Improving staff skills is key to success

Improving employees' skills instead of focusing on their weaknesses is the key to success in business and the development of strategic leadership, a conference was told yesterday.

"Companies that focus on cultivating employees' strengths rather than simply trying to improve their weaknesses can expect the greatest efficiency gains," said leading motivational speaker Marcus Buckingham, who has worked with Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Yahoo and other top companies.

"Building on an employee's strengths is highly empowering and can unleash talents that may currently be grossly under-utilised.

"Doing so also sends positive signals about how employees are valued in an organisation – and this makes them highly motivated."

He said it was regrettable when a company focused on employees' weaknesses instead of creating environments that allowed their strengths to flourish.

"This is one of the major differences between managing and leading. Leaders can see the potential and unleash it, while managers tend to focus on the negatives rather than the positives."

Buckingham was making his first appearance in the UAE at the Leaders in Abu Dhabi Business Forum at the Emirates Palace hotel. His previous engagements have included TV appearances with Oprah Winfrey.

He is widely considered to be one of the world's leading authorities on employee productivity. His reputation is based on nearly two decades of researching the world's best leaders and managers for the Gallup Organisation. Another speaker, Russian chess grandmaster and former world champion Gary Kasparov, based his speech on the three main principles of chess, which he said could be applied to business leadership – mental concentration, understanding the environment and the competition, and making the right decisions. He said there was a massive amount of uncertainty and almost boundless variety in terms of the moves one could make in both chess and business.

"We have to push ourselves, create our own criteria and raise them all the time," he said.

British entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe of YO! Sushi, said he had learned a great deal from his personal experiences and this was what he shared with audiences around the globe.

"You learn as much from your mistakes as you do from your successes," he added.

"Success in life is all about giving up what you are not good at and focusing on the things you are."