Strengths-Based Leadership: Creating the Right "Enclosure" (Guest Post by Stosh Walsh)
As I read John’s last post, my first thought was, “An important part of a leader’s job is to decide what kind of ‘enclosure’ to create.”
But before we get to that, we have to understand the 2 factors that inform the decision. First, direction—where are we going? And second, culture—what kind of environment must we have to ensure we arrive there?
Leaders can do this in one of two ways. They either build their team according to the desired direction and culture, or shape the desired direction and culture according to their existing team. In both cases, a consideration of strengths is paramount.
This reality gives birth to change management, evolution of teams, building and perpetuating a legacy—in short, these things happen over time, not instantly. Leaders who elect to build a team according to the desired direction and culture have greater margin when selecting the team, but must face the stages of team development. Conversely, leaders who pursue a new direction with an existing team might enjoy a greater understanding, but face changing the status quo and all that endeavor entails.
Though they face unique obstacles, both approaches can work if the leader employs a strengths-based perspective. For the leader who chooses to build a team toward a new or existing direction, selecting the right strengths is paramount, after which those strengths can be shaped, over time, into culture. For a leader with an incumbent team, the key is to understand the team’s strengths and then choose a direction that will see those strengths maximized.
For example, if a basketball coach wants to play an up and down the court transition style, he must select athletes who can perform the tasks associated with that style. He will likely prefer players who possess the strengths of speed, agility and passing, as opposed to patience, decision-making or rebounding ability. However, if that same coach has a team full of tall, strong, patient players, he is better served to understand the existing strengths and choose a more methodical style based on ball control and scoring close to the basket. If, in the first scenario, the coach fails to select the right strengths, his direction will fail and his culture will deteriorate. Similarly, if the coach tries to take the team in a direction that does not suit their existing strengths and culture well, he will lose games even if his players are more talented.
Why? Enclosure = Culture + Direction.
Now, if at this point you are thinking, “That sounds too easy,” you are right. But most of the difficulty leaders face in trying to determine the right enclosure is self-inflicted—they insist on a direction that does not suit their team’s strengths, or they choose teams full of people who are talented in the wrong areas, and therefore unable to further the direction.
So how can leaders avoid this?
They can GEAR UP for strengths:
Grant autonomy—people who are working in an area of strength will exceed your expectations. Give them the why of their work, and let them figure out the how.
Encourage effort—tell people what you’ve seen them do well and ask them to try it again, or in a different setting because of your confidence in them.
Assess—discover the strengths of people around you by asking, “When was the last time you lost track of time?” or “What do people come and ask for your input or guidance on?” The answers will provide clues to their strengths. Put people through assessments that can help them put vocabulary to what they do well.
Reward and recognize—few things on earth feel better than doing something we enjoy and then having someone acknowledge it in a way that is meaningful to us.
Understand motivations—some people work for money, others for enjoyment, still others for mission—whatever their motivation, it will be informed by their strengths.
Position for success—help people do less work in areas they don’t perform well, and more in places where they excel. We all have to do some things we aren’t very good at or don’t like, but we shouldn’t have to do more than is absolutely necessary, as that serves neither direction nor culture.
As a leader, what strategies have you employed to choose the right direction, shape the right culture—create the perfect enclosure?
Want to learn more about your strengths and how to leverage those of your team? Join John K. Coyle and Dr. David Rendall Feburary 13th in Chicago for our Strengths 2.0 Summit, a half day workshop to use design thinking to find your strengths and design through your weaknesses. Click the link below to learn more and register.
Strengths 2.0 Summit