Too often as managers we focus on what’s gone wrong and try to put it right. Unfortunately one consequence of this is that we appear to be focusing on the negative and that this is the only feedback we give to team members.
Building a confident and competent team means actively spotting the great things that people do, the things that represent a real strength. The problem comes when we don’t actively look and just rely on what we can see. Many people still keep their true strengths hidden either because they think it might not be relevant to the job or they don’t want to show off (a very British trait).
So how can you spot the strengths of people in your teams? Here are some simple tips:
Read The Signs
Wouldn’t it be great if people wore signs telling you want they like, what they don’t like, what motivates them and what their strengths and development areas are. Body language however can actually tell a great deal in terms of what they enjoy.
People ‘people’ tend to brighten up when then interact with others and it doesn’t matter whether they are colleagues or customers. Compare this to when they have to spend a long time doing paperwork; you will probably notice a drop in energy.
Task focused people on the other hand will have real concentration when trying to work through a task. Compare this to when they are interrupted by somebody who is preventing them from completing the task. The body language will give you an idea they would rather see the task through than talk to their colleague.
One of our coaches was working recently with a guy who was looking to change direction in his career. As a qualified secondary school French teacher operating as a supply teacher he had become disillusioned with the education system. As the coach started to explore other types of teaching he had done, he became quite animated about the English he had been teaching to some local Polish residents. He had developed quite a friendship with them and realised that there was quite a demand. He began thinking of how he could develop this side to his work. The point is that his body language and behaviour made it quite clear about what was clearly a strength that had been valued by other people.
Involve People In Other Projects
One manager was telling the story of a young girl who was working on the customer service helpline. He needed help on a project that involved a good deal of number crunching in terms of customer feedback. The manager didn’t have the time or inclination to do the analysis his boss wanted. When he asked his team would anybody be able to help him, the young girl jumped up and volunteered straight away. She said she loved working with spreadsheets and could provide the analysis he needed. He was quite surprised as this was a job he hated and thought others would too. The result was that she not only completed the task she produced a template complete with formulas which would save them loads of effort the next time it was due. Just because she worked on the telephones this didn’t mean this was where her strengths lay.
Pretty radical I know! If we really want to find out what people are like, we need to take the time and make the effort to do so. On one of our teambuilding courses recently we asked a group from a housing trust to interview each other. We started with simple things like, ‘What is your favourite thing to do to relax?’, ‘What achievements are proud of outside of work?’ and progressed to things like ‘If you could have dinner with anybody in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?’ They were amazed at some of the things that people said which gave a real insight into some of the things they were good at. Most people respond when you ask them to talk about their favourite subject, themselves. So give them the chance and see what you learn.
Use This Knowledge To Develop Them
Once you have taken the trouble to seek out this information, make sure you use it. Achievement is a great motivator so by giving people tasks that they are good at ,will help give them the confidence to take on other development. During your next review, ask them what other departments or roles they are interested in. Don’t be offended if it is in a completely different area. Many people still take jobs that are not really using their best skills simply to get a job. The best managers are always looking to help their employees work towards their potential. So make a note to learn what you can from those in your team. Spot their strengths rather than criticise their weaknesses. Good luck!
Head of Training