The Right People in the Right Seats: Play to our strengths or change our weaknesses?

When we meet new people, we’re tempted to ask: ‘what do you do?’ We’re picking up on the idea that our identity is very linked to our daily tasks. So, here comes the question – Is your job part of your identity? Writer Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” For many of us, a large portion of our days is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime.

Considering this, it is safe to say that your job can make a huge impact on your quality of life.

Loving one’s job is not only a “rare-to-find-nice-to-have”, no, it is essential for our entire society and for our overall well-being. The workplace is the place where we spend most our waking time and people hating their jobs is throughout the world one of the main reasons for economic downturns.

The Beatles wrote the famous line ‘all you need is love’ and that’s especially true with your job. Loving your job is important because happiness is the key to success – meaning if you love what you are doing then you will be successful.

As I manager I always ask this question – do my people love their jobs? How to flex roles as well as lean into people’s innate strengths?

Having the right people in the right seats/roles can propel your organisation to new heights. When the fit is there, it is simply put magical.

Everyone knows the value of teamwork to an organisation. I know it and you know it! But nothing kills office vibe faster than an empty motivational quote. And we see a lot of them these days – on mugs, posters and planners.

The importance of role definition in creating that team is so often overlooked. Together everyone achieves more – unless no-one knows what they’re supposed to be doing.

That’s why defining each person’s role, their responsibilities and success withing the team is crucial for positive impact.

As a general manager I experienced couple of scenarios – I hired someone who seemed like the best fit for the role, but as the new employee settles in and time goes by I begin to realize that he/she is not performing as was as I had anticipated.

Another scenario is that I am hiring a solid performer who doesn’t seem as motivated and productive as before.

Do we fire them? Not necessarily.

Despite the modern obsession with process automation and AI, businesses are not machines. They are human constructs which gather diverse human beings. Experienced leaders learn that the formal organisational chart doesn’t tell them even half the story.

Why should we listen?

That’s why we, as leaders, we should always listen to our people! We should always pay particular attention to what our people do well. But, how could you flex their role to let them do more of that?

Even if the HR policy is that everyone at a certain level must perform certain tasks, can you be wiser? You won’t get the best out of your gifted people by strictly following the rules.

Let’s be clear – I am not saying that we cannot develop or fulfil our skill gaps. Yes, we can do that! And yes, we are all lifelong learners! But that does not change the fact that we should seek to play to our own strengths where possible.

Simply put, sometimes we achieve more success by playing to our strengths than trying to significantly change our weaknesses.

And here comes the big question for every manager – Do we shape the person to the role or we shape the role to the person?

My answer will be – depends!

No plan survives the real world. The pandemic was a prove of this! Yes, it can help to have a well thought team structure with complementary job descriptions. Hold that plan lightly.

That doesn’t mean less of you as a leader. It means that blind spots can be improved but leaning into their strengths is also true for your team. For example, each digital marketer can improve their planning campaigns, report performance or a raft of other softer skills. But, you should also notice the differences within your team. Who has greater aptitude for different parts of what the team needs? Who might be able to excel if you let them focus on different elements?

That is key to my case here.

At the end I want to remind you about something – you owe loving your job to everyone – to your customers, suppliers, partners, to your family and most importantly: to yourself! No matter how difficult your upbringing was, we are all being given opportunities again and again to create our own destiny.