Leadership Strengths

How to Leverage People’s Strengths

As a follow up to my post yesterday about the importance to motivate, don’t manipulate people who you are leading, today I am sharing the most powerful way you can motivate people to work with you. Whether they are staff, volunteers, or a board member, this method will be extremely important to employ if you are serious about motivating people and keeping them engaged with your mission long-term.

Flickr Photo Credit: faceleg
Flickr Photo Credit: faceleg

Leadership expert and author, John C. Maxwell believes “people’s purpose in life is always connected to their giftedness.” When leading people it is extremely important to know what their strengths are because this helps you tap into their passion and the area they want to work in.

2 Reasons Leveraging People’s Strengths is Important

  1. It provides the greatest potential for your program to do great work. People work best when they are doing work that they are passionate about and that they are good at.
  2. The best way to lose volunteers is to put them in areas they are not good at nor passionate about. As a leader who has worked with people I am sure that you know about the positive impact that comes when you put people into their strength areas and allow them to flourish.

But, how do you uncover people’s strengths? That can be hard at times because not everyone knows what their strengths are. Most people spend their life trying to discover what their strengths are, while others figure it out very early in life.

In five years of leading A Day of Hope to help families in need of food for Thanksgiving, I developed three questions I would often ask potential volunteers as a way to find what their strengths were. These are those three questions:

  1. What do you do for work? My theory behind this question is that if someone was paid to work doing a specific task then they must have been good enough at it in order to be paid for it. If they weren’t good at it, they wouldn’t have been paid to do it.
  2. What do you like to do? I asked this question because people are often good at their hobbies because they enjoy them and do them regularly. A hobby might not be something people can monetize, thus it is a hobby, but they might be very good at it.
  3. What are you good at? Not everyone can tell you what they are good at, but some people do know how to articulate it which makes it easier to plug them into a role in the organization.

When working with A Day of Hope these three questions helped me to see what potential volunteers were good at and what they liked to do, thus allowing me to try to plug them into an area they might like to get involved in.

If the person does not know what she is good at, then this provides the opportunity for you as the leader to serve that person, change her life, and give her experience in the area that she is not good at.

For example, there was a gal who began volunteering with A Day of Hope years ago named Samantha. She had offered to volunteer with A Day of Hope so I asked her the three questions I outlined above. Through the process of talking through those questions with Samantha I discovered that she really enjoyed design work. She liked to use Adobe products such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dream Weaver, ect. to create flyers and design websites. As a result, I asked Samantha if she would be able to help us design flyers for all of our events and maybe redesign our website. And, because this was something that Samantha was passionate about she was willing to not just create one flyer for each event, often she would go above and beyond what she was asked to do by creating three flyers for each event. This allowed me to pick the flyer which I liked best.

The best part of this story is that Samantha decided to create her own marketing and design company, and guess what samples of her design work she was able to use to potential customers? She was able to use the work she did as a volunteer for A Day of Hope as a sample of what she could do for paid clients.

This principle of leveraging people’s strengths is so important when working with people long-term because very rarely do people get burnt out because of the amount of work they are doing. People burn out because of the type of work they are doing.

Think about this with you and your life. When you do something you are good at, and that you love, it feels effortless, right? But, if you have to do something you are not good at and don’t love, it zaps the energy right out of you.

When leading people to make a difference in the world at a company, nonprofit, or church it is important to leverage people’s strengths.

Question: How do you leverage the strengths of the people you lead and work with?

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at