It never ceases to amaze me how much can be gleaned from our strengths and the depth of the connections we can build with others through our expression of these. Recently I was working with a team of 17 in a training event. It was our third workshop together, they had been progressing nicely on their strengths journey, as individuals and as a team. This team is composed of 4 sub teams, together they all support their organization and clients is all areas of technology and information services.
When looking at their Strengths Team Map, made up of their top five talent themes, 50% of their themes lie in the Strategic Thinking Domain, with the remaining 50% almost equally divided in the Executing and Relationship Building Domains. By taking a look at this distribution, you might think, as this team initially thought of themselves, that they did a lot of thinking and perhaps lacked creativity. That perception totally changed after this powerful activity.
In this activity, each team member was instructed to write a paragraph, poem, story or statement that reflected their perception of their combined talents and how these played a role in their life. Everyone worked quietly writing their statement and then each team members read their statement aloud. The expressions on each of their faces was priceless – they were in full admiration of each other as individuals, grins from ear, clapping and some hooting and hollering expressed in support. A few people blushed but it was apparent they all felt proud of the admiration shown by their colleagues.
They enjoyed this exercise so much that they took their paper written statements and created a beautiful graphic image to share on their company intranet with a blog share.
I received an email from one of their team members sharing what they had done and it put a huge smile on my face for the entire day. I feel like an extended team member of each one of the teams I work with; they are my partners.
The StrengthsFinder movement is about focusing each of us on the those things that each of us is GREAT at and yet we’re so conditioned to focus on weakness, the first reaction when looking at individual or team results is “We don’t have X or Y…”. Stories like this make me happy because it is proof our ability to shift our mindsets and organizational cultures from our limitations to the possibilities.
There IS an “I” in TEAM
If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say, “There is no “I” in Team,” I’m not going to exaggerate and say I’d be a millionaire, but I would be at least $10.00 richer. Let me be very clear, there absolutely, positively is an “I” in team. If you don’t recognize it, you run the risk of short-term success, if any.
Let’s get right to the point, have you ever been a part of a team where the team was doing well, but YOU, as an individual, were NOT winning?
Many of us can probably find a point of reference in our fun childhood days, perhaps when you were picked last for kickball or baseball because it just wasn’t your strength, and you “ended” up on the team with some of the more talented athletes in your class. The team’s all-stars pulled the weight, scored some points and put the team ahead. But how did you feel when you were up to bat? And at the end of the game when the team was celebrating and even today, what do you remember most, the team win or how you felt when you weren’t at your best? Most likely the latter, as we can reconnect with that emotion.
In the work world, this can be compared to being a part of a winning organization, perhaps a Fortune 500 company, and the personal experience of each member of the organization. That personal experience can be observed from a few different angles:
1) Personal Connection to the Team – Do I feel a sense of “belonging?” Do I have close connections and friendships with those I work with? Do I feel like my leaders and team members understand WHO I am, what motivates me, what demotivates me AND interact with me based on this?
2) Personal Contribution – Do I feel I make a difference to this team and its collective efforts? Am I contributing in a way that’s rewarding to me?
3) Personal Achievement/Celebration – Do I feel acknowledged in a way that I like to be acknowledged? Am I acknowledged at all?
If you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s a whole lot of “feeling…” yes, it is. A multitude of human studies show that we are 70% emotional, 30% rational; so yes, how we feel about our personal experience is a direct reflection of our team experience. Our ability to answer affirmatively positively impacts employee engagement in their jobs and in their organizations.
If our answers are more “no” than “yes,” our team experience and results will be negatively impacted, sooner than later.
Many might look at this short list, which is far from complete, and think, “If I don’t know all these things about myself, how in the world can I know these things about my teammates or the team I lead?” That’s what’s so exciting, we can embark on the journey of discovery by leveraging the powerful feedback we get from the StrengthsFinder assessment.
Notice, I said JOURNEY, it’s not a one-time event or even a process that has a beginning and an end, it’s an ongoing journey of self-awareness and intentional application of this awareness that continually improves our personal experience, our engagement and by default our sustainable success, personal and team.