One of my favorite team development books is John Maxwell’s “The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork.” In it Maxwell talks about the Law of the Niche, which says that, “All players have a place where they add the most value.”
Like most of Maxwell’s principles and laws, it makes perfect sense when you think about it. After all, working in your area of strength is a crucial element for your happiness at work. And we all know a happy employee is a more productive employee.
The Importance of Knowing Your Team Members’ Strengths
The opposite is also true: employees who aren’t allowed to work in their area of strength often feel frustrated and stressed.
As a young leader, I’ll never forget promoting one of my best producers by making her a leader of a division. Though I knew she was a talented hard worker, I failed to analyze her strengths, and leadership wasn’t one of them.
She could barely lead herself; how in the world was she ready to lead anybody else? It wasn’t long before my decision made us both miserable. She was stressed about having to lead and serve others because it took her away from where she shined. I was stressed watching her performance, production, and happiness slowly fade away. I took a star performer out of her area of strength and made her a sub-standard player.
It didn’t take long before we both agreed it was best for her, me, and the company if we could get her back into her area of strength. That was a great decision and one we were both happy about.
This situation also opened my eyes to the fact that everyone is not cut out to lead. Leading a team, a division, or a company should not be everyone’s career goal. What should be our goal is to know our strengths and to find a way to operate there as much as possible.
Identifying Your Team Members’ Strengths
There are few things more important for a leader than identifying the strengths of their teammates. Once identified, the next trick is to work towards keeping every player in their strength zone as often as you can.
How do you identify an employee’s strengths?
- Just ask! One of my past bosses simply asked, “When do you feel that you’re at your best performance-wise?” I didn’t hesitate with my answer; I knew my sweet spot was in developing teams. Not only did I like it, but I also had a successful history proving the value in my operating in this strength zone. When you develop teams, you develop energy. Energy develops momentum and sales, resulting in a profitable company. Profits usually make everyone happy!
- Another way to identify a person’s strengths is to observe. Where do they participate? Where do they excel? Where do they apply their energy?
- Finally, I’ve also found it valuable for everyone on our team to take the StrengthsFinder assessment, which helps individuals determine five themes that best describe their areas of strength.
It’s the leader’s job to know what their teammates’ strengths are. Of course it’s not always possible to carve out a position for a person or to transfer a person into another job so that they can be in their area of strength. But there are ways to let them serve on projects or strategic planning teams that assist in maximizing their talents and their contributions to the company.