This post is part of our series on The 5 Evidence-based Foundations of a Mentally Healthy Workplace.
What is strengths-based management?
Put simply, strengths-based management is where leaders put the main focus on employee strengths rather than shortcomings. This does not mean shortcomings are not addressed; rather they are approached as areas for improvement or professional goals.
A strengths-based leader will often adopt a coaching mindset; leading by example and exercising compassion and transparency wherever possible. Strengths-based management empowers employees by acknowledging and validating strength areas, achievements and effort.
How does strengths-based management approach poor performance?
Adopting a strengths-based approach can help strike the tricky balance needed when addressing poor performance. While poor performance needs to be addressed, a strengths-based approach can empower employees to improve, grow and develop their skills rather than elicit defensiveness, withdrawal from required tasks or burnout (commonly associated with deficit-based approaches).
Classic strengths-based leaders may adopt the ‘compliment sandwich approach’: compliment – constructive feedback – compliment. A practical example might look like this:
“Hi John. Thanks for finishing that report last week, that was a huge job! Next month I want to work on consolidating the report figures a little earlier so we can check over the report manually before it’s due. I know it’s a big task but I think your organisation skills can handle it.”
While the above example is almost arbitrary, it demonstrates the importance of acknowledging and validating employee strengths and effort whilst still addressing the target area for improvement.
What are the benefits of strengths-based management?
Strengths-based management boasts many benefits from the organisational level through to the individual worker level. However, to reap the true rewards, the approach must be paired with other effective leadership qualities and skills such as open and effective communication, morality, empathy, self-awareness, and authenticity.
Benefits of effectively pairing these skills with a strengths-based management approach include but are not limited to:
- Job satisfaction
- Health complaints
Can your managerial approach really impact worker health?
Yes. Workplace environment, stressors and poor management are all linked to poor employee mental AND physical health. While the national prevalence of mental health conditions cannot be attributed to workplace impacts alone, it is naive to underestimate the influence a 40-hour workweek has on the average person. Over half of Australian workers have experienced a mental health condition with 40% reporting their workplace caused or exacerbated their condition. Higher rates of substance use and abuse are also linked to high workplace effort-reward imbalances.
Similarly, poor leadership and stressful workplace environments have demonstrated strong links to Ischaemic heart disease! Working under positive management has been shown to significantly reduce employee risk of heart disease and associated conditions, regardless of other potentially predisposing or contributing factors.
How can you Increase Strengths-Based leadership in your Organisation?
Management and workplace leadership are complex and can be difficult to navigate or instill change. That is not to say, however, that it cannot be done. EAP support can help by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your current management approaches. Allos Australia’s EAP services can also provide targeted training and education where needed and help your organisation begin building the foundations to become a mentally healthy workplace.