woman watching a webinar, virtualAs humans we can’t help but focus on our limitations – and how me might overcome or compensate for them – rather than developing our strengths.

The lockdown imposed by COVID-19 has put self-criticism firmly in the spotlight, particularly for those who are working from home – or colleagues who are being furloughed. Here, Lorna Stellakis, boss of tech support firm Q2Q IT, considers why focussing on the positives can be the most effective form of motivation.

All too often, businesses look to ‘fix’ what they perceive as employee weakness. Firms analyse performance, people, and processes in order to identify areas where results aren’t being delivered – wrongly assuming that areas of strong performance are okay, and therefore don’t need any consideration.

However, by focusing on the negatives, over time a lengthy list of ‘business improvements needed’ can emerge, and the resulting projects which seek to tackle this deficit often cause problems within an organisation.

A widely-used tool to measure strengths and weaknesses is often referred to as the ‘current reality chart’. This method lists areas which are key to success, and rates them out of five – zero for not happening at all, and full-marks if they’re totally fabulous.

Traditionally, the next step would be to examine areas which need to be improved and work out what action is required in order to get the scores higher. However, if a business functions in this way, the impact on a team culture can become very negative over a prolonged period.

The “what isn’t working?” approach can lead to questions around, “what went wrong?” and “who is to blame?”. This attitude can foster a serious blame culture, which soon spirals into employees becoming defensive and silos being created. In time, this can destroy even the most financially successful business.

At Q2Q, we do things a little differently.

We channel our efforts into looking at the areas that are going well – and analyse why they are flourishing. For example, when we win a new client, part of the onboarding process is to identify any synergies with an existing customer. Then, during our weekly customer review meeting, we’ll ask questions such as:

1)         What strengths are we displaying when dealing with this customer’s issues? 

2)         What processes do we have in place that work well?

3)         What key business problems have we resolved using better IT solutions? 

4)         Who is involved – internally and from the client-side? 

5)         What’s great about how we interact and communicate? 

6)         How have we demonstrated value to this organisation? 

7)         What information have we provided to enable them to better understand their equipment?

By using this approach, we determine the key ingredients of what success looks like, so that we can replicate as much of it as possible for the new customer.

Once the new project is up-and-running, we reflect on everything that went well during the set-up phase. Firstly, we consider what we did well in order to ensure the team dynamic is positive and collaborative from the outset. We then move on to discuss what might have gone better, but by bearing in mind the things which were a resounding success, we are able to use those strengths to unlock how we might improve.

Once areas for potential development are identified, we again look for similar examples on other projects. These identify the vital ingredients needed to optimise our current offering, and apply them to our new customer.

A positive approach – through focusing on strengths – completely alters the dynamics of a discussion. The team will be far more open to find improvement, as they already feel they have the strengths and methods needed, rather than feeling they are being examined for weaknesses and flaws – or at worst being blamed for problems and having to defend themselves.

I use this method when coaching on a one-to-one basis. By encouraging people to identify and appreciate their strengths – and question how they could apply them in a seemingly unrelated area of perceived weakness – can make a significant difference to their success.

Put simply, use the tools you have at your disposal, and adapt them to fix a problem. By not wasting time worrying about any tools you don’t have, you might find that you don’t even need them in order to get the results you’re looking for.

Whether you’re striving to understand what your IT company should be providing in terms of a holistic approach – or would simply like to understand how to shift the cultural attitude of your own organisation – the kettle is always on a Q2Q HQ, so get in touch with us here.

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.