In theory ... Emma De Vita's weekly look at management-speak: Average to A+

Everybody wants to be A+; nobody wants to be average. The feeling goes back to our schooldays, when we either basked in the glory of coming top of the class or resigned ourselves to being mediocre. Not that we minded at the time - playing kiss-chase was in any case way more fun than reciting times tables.

But this feeling translates to the workplace. If you do a good job, it feels nice to get praise from your boss. And it follows that if you feel you are good at what you do, you tend to enjoy your work and go the extra mile to do an even better job. This is a premise of which every manager should take note. Whether or not this translates to reality is another matter, but one way you can help make it happen is to identify the strengths of each of your team members and tailor their jobs around them.

This is the theory behind a new book called Average to A+: Realising Strengths in Yourself and Others, written by positive psychologist Alex Linley. "Strengths are so integral to our identity as individuals and as human beings," writes the professor of happiness. "They are key to us delivering our best performances and being our most fulfilled."

Everyone should get the chance to be an A+ student at work. If you don't give your staff a chance to shine, be warned that the next time you peek beyond your cubicle you might find them running around the corridors trying to snog each other. And what a thought that is.

 - Emma De Vita is editor of the books pages on Management Today

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