Blog #1: Getting started with strengths for teams

Hello folks, this is my first blog – something friends and colleagues have been asking me to do.

I want to address the question I get frequently, “How do I get started with this strengths team performance stuff? What do I need to do to grow my people and achieve a high-performing team but do it from a strengths perspective?”

Some people have told me that it feels hard, knowing where to start and on what specific aspect.

I typically start with an honest conversation about what you want to see differently this year with your team compared to last year; what are those “things” you need to see to know that the individuals and the team have changed, grown, developed and are now what you consider to be high performing. The first step, get clear on the desired outcome.

Here is an example of what one manager told me: I want my team to know each other well, to get stuff done and on time, feel confident in what they do as a team, have constructive conversations when they need to and not bottle things up and explode when things are tough; plus I also want them to respect each other personally, be less siloed, more communicative, be brave enough to drive each other’s performance and feel safe to do that. He finished his list by saying “quite a list huh?” and after taking a breath he added, “it is because my people really matter to me”.

I love listening to leaders talk about what they want from their teams and setting goals for their people, because when they start to do this with a “strengths-lens” it just works. The managers achieve what they need and do this in a way that strengthens and values their team members.

The bosses who genuinely care about their people are my favourite leaders – who wouldn’t want to work in a team knowing the boss cares for you as a person – and guess what, these leaders also have the best teams!

However, getting there is not a quick fix. Like all great things you have to do the work, and do this together. This means talking together…talking with each other and really listening to each other and clarifying what you mean when you talk, listen and work your way in your work. The importance of open, honest and respectful communication cannot be underestimated.

However, my note of caution is that you cannot get there quickly - it takes time, patience and most of all effective and consistent communication.

For those interested in trying this out with their team – here’s what to do first.

Phase 1

Start with getting clarity about what you want to be different. Use my book Woven, it takes you through the specifics of starting. As part of my programme, I recommend using the wonderful VIA Character Strengths tool to act as a conversation opener on strengths and the language of strengths-thinking. Using this, the programme builds into the actual ‘doing and using’ of time together to build trust, which deepens respect for each other. When done properly and well, you are in effect creating psychological safety for all of your people, which is one of the single biggest influences on the overall performance of your team.

This deliberate approach builds confidence and trust in each other’s strengths and reduces silos. The approach described in Woven has been designed in such a way that it optimises your time when everyone is under pressure to get stuff done. The programme asks for specific brief time commitments, not weeks of investment.

I know that managers often are skeptical about using profiling tools – indeed many have told me that they have done a “tool’ or an assessment with their team, used an external facilitator who was great and that the results were used for a day or a week and then “they disappeared into a drawer along with all of the previous ones”.

My approach is quite different to this – the ‘Woven programme’ weaves results from the VIA tool into an action plan that you lead, not a consultant or facilitator. The plan will give you a foundation that you yourselves will build on as a team. It belongs to you and is something that you will ‘feel’. The teams who have started on this journey all report that it becomes ‘just part of what we do’ and that the results have been nothing short of remarkable. However, don’t take my word for it – try it. To see what others have been kind enough to share, look here: testimonials.

If you have any questions, please post them here or email me.