Recently my wife and I attended a marriage conference focused upon understanding the strengths of your spouse, and I was reminded of the StrengthsFinder test I took in 2012. The assessment discerns your individual top five (out of 34) strengths. Research behind the test was analyzed by the Gallup organization, and I believe the probability of someone else having your exact strengths in the exact order is something like 33 million to one, as ranked one through 34 (referenced in the book Strengths Based Marriage by Jimmy Evans and Allan Kelsey). The StrengthsFinder test affirms the uniqueness of the individual.
My time at the conference also prompted me to reflect upon a book I read while traveling last December. I highly recommend Strengths-Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath from Gallup. A portion of the book focuses on the attributes of successful teams, which are important to know, whether you lead a small team, or a big one, or just want to make your group more successful.
I encourage you to consider the five critical attributes listed below:
1. Constructive Conflict
The strongest, most successful teams are not the ones where everyone agrees, but rather the ones where everyone engages in healthy debate, and sometimes even heated debate. I often viewed this as “dynamic tension” and encouraged team members to openly share the good, the bad, and the ugly. This type of debate doesn't fracture a team, it makes it stronger and more cohesive.
Open discussion works when the team remains focused on the results they want to achieve and not on their individual points of view. Once open discussion occurs you need to decidedly move forward. With everyone’s input considered, the leader must make the best decision possible.
2. Prioritization of Goals that Benefit the Total Organization
Regardless of an organization’s size, scarce resources must always be prioritized in order of importance to reach a goal. Your discussions, even those with healthy discussions or conflicts, should always keep the end goal in mind; the one that provides the greatest benefit for the entire team or organization. Despite individual responsibility, the decision should always profit the entire organization.
3. Commitment to Pursuing Personal Goals
To be successful in your career (speaking from personal experience) requires a huge time commitment, and time is precious. We need to be highly intentional about how we spend our time outside of work. The same intensity you bring to your work can also be applied to other important areas of your life.
I have always had a “life plan”, which simply means I have a specific plan to accomplish meaningful results in various aspects of my life (my marriage, my spirituality, my children, and my health). People who are highly engaged at work can also be highly satisfied with their personal lives, if they have an intentional plan to address both their work life and personal life.
4. Organizational Diversity
Constructive conflict and healthy open debate comes from the strengths of the team, but also, from the diversity of individual team members. Age, gender, race and background are diversifying factors that can add richness to a team’s thoughts, ideas, strategies, and abilities to achieve significant results.
A long time ago, I worked for one of the biggest banks in the country. I reported to the president, but I aspired towards more. I wanted to run a profit center, not only lead a large support organization. My background was very different from those who filled profit-making positions, but I knew I could do it. In my view, the management’s perception of what produced success lacked diversity and I decided to move on from the company. Ultimately, I became the president of a large financial company, and the company I left was eventually acquired. I am not saying this occurred because I wasn’t promoted, but I do believe diversity, in its broadest sense, is hugely impactful.
5. Ability to Attract Great Talent
I believe that when you are making an impact in the first four areas mentioned, people want to join your team. Everyone wants to be part of a successful team, despite the hard work required.
I always tried to communicate the same message to my new employees: “It takes hard work, teamwork, and honesty to work here. And, if you do not feel as though you can meet the requirements, this may not be the best place for you.”
My hope, in saying this, was that each person would accept the company’s vision, where we were headed, and the opportunity it created for them and their personal growth as we together moved forward.
In great measure, the success of your team or company is all about the people – the ones willing to speak up, tell it as they perceive it, and unselfishly work together to reach important goals. Once you have the right people, everything else will fall into place.