The Art of Strengths Coaching

E is for Excellent Teams Getting The Right Balance Of Entrepreneurs, Experts and Eager Beavers    

There are many models for building fine teams. One approach is to get the right balance of entrepreneurs, experts and eager beavers. This is an approach that I have seen work in pioneering companies.

Some are led by entrepreneurial people. They then work with experts in specific fields. Their next step is to hire eager beavers who translate the innovation into implementation and deliver the desired impact.

Some other companies, however, make mistakes in their hiring process. The entrepreneurial founders hire lots of experts who are love innovation. They may explain this approach by saying the following.

I have hired person x from a famous company. Because of their background, they will bring lots of experience and ideas.  

Such an approach might sound good. But it can lead to the company becoming overcrowded with people who love to invent new approaches. This can lead to producing lots of ideas but few of them getting followed through.

Good leaders often finish meetings by saying something along the following lines.

We have generated lots of ideas. Which ones do we want to pursue?  Who wants to be the mission holder for making each of these happen? 

In my work with pioneering companies I sometimes say something along the following lines.

You have many people who are entrepreneurial and you have experts in several fields.  

So it may be worth considering hiring some eager beavers who want to get things done.  

You can probably hire two or three of these instead of a highly paid expert. They will be worth their weight in gold.  

Let’s explore how to apply this approach. Imagine that you lead the team that you work in at the moment. Imagine also that you have power to make changes. Let’s consider how you can get the right blend in the team.

Entrepreneurs

Looking at your team, which of the people display an entrepreneurial spirit? Such people tend to be innovative rather than institutionalised.

Entrepreneurs tend to have high energy. They constantly gather information about what is happening in their chosen field. They imagine possible scenarios and find solutions to problems.

Such people often see the destination quickly. Going into a situation in which they excel, they go A … B … and then leap to … Z. They see pictures of what good looks like, but they do not always communicate these to people.

Visionary by nature, they then get confused when people do not see the same picture. Sometimes this can come across as impatience or frustration.

Contrary to common belief, such people actually do follow a process, but it is their own individual process. They use strategic intuition and the process they follow is seldom transferable to other people.

Such people love to build successful prototypes that show a better way or solves a problem. They like to prove that the prototype works, but then they get bored. If appropriate, they need somebody else to manage what they have built and make it replicable.

Great entrepreneurs recognise both their strengths and weaknesses. So they often have a co-ordinator who acts as a channel between them and the rest of the world. The co-ordinator makes sure the ideas are implemented properly and have the desired impact.

There is seldom a dull moment working with such entrepreneurs. They can be inspirational, but also frustrating. Sometime they change their minds without telling others. Nevertheless, they attract many people who enjoy the adventure.

Entrepreneurial spirit is often associated with founders, but it can also be displayed by other people in a team. Such people take initiatives, find solutions to challenges and deliver success.

Imagine you lead your present team. Which of the people show this kind of spirit? How can you encourage them to use this talent to the benefit of the team?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific people in the team who act in an entrepreneurial way that benefits the team.

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage these people to continue to act in an entrepreneurial way that benefits the team. 

Describe the specific things you can do to, if appropriate, add more entrepreneurial spirit to the team.

Experts 

Looking at your team, every person will have expertise in their particular field. But some of these people may be considered to be real experts.

Looking at these people, who are experts that use their knowledge in ways that benefit the team? How do they use their knoweldge to help the team to achieve success?

Imagine that each of these experts left and then reapplied to join the team. Which of these people would you rehire? What would you rehire each of them to deliver?

Excellent teams ensure that the experts use their knowledge to help the team to succeed. This can be challenging, but it is possible to manage the contributions of such knowledge workers to achieve a compelling goal.

Many organisations have an ambivalent attitude towards such workers. On the one hand they need their expertise. On the other hand these individuals can be difficult to manage. Let’s explore the characteristics of such people.

Knowledge workers often put a strong emphasis on individuality, integrity, intelligence and impact. Let’s explore these themes.

Experts have a strong sense of individuality. They often have independent views and enjoy being different. They want to be treated as individuals.

Such workers have strong values. They believe deeply in the integrity of their art, science, craft or other field. Frequently this has huge benefits.

They stand for maintaining ethical and professional standards. They are true to their values and act as whistle-blowers if such standards are compromised.

Sometimes there can be downsides. They can be seen as protecting their vested interests and unwilling to move with the times. They sometimes focus on pursuing their own agendas rather than contributing towards achieving the organisation’s goals.

