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"…specific areas where we can do things, see things, understand things, and learn things better and faster than 10,000 other people…" - StandOut 2.0: Assess Your Strengths, Find Your Edge, Win at Work by Marcus Buckingham
Areas where we have the greatest potential for success. - StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
Traits we might see "as disabilities and try to work around them to fit in." - Mastery by Robert Greene
"Your most valuable currency [because they are] what comes most naturally to you." - The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms by Danielle LaPorte
Strengths are talents, traits, capabilities, or competencies that are far beyond average. They are the things you do better than everyone else, the things that come most naturally to you. And - this is important - they are things that you also enjoy doing. Put simply, your Strengths must also strengthen you. If you are good at something, but you hate it, it is not your Strength.
Understanding and aligning your strengths to the achievement of your goal is how you create competitive advantage. It is how you stand out from the crowd. It is how you shine.
Accessing and engaging your team members' strengths - in service of your group objective - is how you stay ahead in your fast-paced, high-demand, innovation-intense industry. And layered effectively with the other pillars of The Activated Genius Model,* it might just be how you trap lightning in a bottle and answer senior management's demand to do more with less.
But Strengths are tricky. And you might need to help your team access and own their abilities. Because while they may have pronounced traits, that generate significantly greater value for the organization than the average employee, that might actually be hard for your team memebers' to see.
Our - US - educational system measures cogitative performance and knowledge retention. And that's great. But it does not do much to help students understand where their deep talents lie. Many of the Strengths that you rely on your team to provide may never have been tested in school. And because their Strengths come so naturally to each individual, they might not even notice themselves doing anything.
But you notice. Because how could you not?
Human performance in complex environments can be modeled using an exponential curve. That means a large proportion of the output is created by a small percentage of the workforce, and the rest is pretty-well evenly completed by everyone else. In some industries as much as 25% of the output is generated by just 5% of the employees.
Flipped around the other way, that means that your team members have areas where their strengths completely outshine everyone else around them. It is undeniable.
The difficulty may come if they haven't had an opportunity to use their Strengths, because of how the team is structured, how the work is divided, or how aligned their Strengths are to corporate objectives. Two-thirds of Gallup respondents said that they do not have opportunity to use their Strengths every day.
What a waste.
If you want to compete, if you want to retain your best workers, if you want to accomplish more than you ever thought possible, you must become part of the other 33%. You must access and engage your - and your team members' - Strengths. And there are multiple tools or techniques to help you uncover them, for yourself, and with your team.
But before you schedule your team's Strengths Discovery Meeting, a word of caution:
This is powerful stuff. Accessing your team members' Strengths, and aligning them to your group mission, will have a profoundly positive effect on team performance. You will accomplish more with less effort. You will be able to make efficient use of training dollars - because even a modest improvement in an area of your strength will create an exponential improvement in output. And you will have better motivated, more engaged employees.
It will be a lot of work. You will have to change the way you manage and how you structure your day.
You will need to create differentiated work-roles that leverage each individual's Strengths, layered effectively to accomplish your objectives.
You will have to devote more time and energy to removing obstacles to individual performance, rather than just focusing on what constrains the team as a whole.
You will have to tailor your compensation strategy. And you will have to exponentially increase your communication, so that each team member understands the why behind decisions that affect only one or two people on the team. So that they see the equity in your leadership decisions - that every member is getting what they need to perform at their best - despite the lack of uniformity in how those decisions are applied.
And you will have to let some people go.
When a person's Strengths do not align with the core objectives of your group, the disparity in motivation, compensation, meaning from work, and engagement will be noticeable to everyone. And it will drag the team down. Your leadership role, then, will be to enlist and engage other aspects of their Genius to ensure they do play a role on the team that is meaningful to them, or - and this is more likely - help them find meaningful work elsewhere.
And that won't be easy, either.
None of the work required to lead your team in a way that fully-engages their Genius will be easy. It's up to you to decide if it will be worth it.
*The Activated Genius Model is based on my experience and extensive research into leadership and organizational performance. The model is defined by four pillars of Genius: Values, Motivation, Strengths and Inclination, activated by a strong foundation: Communicated Vision, Dedicated Leadership, Effective Structure and Process, and Adequate Resources.
Through Tailored Output, I offer individual and organizational coaching programs applying the Activated Genius Method, a scientific approach to maximizing performance. Together we will Access and Engage your (and your team's) Genius to Accelerate your achievement, in service of a better world.
If you'd like actionable insight into how to access and engage your Strengths (and all aspects of your Genius) more-fully in your life, sign up to receive my weekly Rise & Shine! email. It is a solid way to stay up to date on the art and science of human performance, translated into actionable insight for your everyday life. This little bit of Monday Morning sunshine will keep you thinking, growing, and Activating your own Genius, as you start your week.
Mastery by Robert Greene
StandOut 2.0: Assess Your Strengths, Find Your Edge, Win at Work by Marcus Buckingham
Star Performers in Twenty-First-Century Organizations (Article) by Herman Aguinis and Ernest O'Boyle
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath