Let’s begin with why we would spend time on this.
Why are teams so effective?
Let’s face it, sporting teams make a fantastic analogy for work teams. In order for a team to be more effective than just individuals, they need to create synergies.
“Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.” Wikipedia
Or as I have been told recently, 1+1=3.
The way we create synergies is to carefully divide up the tasks required to produce the desired outcome and allocate them to individuals or perhaps smaller groups, who are best positioned to perform those tasks. This is how we capitalise on the strengths in the team and is absolutely true of the modus operandi of a successful sporting team. You know what they say, there is no “I” in TEAM and it’s true. Imagine a basketball team on the court with 5 individuals all playing their own independent game. A team of players, who individually have lesser capability, yet work together to create synergies will very likely beat them every time.
How do you turn a group of individuals into a productive team?
The answer to this is to firstly make sure the team has a clear understanding of and commitment to a Specific Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely collective goal. Yes, that’s a SMART goal. Next, have everyone on the team focus primarily on their strengths but with a clear understanding of how those strengths add value to the collective goal. So, I’m not going to select my “I can lift twice my weight in the clean and jerk” team member to dance Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, or my Russian Bolshoi Ballerina to represent my county in the clean and jerk. Think carefully about the importance and value of how work is allocated to best advantage.
But you’re not here to talk about teams, let’s talk about you.
With each of these individuals in the team, I will carefully select where they can most add value and of course where they will subsequently be most engaged in their role.
Like a team, an individual is in fact the sum of many parts all working harmoniously together to form the you we all know and love. Of course I speak with tongue in cheek. Too often our many intricate parts clash with much enthusiasm and produce an output that we are less than proud of. My short temper slips in ahead of my ability to reason. My desire to eat well and exercise is overwhelmed by my lack of self-discipline, which makes a compelling argument for just one more night of relaxation, after all there is always tomorrow. However I really do digress.
The point is:
As an individual you are the sum of many attributes each which can be measured in terms of Talent, skill and knowledge. Together these amount to a strength.
Talent – A talent is one or more specific aptitudes that are useful in the successful undertaking of an activity and often these are natural aptitudes we are born with. They are just waiting for nurturing with encouragement, practice and the addition of skills and knowledge.
Skills – A skill is an ability that we learn. It’s the ability to produce a certain outcome within certain parameters and constraints such as time, quality etc.
Knowledge – to have knowledge is to have familiarity with something such as a process, a skill, information etc., and is acquired through experience at work, education, networking or dare I say it, reading blogs.
Talent + Skills + Knowledge = Strength
There is a strong train of thought that we should all focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. If we focus on our strengths then we are presenting our personal A team. A weakness in its most fundamental form is an area where we have no natural talent and have acquired no skills or knowledge to compensate for that deficiency. Even if we have acquired skills and knowledge, but we have no natural talent to add to them, then what we have is probably still a weakness. Although it’s not always easily quantifiable, it is generally accepted that people who work on developing their strengths can add more additional value to an outcome than those who work on improving their weaknesses.
Now I think I am a fairly pragmatic person. We all have to deliver in areas where we are weak from time to time and quite often. There is no avoiding it unless your part of an enormous and very diverse team where tasks can be dealt out very specifically to individuals. But lets face facts (knowledge), most of the areas we are weak in are not the areas that excite us. Slugging it out at a task that’s plain hard work just to achieve the bare minimum output doesn’t get you in the zone, or in the flow.
Now, here’s what to do
Tick off the tasks where you’re weak quickly and with minimum effort, or find some way not to have to do them by finding someone who is strong in that area or passionate about those tasks etc. Then, I suggest you consciously focus on your strengths.
Action time. Grab yourself a piece of paper and divide it into 5 columns, Activity, Talent, Skills, Knowledge and strength. You need to sit down and make a list of the things you enjoy doing in the activity column, since ultimately we all aspire to get paid for or spend our leisure time doing something we really enjoy. Conversely, it’s important to add the things you don’t like so much to the list so you can determine how to deal with them. Give yourself a rating out of 10 in each Column and an overall score out of 10 in strengths. E.g., I am 6/10 for my knowledge of networking, or 8/10 for my skill as a report writer.
- Don’t make this so extensive or complex that you won’t want to look at it ever again after your first attempt.
- Your strengths can simply be an average of the previous 3 columns, Talent, Skills, Knowledge).
And Voila, you have your own rudimentary strength finder.
And finally, stepping forward with strength in 2015
You can choose areas to work on where you know you can deliver the best result. You can find areas you really enjoy but where it’s obvious that you need to brush up on your skills, or perhaps gain a little knowledge. You can find areas you really don’t enjoy and say to them “I’m sorry, I am afraid I am going to have to let you go”. If you’re prepared to network, then you might even find people who love doing what you dislike and you can collaborate for a better outcome. You will undoubtedly find people who like doing what you do and you can share knowledge and work together on skills. Set yourself a small action list with some SMART goals.
You can see that this theory is equally as applicable to a team as an individual. This activity will definitely be of significant value in helping you take control of your own destiny and is a really worthwhile personal and professional development action to help kick off your 2015. But don’t delay. January is almost gone.
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Many thanks to James Westmore for his wonderful artwork