Trying to build a Strengths based team is tricky, yet incredibly important. Sometimes you have to do it from scratch – going off interviews, resumes and references. Other times you get the luxury of building a team from your existing people. Even then, how do you Maximize their strengths?
I have been part of teams my whole life. From sports teams in high school, to job related short and long term work groups. Some I have assembled, and some I have simply had the privilege to be part of. During that time, there are a few things I’ve learned you don’t want to do if you you hope to create a strengths based team environment.
Going into organizations and working with lots of different types of teams over the past several years, I have seen a few common mistakes people make when creating or leading their teams. I’m certainly guilty of these as well.
Here are three things you don’t want to do when building a strengths based team, and a few suggestions for how to avoid them.
1. Don’t Assemble a Team based on Title Alone
How often have you seen a team that’s based purely on title? When a team or work group is put together using logic like, “we need so-and-so because they’re the VP of XYZ” you could be missing a huge opportunity. Depending on the circumstances, this is the wrong approach.
Instead, pull together a team of people who have the best mix of strengths to achieve the outcomes you’ve set forth. Someone who may not be high up in the organizational structure, could be the best person for that particular team because of their level of expertise that nobody else has.
After going through our process, we helped a client put together a strategic planning team to set the direction for the next few years of the company. After getting to know everyone in this small firm, we knew which people would add the right voice at the right time to best help them move forward.
2. Don’t only Look at Team Members Individually
For someone with individualization, this is might come across wrong. Let me explain. We all have unique talents and gifts that make us who we are. Teams, at the core, are made up of individual people. If you don’t understand who your people are, your team will never reach its full capacity.
So, when putting a team together, you don’t want to base it on the individual, isolated talent of each single person. Instead, look at complementing talents and areas for collaborative strength among multiple people.
When two people get together who have complementing strengths, it becomes a catalyst for something much more significant. When they are working together in their sweet spots, it becomes leadership by multiplication and great things happen.
Another company we were working with did a lot of sales presentations. They were extremely effective when sent out in certain pairs. What we helped them realize was that each team member drew strength from their partner in a way they couldn’t on their own. This helped them plan for the future as it related to new organizational change.
3. Don’t avoid Spending Time on Team Building
With deadlines to meet, budgets to write and TPS reports to file, it can be tempting to focus only on the tasks and forget about the people.
A major reason so many small businesses fail is because the owner/operator spends too much time working in the business (doing the tasks of the job), that they neglect to work on the business (internal processes, marketing, sales, etc). The same is true of teams.
When conducting a recent Learning Community 360, one woman commented that,
…it was so good to simply be together… we don’t get that enough… it reminds us that we’re part of something bigger.
Instead, I recommend spending at least an hour a month with the people on your team in some sort of team building activity. I’m not not talking about trust falls and ropes courses! Something fun, or as simple as asking each team member;
- what they are most excited about right now,
- who they are working with,
- what new insight have they learned about themselves, their job, team-member,
- how their strengths have come alive in the past week
This validation and recognition will go a long way towards a more engaged and happier team.
What mistakes have you made when trying to build a strengths based team? How did you overcome them? Share your story below.