Lead Through Strengths

Our sixth core concept is a perfect build-on to the “Plus One, Minus One” activity mentioned in our previous episode, Concept #5: “Not an Excuse.” 

Plus one, in particular, is about mining your team of the things they want to have more of. Then, as you dig deeper into this challenge, it’s amazing what you’ll discover from each of the team member’s responses. 

The Story Behind ‘Gimme That Escalation’ 

In one of the recent training sessions, a guy came forward and expressed what he has written on his wish list. 

I would love to have more escalation calls.” 

This statement set off these confused looks and reactions among others in the room. 

Did he just say that right? ‘I want more escalation calls?”  

What is he talking about?” 

These people were shocked that the guy was wanting more escalation calls. So of course, they had to ask him for further explanation.

According to the guy, he’s the “deepest subject-matter expert in the whole organization on this matter. He’s quite confident that he can very well handle when a customer turns utterly irate.

“I know that they can be so frustrated and can give up any time, but I know I'm gonna resolve it. If anyone can, it's me.” 

His awareness and certainty that he has the resolution and knowledge to turn things around fires up his love for doing escalations. And for that, we have named this concept in his honor.

Open Up To Meaningful Conversations 

The guy’s gimme that escalation statement opened up a whole conversation with others in the room. If you guessed that his teammates instantly offered him their own escalation calls, that’s not far-fetched at all. But expecting him to accept all escalations may not be realistic since of course, he actually has to get some other stuff done

While the guy got more escalations after such conversation, he also freed up his plate with tasks that were on his “minus one” list. Obviously, he was able to achieve the “plus one, minus one” balance, thanks to some good thinking and meaningful conversation. 

Opening up about what you want more of — though oftentimes surprising many in the room — can create a shift in the tasks. This proves that indeed one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Expanding The Concept 

How can we expand this concept further so it’s easier to apply? Consider the following as fun exercises for you as an individual or as a manager. 

1. As an individual: Discover other people’s “trash” tasks

  •  Gather information. Consider walking around the office and listen for what people are kvetching, complaining or procrastinating about. This is not to suggest that you join in the watercooler talk or random office conversations. Your goal is to capture as much information as you can for this little internal research project. 
  • Look out for “magic” moments. Most likely as you listen, you’ll find some “aha” moments. You discover that certain things people complain about are not bad at all. They could be stuff you actually like doing. You’ll find that what others consider as an area of weakness or difficulty might be an area of expertise for you. As you look out for these moments, compare and take notes. 

2. As a manager: Discover your team’s “loathe” list and shift tasks when possible

Imagine if you knew what each of your team members’ trash tasks were, especially their top list. Just knowing this could be really important because you are able to spot whether the “loathe” list includes tasks they have to do every day. You get an insight into the team’s demotivation points.  

In reality, it might not be that outright and easy to shift things around, as tasks that people hate still need to get accomplished. But in a lot of workplaces, the assignments are not homogenous, so you might have some power to be able to switch things around. Perhaps you could take something off the plate of a top performer in your team who may be losing interest in their job as they have to do what they loathe on a daily basis. 

Time And Trust Are Key

Opening up a conversation with your team members about the tasks they hate require a lot of trust. That's why you can't do strengths just as a one-time offsite team building and expect it to create all the magic things in the world. It takes meaningful conversation over time, up to that point they are comfortable enough to say, “Sure, I'm gonna give it my number one best, but I actually hate this job duty.” 

The ‘Gimme That ________’ Exercise

On the flip side, this exercise can prove powerful for the whole team, as it opens some cool opportunities. When assigning projects to your team members, consider these:

  • Their strengths. For each team member, find and assign to them that thing that lives in their strengths zone, especially if it's not in the strengths zone of everyone else. What is it that they love and makes them come alive?
  • Their expertise. Think about the projects that tend to get assigned at work. Those who are good at certain skills or knowledge areas related to those projects can be the go-to persons. 
  • Their development plan. If you’re the type of manager who puts considerable thought on what a person wishes to develop, as expressed in their individual development plan, be on the lookout for a relevant opportunity or project for them.

Sometimes, however, it can be pretty difficult when you’re finding an opportunity for them based on expertise and career goals. Let’s say a team member wants a very specific project, and you happen to have just one project like that and it’s already assigned to another person. This leaves you with very little choice as a leader. 

As a team leader, what do you do? 

Gimme That Challenge 

Here’s your challenge: get cool with limiting or difficult situations like that and then approach the conversation in terms of talent themes. 

As we know, talent themes are about how they get things done. You can just imagine what strengths and talent themes can come up. So, here’s what you can do.

  1. Ask each person to think about their talent themes.
  2. Let them come to you with 3 examples of projects that call on how they think/feel/operate in the world. 

Check out these “gimme that ________” scenarios:

1)  Gimme that situation. (Includer talent):

Okay, next time you're assigning projects and it’s important for you to find someone who will thoroughly listen to all of the requirements of each stakeholder, really cares what each person has to say, and want every voice of every department to be represented -- call on me.”  

2)   Gimme that dilemma. (Deliberative talent):

“Hey, next time you're assigning a project and you need someone to look at the downstream risks of a decision, or someone who can think seven or eight steps ahead about all the things that could go wrong so that we don't step in the potholes -- I'd love it if you consider me.” 

3)   Gimme that complex problem. (Restorative talent):

“Next time you're assigning projects and you have one that just seems like a big, hairy problem, I hope you'd think of me. I love to roll up my sleeves and just really get into all of the ways to solve a complicated problem.” 

With this approach, what they provide could allow you more space and flexibility in assigning projects.

You’ll find that there are actually a lot more opportunities for each individual than if their “gimme that _____” was too specific and narrow. 

This becomes awesome to you as a manager, especially that some people in your team don’t want to deal with such kinds of problems. 

Key Takeaway

It’s important that you get your team to communicate their wish list of work and projects that align with their strengths. This will help you look for opportunities and assignments where they can apply those easy buttons every day on the job and give their best. 

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: “T” for "takes time and intention." Stay tuned!

Direct download: 114-Gimme-That-Escalation.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CST