In today’s workplace, collaboration is more important than ever. Companies and organizations rely on teams to accomplish goals, solve problems, and innovate. While many still use Tuckman’s ‘form, norm, storm, and perform’ to describe the stages of team formation, others have added ‘reform’. Not all teams are created equal. Those who use a strengths-based approach, help teams to navigate and mitigate against storming. Also, having a strengths tool, such as Gallup’s CliftonStrengths too, have a language to help analyse and understand any storming.
What is a strengths-based approach to teamwork?
A strengths-based approach to teamwork focuses on identifying and using the strengths of individual team members. That is, their innate, natural ways, of thinking, being, and getting things done. It’s a way of working that values each team member for their unique talents and abilities and seeks to leverage those strengths to achieve success.
In a strengths-based team, each member is encouraged to contribute and get things done in their way. Team members are given opportunities to develop and use their strengths, and they are recognized and celebrated for their contributions. It also helps us acknowledge when a team member has stepped up and taken on a task that they wouldn’t normally do. For me that’s the detailed, structured work, when I revel in unstructured, creative, programme design. SO the times I have done, and delivered a user manual, a projects accounts, I have done it. But if I don’t have a ‘something else’ to energise me I get that concrete boot feeling and do not feel joy at the prospect of my working day.
Why is a strengths-based approach important for teams?
There are many reasons why a strengths-based approach to teamwork is important. First it leads to better performance. When team members are able to use their strengths, they are more engaged, more motivated, and more productive, according to Gallup they are :
- 6x more engaged in their jobs
- Less likely to leave (59% lower turnover in staff)
- More productive (17% higher productivity)
They are also more likely to enjoy their work and feel a sense of fulfilment, and three times as likely to report an excellent quality of life.
A strengths-based approach to teamwork also promotes collaboration and trust. When team members are encouraged to contribute their strengths, they are more likely to feel valued and respected. This creates a positive work environment where team members are more likely to communicate openly and honestly and work together towards common goals. Using a strengths-based vocabulary means members are able to provide critical feedback in more accessible and digestible ways. There is greater open dialogue.
And a strengths-based approach to teamwork improves team dynamics. When team members understand each other’s strengths, they are better able to work together and support each other. They are also more likely to appreciate each other’s contributions and avoid conflicts that can arise from misunderstandings. This is even more important when working in global teams that have diverse cultures.
How to create a strengths-based team
Creating a strengths-based team takes time and commitment. First, it’s important to be able to for each member to be able to name and claim their own strengths so they can appreciate other team member’s strengths. This can be done through tools like the CliftonStrengths assessment or by simply having team members identify their own strengths.
Once each team member’s strengths are identified, and the language of strengths becomes embedded with in the team’s meetings, rituals, and celebrations it’s important to find other ways to leverage those strengths within the team. This might mean assigning tasks and responsibilities that align with each person’s strengths, or it might mean creating opportunities for team members to explore how one or more of their strengths can accomplish a task or goal in a different way than it has been done before.
Encourage open communication and feedback, around strengths within the team, keeps the focus on what’s working. Encouraging (inviting) team members to share their thoughts and ideas, and feedback on topics of importance in a constructive and supportive way, builds bonds and engagement.
In my view, one of the most neglected parts of growth for any team is to celebrate successes and recognize the contributions of each team member, having in mind their strengths so they are acknowledged in a way that is meaningful to them. For example through formal recognition programs, for those with Significance, team benefits for people more oriented to building stronger relationships, or simply by acknowledging each other’s contributions in team meetings.
Benefits of a strengths-based team
A strengths-based team offers many benefits including:
- Better performance: team members using their strengths are more engaged, motivated, and productive.
- Improved collaboration: by letting others know what you bring to a project but also what you need to be your best allows a degree of vulnerability which builds collaboration and trust, creating a positive work environment. And of course, in this space, team members are more likely to communicate openly and work towards common goals.
- Enhanced team dynamics: when team members understand each other’s strengths, they are better able to work together and support each other, understanding when they or someone else, is energised or drained. Providing particular acknowledgement when a member has had to ‘suck-up’ a task that requires them, for example, to be focused and detail-oriented when they have low consistency, focus, or discipline can add balm to the pain. Appreciation can calm frustration (to a degree!).
- Higher job satisfaction: Our innate talents give us an inner drive. The drive from each strength is different. When these drivers are met i.e. we are using our strengths, we feel a deep satisfaction and feel valued for our contributions. In these instances, we are more likely to enjoy our work and feel a sense of fulfilment. There is nothing more satisfying then feeling useful and valued.
By being authentic about how you present yourself to colleagues raises your credibility, helps others understand who you are, and enables them to get to know you better. This all deepens trust (see the Trust Equation).
In conclusion, a strengths-based approach to teamwork is a powerful way to create high-performing teams. By focusing on the strengths of individual team members, teams can raise their game from ‘just’ delivering goals to high performance, with stronger team dynamics, and increased job satisfaction. If you’re looking to create a stronger, more effective team, consider adopting a strengths-based approach.