The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Building A Super Team Based On Similarity Of Spirit And Diversity Of Strengths

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Super teams are made up of people who have similarity of spirit and diversity of strengths. Diversity of spirit is a recipe for disaster.

Such teams start by defining the spirit they want people to demonstrate. They get the right people with the right attitude.

Attitude is non-negotiable, but they want characters, not clones. People will express the team’s principles in many different ways, of course, but they must always demonstrate high professional standards.

Spirit gets people so far. But it is the diversity of strengths that enables the team to produce something special when it matters. Let’s explore how you can build such a team.

Similarity of Spirit

Imagine you are leading a team. How can you define the kind of spirit you want? One approach is to explore the team’s positive history. It can be useful to recall some of the following things.

When have people performed brilliantly in the past?

What did they do right then? What was the spirit they demonstrated? How did they translate that spirit into action?

What is the kind of spirit we would like people to demonstrate in the future?

“But what if you are starting a new team?” somebody may ask. “How do you then define the desired culture?”

One approach is to invite the whole team to define the required spirit. When doing this it can be useful to focus on the following themes.

The specific goal the team needs to achieve.

The specific spirit – the attitudes and actions – the team members must demonstrate to work well together to achieve the goal.

The specific examples of how they will translate this spirit into action as they work towards achieving the goal.

During the past 40 years I have explored these themes with many different teams. These have ranged from sports teams, therapeutic communities, digital companies and many pioneering businesses.

Each team is different, but three themes have consistently emerged regarding the required spirit. Each team comes up with its own wording, but here are the recurring themes.

They want their people:

To be positive.

To have a positive attitude, take responsibility and encourage other people.

To be professional.

To consistently deliver high professional standards in their work and in their daily interactions with colleagues and customers.

To be peak performers.

To keep doing their best, keep improving and keep delivering peak performances.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Imagine you are leading a team.

Describe the specific spirit you want the people in the team to demonstrate.

Bring this to life by giving specific examples of how they would translate each of these qualities into action.

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Diversity of Strengths

Great teams have the right spirit and the right strengths. Spirit can get you so far, but sometimes you need people who can add that touch of magic to help the team to achieve success.

Imagine you are leading a team. There are many approaches you can use to help people to clarify their strengths.

You can, for example, invite them to employ some of the tools provided by the Gallup Organization, the Strengths Partnership and the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology. Here are links to their respective websites.

https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/?gclid=CMvRrvOl-b8CFbHMtAodsS8AZQ

http://www.strengthspartnership.com/

http://www.cappeu.com/

Another approach is to invite people to do the following exercise. This invites people:

To clarify the specific activities in which they deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs.

To clarify how they can build on their As and manage the consequences of their Bs and Cs.

To clarify how they can build on their strengths and make their best contribution to the organisation.

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Imagine that each person in the team has completed the exercise. How can you make sure you have got the right strengths in the team?

Bearing in mind the team’s goals, you may then want to do the following exercise. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the team’s specific goals.

Describe the specific strengths you will require in the team to be able to achieve the goals.

Describe the specific strengths you already have in the team that will help you to achieve the goals.

Describe the specific strengths you will need to add to the team in order to achieve the goals.

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Continuing to Focus
on Spirit and Strengths

Great teams continually show what good looks like. They share success stories that highlight the attitudes and actions that people can demonstrate to ensure the team delivers for success.

“That sound fine,” somebody may say. “But how do you recruit for spirit?”

One company I worked with recruited for values. These values included, for example Take Responsibility, Help Others Succeed, Be Customer Focused and Deliver Outstanding Results.

The company prepared prospective employees by sending them material that described the values. Bringing these to life, they also gave real-life examples of when people in the company had translated these values into action.

The company then asked the prospective employees:

To describe a specific time in their professional or personal lives when they had demonstrated some of the values.

To describe the specific things they did to demonstrate the values.

To describe how they would aim to try to demonstrate some of these values during their first three months in the company.

People were, of course, given more background on the values. They were also given the phone number of a specific person they could contact if they needed more information.

The person’s answers formed the basis of the interview. This sounds tough, but it certainly improved the process of hiring people who wanted to work for the company.

Great teams co-ordinate people’s strengths. If you managed The Beatles, for example, you would ask John, Paul and George to sing the vocals. You would ask Ringo to play drums.

Imagine you are leading a team. How can you continue to co-ordinate people’s strengths?

One approach is start by focusing on the team’s specific goals. Bearing in mind where each person delivers As, it is then to ask the following questions.

How can we co-ordinate people’s strengths – the activities in which they each deliver As – to ensure they make their best contributions towards achieving the team’s goals?

How can we make sure all the remaining practical tasks get done? How can we divide these up effectively or find other creative ways to get these done? How can we make crystal clear contracts with people to ensure these tasks get completed?

How can we continue to ensure the team builds on its strengths – whilst also compensating for any weaknesses – and does what is required to achieve its goals?

Great teams pursue the right strategy. They also make sure they have the right people in the right places. People are then more likely to do the right things in the right way.

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

Describe the specific things you can do to continue to recruit and reward people who demonstrate the required spirit.

Describe the specific things you can do to continue to build on and co-ordinate people’s strengths – whilst compensating for any weaknesses – and ensure the team achieves its goals.

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