(What Are Your Strength Roles?)
What do people who excel in a particular job or position do differently than those who don’t. I’m talking about having exceptional levels of performance like engagement, retention, productivity, less work related accidents, or any job related performance you want to observe. It seems to always vary from team to team in the same job. Add to that the fact that in organizations, having human beings of all different stripes working as a team can seem daunting. Personalities, pre-wired dispositions, and learned behaviors make working toward unified goals seem impossible.
This highlights the need for good—even great—managers. Good managers find a way to capitalize on the fact that each human being’s nature and makeup is different. According to Donald Clifton and Marcus Buckingham (Break All The Rules), the two different words that would contrast good and challenged managers were capitalize vs. conformity. In other words, their modus operandi was not to force conformity to a particular style, but to capitalize on particular personal strengths of the employee. This is what made these managers standouts, which in turn made their employees standouts.
As a result, Buckingham wrote another book, Now, Discover Your Strengths. He created the Strength Finder. This tool was created for the individual. It has impacted many lives, including my own. For the last ten years it has helped us by providing a language to help us describe our strengths. The language was not text book, but descriptive. For example my top five strengths are maximizer, learner, individualization, strategic, and relator. They make sense. There are around 35 descriptions that have helped so many of us on an individual level.
But how does a manager in the real world of work use this? In one sense it makes the manager’s job much more complicated. Each person has their top five strengths. Great! The manager has ten direct reports with 50 different individual strengths to juggle in her head. And how does the manager, after recognizing the strength, make it useful to the team or to the organization? How do we get the best out of the employee, get it fast, and make sure it’s individually customized?
Enter his new research study (Gallup), and his new book, Stand Out. This work looked at the variety of different talents in a number of jobs and came up with nine they call Strength Roles. They are roles that can be played well or poorly. They simply describe the role you would play on any team and the resulting value to that team.
They are worth looking at.
1. Advisors—They are pragmatic. They will say, “here’s what we need to do in this situation.” They love to solve problems.
2. Connectors—They are asking, “who can I connect to what?” To them the world is a constant set of connections to people and things. They might not be doing much except connecting people and possibilities—you and others—to a bigger idea, a better product, a more efficient process. You know the type. They seem to magically pull an idea or person from their mental rolodex.
3. Creator—This person first asks, “what do I understand?” “How do I make sense of the world?” So the leader turns to the creator to make sense of the whole thing. “Why should we buy or sell?” They might need extra time for thinking, and they don’t like being rushed. They want order, not surprises.
4. Equalizer—They lead with, “what’s the right thing to do?” It can be moral order, as well as commitments made and met. There’s also a sense of structural order and predictability. Do what you say you are going to do. They want systems that follow through on commitments.
5. Influencer—They always move people and teams towards action. They are acutely sensitive to momentum, whether it’s a meeting or a presentation. “How can I move you to do something you didn’t intend to do?” Every connection is a sale.
6. Pioneer—Their default question is “what’s new and what’s next?” They see the world as a huge opportunity. Things don’t have to necessarily be the way they are. We could try this or that. In fact, we should! The pessimist sees ambiguity and what could go wrong. The pioneer doesn’t care and will stick their nose around the corner. They see possibility in truth.
7. Provider—Their first question is, “are you okay?” They are sensitive to the individual emotional location of a person. “Are you alright? What’s going on?” They actually create safe places for creativity and provide governors for any leader that might squash someone’s opinion. They don’t let others steal someone else’s idea. This is the “I got your back” group.
8. Stimulator—Their first question is, “how do I raise the energy of this conversation—this room?” They are acutely sensitive to the emotional trajectory of a situation. They feel a responsibility to keep it up when it’s going down. They don’t always want to be on stage, but they are aware of the staging. They often need downtime to replenish their emotional spark.
9. Teacher—Their first question is, “what can I learn? What can they learn?” People are seen as growing beings with potential. It can be tiny increments or huge leaps, but people are works in progress. They don’t mind getting on our porches and seeing the world from our vantage point. And they don’t mind if you run another direction than them.
So where do you find yourself? It’s not so much how you see yourself as much as how you come across to others. What you will discover (if you watch), is that you will continuously jump into a situation in a certain way. It’s not random. It’s a pattern. If you are a connector or an influencer, you will begin to see how you come across to others. I guarantee you that they see it.
So as you see your pattern, instead of coming across that way accidently, you can now come across that way on purpose. It’s your personal algorithm. Now you can perfect your role and avoid the pitfalls (every role has them).
As a manager, what unique advantage does each person bring? How can I leverage that strength role to create a more effective and efficient team?
We have genetic based medicine. How about genetic based leadership?
Yours for empowering people to live life on purpose.
(Mick Ukleja is the co-author of the book Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life)