Talent Management - Strength-Based Approach


The sad truth about talent management in many organisations is about 'closing the gap'. What is it that the executive is inadequate or weak? This often shows up in year-end performance evaluation.  The dreaded moments of all executives as they file in one by one to be evaluated.

In Solutions Focus (SF) approach, it is more progressive and effective to focus on the strength of the executive instead of its weaknesses. Focusing on strength leads to higher motivation and higher morale. This does not means SF shy away from weaknesses.

According to Gallup in their interviews of 20,000 senior leaders, they found that the most effective leaders are always investing in strength. When leaders focus on and invest in their employees' strength the odds of each person being engaged goes up to 73% as opposed to a dismal 9% when they fail to do so.

The oft quoted "half glass full or half glass empty?" Focusing on what is already there in terms of the executive know-how and skills allow them to feel competent and therefore more ready to perform.


Coaching has emerged as one of the most effective methods for developing and engaging talent. A great coach often spend time on helping executives to discover their strengths and applying it productively. The effect of this approach leads to improved confidence and a sense of energetic vigour to tackle the daily challenge of a demanding leadership role.


Leveraging on each other strengths is another wonderful way to utilise strength-based approach to achieving results. Each team member becomes aware of their strengths. As they are each contributing from their unique competency, the results are often spectacular and generative. The critical factor in this case is assembling a team with complementing strengths.


  • Noticing - It is easy to notice an executive strength. It only takes conscious attention to filter for what the executive is doing really well. The quality of work is a measurement of excellence.
  • Eliciting - Ask the executive what is his strength. Drill down into specific actions which represents excellence. This could be in the form of excellence in arranging meetings, excellence in building profitable relationship and excellence in delegating.
  • Utilising - Excellence in one situation could be transferred to another situation. For example, the strength in building profitable relationship could be transferred and utilised in team building.

Strength-based approach is a deliberate strategy which can be implemented easily with immediate and significant results. 

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Looking For What's Working

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"What's working, do more" (Solutions Focus principle)

Alex, a cafe owner engaged a service consultant to improve his business. The consultant promptly did a customer survey to find out the service and food quality. The results reported 70% was satisfied, 10% was excellent and 20% says it was poor.

Alex asked the consultant for the cause of the 20% poor service and food quality. His reasoning is that if you know the cause of the poor service you can then take actions to improve the service.

This causal thinking approach is common and works really well in the context of a complicated system such as a car engine. If the engine breaks down, the mechanic will use causal reasoning to trace the cause of the problem and fix it accordingly.

However, in the context of a complex system such as the subjective evaluation of service quality, this approach is not the most effective for the simple reason it is subjective to each individual. 

The consultant duly steered Alex's attention to the 70% satisfied customers and 10% excellent rating customers. Focusing the effort on finding what has been working that get these customers to rate satisfied and excellent. The results of the survey provided a wealth of information on what the cafe is doing right and therefore will continue to do so. The service crew become more motivated to perform better as they are aware of what they did well. The effort has resulted in a motivated team from kitchen to the service crew. Naturally, the customers felt it too.

Often, leader look for what's wrong when the performance is not up to expectation. The pursuit of what's wrong invariably leads to witch hunt and finger pointing. Team members naturally raise their defence and "wall" for self preservations. The outcome of such pathological investigation commonly leads to sub-optimised team performance and low morale.

Looking for what's work is a simpler process and an encouraging one too.

This approach is easy to implement and extremely cost effective. 

Tips for Implementing What's Work.

  1. Gather a representative team for a specific function: Customer service, product quality, team cooperation, etc.
  2. Begin the session with asking everyone in the team "What's worked for X (e.g. team cooperation)?"
  3. Ensure everyone participates.
  4. Capture the information on a flip chart or other convenient medium.
  5. Discuss and identify the actions or strategies that make the difference.
  6. Consciously do more of the identified actions or strategies.

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Mind hacks - Change Your Feelings, Change Your Life

whats workingAs a human being, we are born with the heritage to feel and learn. This is a privilege where computer is yet to emulate. This gift to feel is both a boon and a bane. When we feel happy, joyous and all other positive emotions we say we feel good. However, we also feel sadness, irritation, anger, hopelessness which could paralyse us and prevent our ability to be at our best.

