The Superman Scenario: why you should focus on developing employee strengths

Imagine Superman was on the team you had to lead. You already know that he’s got some phenomenal strengths – he can travel faster than the speed of light, has the strength and resilience of an ox, and possesses a firm desire to protect and make the world a safer place. But he also has one big weakness – Kryptonite. And if this weakness were to be problematic for Superman’s performance, you may be tempted to encourage him to focus his time and efforts on attempting to fix it.

But although this might seem logical, it’s actually counter-productive. Since Superman’s been spending precious time working on his weakness, he hasn’t had time to devote to saving lives or averting disasters – which is something he’s naturally very good at.

Unfortunately, this Superman scenario is all too similar to the trap of performance management, where too much focus is spent on fixing employee weaknesses for the occasional moments when they might prove problematic, rather than seizing the opportunity to encourage the development of employee strengths to make them more effective than before. When we point out weaknesses in performance, we emphasise an atmosphere of negativity, rather than reinforcing and encouraging positive opportunities for our employees to develop and grow.

Research has shown that most people don’t like receiving criticism from their leader[i] – and consequently, a management approach which relies heavily on pointing out personal weaknesses can actually lead to a decrease in performance and productivity[ii]. This is why managers need to be aware that instead switching the spotlight onto personal strengths could turn a staccato of stagnated performance into a crescendo of enhanced individual and organisational success.

We tend to think that combatting our employees’ personal Kryptonites will help them avoid poor performance – whereas developing their unique strengths instead would wield much better results. Gallup research has confirmed that managers receiving positive strengths feedback show 12.5% greater productivity, with their business units demonstrating 8.9% greater profitability[iii].

So, rather than pinning our employees down to mend their weaknesses, why don’t we switch the spotlight onto their strengths, and allow them to soar higher than before?

Okay, so people’s strengths are not always as obvious as Superman’s, but by using PRINT®, you can gain a valuable insight into the potential strengths of your team members. PRINT® gives us knowledge into our Unconscious Motivators®, which influence our unique strengths, how we behave and interact with others, and the sorts of environments we’re likely to thrive in. Understanding their team members’, Unconscious Motivators® – and how they influence their unique strengths and talents – can help managers understand how to develop and employ them to improve team performance, productivity, and satisfaction.


For more information on how PRINT® could benefit yourself or your organisation, email, visit our website and social media (Facebook: @discoveryourprint, Twitter: @Discover_Print, LinkedIn: Print Profile Ltd) or sign up to our mailing list. If you’d like to bring PRINT’s benefits to organisations and businesses, we offer Accreditation courses enabling in-house coaches and learning & development professionals to become certified PRINT® coaches.


[i] Brooks, C, (2014). Why Negative Performance Reviews Don’t Work … Ever. Business News Daily. [Online]. Available at:

[ii] Kluger, A, N.; DeNisi, A, (1996). The effects of feedback interventions on performance: A historical review, a meta-analysis, and a preliminary feedback intervention theory. Psychological Bulletin. 119(2), pp.254-284. Available at:

[iii] Asplund, J, and Blacksmith, N, (2011). The Secret of Higher Performance. Gallup. [Online]. Available at: