We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog series to bring you a topic that hits just about every home today. Some of you are on the front lines of this epidemic helping the sick. Some of you are still working in supply chain to ensure our world can continue to eat and have basic needs met. (Thank you all for what you are doing. We are grateful!) Many of you are quarantined at home. Some of you may have added “home-school teacher” to your long list of responsibilities. Working from home isn’t a new concept, but it may be a very new experience for employees and managers.
(If you’re reading this well after COVID-19 and the age of social distancing, this all still applies, no matter what new chaos comes in the future).
How can you ensure high-functioning teams amid the chaos and change?
The same way you ensure high-functioning teams when things are normal. Build trust. Lead with strengths. Encourage individuals to work from their strengths, talk to others based on their strengths, praise them for using their strengths, and partner-up.
Whether you have worked from home occasionally in the past or were never allowed to, the world we live in is experiencing unprecedented situations. As a business owner or leader, you are probably wondering things like:
- How can we be efficient and effective with a remote team?
- How can we use technology and overcome challenges?
- How can we trust that our team members are still invested in positive outcomes for the organization?
Focusing on strengths builds engagement and results.
What if I told you that by focusing on everyone’s talents and strengths, you could increase engagement, energy, and output? Depending on your dominant strengths, you could say “sign me up today” or “I am going to need a LOT more data before I even consider it.” And that is important. Work from your strengths and you will be engaged, energized, and eager to do more.
Below is the beginning of 34 strengths identified by Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment, along with simple definitions that Partner2Learn shares with their clients. We will then explain how this strength shows up in chaos and unprecedented times like we are experiencing and how you can tap into them for higher engagement and team results.
A word of caution. We will talk about each strength in isolation. Please understand that there are nuances to each strength depending on the unique grouping of strengths that each person has. Partner2Learn calls these combination factors. When someone has two or more strengths in a unique combination, they can manifest in different ways. Sometimes it magnifies the effect, sometimes it softens another strength. We do not talk too much about this here, but we do go in-depth on this subject when we work with individuals in one-on-one and group sessions.
An objective, common language around strengths (Part 1)
Partner2Learn categorizes strengths into eight domains, unlike Gallup’s four domains. These eight categories provide great depth and detail into aspects with which a team may struggle, along with providing clearer action steps. This strengths language helps create an objective discussion with the team. In part 1, we will be talking about traction and driving strengths.
Traction strengths – the ability to start and gain momentum
Does your team struggle to transition from talking to taking action? If so, you want to leverage individuals who have strong traction strengths to help your team gain momentum on important initiatives.
Focus on your team
- How to leverage this strength: They love to take one or two goals and run with it. Is there a new priority on your team, or an old one that was forgotten about for a while? Individuals with traction are great at understanding all the steps needed to obtain that goal. Encourage them to focus on that one goal and they will work diligently to achieve it. They are great at putting up blinders or guide rails to everything else that does not relate to this goal. The power in this strength is to help the team identify what truly matters and postpone the tasks that can wait. For your team, you might have a new list of 50 tasks to do. You might tend to over-analyze all the options and methods to prioritize, but Focus can help you and the team gain traction on the top priorities. They help you transition from talking to doing so you can start to see results. Tap into your Focus strengths so you can gain momentum on a few key initiatives.
- Questions to ask to keep them engaged: Can you help us get this initiative started and gain momentum? Can you help the team focus on the relevant tasks that must be accomplished and what is not necessary? Which project do we need to get started right now?
- Where this strength might struggle: While focusing on one or two things can be powerful to reach a goal, they may not see the big picture and could miss something else that is critical. A great partner for them is someone like Strategic or Connectedness, who can help them see the big picture and reasoning behind the prioritization.
Command on your team
- How to leverage this strength: They love to lead and take charge of a situation; especially when there are so many unanswered questions, other people might fear making a decision. Individuals with Command have a presence that helps mobilize action.
- Questions to ask to keep them engaged: Can you lead this project? Can you help the team see the value in moving forward on this initiative? Which projects need a champion to lead?
- Where this strength might struggle: If someone has Command without interpersonal strengths, they may be more focused on the task than the people. Sometimes they may try to lead, but some may not follow, or do so reluctantly, and potentially be disengaged. A great partner-up opportunity is someone with interpersonal strengths, such as empathy and developer; as well as a lifestyle strength in harmony to ensure the people are all moving in the same direction and are engaged throughout the process.
Activators on your team
- How to leverage this strength: They love momentum and action. They are especially talented in moving a team from thoughts and discussions into action. Is your team having a similar conversation about a goal or idea and not making any headway? Activators can help you pull the trigger to gain traction. They are willing to move with very little information and adjust as more information comes in concerning the project.
