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Play to strengths

The key to creating a happier team who enjoy what they are doing

IIt was interesting listening to all the talk about Sven-Goran Eriksson’s ability to motivate, encourage and enthuse his team during the World Cup finals.

If you asked most English people did Sven play his best players to their strengths, the answer would probably be a resounding “no”.

If you ask people was Sven able to motive his team, then the answer would probably be an even bigger “no”.

Anyone who is reading this article and manages just one person, a team of people or even a whole business has the same issues and responsibilities to their team members.

So, just how do you make sure that both your team and the people in it are playing to their strengths and are not undertaking a role that they are not really meant to do and as a result are not enjoy?

Some of the organisations I have worked for in the past have used personal development processes which consisted of the manager of a department trying to make all their people fit into a single corporate set of behaviours and skills.

How many of you remember having reviews with your boss where it consisted of a number of “development areas”? You had to be great at everything before you got a decent pay rise or grade. I hated it. I understand why now.

Every person in a business is different. We cannot take a number of people and try to make them act and behave in the same way. We are all individuals. We all have different skills and talents.

It is really important to understand this. Do you have a colleague who is great at dealing with lots of details? Do they struggle when you ask them to do something strategic and big picture? Do you know anyone in your team or business who is really creative? Ask them to write a really in-depth analytical report and see what the reaction is. Managers who try to treat everyone in their team in the same way will always struggle.

The theory goes that if you give someone a role that they are talented at, by adding to their talents with skills and experience, they turn their talents into strengths. People who try to change weaknesses into strengths will never succeed. So all of those organisations which treat everyone the same – just like the ones I mentioned earlier – are on a road to nowhere.

One method of finding out people’s strengths is to do talent analysis of the people in your team.

Find out where their talents and strengths lie and then compare those with the talents and strengths needed for their job. You can use for a small charge or buy an excellent book by Dr Marcus Buckingham for your team called “Know your strengths”.

Both have excellent websites that allow staff to do psychometric tests which tell them where their talents lie. Belbin goes further and gives you an individual breakdown of both your teams and your individual team member’s skills and weaknesses both from their perspective and from their colleagues.

Once you have gone through this exercise, look at the talents needed for each role in your team and see how much of a fit there is between each person and their role. Do not be scared to suggest to people that they may be better at other areas of the business if that is where their talents lie. Anyone who does something they are talented at will enjoy their job far more.

In summary, play to people’s strengths and you will have a happier team, who enjoy what they are doing and who can be managed on how they have increased their strengths, rather than how they have not improved their weaknesses.

Andy Milburn is IFA market manager at Royal Liver


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