For quite a few of us, one of the phenomena returning each year at work, mainly in December and January, are yearly appraisals, evaluations, or whatever you want to call them (hint: if you want to give the impression of knowing something about the topic, use the term 360° in the description). If you’ve ever come across a person who feels comfortable beginning these (either from the side of the interviewed or from the side of the interviewer, for that matter), do let me know, as it would no doubt be great to get to know such an exceptional person.
In a lot of companies, some kind of form is provided by the HR department as guideline for the course of the conversation. And usually those forms contain a strengths and weaknesses section. Which is not a bad this as such: thinking about and analysing your strong and weak points can be quite helpful as an exercise in reflection and a good way to increase self-knowledge. The problem lies in the conclusion and follow up that can result from the analysis. Often the strengths are considered as normal and not a lot attention is giving to them in the rest of the conversation, whereas much more focus is given to the weaknesses as ‘points we need to work on’ – in some cases even leading to specific measures being taken or extra training being scheduled.
But let’s take a minute to think this through. Is it really realistic to expect that some extra time or training spent on anyone will cause her/him to become really good at something at which he/she is quite weak? This might bring that individual to a level of being averagely good at something, but most likely never to a level of being good (let alone outstanding). What would happen if that same amount of effort/time/training were to be devoted to the development of the strenghts? Getting some of those from good to excellent will be quite possible.
In smaller companies or smaller teams this might not always be easy, but whenever the size allows for it, my advise is therefore: don’t only try to adapt the people to the job, but also try to adapt the jobs to the people, and especially to their strenghts (provided of course you have others in the team that have complementary strengths). That will lead to a situation where more people are doing what they are good at more of their time. It’s not difficult to see that this is bound to bring more efficiency to the company or team as a whole.