- Questions to ask to keep them engaged: What projects do we need to get started? Who or what is stuck that needs help to gain momentum?
- Where this strength might struggle: Sometimes Activators want to operate with 1% of the information. Partnering-up with Analytical or Deliberative can help them see the details that identify and avoid risk.
Driving strengths – the drive to finish tasks
Does your team struggle to finish tasks? If so, you want to leverage individuals who have strong driving strengths to help your team complete important initiatives.
Significance of your team
- How to leverage this strength: They want to be a part of a project that will make the biggest difference for everyone. While they are highly independent, they strive to be important and recognized for making an impact that is bigger and better than anyone expected. As priorities change, what new, significant project needs support to be finished successfully? Significance can help you complete them.
- Questions to ask to keep them engaged: How can our team make the biggest impact? Is there a new or existing project that you want to be a part of to help it exceed expectations?
- Where this strength might struggle: Individuals with significance want to be seen as significant and be a part of something significant. As a result, they can feel a high fear of failure in uncertainty. A great partner-up opportunity for them is someone with Self-Assurance because they bring the confidence that what they are doing is right and will succeed.
Maximizer* on your team
- How to leverage this strength: They want their strengths to be maximized. During chaotic times, they need to feel confident in knowing that their strengths are still being utilized to their fullest. There is no time to slack now. Additionally, they are eager to work with other individuals who are just as excited to transition from good to great, or the top 5% who want to operate quickly. If you have a maximizer on your team, check-in with them to make sure they feel they are being used to their fullest, especially in these chaotic and uncertain times.
- Questions to ask to keep them engaged: Do you feel we are maximizing your strengths? What more do you feel you could do to help us finish these projects? Do you think we are maximizing our teams’ capabilities; if not how could we improve?
- Where this strength might struggle: If a Maximizer does not feel they are being maximized, they can quickly become disengaged and demotivated. Additionally, because they want to work with the great employees at a quick speed, a great partner-up opportunity for them is a Developer who can help soften the Maximizer’s drive to finish fast, which may not work with individuals who need to move slower or be coached along.
Self-Assurance on your team
- How to leverage this strength: They love to help lead to correct conclusions. They possess high confidence to manage decisions leading to completed tasks. They have an internal compass that helps guide them to know what they are doing is correct and it is the right time to complete this action. In these times of uncertainty, they can help the team gain confidence that their priorities are sound.
- Questions to ask to keep them engaged: What project are you certain the team needs to finish? Can you help (someone) gain confidence that what they are doing is right?
- Where this strength might struggle: Individuals with self-assurance are so confident in their decisions they can rub others the wrong way because they do not have the understanding or strength self-assurance does. A great partner-up opportunity is someone with interpersonal strengths or someone with Connectedness to help ensure all individuals are engaged in accomplishing the tasks.
Competition on your team
- How to leverage this strength: They love to win and take immense satisfaction in exceeding goals. As goals are shifting, communicate the new initiatives with them so they have a clear sense of direction and are motivated to exceed the goals established by the team.
- Questions to ask to keep them engaged: Can you help the team accomplish these new goals? Are the metrics to measure success clearly defined?
- Where this strength might struggle: Help create goals centered around the success of the team to ensure individuals high in competition are focused on the team, rather than themselves. Because they have clear sight for exceeding the goal, a great partner-up opportunity for Competition is someone with Includer and Harmony to help ensure the people are engaged and aligned.
Achievers on your team
- How to leverage this strength: They are highly task-oriented and take joy in checking tasks off their list. They are energized when all tasks are completed and are great at helping others finish projects too. Seek their help for the team if new processes need to be developed and finished.
- Questions to ask to keep them engaged: Have you been able to work through your list of to do’s? Can I (or even better…someone on your team with high Strategic strength) help with prioritizing? Do you feel you have the resources to get your tasks completed? Can you help the team finish this project?
- Where this strength might struggle: Achievers want to do it all – now. They have the drive to complete tasks. Their list(s) is likely long. When achievers do not know the priorities, or the priorities often shift, help them to partner-up with Strategic, and increase communication to ensure they are working on the most important task rather than just any task.
Engage with Partner2Learn for support
Stay tuned in the coming weeks to learn how the rest of the strengths complement traction and driving strengths. For now, you can read more about Seeing strengths in our next post. A high-performing team needs to have all strengths, all categories, all people engaged for maximum results. Are you doing any of this right now? What new ideas are you going to implement today? How can we help you be more successful? We’re here to guide you, help elevate your performance, resulting in a transformation you never imagined.
*Asterisk means that this strength is in more than one of the eight categories.
Original research on the 8 categories conducted by Dr. Mark McKloskey and Jim Louwsma.