Deficit oriented HR policy is outdated

Mar 29, 2022

For more than 20 years, I have worked in various areas of organizational and leadership development. And when I look back over the last decades, we have been taught to focus on our deficits, development areas and weaknesses. Maybe that made sense in the industrial age; maybe we just didn't know any better. In addition to this, our brains have a built-in tendency toward negativity. We are naturally wired to focus on what is not working, on what is lacking to fix, rather than on what is working well, on what is successful, and on doing more of that.

I've never liked that. In fact, it's a completely outdated approach that is at odds with the many studies that show how effective it is to focus on employees' strengths and how useless it is to focus on their weaknesses. Clinical psychologist Eva Katharina Herber talks about how we lose 26.8% of our performance when we focus on our weaknesses.

If it were your company, or you were a manager of any level, would you want your employees to perform 26.8% less? I'm sure you wouldn't want that, would you?

Even though we already know it's the wrong approach, we are overwhelmed because we haven't yet built new structures where there is room for each individual's uniqueness and strengths and where we finally stop focusing on the "perceived deficits."

One of my favorite quotes is from Alexander den Heijer: "If a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower." That means creating a new system, a new structure, and enabling old behaviors as well as new ones, rather than fixing people.

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I would like to invite you to a paradigm shift. A shift that leaves behind what we lack and begins to appreciate what we have. Ms. Herber is not alone in believing this is the key to creativity and innovation. At PeopleAtRightPlace, we work on exactly this because we've experienced the principle over and over again. Meanwhile, neuroscience has also made incredible leaps. But as I'm sure you've observed yourself with other sciences, it can take decades for these insights to become widely accessible and entrenched in our education, our brains, our habits, as well as our work environments.

Back to the great insights. Focusing on strengths has been proven to lead to more engagement, less stress, more resilience, more profits, more peak performance, more energy and more confidence. Who wouldn't want that?

"Let's make strengths productive and weaknesses irrelevant." How I love this quote from Peter Drucker.

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I know sometimes I sound like an unrealistic dreamer. Believe me. It works.

I've seen it happen many times and I'm working all the time to make it a reality in other organizations too!

What are your experiences with strength-based workforce planning?

Want to radically transform how you lead yourself and others? Or even rock the entire organization?

Let's talk and book your free meeting with me or learn more about our FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS program here.




Sabine Caliskan

CEO of ParP - PeopleAtRightPlace

Sabine is a behavioral design architect, key-note speaker and consultant for organizational transformation, decision making and a new work singer. Her key areas include growth mindset, the fearless organization and shaping a learning and leadership culture for the future. In 2020 her organization has been awarded from HR Tech Outlook among the top 10 companies in the "Top European Leadership Development Company" category creating sustainable impact.

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