team development

The Mark of a Master Strategist

Master strategists are a rare breed of people.  They are able to play high level chess and make it look as simple as playing checkers. A few years ago, I started working with a vice president whose role was to head up a Latin American department for a Fortune 1000 company.  As we brainstormed different initiatives, he more than showed himself to be a master strategist.

As his coach, my job was to provide an environment where he could explore various options for resolving the issues he wanted to resolve.  As he answered questions, I learned so much about strategizing that I felt like I should pay him for letting me sit in on his “thinking time.”

If you want to become a master strategist, there are certain key disciplines to consider developing.  If you read last week’s blog, you will know that the insights on this blog and the next come from a team of very talented directors in a well known global company.

While being tactical is a practical, hands-on skill, strategy is a thinking skill.  One that can be grown and developed.

Certain personality types, especially INTJ’s, have a strong predisposition towards becoming master strategists, but the VP that I mentioned in the first paragraph, along with many other ISTJ or ESTJ VPs I’ve worked with, have grown from being master tacticians to developing a real knack for being strategic.

Here are the marks of a master strategist:

1. Master strategists free up time & then fiercely protect that time.

Strategists must have room in their schedule and mind to think.  They look for ways to block off even 15 mins just to think.

Once they free up time, they protect it, just like they would an important meeting. Time and space to brainstorm are not seen as a waste but as an essential part of success.

Without taking this first step seriously, they wouldn’t be able to move to upper levels of strategy.

2. They spend time with those who are also master strategists and those that are higher up than them.

Nothing beats being around the masters. They look around and find those who really get strategy and become a regular feature on their calendar. They ask if they can sit in on times when they are brainstorming strategies with their team and soak it all in. A master strategist surrounds himself with like-minded people.

3. They think long term.

Master strategists typically think long-term--3, 5 and even 10 years ahead. They consider how the events of today are going to impact that time frame. They think about other industry events and where they will be in the long term. In essence, they are futuristic, taking into account the long-term impact of their decisions.

4. They stay close to the company’s broader vision.

Master strategists pay close attention to the company’s broader vision and align strategies with it.  This is a great way to gain buy-in throughout the organization.

5. They cultivate different points of view.

Master strategists develop relationships with different departments so that they can get a feel for what they care about, how they think about it, the concerns and issues they have, what they consider to be successes and where they sense the future is headed.

In doing so, they are able to spot trends (see below) and think big picture.

6. They step back & spot trends.

As they get to know different departments, master strategists start to see certain themes that are consistent across the company. They see how others in the company think through things. They see things the way that higher-ups see them. But they also get a feel for what is going on in the front lines, which often the higher-ups don’t get to see as quickly as they might.

They also look at the data and see what the company wants to invest in over the long haul.

7. They plan ahead to take advantage of those trends.

Once they see the trends, they ask themselves how, in their specific role, they can take advantage of those trends.

They manage risks by first filling the facts box and sharing those facts with key executives; then, they can write a summary page so the executives know what they will be getting.

They must define what issues they are facing and be thorough with the process.

They need a robust fact base to make sure that they are solving for a real need.

Any alternatives should be fought about.

Strategic thinking is about asking the right questions: How will we win?  What is at stake?  How do you define success? What would the different departments say about this plan?

Master strategists think of all the angles so they can anticipate every question and plan for it with their team. They also make sure they are clear on what they need to execute their plan.

8. They foresee obstacles and plan ahead to overcome those obstacles.

Master strategists also consider the obstacles that are going to come.  Once they see the trends, they ask themselves what obstacles will naturally appear.

They take the list and decide how their team can best tackle those obstacles before they even arise.

9. They get validation and buy-in, paying close attention to feedback.

They consider who needs to buy in, thinking in terms of what the stakeholders value and how their plan fits in with those values.

As they implement their plan, they pay attention to the feedback they receive and make tweaks. They are aware of when it may be best to abandon the plan.

10. They anticipate the informational needs of their boss and boss’s boss.

Thinking in terms of what their boss and boss’ boss want to know to make decisions at their level, they may gain greater insights in how to think strategically.

Becoming a master strategist is easier for some than for others.  However, everyone can improve their strategic skills by recognizing the marks of a master stragetist.

 

Chew On This:

  • How can you become a more skilled strategist?
  • Who on your team embodies these strengths?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that equips leaders to develop in-demand high-performing-teams.

