How to build high performing teams by focusing on strengths
HR and business leaders need to focus on strengths, the combination of talent, skill and knowledge, in order to build high performing teams that excel. Bringing together the right mix of individuals whose strengths complement each other is key. When it comes to the right blend of talent, focusing on an individual’s strengths has no age, gender or cultural barrier.
As individuals, we aren’t always well equipped to assess our own strengths and weaknesses. And that can mean we aren’t able to find ways to work with our weaknesses. But in a team where each member complements the others, you can bring together people to work closely with colleagues who embody what they need to learn so they will naturally develop through positive role modelling.
Great performance is universal, analysable, and describable. Once defined, it can be transferred from one person to another. Teams can learn what excellence looks like, understand where they fall short of this ideal and then strive to remedy shortcomings.
Focusing on strengths doesn’t mean you ignore things people can’t do. A focus on strengths can accelerate performance. When we play to our strengths we get better outcomes, higher productivity, more meaningful purpose and connection plus innovation.
Here are three key ways to build strengths into team dynamics:
1. Analyse strengths, not skills
Consider what each individual’s strengths are, understand what energises them at work, and what they naturally gravitate towards. When you do this as a team you’ll start to find that someone’s strengths can help close the gap for somebody else’s weakness. Encourage people to ask each other for help so they draw on each other’s strengths. This will improve engagement, collaboration, and psychological safety as your team starts to be comfortable turning up as their whole, true self and values and appreciates what each person does best.
2. Interrogate brilliance
When someone performs well often the tendency is just to congratulate them and move on to the next thing. A more useful response to a moment of brilliance is to stop and ask: What worked? What was going on in your head during this performance? What did it feel like? What did you connect to? How can you recapture that? Keep interrogating in this way until everyone understands in great detail what it was that worked, so the performance can be built upon and repeated. When leaders know what works, they can make it more deliberate and more powerful for business success.
3. Focus on momentum, not potential
The organisational practice of investing in those with potential and casting aside others who are deemed as not being able to grow is unsupported by evidence and can be harmful. Many of our youngest workers suffer from this because current tertiary education focuses strongly on developing technical skills but not interpersonal skills which help them to engage in teams and understand what their personal strengths are. Brilliant team leaders work from the premise that every brain grows differently and therefore inquire about individual strengths and aspirations. It can be more helpful to consider people’s momentum rather than potential. Try asking: What’s your direction? How fast are you moving through the world? What do you want to learn?
In the rebuild and rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations more than ever need to unlock the power of strengths based team performance.