The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Soul Players And Star Players

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Imagine you are a leader. There are many models for putting together the right people in your team.

One approach is to get the right blend of soul players and star players. The star players must, of course, also be prepared to sweat. They have no room for semi-detached players.

Let’s explore how you can make this happen.

Soul Players

Soul players embody the spirit of the team. They have a strong work ethic and do the right things every day. They provide the backbone and make sure the team always gets to at least 8/10.

Such people are loyal and low profile, but neglect them at your peril. Soul players need encouragement.

They believe that, providing they do a good job, their loyalty will be rewarded. They may suffer in silence, however, while watching others grab attention.

Reward them for their contribution, because otherwise one day you may find their resignation letter on your desk. One person said:

For years my partner kept telling me to move on. I felt loyal to the company, however, and put in lots of hours that nobody noticed.

My previous team leader used to meet with each of us off-site every six months. She took the time to find out how things were going and if we needed support.

The new boss did not seem interested. They spent a lot of time with the vocal people in the team. I carried on, because that was my job.

But then the company put in a performance management system where people had to be ranked along a bell-curve. That was the last straw.

I was told that I must increase my profile in order to stay out of danger. But that is not my nature.

Fortunately I had kept contact with my previous team leader. I now work for her in her new company.

Super teams make sure around that two-thirds of their team are soul players. Such salt-of-the-earth people can also sometimes become star players in a particular niche. But they are happy to put in a daily shift that provides the platform for success.

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

Describe the soul players in your team. Write the names of these people.

Describe the specific things you can do to – if appropriate – add more soul players to the team.

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage the soul players in the team.

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Star Players

Star players also embody the spirit of the team. They are prepared to sweat – to work hard – and can also add that touch of class. They sometimes take the team from 8/10 to 10/10.

Super teams often have around one-third of their team made up of star players, but talent brings obligations. It is vital for such players to encourage other people in the team and also act as positive models.

Such individuals can find themselves in an interesting dilemma when progressing in their career. They may have been a star player at one level, but then find they are considered a soul player at the next level. They can then ask:

Do I want to start by being a soul player at this level? Do I want to put in the work to consistently deliver the required professional standards?

Do I then want to keep building on my strengths – and manage the consequences of my weaknesses – to do my best fulfil my potential? Do I want to work hard to be a soul player and then maybe even a star player at this level?

How can you ensure that such people make their best contributions to the team? One approach is to continually ask yourself the following questions:

If everybody in the team left tomorrow and offered their services back to the team: Who would I rehire? What would I rehire them to deliver?

Looking at your potential star players, which of them would you rehire? Make your decisions. Then make clear contracts with them about making their best contributions to the team.

There are certain rules to follow with potential star players. If they want to be part of a team, they must be prepared to sweat and gain other people’s respect, rather than be precious. They must:

Be prepared to follow the team’s principles and required professional standards – otherwise they will make their own rules.

Be highly professional in their work and in their interactions with other people – both colleagues and customers.

Be prepared to build on their strengths – whilst managing the consequences of their weaknesses – to make their best contributions towards achieving the team’s goals.

Make sure that people are willing to opt into this deal. If so, you can then encourage and enable them to achieve peak performance.

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

Describe the star players – who are also prepared to sweat – in your team. Write the names of these people.

Describe the specific things you can do to – if appropriate – add more star players to the team.

Describe the specific things you can do to encourage the star players to make their best contributions to the team.

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Semi-Detached Players

Refuse to employ semi-detached players who show disregard for other people. They may well have exhausted previous managers who failed to ‘motivate’ them or find their talents.

Everybody gets down at times but, if we choose to work for a team, this involves accepting a certain package. The deal includes being professional, encouraging others and making our best contribution.

Semi-detached players want to pursue their own agenda and often criticise other people.

“But what if I inherit a team which contains uncommitted people?” you may ask.

Before taking the job, make sure you have the mandate to build a super team. You are then in a strong position when meeting each of the potentially difficult people.

You are making the rules, not them. Meet with each person individually. Create an encouraging environment, but also give them clear messages. You can describe:

The purpose – the team’s goals.

The principles that people will be expected to follow in order to achieve the team’s goals.

The professional standards that people will be expected to deliver on the way towards achieving the team’s goals.

Invite each person to go away, reflect and decide whether or not they want to opt into the team. Remember, it is their job to persuade you they want to be in the team, not your job to persuade them.

People must actively make the decision to commit – or re-commit – to the team. They are then coming to work each day as volunteers, rather than as victims.

If they do not commit – in actions, rather than words – they are choosing not to be in the team.

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

Describe the semi-detached people in your team. Write their names.

Describe the specific things you can do to communicate the team’s purpose, principles and required professional standards to these people.

Describe the specific things you can do to replace any people who choose not to follow the required professional standards.

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Continuing to get the right blend
of Soul Players and Star Players

Super teams evolve. Some of the people will stay, some will move on. That is the nature of evolution.

If you want to build a second and third generation super team, however, it will be vital to continue to get the right blend of soul players and star players. Bearing this in mind, it can be useful to do some of the following things.

Keep in touch
with the soul players

Meet with them on a regular basis and ask how things are going in their world. Such people are prepared to work hard, but it may be useful to explore the following things in your discussions.

To ensure they have clear goals and for them to know how their work is contributing towards achieving the team goals.

To ensure they have the support and tools required to do the job.

To ensure they are well rewarded – both emotionally and economically – for the job they do.

To encourage them to build on their strengths, keep developing and do satisfying work.

Keep in touch
with the star players

Meet with them on a regular basis. It may be useful to explore the following things in your discussions.

To focus on the specific things they can contribute to the team – such as how they can continue to build on the strengths and manage the consequences of any weaknesses.

To clarify the possible routes they may want to take in their future career – inside or outside the team.

To clarify the specific things you can do to, if appropriate, help them to pursue these routes.

To finish the session by making clear contracts about their continued contribution to the team or the specific things that can be done to help them to move on in a positive way.

Keep making sure you have the right
blend
of soul players and star players

If you are a leader, you are judged by the performances of the people in your team. If you want to continue building super teams, it can be useful to do some of the following things.

To make sure you keep encouraging the people you want to employ in your present and future teams.

To maintain a list of the soul players you want to employ in your present and future teams.

To maintain a list of the star players you want to employ in your present and future teams.

To make sure you do everything possible to get the right blend of soul players and star players in your teams – and act appropriately if any people appear to becoming semi-detached players.

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

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain the right blend of soul players and star players in your team.

Describe the specific benefits of maintaining the right blend of players in your team.

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