How To Work With Someone You Don't Like

how-to-work-with-someone-you-dont-likeHigh performing teams exist when there is a high degree of mutual trust and respect.  Team members need to believe in each other’s abilities and fight to draw out the best in everyone on the team.  All members need to know that they belong. But what happens if there’s someone on the team that you just don’t like? Maybe the person is too abrasive, too blunt. Or maybe it’s the opposite: they are too passive. In order to avoid conflict, they appear inauthentic. Or maybe they are ego-centric.  Then again, maybe you can’t put your finger on why you don’t like them; you just don’t.

Whatever the reason is, you need to know that when you don’t like someone, it will affect your ability to work with them.  Your degree of trust in them, your respect for them, and your belief in their abilities will all be impacted, with the result that you are not going to want to fight to draw out the best in them.  Most of us want to spend as little time as possible around people we don’t like.

The good news is that you can learn to trust and respect them, and even believe in their abilities.

1. Get to the root of your reason for not liking them.

What is it about them you don’t like?  List the character flaws or behaviors that really bother you.

Next ask yourself, What is it about those traits that leads you to feel that way?

Is it that you have some of those traits?  Yup, ouch!  If we don’t like someone, it is often because that person has traits that we see in ourselves, and don’t like.  The good news on this one is that you can start turning your dislike into empathy just by realizing that the person you don’t like is a lot more like you than you thought.  You have a negative trait in common, and if both are willing, you can even partner with each other to overcome it.

Is it that this person has the same traits as someone who hurt you in the past, someone whom you have never forgiven? Do you seem to keep bumping into that kind of person? If so, that could be a sign that you have never fully forgiven the person who hurt you originally. Consequently, when you meet someone with similar traits, you become defensive and over-react.  The key here is to forgive fully the original person.

Or is it that you just don’t like a particular personality trait? For example, Thinkers vs Feelers.  Thinkers are about truth.  So they freeze their emotions in order to get to what they would consider objective reality.  In the process of freezing their emotions, they can come across as cold, abrasive, and too blunt.  Understandably, this can lead to conflict or disharmony. Feelers are about harmony.  They hate conflict.  As a result, they can appear inauthentic, or even manipulative in order to avoid disagreement and maintain harmony.  But this can prevent the truth from coming out. Can you see why it would be easy to dislike someone who is the opposite of your personality bent?

2. It’s okay that you don’t like them.

I know, I know... This is not what we were taught in kindergarten.  But it’s true that at the end of the day, we can work through whatever forgiveness issues we may have, we can learn to appreciate personality differences, we can even overcome our negative traits, but still not really like someone.  We may have learned to tolerate them and even to see value in our differences, but we are not ready to start hanging out with them.  That is okay.

The important thing is that you work through your stuff, while still showing them the dignity that all humans deserve to be shown.

In addition, if we are going to work with them we are going to have to up our trust, respect and belief in their abilities.

3. Increase your desire to trust, respect, and believe in their abilities.

If you don’t want to like them, you are not going to like them.  The same is true if you don’t want to trust, respect, or believe in their abilities.  Sometimes we need to list reasons why we should increase our desire for the good of the team.

You can go about this in several ways. One staple of mine is to ask a “What if” question.  “What good could come if...” So in this case it is, “What good could come if I trust, respect, and believe in their abilities?”  Notice I did not say what good will come.  I said what good could come.  Here is where you want to list as many good things as possible that could come.

If I am struggling to want something that I don’t want, and I ask a “What good could come?” question, I may come up with only 2 or 3 things, and not feel really satisfied.  Try Googling “Benefits of trusting a co-worker,” and you will find more to add to the list.

You can also think of the benefits you yourself have received from trusting, or respecting, or believing in a co-worker, and add those to the list.

The idea is to come up with as many things as you can think of until you see your attitude changing to one of increased desire.  Then, as that desire gets fueled, you won’t be able to stop yourself from taking action.

4. While you are working on the first three, know that you don’t have to act on what you feel towards them.

One of the things that I love about emotional intelligence training is seeing how someone learns to increase their emotional self-awareness and then learns to regulate their emotions on the fly.  The confidence that comes is tremendous.  You can learn to do the same.

As you learn, stay away from gossiping about them.  Instead, actively find ways to help them.  That will help you to change your attitude towards them.

