This is the next in our series on the "Hu" (Human Element) of Organizational Effectiveness and Leadership.
"The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I'. They don't think 'I'. They think 'we'; they think 'team'."
Today, in looking at "Hu" centered leadership I want to explore the idea that a good leader will know and utilize the skills found on their team. For some, this is an easy topic and for others, it can be a bit intimidating. It is one of those "mom, apple pie and Hershey bar" type of statements where everyone nods agreement. In practice, though it often is missed either intentionally or for other reasons.
You are not Superman
I have to say that new leaders will often avoid this area as they have come into the role under the false impression that as a leader they must know it all. After all, it is a natural and common mistake as most people will move into leadership for technical expertise, not leadership skills. Validation has come not from what they do as leaders but how they contribute from a technical expertise perspective. Interestingly enough this struggle to let go of one's "expertise" to allow others to use their skills is not new.
Probably the best example I can provide is that of the game of chess. Aside from the pawn the weakest player on the board is the king. What exists on the board are in fact a team (okay army) of players who each have a unique skill (movement). The king doesn't have to do it all and in fact, can't do it all. But an effective chess player knows how to utilize the unique characteristics of each player to further their position in the game. And so it is with a good leader in a business unit, or crew or company.
You may have guessed from the previous pieces of this study that this does require the leader to get to know the skills on their team. Some companies are already getting pretty good at this and certainly, one useful tool is to develop a skills matrix. It will help you identify where there may be gaps in your team's skillsets and will allow you to address those gaps with either training or hiring. However whether the company has something like this or not, it is a good idea to get to know what your team members can contribute.
Look for the gems in the mix
Skills focus is about all your team's strengths which may include hitherto unknown skills (Excel wizard comes to mind) or if they have skills around things like communication, teamwork, detail vs global thinkers, and innovators. Since this series of articles is derived from Gallup's Strengths List suffice it to say that they have an extensive list of skills to explore and it makes for a good team-building exercise. There are other tools out there as well such as Myers-Briggs, Insights, and so on. And while I know that some of these items may be viewed as personality traits they are and can be profound skills as well which in the right circumstances can be used to really help the team meet its goals.
Everyone can contribute
Just a quick example (which is why the Excel wizard sprang to mind) of how that can work. One crew I was working with had developed personal metrics and team metrics but wanted to represent those numbers on something more than hand-drawn charts (which are fine by the way). It turns out that one of the crew, and literally the last person you would have thought of, had a real passion for Excel and volunteered to put a spreadsheet and graphs together for them. It was amazing and not only did wonders for the team but it really boosted that person's level of engagement as well. It was something that he was uniquely skilled at and he "owned" it.
Find your team's skills and be their advocate and encourager concerning developing them further. Train yourself to look for gaps that each individual can fill and let them go for it! Don't know your team's strengths? What are you waiting for? Performance Leadership - Think About It!