What Do They Need?
Being a leader is kind of a funny thing. You really aren’t a leader alone. You can’t study and learn and sit at home and be a leader. You have to have something else.
In the last two posts, we’ve looked at improving ourselves as leaders and as human beings by knowing our strengths. When we know our strengths, we can build on them. We get a greater return on our investment of time and energy than if we invest in our weaknesses.
Our team can take us to the next level by filling in for our weaknesses.
Now we can look at how we can meet the needs of our followers.
Tom Rath at Gallup, asked in a survey about a leader that influenced people’s lives. They then asked for three words to describe that person, or what that leader gave them.
After thousands of entries, these four general needs rose to the top of their results.
We have all seen how quickly the media jumps on a story of a business or political leader being dishonest. To foster trust, a leader must,
“die keeping your promises.”
Relationships are key, even more than competence, according to Rath. Get to know your followers and have integrity, sounds easy enough, huh?
A leader has to care about people. A leader has to be positive, says Mervyn Davies in Strengths-Based Leadership, “employees don’t want to follow negative people.”
This means that your principles are solid. Nobody can question your motives. It also can mean transparency to your followers. They see you have weaknesses and you acknowledge them. That builds confidence in followers. Don’t try to cover up your weaknesses, people can see them, so consequently, they just see the cover up for what it is. Be who you say you are.
Tom Rath says in Strengths-Based Leadership, that most leaders react to the needs of the day. This shows followers that their leader is tossed about on the waves of life.
He continues to say that when leaders initiate action, they create hope. Just by choosing their direction, they share hope for their future.
This last point was really important for me in my business. I would start a training program with my team, or we would start a staff meeting, and someone would bring up an “emergency.” Great, so let’s all spend the rest of the meeting and the next week working on this “emergency.”
So nothing got done. And it was my fault, I let it happen. Once I chose to downgrade the “emergencies”, I felt lifted. I chose what we would discuss and train on, and not someone from outside our office. I felt the hope. I was directing my team to go where I wanted to go.
Now I have read and implemented many of these principles, but I am still working on developing my strengths.
I make mistakes, I have weaknesses, but I’m planning to lead, and my team will continue to lift me, and us, all up to new levels of greatness.
And I hope yours does too.
What can you do to build trust with your followers? What can you do to create hope with your followers?
Part 2: Who, Really, Is On Your Team?
Who is on my team?
Have you ever played a pick up game of flag football or basketball, and teams are picked, and you can’t remember who is on your team?
Who should be the quarterback?
Who can catch?
What do you do?
You ask everybody:
“Hey, can you throw?”
“Can you kick?”
“What play should we run?”
“Whose team am I on?”
Imagine yourself at work or church and not knowing who is on your team.
Should you just hand out jobs like it’s Halloween? To anybody that’s standing in front of you? What do you ask people to do, if you don’t know what they are good at?
In the last post we looked at the need for a leader to focus on what she does well. And to let everything else fall away.
But not forever, and here is where your team comes in. They can pick up the slack for you and for each other.
In Strengths-Based Leadership, Tom Rath described this process.
He talked about effective leaders and how they surround themselves with the right people and build on each other’s strengths.
Mr. Rath worked closely with many great leadership teams. He discovered that every team had strong elements of all four of these domains:
The 34 strengths we briefly looked at in the last post fit into these four domains.When you learn your team’s strengths, you can develop a team that has aspects of all four domains.
“Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be.”
Leaders should know their own strengths and their weaknesses. Rath says that they should know “who they are and who they are not.” Then form a team to bolster your weaknesses.
Effective teams, Rath says, can discuss openly their strengths and how to utilize them best. He goes on to describe how these strong teams also have 5 things in common:
1. Conflict doesn’t destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results.
2. Strong teams prioritize what’s best for the organization and then move forward.
3. Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work.
4. Strong teams embrace diversity.
5. Strong teams are magnets for talent.
When you have built your team, the work is not finished. You must continually develop your team’s strengths, give them opportunities to grow. And you must continue to build stronger relationships within your team.
If we go back to the flag football analogy, now can we say what position everyone should play? Can we take advantage of everyone’s strengths? To the benefit of our team? Can we pass and catch and block effectively? So now that we are an effective team, what is our goal?
That is up to you.
What could a focus on strengths do for your team?
We have examined what a leader needs to do to focus on strengths, but now what do the followers need? For the answer, stay tuned for the next post.
What is Strengths-Based Leadership?
I’ve always been taught it’s vital to be well-rounded. If I have weaknesses, I should strengthen them. If I struggled with a subject in school, I should study harder, and “just learn it.”
That’s not necessarily true.
A friend introduced me to The Strengths-Based ideas a few months ago. Just prior, my team and I had taken the DISC personality profiles. The Strengths approach offered additional clarity.
About the same time I heard the author, Tom Rath, on the Entreleadership podcast talking about his book, Strengths-Based Leadership. In that podcast, he gave an example of why focusing on strengths is important.
He asked if you were a parent, and your child brought home a report card with
4 A’s and
which subject would get the most attention?
The C right? Most likely it would be the subject in which the child doesn’t have a natural aptitude, or doesn’t enjoy. All the while, ignoring the subjects he loves or is good at. Why is that the case? Why can’t we focus and build on what our kids do well? Why can’t being great at a few things be good enough?
But we don’t always take the opportunity to invest in those talents early.
Tom Rath shows an equation of what constitutes a strength,
Talent X Investment = Strength
The key, he says is to invest and build on who you already are.
Gallup polling, and Donald Clifton developed the Strengths-Based philosophy. Basing it on years of polling data and statistical studies. They interviewed successful leaders and identified 34 Strengths, or attributes that these leaders showed.
Not every successful leader has the same strengths. They just have spent time recognizing their own strengths and developing them. They were not “well-rounded”, but they knew themselves and they gathered a team around them to help make up for their weaknesses.
When I bought the book, “Strengths-Based Leadership” I was given a code to take the Strengths Finder 2.0 online test. It was revealing about who I really was, and what I do well.
I think the results were right on the money.
My top 5 Strengths are:
Let’s take a look at my number 1:
I am an avid learner. I am always reading something. I’ve been known to pack a suitcase full of books for vacation. I can’t seem to help myself. So, with that in mind, I need to leverage that, and build on that strength.
I take continuing education courses every year. I’m an avid note-taker, I use them for review and teaching my team.
In summary, get to know who you are, develop your talents. Invest in your strengths. Don’t strive to be the well-rounded person that our culture values so much.
What are your strengths?
Next time, we’ll investigate how this philosophy can help you build a rockstar team.
“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
I have found my best days are when I am able to teach a team member to do something better or solve a problem. Or when I can teach a client something that will help them for the rest of their life. I love when someone ‘gets it’, you can almost see their brain ‘click’.
I have been studying the Strengths-Based books for next week’s posts. Tom Rath describes the difference, statistically, between a leader that is focused on his team’s strengths, focused on his team’s weaknesses, and not focused on his team at all. There are huge differences between those three approaches and I will go into more detail next week.
One of the worst things you can do to a team member is ignore their development, or stop focusing on them. According to Colin Powell, when your team stops coming to you for help, you have failed them. Once you stop trying to train them, it’s only a matter of time before they leave or they bring your culture down.
And that is your fault as the leader. I know, I let that happen, more than once, and it was ugly.
But that’s a story (or two) for another day.
How can you be better at teaching those you lead?