This is the second in a series of posts on working from strengths. Part one is here.
If you have ever played baseball or softball on an organized team, you know that the coach places you on the field and in the batting order according to your strengths.
And you know that the coach will adjust the order or the positions to find the best outcome.
But how often does the team you are a part of at work organize around your strengths?
My contention is that when we fail to organize our teams around our strengths, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Over a decade ago I was the co-leader (with Mrs. Thad Thoughts) of a team of cross-cultural workers focusing on getting an amazing idea out to a mega-city in Asia. We had lots of enthusiasm, many skills, and not much money.
Our team was fortunate to go through what was at that time a very rare commodity: an introduction to strengths based on the work of the Gallup Organization. At that time, there was no widely available workshop for discovering strengths.
We spent an entire day working on discovering our strengths. Prior to the workshop, we each had read the fantastic book Now, Discover Your Strengths (affiliate link), by Donald O. Clifton, and Marcus Buckingham.
The workshop was both fun and enlightening. Going through it together enabled us to have more than a few “aha” moments, as we came to realize why many of us did the things we did, and worked the way we worked.
In other words, we caught a glimpse into how we might reorder our team to reach a higher level of performance.
What We Did
When we were done with the day, we all had seen what the 4 or 5 top strengths each of us possessed. We were exposed to how each of those strengths impacted work and productivity in general, and our own roles specifically.
We collected the strengths of all the team members, put them on a small business card sized laminated card listing each team member’s top strengths. What this enabled us to do was to internalize different team member’s core strengths.
And that led us organize our projects/deliverables around the strengths of the team rather than following a strict hierarchical model based on seniority.
We immediately discovered that there were some on the team who were excellent at Arranging. They could bring order out of chaos and deliver a product/event/service on a tight deadline, and do so with great skill and energy.
We learned that there were some who were more than adept at presenting a powerful vision of a preferred future. That was the person we wanted “evangelizing” others within and without our spheres of influence to work toward the task at hand.
The Change In Our Experience
The immediate outcome was a total reorientation of our work according to our strengths. The advantages were numerous.
When teams work from strengths, the load lightens. Our load lifted.
When teams work from strengths, energy is abundant. We found the tasks before us fun again.
When teams work from strengths, meetings decrease in length and frequency, but increase in output.
When teams work from strengths, work itself become self-organizing (so long as team members know each other’s strengths). We literally “loosed” people and they went to work. Productivity increased accordingly.
When teams work from strengths, and know each other’s strengths, it allows you the needed ability to “buddy up” to get past weaknesses. This is especially important for team leaders who lack core strengths that will be needed to lead.
The Application For Your Team
1. It will take some risk to discover each other’s strengths and be willing to share them to the group, but it is worth the effort.
2. Large or small teams can all benefit from the discovery process.
3. Hold one another accountable. For our team, the little card with each other’s strengths listed was always available and used.
4. Learn your team’s strengths in the context of a team workshop. This fosters accountability.
5. Once discovered, let your team do the work before them. Don’t over manage (read, ‘micro-manage’)
6. If you identify a gap in the team’s strength matrix, use that discovery to find your next hire. Compliment when necessary.
7. Get started. There is much to be gained from discovering your team’s strengths. Get moving.
Is this a new concept for your team? Discovering your team’s strengths can be revolutionary!