Experts often have great intelligence in their own field. They love to learn and stretch themselves. Knowledge is their currency and provides the passport to development.

Such people respect others who have expertise. They may start out by testing newcomers, however, just to check if the new person knows what they are talking about. On the other hand, they can be scathing towards those who are superficial or talk in clichés.

Experts frequently speak their minds, which can be a blessing or a curse. They bring freshness, but can also be blunt. Managers may sometimes need to manage the interface between certain knowledge workers and other people in the organisation.

Experts like to use their expertise and see that is has a positive impact. They are like artists, scientists, inventors, designers and those in the problem solving business. One person said:

I enjoy developing new ideas, building models and finding solutions that help people.

Such workers often focus on innovation, implementation and impact. Seeing results is crucial because, as many of them say, they want to make a difference.

Great organisations can co-ordinate the talents of such people to achieve the overall goals. Experts are often loyal to their vocation, however, rather than to a particular organisation. The key is to find win-win solutions that benefit everybody and produces great work.

Clear Contracting With Experts

Clear contracting is crucial in any professional relationship. This is especially so with experts. Let’s consider one approach to making this happen.

Good leaders create a positive culture in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. They often start by explaining the big picture of people.

Different leaders do this in different ways. Whichever method they use, however, they often describe the organisation’s strategy and picture of success.

 

Good leaders make the professional deal clear. They explain the organisation’s role in working to achieve the goals. This includes the support it will give to people. They also explain the employee’s role. This includes the potential pluses and minuses involved.

They then invite people to reflect and decide if they want to help to achieve the goals. If so, they make clear contracts with people about their contributions towards achieving the picture of success.

There are many tools for making this happen. One approach is to invite experts to do the following exercise. Bearing in mind the organisation’s goals and their own strengths, this invites them to describe and then agree with their manager on the following things.

Good leaders make clear contracts with their people. They then manage by outcomes, rather than by tasks. They encourage and enable people to follow the agreed professional standards and deliver the goods.

Good co-ordinators can help to channel people’s efforts towards achieving the goals. You can learn more about such a person’s role via the following link.

http://www.thepositiveapproach.global/being-a-good-co-ordinator/

Looking at your team, who are the experts that you want to keep? How can you make clear contracts with them about their best contributions? Are there any other ways that you want to add expertise to the team?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific people in the team who act in an expert way that benefits the team. 

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage these people to continue to act in an expert way that benefits the team. 

Describe the specific things you can do to, if appropriate, add more expertise to the team.

Eager Beavers 

Looking at your team, who are the people who act like eager beavers? There are different definitions for such people. Here are some of these.

A person who is very enthusiastic about doing something … A person who volunteers to do things and is hard working … A person who is extremely zealous about performing duties.

Different people display these characteristics in different ways. So how to spot such people? Here are some qualities they often demonstrate.

Eager beavers are self-managing in particular areas of activity. One person said, for example:

I learned to be disciplined when I was young by looking after my horse. This required feeding her and mucking out every morning before going to school.

After school I went back to the stables to ride her and set up things for the next day. I got into the rhythm of thinking ahead, making lists and getting things done.  

Such people are often savvy. One person I worked with described how she helped her parents when the family arrived in the UK. She said:

My parents spoke very little English, but I had grown up learning the language in Latvia. Even though I was only 11 at the time, I took the main responsibility for helping them to go into the bank and set up an account.  

I also dealt with the electrical, water and other suppliers. This sounds a lot, but I really enjoyed working out what needed to be done and then doing it.

Eager beavers love to work hard, but they want to see that their work is effective. They often get a kick from setting targets, making lists and then crossing off items.

Great teams have lots of eager beavers who make sure that things get done. Such people have an ethic of constant improvement and love to deliver excellence.

This has both upsides and downsides. The pluses are that they are diligent, overcome setbacks, keep improving and deliver on their promises. The downsides are that they can get exhausted, take work problems home and become overly self-critical.

Good leaders encourage such people, provide the required support and make sure they are well rewarded. They also encourage them to broaden their repertoires through customised professional development.

Let’s return to your own work. Looking at your team, who are the eager beavers? How can you encourage and enable them to make their best contributions? How can you, if appropriate, add more such people to your team?

Excellent teams get the right balance between entrepreneurs, experts and eager beavers. You will, of course, do this in your own way.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific people in the team who act in a eager beaver way that benefits the team.

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage these people to continue to act in a eager beaver way that benefits the team.

Describe the specific things you can do to, if appropriate, add more of the eager beaver approach to the team.

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