Dan Rice believes strength-based management allows him to recruit and employ workers with a balance of skill sets.
Unique strategy fits employees to their passions and strengths
Nearly every dairy faces the dilemma of how to retain good employees. At most operations, it is as simple as promoting workers to the next position that needs filling based on years of service: a "next man up" kind of policy.
But Dan Rice, general manager at Prairieland Dairy near Firth, Neb., takes a totally different approach.
Instead of promoting an employee based on longevity, Prairieland uses a strength-based management program to identify future managers. The approach has changed the way he structures his employee team.
"I have certain strengths that I possess," Rice explains. "The last thing I want is people around me with the same strengths. I want people around me who are very different from me."
He credits the idea from a strength-based entrepreneurial management seminar he attended three years ago. The seminar was hosted by Gallup, a research-oriented company that helps businesses with performance management consulting.
"All of our managers have gone through that program to find out what their strengths are, and then we’ve developed a team around that," Rice says.
A certificate shows each management team member’s results and hangs in his/her office. This often creates healthy discussion between the employees and managers. Because all of the managers have been tested, it allows the managers to know what they should look for when hiring an entry-level position.
"We categorize those strengths, and we try to be well balanced," Rice says. "We look for strengths that our team doesn’t have that [new employees] can bring to the table."
Rice, for example, identifies his strengths as problem solving and future vision. Managing details is where he sometimes falls short. Therefore, he needs more detail-oriented people around him to be more successful.
"It is all about building a team that has different strengths, not the same strengths," Rice says. "We have to remind ourselves when we’re in our managers meeting that without the detailed person, I can’t do my job, and without me, they can’t do their job."
Strength-based management is also about finding a place where employees fit into the makeup of the organization.
Managers at Prairieland meet on a monthly and sometimes weekly basis to discuss the team’s strengths. The discussions help bring home the point that different types of personalities are needed within the organization.
Finding each person’s strengths isn’t the only purpose of the program. It is also about finding a place where employees fit into the overall makeup of the organization.
During the initial testing period at Prairieland, some middle managers ended up leaving the company. It wasn’t because they were dissatisfied with the workplace. They just came to the realization that the position they were promoted to didn’t match their passion or strengths.
- April 2014