A business leader who was running a very successful organization spoke to me about one of her direct reports. “He has to learn to adapt to those who report to him, not the other way around,” she said.
I started thinking of how true that is. For leaders to succeed, they need to draw out the best in those that follow them. Since their followers have different personality types, a one-size-fits-all approach will leave some on the team less engaged.
What if the leader really understood those who follow him? What if he learned how his team was wired? Then, the leader could tap into the strengths of his team and, as a byproduct, benefit from their ingenuity, engagement, and support.
So, how do you become a flexible leader?
- Understand how each member of the team is wired.
There are objective and subjective ways to understand how each team member is wired. Objective assessments such as Myers-Briggs, Birkman, and DiSC can give you many clues. When the team members digest the results of the assessment, be sure to ask them what parts really fit and what parts did not fit as well.
Make note of those.
Subjectively, you can observe when they come alive more. You can also be alert to what others on the team say they do better than average. Ask them about their dreams and goals, even if they are not work-related. You will gain lots of insight into what makes them tick.
- Understand what their strengths are.
Very often with the objective assessments, the strengths are pegged in the results report.
However, dig in deeper with them. Ask them under what circumstances they come alive, and what it is about those times that causes them to feel more alive.
You can also ask them and those on their team what they do better than average.
Just go for the top three strengths.
- Provide them with opportunities where their strengths shine.
Once you know their strengths, think about how you can encourage those strengths to be displayed more. It might be that someone on the team does the majority of the presenting to clients. However, it could also be that after you brainstorm with them, you discover how to leverage their strengths across their role.
For example, I love getting to the heart of things and then developing actionable plans around those things. As I do this with clients, or talk about my services to potential clients, I am more in my groove.
When I try to get practical without getting to the essence first, I am not as strong in what I do. I greatly admire people who are quick with the “right” steps, but that is not me. I need a little more time so we can get to the essence of the matter, then plans seem to flow much more easily.
Take one of your direct reports. What is their top strength and how can they leverage it more?
- Encourage them to find ways to contain their weaknesses.
Time can be greatly wasted when someone focuses on overcoming their weaknesses instead of strengthening their strengths. I am not saying that weaknesses should not be worked on, but I am saying that their time might be better spent on learning to contain those weaknesses.
For example, I can be impulsive. I can tell you a bunch of now-humorous stories from my past to illustrate how my impulsiveness did not gain me the results I desired. Today, even though I run my own company, I don’t let major decisions be made without a “committee” of different personality types giving feedback on that decision. Just recently we made it a policy that I will discuss major decisions with the team and solicit their input. In addition, I will solicit help from those whom I believe would have good insights into the decision.
This has done wonders for my business life.
- Enjoy the fact that they will do things in a style that is different from yours.
Very often when we see one of our direct reports doing something in a different style, we get a sense of foreboding that “it is not going to go well." This fuels a sense of insecurity which, in turn, may prompt us to try to make them do things in the style we would do them in.
If this is our response, we are missing out on the ingenuity of those who are different from us. The other option is to learn from them. Perhaps we may grow even more by adapting some of what they do to our style.
Before the sense of foreboding takes over, turn on your curiosity and ask yourself, “What if their style can work really well for them?”
If you are still feeling insecure, then ask more questions before making any corrections. See if they have answers for some of the fears you may have.
Adapting your style to your team will help you to reach and pull out the potential that is inside of them.
In appreciation, those who follow you will increase their engagement and will want to support you even more.
Chew On This:
- How are the members of your team different? How can you meet them where they are at?
Ryan Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.
*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients. No one single client is being singled out.