Leaders Know Their Team's Strengths
July 13, 2009
Operations and IT Consultant
Topicsengagement, Resources, Strengths, Strengths Finder 2.0, Tools
Do you know the strengths of your teammates? By strengths, I mean the activities that your teammates are energized by and that they are good at. In the book Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath, he defined a strength as:
Talent X Investment = Strength
Talent is defined as "a natural way of thinking, feeling or behaving." Investment is defined as "time spent practicing, developing your skills and building your knowledge base." And a Strength is defined as "the ability to consistently provide nearly perfect performance."
Do you know what areas each of your team members consistently provide nearly perfect performance? Most people are most engaged in their areas of greatest strength. In the book, the authors quoted from Gallup studies about employee engagement. One study considered three different manager behaviors and the chances that those behaviors would motivate the team member to be actively disengaged from their job (not fully focused and energized by their activity).
|If your manager primarily:||The chances of your being actively disengaged are|
|Focuses on your weaknesses||22%|
|Focuses on your strengths||1%|
Your teammates and employees are most focused and engaged in their areas of greatest strength. And as their leader, your behavior makes a significant impact.
One item you can do to minimize the affect of employee disengagement is know and try to align your teammates' responsibilities around their strengths. One easy to implement plan for addressing this is to use Strengths Finder 2.0 for yourself and your team. (Larger companies may already have some other tools. For whatever you use, apply it across your entire team.) Strengths Finder 2.0 costs about $15 and takes about 15 minutes to read. In the book is a key that you use to take an online exam which takes about 30 minutes to complete. The output consists of two reports, one brief and one more detailed. The brief form talks about the individual's five primary strengths (or themes as the author sometimes calls them) out of a total of 34 possible choices. The detailed report also adds suggestions for how to work with people of other strengths. The individual strengths are explained in detail in the book as well along with some suggestions for working with someone who has that strength. The suggestions are helpful because it helps each team member understand their teammates better and how to better relate to your teammates' strengths.
So for a quick overview on a low budget, get some copies of the book, take the assessment and share the results with your team. In no time you will have a common language and everyone on your team will be a bit more engaged simply because you know and are trying to help engage them at their areas of greatest strength. This is an inexpensive, quick, effective way to create a common strengths-based language and understanding for you and your team.
I should point out that there are many more expensive and more extensive tools, if you have the time and budget. Also, the entire discussion on strengths is much less complex than a discussion on values or motivations. We're going to talk about a tool I can recommend in the area of values in my next post.
For strengths evaluations, have you used this tool or some others? What did you think? What other tools do you use or recommend?
Nice post, Mike. I agree that the Gallup materials are good and reasonably priced, but I’m not sure even they are necessary. I’ve found that most good supervisors, the ones that have regular conversations with their team members, have a good idea about team strengths. What an instrument like this can do in that case is give people a common language and understanding to discuss strengths.
Wally, Thanks for the comments. You’re right on. Most good supervisors don’t need this tool or any tool. Until I had seen one used, I didn’t appreciate the benefit provided by having a common understanding and language. That is very helpful. Some other benefits also include how they might confirm the supervisor’s direction and confidence, and maybe even give them some insight they didn’t have before.
I just recently took the strengths finder test for my boss. He is very engaged in the strengths of his employees, and invests a lot of thought to it. Because of this, I feel that we are more efficient at what we do because we understand where our strengths lie. We all had a general idea of what we enjoyed doing, but by putting a name to these “strengths,” we were able to pinpoint where we could most succeed.
I recall taking the Strengths Finder 1.0 version test while I was in NASA’s leadership development program. I did find that it provided a common language around which to share and have conversations of individual strengths. For me, the Strengths Finder was a paradigm shift – utilizing and further improving one’s strengths provides a greater return on investment than working on one’s weaknesses! This is a fascinating perspective I’m still exploring. I welcome your comments and reactions to that. Cheers!
@Christian Leadership – Thanks for the comment. It is helpful to label the strengths. This was the first tool I ever used that labeled Individualization as a strength. It pegged me pretty well, but I had never seen that listed as a strength in any other study. It was an eye opener for me.
@Joe – Thanks for commenting Joe. I was also blown away by the idea that we should focus on our strengths. I love the idea and have been working to morph my energy and development efforts toward my strengths rather than focusing on my weaknesses. It’s fun to concentrate on the things I’m most energized by rather than forcing myself to try to bring up the bottom of the spectrum.
I was introduced to the books First Break All The Rules and Now Discover Your Strengths as a very young manager. That test and the concepts in those books became some of the most powerful tools in my toolbox.
To this day I continue to use them and highly recommend them to anyone wanting to experience more joy and unleash greater results with their teams.