Team strengths are instrumental to boosting productivity and the success of your business. By playing team strengths, you increase team trust and team engagement.
Team strengths should be your focus even before building the team. Especially if you use team goals to target objectives. Team strengths are what a good leader uses to get the team through.
To be sure, it makes perfect sense that focusing on strengths is a good thing. The issue remains, however, with how and why. And this is what we will cover in this series. We will start with why focusing on team strengths is important. Subsequently, we will cover how to do it at an individual level and at a team level.
Team strengths explained
Teams are made of people sharing goals, that interact and affect each other and that are responsible for achieving those goals.
From the outside, a team is an organizational unit. A living entity, in essence, an organism in its own right. Everything that an organism has, a team has.
Consider this comparison for a few moments. Teams have a nervous system. And they have a mouth. And hands and legs and everything else a body has. For a team to work, all these body parts must work together. And these parts are individual people.
But there are bodies and bodies out there. Some are the bodies of regular people. In similar fashion, others are the bodies of high performing athletes. Targeted training and exercise can improve performance for anyone.
But there’s more to the story. You and I can go to the gym and train and get better overall. Usain Bolt, on the other hand, is a natural born runner. With him, training truly brings forth the best possible runner there can be.
This is what it takes to make an incredible athlete today. Selecting those specific traits you can overdevelop and win a margin. Get the edge over anyone. In fact, there’s no way to become the most decorated Olympian of all time like Michael Phelps without playing your strengths.
And this holds true for teams. Clearly any team has strengths and weaknesses. Just try and pit Bolt together with Phelps against a strongman challenge. They won’t do that badly. But they clearly won’t win it.
This applies to teams on many levels. Sure, it’s great to round up skills. And even better to improve on critical points. It’s a reasonable idea. Every team should try it. But the way a team excels is by focusing on the strong points.
Team strengths vs. strengths-based leadership
Team strengths are the best way to explain strength-based leadership. Strength-based leadership is a method of delegating work to those most qualified. This allows you to outperform yourself.
Similarly, by analyzing your team members, you get insight. Sooner or later, this insight pays of. What’s more, you can use it to target tasks with strengths. And delegate better. Leaders should never have to be great at everything. In reality, you will likely only have expertise in one or two areas.
While success in one area is a predictor of overall success, it’s not a guarantee. And often people being promoted into a management position are disadvantaged. They don’t play their strengths. And they don’t know how to play team strengths. Hence, they cannot do strength-based leadership.
Strength-based leadership is how a leader knows to use team strengths to maximize team outputs. It is a tactical approach to teams as a given. But it also offers insight into the right people for your team. While team dynamics come in play here, there’s more to strength-based leadership.
Team strengths gains and risks
Team strengths have benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a quick breakdown for both of them. Remember, we first deal with why, then we deal with how.
Team strengths gains
- Team morale boost. Ever saw a pep talk? Picture one of those sports movies. Markedly, the scene with the locker room speech. Together with the whole team gathered round. The coach telling them why they’re the best. And how they’re going to win. Ponder on that for a second. How it rallies a team, ready to give everything they’ve got? It’s always about focusing on strengths. This effectively boosts team engagement, one study finds. No more boring meetings in which nobody participates. And engagement boosts team morale.
- Develop team trust. Positioning yourself for success implies occupying a role for which you are well equipped. Leave the rest to the experts. Without a doubt, having the wisdom to use experts is what a good leader does. What you need to understand is that it’s OK to delegate. In fact, one of the first things a new leader should do is delegate. In fact, this tells your team that you trust them and it means that you know what you’re doing. It shows them you know who does what. What strengths each of them has. And that you are self-confident enough to ask for help.
- Boost creativity. Working with people has a lot to do with developing their talents. And putting strengths to the front inspires people. When a person you manage blooms, your whole team stands to benefit. Their input becomes more valuable. Their work is qualitatively better. They start enjoying their work. They share their enjoyment. This leads to goal contagion. And random acts of kindness at work, which add up to everyone feeling amazing.
- Team development. You can factor in individual strengths in your recruitment process. And every new hire will be ideal fits for your team. Onboarding made easy!
Team strengths risks
- Not enough gains. Sure, focusing on weaknesses brings the morale down. However, you cannot grow and better yourself without correcting your weaknesses. Self-improvement happens by moving everything one step further. And one step at a time. To be sure, a focus on team strengths might make you neglect focusing on improving things.
- Stereotypes and lack of true diversity. You know, like the shy, introvert coder. That sets you on harmonizing your team with introverts. People are a lot more complex than stereotypes. They defy typologies. You might push people into the strengths of their stereotypes and thus not allow them to develop more broadly. Besides, true diversity is highly beneficial for your team.
- Foresight and future tech. We live in a world in which today’s weakness might become tomorrow’s strength. In many ways, it’s hard to tell what you’re missing out when you’re focusing on strengths only. For example, imagine having hired only employees with impeccable penmanship. That was the main strength you focused on. Amazing calligraphers, capable of writing beautiful letters. 10 years later, your team is mostly excelling at something obsolete. What you’ve neglected is hiring new typists. That’s a weakness you never improved upon. The likelihood of something like this happening today is very low. But it’s still a matter of foresight. Strengths of today might be relevant tomorrow.
Overall, team strengths provide you with far more benefits than risks. This is one strategy that makes intuitive sense. Yet, figuring out the best way to use it is a strength you need to cultivate. Tune in for how to do it in our next article in this series.