Playing to Strengths

After reading my Listening post, blog reader and friend Mark Townsend of Enterasys dropped an e-mail to me expanding on his thoughts about listening and teamwork. In it, he drew a parallel to a recent best-ball golf tournament in which he played. He described the team as four guys, each with unique strengths and talents. As they learned to play to the strengths of each, they found that each member participated, contributed, and benefited. As a result, they were successful together in ways that they could not have been alone.

This is the ultimate goal of any good team, and therefore must be among the primary goals of the leader.

Mark then outlined his bullet points for management:

  • Communicate the vision for the department and company clearly
  • Engage each team player's individual strengths - but also allow fair competition to stretch outside and make the shot
  • Each team player should feel that they contributed - player fulfillment sustains teams
  • Each team player should not be typecast to a single role - in the golf analogy, a person making a great drive might later in the round make the winning putt. Allowing players to play outside their comfort zone can lead to team success (must be managed though!)

Furthermore, he mentioned, "In our round - we let our "champion" shoot last. It took the pressure off of the lower-skilled players and if we secured a great shot early - it let the champion take a more riskier shot than he normally would have. It also alleviated "performance anxiety" for the lesser skilled golfers. They weren't trying to beat a great shot made by a team member."

There is a lot to be learned from these insights, and the best leaders will consider the parallels with their team and their leadership. One difficulty might be in viewing skills and talents that you don't have with an objective eye. Another might be valuing the various benefits each member brings to the table. Developing this perspective is vitally important for optimum performance.

How about you?