Every member of your team will have something they excel at, from the self-proclaimed public speaking expert, to the closet coding whizz. But harnessing these strengths can be a tricky task. This month’s tips are designed to help you unlock your team’s true potential by playing to their strengths.
Yes, really. If civilisation was restarting on Mars and you had to argue why you should be selected, what would you say? What talent, skill or knowledge do you have that would be useful? Use this as a starting point, but don’t be limited to what you’re good at currently. Start thinking about the things you aren’t good at yet, and the things that truly satisfy you. Those are the things we’re willing to work at and master over time.
There’s now a wealth of research telling us that playing to our strengths, and the strengths of our team, has a more advantageous payoff than improving on weakness (see Gallup, 2004, for example). If you focus on what you’re doing badly or, as a manager, you spend 90% of the performance review on areas for improvement, you need to shift your focus.
When faced with the choice of a well-rounded performer, or a candidate who’s got clear strengths and weaknesses, most of us opt for the former. And there’s plenty of good reasons why. But this risk aversion creates its own set of risks when we fail to capitalise on strengths when we see them. We shouldn’t be afraid to praise strengths when they’re exhibited, or we’ll be left with a team that are reluctant to display what sets them apart from the rest.
Are you given the opportunity to do what you’re best at every day? If you’re answer is yes, you’re a lucky minority (4/5 said no – Gallup, 2004). Whilst, to an extent, jobs are defined upfront, you can still create personal meaning and align the role to your strengths. In changing role boundaries, working relationships and our perceptions of work, we can sculpt the role without compromising productivity or performance.
Unfortunately, high-performing individuals don’t necessarily group together to create high-performing teams (see Belbin’s Apollo effect). But if you leverage your team in the right way, the whole becomes much greater than the sum of the parts. Look at the strengths within the team and consider how they best complement one and other (a good team will allow ‘spikey’ people to play to strengths, whilst covering for their limitations.) Second, look at your team’s overall strength & make sure you’re maximising on them.
These tips come are based on our workout ‘Play to Strength’, part of our performance management offering. If you’d like to speak to someone about implementing these ideas in your own organisation, don’t hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also download our accompanying research white paper ‘Reinventing Performance Management’ here.