Leaders and managers spend a lot of time and energy recruiting and developing employees for the right technical and professional roles. Who they as the leader think they will best technically and professionally fit into the team. On the surface, this is right and proper. However, the wise leader also recognises that the technical role isn’t the complete picture of what employees bring to the team. Just because they are in this ‘right role’ doesn’t guarantee success. Understanding and continually utilising deeper employee strengths, innate abilities, and offerings provide valuable insight that is often overlooked or dismissed.

In the current Covid context, knowing and using ALL employee skills and strengths can transform the nature and dynamic of teams, communication and performance.

Psychometrics, personality profiles and strengths finders

Dr. Meredith Belbin back in the early 1970s identified that people have secondary ‘team roles’. Secondary roles (their primary roles being their paid, titled roles), which each employee fulfills in their team’s dynamic – coordinator, team worker, implementer, monitor evaluator, completer finisher to name but a few. He argued that teams that aligned employees to their team roles allowing them to work within these, would have greater success, than if they were just working in their primary roles. These roles or strengths bring great value and depth to the team.

Many organisations and managers use psychometrics and personality profiles as part of their recruitment process. Identifying potential employee’s types, fit, skill assessment, and weaknesses to check suitability for a role.

However, often the ‘right’ people with the ‘right skills’ are recruited but never quite perform as you hoped. Or they never feel completely happy in their role. Or there is underlying conflict in their fit with the team and expectations. This may reflect that they have the technical skills, however, the role or place they have in the team is not being fulfilled. Or, the role we are asking them to play in the team is at odds with the role they personally need or like to play. There is a personal disconnect happening.

There is less embracing from leaders and managers with the use of strength finding tools within their teams. And using them not just once, but making them a core part of team awareness, operation, and performance. They are often seen as gimmicky, low value or require to much time to deploy. Or leaders don’t know how to maximise their value.

As their names suggest these tools help to identify, understand and apply employee’s individual natural strengths, contributions, preferences, and talents. Beyond technical professional skills, experience and qualifications. What they as people personally bring to the team and organisation. Rather than assessing ‘what is wrong with us’, instead, they highlight the components which help us grow, perform and prosper in the work environment. What ‘gifts’ each individual brings to the team.

Team value in identifying and maximising strengths

It’s easy to focus on people’s weaknesses, what they are not good at. Whilst understanding deficiencies is insightful and aids future development, identifying people’s strengths and talents brings extra positive value at team and personal level:

  • Completing work and activities more efficiently in the workplace
  • Increased application of personal strengths
  • More productivity in the workplace
  • Increase satisfaction and engagement in working and in the workplace/team
  • Employees are more able to utilise the strengths and talents of colleagues.
  • Utilise more of their natural innate abilities
  • More energy and joy as working in line with what is important to them.
  • Less energy expended in areas where employees don’t like working in.
  • Helping to understand what some parts of jobs you find difficult, 
  • Helping to identify what you behave and approach in certain ways in certain situations
  • Reduce tension in the team.
  • Increased personal effectiveness and efficiency.

What this means in the workplace

Once there is clarity in people’s strengths. It allows the leader and team to think and behave differently about themselves.

Leaders can look to assign and redistribute roles according to people’s strengths. When recruiting they can look at strength gaps in the team and address them. In pieces of work that involve the team, the leader can bring people into the different stages of the work which align with their strengths. Leaders can also begin to understand why some people and situations are not working as well as they should be, then make informed decisions. In team meetings when the leader is looking for a variety of experiences and input. They can tailor their selection of people, who will provide insight that is aligned to their personal strengths. Performance and development conversations can be transformed in their focus and content. It helps people align with what their natural fit or inclination is.

For the team, with knowledge of their strengths, they will quickly approach the right person to assist with work (and not always the most technically qualified person). Do they need an ideas person, someone to evaluate effectiveness, someone to challenge, someone to just do, or someone to mobilise others? Team members get to know each other more intimately, which impacts trust, collaboration, and performance. If they pick the wrong ‘type’ of person two things will happen. Their work won’t progress as quickly and the other person will not enjoy helping out, because it is not one of their innate strengths. Perhaps resenting being asked to help out as it runs against how they prefer to operate.

By considering these strengths it will motivate and build engagement in employees. It will help reduce employee turnover as employees feel that they ‘fit into the team’. Able to use more of their innate skills. Playing to strengths directly contributes to employee wellbeing. They will be happier in their roles. Stress is reduced, with employees not being forced into types of work they are not comfortable doing.

Overall, the use of strengths brings harmonisation to the team and the interplay within it.

Identifying strengths and roles

There are many strengths tools out there to provide insights into personal strengths and roles. Some well-established others are new on the block. Some of the popular ones include:

Translating into the workplace

It’s one thing identifying employee strengths, it’s another to translate these into meaningful activity, use, and embedding. The strengths are simply the strengths. Interpreting these into personal and work change is more difficult. There is value in combining strengths finding with wider team development and systemic change. Exploring, discussing, sharing, and bringing out the strengths to enable meaningful adoption and use of them. Examining what historic behaviours and mindsets need to change is also important. Simply bringing in a new idea won’t guarantee success.

Regular focus on strengths in 121s, team meetings and development embeds the thinking and language into the teams practice. Helping it to become part of the team’s operating DNA.

External perspectives and facilitation around strengths awareness and utilisation bring valuable insight unaffected by team history and ‘baggage’. They bring objectivity, feedback, and challenge to the team. Additionally, they enable greater application of strengths and changes. Sometimes the leader in the team is too close to be effective in developing the team. Also, it is more difficult for them to challenge deeply rooted behaviours and practices in order to create space to embrace new thinking.

Nick Howell is a coach, trainer and facilitator who brings real-time development and change to leaders and teams. His inclusive and passionate approach inspires growth and difference. He works with leaders and teams to understand what is happening, working and not working, then engages with them to bring the best solution to fruition. Using training, coaching, facilitation and his own experiences he helps employees and leaders, help themselves. If your leadership or your team’s performance isn’t where it needs to be then get in touch today – nick@abintus.co.uk or 07867 785314 for a FREE chat and exploration of your situation and where you want your team to be.