ESTIMATED READING TIME – 3:00
Learning goals for this activity
– Recognize the significance of understanding your team’s strengths and makeup
Why it’s important to recognize each team member’s strengths
Most organizations are comprised of a wide variety of employees. These employees differ not only in terms of seniority, experience, functional expertise, and skill sets, but also in their natural behavioral preferences. Some employees, for example, may be naturally detail-oriented and prefer precise instructions, while others may prefer to work under less rigid guidelines and rules. In order to maximize team cohesion and effectiveness, it’s important to recognize each team member’s strengths.
To fully recognize each team member’s strengths, you must:
- Understand each person’s natural strengths.
- Acknowledge how these strengths support the team’s needs.
- Celebrate your balancers.
Follow these steps to recognize each team member’s strengths:
1. Understand each person’s natural strengths
It’s important to remain objective when identifying an individual’s strengths. Fortunately, there are many personality and behavioral inventories available. Be sure to choose one that has been scientifically validated and has a strong history of commercial use. It should also be easy to interpret by leaders at every level and not only a thoroughly-trained few. It should also provide a common language that will allow individuals to easily relate their own strengths to those of others.
When helping an individual understand their strengths—and potential pitfalls—it’s important that their first exposure is conducted privately. Some employees will want to experience psychological safety while absorbing their results. When reviewing those results, emphasize the positive strengths in the beginning. Celebrate these characteristics and probe how these have helped the individual succeed on the job. Lightly move on to potential pitfalls. Be frank about these and don’t shy away from them, but remember that when it comes to our shortcomings, a little awareness goes a long way.
2. Acknowledge how these strengths supports the team’s needs
Once each individual on the team has a solid understanding of their own strengths, it’s appropriate and constructive to share these broadly among the team. As with the individual, focus on the positive at first. Even if the team is struggling to meet its goals or there’s conflict among some team members, it’s important to start off with an appreciative review of strengths.
Connect the dots between the team’s strengths, its work, and its work product. This means understanding how the strengths are showing up in the team dynamic—the way the team communicates, takes action, and makes decisions—as well as how these strengths are producing business results. Let each team member see themselves and their respective contributions to what’s working well. After this solid foundation is in place, you can move the team discussion to its potential pitfalls and those areas where the work or work product is lacking.
3. Celebrate your balancers
Often, a team will be made up of many people having similar strengths, with one or two team members whose strengths are quite different from the majority. For example, a sales team will often include a large number of highly extraverted team members. If a sales operations specialist also serves on the team, that person may be less extraverted by comparison but also detail-oriented and focused on processes and results. The specialist may feel like an outcast or an outsider with regard to the overall team dynamic.
These “balancers” are necessary for proper team functioning, however. They protect the team against pitfalls that the majority can’t or won’t see. For this reason, it’s important to celebrate the unique capabilities and situation of a team’s balancers. When they speak up, pay special attention to their observations and suggestions. Because there are so few of them by definition, give extra weight to their input. Make them feel as special as they are in their situation.