Great teams live out of their strengths – and leverage those strengths to shore up their weaknesses. They understand that no single person “has it all,” but that, together, the team can get the job done and do it extraordinarily well.
If you have not already done so, we recommend that you take a systematic approach to assessing your team’s strengths and weaknesses. There are many quality tools and assessments available. At Makarios Consulting, we frequently employ a 360-degree feedback tool when we work with teams. This involves gathering information from the people in each team member’s immediate circle, including managers, peers, and direct reports. The subsequent evaluation defines in black and white what each team member’s strengths are, their areas for improvement, and their blind spots. Each individual receives a detailed report and we work with them to create a development plan to shore up their weaknesses. We also provide the team with an overview of where they excel as a group and where they need to pay particular attention to avoid problems.
With a good understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, teams can capitalize on individual strengths to enhance their overall performance. For example, suppose that Cherie excels at interpersonal matters, while Dave tends to step on people’s toes without meaning to do so. The common approach would be to say, “Let Cherie handle any interpersonal issues that come up.” And that would work … until Cherie leaves the team or the company, or simply has too much on her plate to handle one more thing.
The less common – but more transformative – approach is to say, “Let’s have Cherie coach Dave in how to manage interpersonal matters.” Dave may never get to Cherie’s level of skill, but he will likely become reasonably proficient. Therefore, rather than being dependent on each individual for their skills, the expertise of the team as a whole is constantly being built up and developed.
A team’s strengths can also be used to directly counteract their weaknesses. We saw one of the clearest examples of this principle several years ago when we were working with a manufacturing company. They had a high-performing Sales team: the team always hit their numbers and clients loved them because they were incredibly customer-focused, offering support and value before, during, and after every sale.
Unfortunately, this Sales team operated very differently inside their own company. To put it baldly, they treated their internal support team like garbage. They showed no respect to their fellow employees, were incessantly demanding, and acted downright rudely. The effect on the support staff was horrific.
We sat down with the Sales team and explained how their attitude and approach to their internal colleagues was a major weakness. Their abrasive and arrogant behavior was causing low morale and hurting the business. Then, we talked about their strengths: that they were absolutely outstanding at delivering customer service and support.
We then proposed an action plan. Going forward, the Sales team was to treat their internal support staff as a client. They were to identify their needs, be responsive, practice good communication, and never let up until they had a satisfied “customer.” They knew how to do these things because they did them every day in the field. Now, they had to bring it “home.”
Within a matter of weeks, the office atmosphere changed. After a few months, the two teams had a new (and hugely improved!) norm: they were able to work hand-in-glove with mutual respect, with the result that sales and revenue numbers were better than ever. The team’s strength had completely eliminated their greatest weakness.
Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses is not just a matter of information. It is at the core of transformation. For your team to reach its highest level of performance, you need to know each other well.