Leveraging strengths-based leadership to build more agile teams
Building an agile team culture is key to achieving success in a modern day organisation.
Why? Because agile teams showcase an understanding, balance, and alignment between everyone’s strengths and roles. It means people are unlikely to butt heads or find themselves competing against each other. (And no one likes to be stuck between an alpha versus alpha situation!)
When humans are strategically-placed into teams based on their abilities and capabilities, that’s where the magic happens. A strengths-based project team environment can improve engagement, productivity, retention, and overall work culture.
What is an agile team?
An agile team consists of people working intensively together to deliver a project, task, or deadline through planning and strategies. Teams are multidisciplinary - incorporating people with different experiences, strengths, skills, and qualities.
So what are some common characteristics of a high-performing agile team?
Here are six qualities you should strive for:
- Highly collaborative - High-performing team members who collaborate and support each other. People who openly and cooperatively work with others will produce better results.
- Good communicators - Do your team members listen well? Are they respectful and open-minded to input from others?
- Self-motivated - Self-driven team members take the initiative to step up and do whatever needs to be done without being prompted.
- Problem-solvers - Good thinkers identify issues, seek input, determine options, and help source the most viable solutions.
- Results-driven - Team members must understand the company’s vision and continually strive to produce high-quality results.
- Continuously seek improvement - Effective team members display a commitment of excellence through continuous improvement.
How do I build a strengths-based agile team?
To build a strong, agile team, you need to allocate project roles to people based on their strengths.
The end result? A successful completion of the project, which is on time, within budget, and achieves the objectives by leveraging the combined strengths of the team. Oh, and team members are also left with a sense of satisfaction based on their contribution and engagement because they are playing to their natural strengths!
In their book, ‘Developing Strengths-Based Project Teams’, Martha Buelt and Connie Plowman advise setting up teams with the following roles:
- Functional managers - Otherwise known as advocates, functional managers identify their team members’ short and long-term strengths during the project and after completion. Once the functional manager provides individual strengths development, each team member is likely to be fully engaged and continue to develop and apply their strengths.
- Project managers - As the conductors of the team, project managers lead and direct the team’s strengths development. They successfully contribute to the strengths-based culture by developing and using their own strengths. This ‘modelling’ behaviour encourages others to do the same. Ultimately, this creates a culture where team members can use their strengths to deliver a greater project impact.
- Project team members - Most importantly, you need project team members who act as the gears (aka the ‘doers’) that continually and intentionally apply their strengths. Once tasks are assigned, it’s vital for team members to identify how they can best use their strengths to accomplish them.
Supporting the development of your teams and individuals through a strengths-based lens can cultivate a company of great collaborators and impactful leaders.
3 steps to developing your team's natural talents
To leverage individual strengths for powerful results, we recommend incorporating the following three steps:
- Discover natural strengths: This can be achieved through a globally-validated strengths assessment like Gallup. This tool helps you understand ALL of your people - not just the top 15% - so everyone can be allocated to the right opportunities.
- Align individuals with the right projects: Allocate people to projects, tasks or opportunities that play to their strengths within a team. (Re-read above for the characteristics of agile team members roles)
- Ensure everyone understands the team’s strengths: Once placed, make sure everyone understands the combined strengths of the team and honour diversity (especially diversity of thought). Encourage learning from each other to truly leverage the power of strengths and to build upon their individual career paths.
When everyone understands their own natural talents - through the common language of strengths - there’s more clarity around the path to achieving common goals, increased engagement, greater success, and alignment.
Leaders who embrace a strengths-based approach and apply agile team principles can execute projects faster and more efficiently, improving the quality of the overall deliverables while also building trust and loyalty with their people. Then humans are also much happier.
At Humanico, we understand the importance of identifying certain characteristics and the genuine power of strengths when building your high performing agile teams. Equally by understanding who you have in your own backyard and by eliminating traditional hierarchy and bias it is sometimes surprising to see the options available through a strengths-based lens. It also strengthens the work culture and ensures staff retention.
For more information about how to build strengths-based agile teams, get in touch with us.
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