the chess vs. checkers analogy
used earlier, Bobby Fischer, the great chess champion, once said, "Winning in
this game is all a matter of understanding how to capitalize on the strengths
of each piece and timing their moves just right."
Lois Melbourne, CEO of Texas-based Aquire (a
subsidiary of People Fluent), has taken a page from strengths guru Marcus
Buckingham. Instead of hiring more (and extremely difficult-to-find)
programmers to keep up with the rapid growth of her HR software firm, she's
focused on making her existing programmers happier and more energized.
To do this, Buckingham suggests taking a couple
of weeks and documenting all those activities you either love or loathe. This
is precisely what Melbourne has her programmers do regularly, nothing all of
the activities that drain their energy and keep these techies away from their
primary strength: programming. She then eliminates those activities no one
should have to do (they creep into every job) and then uses the remaining list
to create a Job Scorecard for a new position – to be filled by a new chess
piece that loves to do what others hate. Result: happier, more productive, and
Whenever you have a department scream for more
help, rather than throw more of the same people at the situation, try
Buckingham's approach. And before starting "love and loathe" exercise, have
your team take the inexpensive online StrengthsFinder assessment offered by
Gallup (gallupstrengthcenter.com). You will get insightful reports that will
serve as conversation starters and will help your people achieve self-awareness
about their strengths.
Facebook's celebrity COO Sheryl Sandberg
recently called Buckingham's follow-up book with Donald O. Clifton, Now Discover Your Strengths, the
most important book she had read in recent years. In her view, Facebook is
already a strengths-based organization. If you want to follow Facebook's
example, go to tmbc.com and get Buckingham's six-DVD series titled Trombone
Player Wanted. Then organize a learning session with your team and discuss how
to become a strengths-based organization. These remarkably produced mini-movies
will have you more fulfilled, happier, and engaged employees who will lift
themselves and your organization to new levels of energy and performance.
forget to apply this to yourself. Focus on eliminating or delegating tasks that
drain you. In Verne's case, he found someone who loves to build PowerPoint
presentations, something that wears him out; and he continues to partner with
various CEO's to run the Gazelles family of companies. This gives him more time
to teach, which truly energizes him.
Are you a Manager or a
Ask a good manager
about his team and he will speak in generalities, saying that they are hard
working, responsible, fun etc. Ask a great manager the same question and she
will describe each of her team members with specific details about their
personality, strengths, and achievements. Again, think about the "A-Team"
action television analogy from the last chapter.
If you struggle with appreciating the
differences in your team, you might be more of a leader than a manager.
Managing is about differences; leading is about sameness. Great managers
discover what is different about people and capitalize on it. Great leaders discover
what is universal, build a common vision for a better future around it, and
then rally people behind it. (Marcus Buckingham, this time in his book The One
Thing You Need to Know… About Great Managing, Great Leading, and sustained
individual success, explains this difference between managing and leading.)
Companies can cope with a charismatic leader
(who struggles with managing) until they get to about 50 employees. But as soon
as you approach 100 or more people, you have to put in place a team of managers
capable of adopting the five habits outlined above. Scaling up a business
requires both visionary leadership and great managers.
In 2012, Gene Browne, co-founder and CEO of The
City Bin Co. in Galway, Ireland, decided to invest heavily in executive
education. The company set up an internal learning academy named "Garbage
University". It provides three hours of training every two weeks from September
to May, in sync with the academic year. Each year, Garbage University has a
particular focus that shapes the topics that the executive team discusses. For
instance, 2013 was about growth during a time when the company grew nearly
100%, from 70 to 120 employees.
At MOM's Organic Market, in addition to
executive education, produce managers will typically read four to five books
together every year. Recent titles on their list include business books such as
Liz Wiseman's Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter and
Patrick M. Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team; A Leadership Fable.
Other titles help them absorb knowledge that's specific to their field. One
typical pick: Maria Rodale's Organic Manifesto. "We've read a lot of books on
the organic industry," says Jon Croft, training director at the metro
In order to keep your company competitive and
your people loyal, you must grow them through education and coaching. And this
investment in people is the biggest single predictor of a company's ability to
beat its direct competitors and the overall market, based on exhaustive
research done by Laurie Bassi, co-author of Good Company: Business Success in
the Worthiness Era. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, couldn't agree
more. He declared that the ROI of GE's famous internal business school,
Crotonville, was "infinite".
Should you would like to discuss this article or ways to grow your business,
contact Murray Kilpin on 5592 3644
Verne Harnish is an author (Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Scaling Up, and The Greatest Business Decisions of all Time); lecturer in entrepreneurship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-founded Gazelles Growth Institute, a strategic planning and executive education company.
Reprinted with kind permission: Scaling up: How a Few Companies Make It….and Why the Rest Don't, Verne Harnish and the team at Gazelles, 2014