As a coach, often time clients present their narrative sprinkled with negative emotions which could be in some way brought them to see you.

One quick way to work with a client who has gone into emotional territory is to pace and lead them into resourceful emotions (NLP - reference as state). One way of doing this is to ask the question "What would you like to feel instead?".  This has to be asked in an appropriate manner depending on the situation.  This simple question will likely move the client to solution rather than being in a problem state (Solutions Focus approach).

When the client is feeling more resourceful, their life become better.  Such as hopefulness, clarity and outcome focused.

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Mind Hacks: What Drives You?

"The race was down to just two riders. WhatDrivesYou1 The finishing line was less than a kilometre away.  Both of us were extremely tired." My coach was sharing with me about his SEA games medal race.  "My quads were screaming for me to stop. And my lungs were about to burst from climbing the steep Indonesian mountain."  I was listening intensely as he went on. "So I looked at him. He also looked he's suffering like crazy." Out of curiosity, I asked my coach. "What makes you fight and win the race?" He thought about the question and attempted to recall the event. "I see in my mind the finishing line. I was crossing the finishing line. I hear the people cheering my victory. Those pictures and sound drove me to dig deeper to summon the final effort to win the race. "Athletes are well aware of the importance of visualising their goals in the competition.

"If You Don't See It, You Won't Get It

From the perspective of NLP, the visual and auditory representation of the outcome serves as a powerful filter for the unconscious to continuously seek out the internal experience. As such, in the absence of a clear representation that is grounded in sensory depictions, the goal will often fade into oblivion as quickly as it was formed.

To bring the goal to fruition requires tremendous effort and focus. Like the cyclist in a competition, the picture of you achieving your goal can serve as a powerful motive force in times when other distractions show up.

Whatever goals you set, ensure it is clearly represented with pictures and sound (where possible).

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Framing For Success

ManMouldClayWhen you focus on your problem it expands. If the problem is highly stressful, you experience instant stress! On the other hand, you can focus on the outcome you wish to achieve in relation to the challenging situation you are facing.

Jenny was facing a situation in the office in which she felt lacking in confidence in the presence of her boss. Every time she has a meeting with the boss she will think about what she did not do well. As a result, it affected the way she communicates. She says her voice becomes soft and breaks up frequently.  She feels her heart beats faster and sick in the stomach. To help her, I asked her to focus on what she wants to accomplish with the boss during the meeting. I get her to focus on it particularly the visual representation of achieving the outcome and how she would feel about it. These prior preparations break the pattern of focusing on the problem and direct her attention on how to achieve her outcome and feeling good about it.

Focusing on what you want is in effect framing for success. Frame (psychological frame) refers to a general focus or direction that provides an overall guidance for thoughts and actions during an interaction. The frame establishes the borders and constraints surrounding an interaction.

Tip: Think of a situation in which you are facing challenges. Note where you are focusing. Next, think of an outcome in which the consequence of it will resolve the problem and direct you to further progress.

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Feedback Vs Failure

Feedback Vs Failure

The way you give meaning to an experience will determine the way you response in the future. In the process of moving towards your outcome, you will invariably experience results that are not moving you towards what you expect. When you experienced this result and begin to label it as failure, then your next response will likely to be negative towards your outcome. It will literally stop you on your tracks! On the other hand, you can also label the experience as feedback. The results let you know you are not doing something right. It is a feedback for you to change the way you are doing it.

Jane is an entrepreneur. Lately, she has been feeling demoralised because her business is not doing well. On top of it she feels she is losing interest in it. When coached on the business challenges, she begins to share her failures. She mentioned she is losing customers to her competitors despite the excellent service she has been known for and gotten results in the past. She does not know what to do. These negative experiences have taken away the sparkle that she had when the business was doing well. To help Jane, I got her to firstly hold the frame that there is "No Failure, Only Feedback".  With this frame in her mind, she starts to look at possibilities of building her business. The exercise gave her some very good ideas to work on. More importantly, this frame provided her with hope and positive feelings.

Tip:  Think of a situation in which you would like to introduce change. Next, repeat to yourself "There is no failure, only feedback". Holding this frame in your mind, start thinking about what you can do to introduce change.

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