Team Dynamics- A League of Their Own, Part II

Part 2 of a 3 Part Series

by Maggie Anderson

Once we have built an All Star team, it is time for action.  It is time to use the strengths of the team to create productive and profitable work.  So how do we take a group of highly motivated and talented people and create the best possible result? 

It Starts with the Individual Players

Leaders need to identify strengths and weaknesses in a team and address them with a clear plan.  Marilyn vos Savant says, “success is achieved by developing your strengths not your weaknesses.”  However, I think people should focus on strengths and develop weaknesses.

A strength-based approach starts with the individual.  First, each member of a team needs to identify their specific strengths.  These strengths can be anything from being a detail-oriented person to having useful organizational or negotiation skills.  Individuals should take a personal inventory and start by actively focusing on the positive things they can contribute to the team and capitalize on those.  Gallup research has proven that the best way to develop employees is to identify how the individual naturally thinks, feels, and behaves and then build on those talents. 

This is another reason why implementing or providing the Emotional Intelligence tool would be valuable. In a survey of 10 million workers, only one third agreed with the statement, “at work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”  In many cases, managers don’t always manage to the strengths of the individuals on their team. The biggest mistake they make is managing everyone the same. Focusing on strengths at work will increase employee contribution, satisfaction, and employee engagement.

After finding success and value in our strengths, we work to develop areas of weakness. Everyone has skills to improve; even CEOs need constant feedback and continual development.  How else could they have made it to the top?  And how else can they expect to stay there?  Geoffrey Colvin wrote in, What it takes to be great, “You are not a born CEO or investor or chess grandmaster. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years.”  Even our major-leaguers line up in the batting cages and spend hours strategizing and practicing.  Similarly, we can develop through a process that Colvin and researchers call “deliberate practice,” the activity that is explicitly intended to improve performance.  In response to my last blog, one of my professors suggested I read Colvin’s article.  He stressed to me that neither genetics nor hard work are guarantees to success, it requires the right kind of work and being able to navigate failure.    

A crucial aspect of advancing your career is the support from leaders above you.  You can try to work to improve upon your strengths and weaknesses, but unless you have sponsorship and a mentor internally, it will be challenging for you to advance.   CEOs and leaders must invest in their employees and their teams by giving them the tools in order to enhance their skills to become high performers.  A company’s most important asset is its people. 

Investing to Win

After individuals identify and capitalize on their strengths, the crucial next step is to invest in others’ strengths.  Each team member should be familiar with every other person’s talents, interests, and possible contributions.  How can we accomplish this while forming teams?  Open communication, transparency, and mutual trust empower teams to perform.  These team dynamics are not easily or quickly achieved, so time to develop those skills as a team should be learned through specific team building exercises.  By observing, communicating, and resolving conflict while working collaboratively, team members can learn from each other.  As Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”  When teams invest time in team building exercises and they recognize the value of trusting one another, those teams create a powerful foundation on which to build. 

Last year, I experienced the value of stepping back and evaluating what areas in which others excelled.  For my sophomore Real Business Experience class, I led a group of four in helping Hook’s Drugstore Museum come up with a new strategy to increase revenue and attendance. 

I’m a perfectionist, so at first I had a hard time delegating important parts of the project.  However, the more responsibility I gave my team members, the better our work became.  They were excited about our ideas, they offered new ideas, and often shocked me by going above and beyond what we discussed.  They were empowered.  I quickly realized how to delegate effectively based on their interests and strengths, and soon enough we all had a very specific role in the group.   Individually we all succeeded, and as a group we ended the semester with a fantastic pitch for the Hook’s Board of Directors. 

Creating Diverse Teams- A Leadership Perspective

Once a foundation is set, it is up to the leader to integrate individual strengths into clearly defined roles, just like I discovered in my team.  The key is to blend different skill sets, styles of behavior, and personalities offering diversity of thought and providing favorable dynamics.  This diversity goes beyond race, gender, and disabilities; it includes all of our personal characteristics and experiences that define us. 

his year with Integrating Corporate Leaders, I have learned that diversity in the workplace is not only suggested (as I’ve read in numerous articles online) but the data shows it is a real opportunity for businesses.  Catalyst studies show that companies with three or more women executives have a higher return on investment than those who do not.  At all levels, diversity allows innovative ideas, new perspectives, and a blend of personalities that combine to set a company apart. 

The top executives of Mark IV Transportation & Logistics are described in Inc. Magazine’s article, Dealing with Diversity.  CEO, Jerry Giampaglia, stated, “We’re nothing alike when we’re outside this company, but when we walk through those doors, we’re clicking.”  I encourage leaders not to “clone themselves for every position.”  Instead, create a detailed recruitment and retention plan with diversity at its core.

We have hit all the bases for playing to team strengths: individual development, investment in others, and a diverse team.  By playing to those strengths individuals and companies can create a competitive advantage over the competition and set themselves apart in the progressing global workplace.

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