5. Find the good in them for you and the greater whole of the team.

They are on the team for good reasons.  Identify and focus on those reasons and you will find yourself able to handle the less desirable traits much better.

6. Set boundaries with clear upfront communication.

If part of why you don’t like them is that they “push your buttons,” then know that you are not their victim. You alone are responsible for your response to those buttons being pushed.

Read some blogs or books on boundaries, and learn some basic techniques for minimizing your exposure to toxic behaviors.  One of the biggest ones I have learned is to use clear upfront communication, like speaking in terms of, “When you do X I feel Y.”  Notice you are not telling them what to do. Instead, you are making them aware of your response to their behavior.

If they don’t want to do anything about X, then you can step it up a notch and request a change in the behavior. Or you can say “If you don’t want to stop doing X, then I am going to leave the room for a bit and consider how we can find a different way to communicate. You have a lot to offer this team and I don’t want to let my response impact the success of this project.”  In other words, fully own that it is your response you're working on, and then take active steps to work on it.

7. How do those who work successfully with them interact with them?

Are there some on the team who work better than you do with the person you don’t like?  If so, what are they doing that’s different?  Adopting some of their techniques can be helpful.

8. Celebrate the times when they are displaying likeable behaviors.

During times that they are doing things that are much more likeable, recognize it and celebrate it.  “I really love it when you do ABC." That type of emphatic acknowledgement could go a long way towards long-lasting behavioral change.

9. Radical idea #1: Choose to work on a really tough project with them.

People who work on something really tough together tend to bond better.  It also helps to draw out the interpersonal dynamics more, and that forces you to deal with them more quickly since the tough project needs to be accomplished.

10. Radical idea #2: Find ways to laugh with them.

People who laugh together start to like each other more.

I remember watching a really funny movie when I lived in New York.  After the lights came on and audience members made eye contact as they left the theater, it was obvious that they felt warm towards each other.

On a team, that warmth develops into a real liking of each other.

If you don’t like someone on your team, you have the choice either to be stuck with them, or to find ways to make the most of the relationship. The person you thought you never would like may become one of your closest co-workers. Stranger things have happened!

Chew On This:

  • What will you do to escape the sense of being stuck with someone and, instead, make the most of the relationship?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business 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.

How to Hold A High Standard While Being Gracious

how-to-hold-a-high-standard-while-being-graciousHigh performing teams will draw out the best in their team members. However, it’s impossible to do that without holding them to a high standard. Upholding a high standard requires tact and skill. You need to be careful how you explain the standard, and how you enforce it.

If you come on too strong, you run the risk of intimidating the team, making them afraid to take risks, or forcing them to hide their mistakes.

If you come on too weak, the team may not get your message full-strength or respect you.

Here are six ways to approach your team with a standard and grace:

1. If you present the high standard in an attitude of belief in your direct reports (you know they can achieve and maintain it), you are more apt to win their confidence and avoid creating a fear of failure.

2. Be clear in defining and explaining the standard, and confident that it is achievable, then solicit your direct report’s input on how they want the team to achieve it.  What is excellent to you may not be excellent to each member of your team. Your team wants to know your definition. Please be sure to make it as tangible as possible so that everyone knows when it is achieved. Some examples may include the percentage you want sales to increase, or how much you want to see their engagement score increase by.  Once it is clear what the standard is, it is time to see their ingenuity at work. How do they want to achieve it?  By listening carefully to their response, you will not only learn a lot about them but also about how to improve your style of achieving excellence.

3. Implement a flexible leadership style. It is time to adjust your style to your team according to their personality type. How do they work best?  What helps them be successful?  What energizes them?  What frustrates them?  What stresses them out?  How do they want to be held accountable to the work?  (You should not be the accountability partner here; instead, encourage them to own the project. Instead of checking in with them half way through the project, they could let you know halfway through.) Where are they likely to fall short and how can they best overcome those shortfalls? How do you want to be updated?  These are all questions to consider. When you use a flexible leadership style, you set them up for success.

4. Be clear on what the priorities are and share the reason why, so they gain more of a strategic mindset.

5. Review review review. Have a review time with your direct report. What's working great?  Can it be systematized?  For some ideas on that, look at the book, E-Myth Revisited. If you can get it into best practice form, that will pay dividends for you and your team. What's not working well?  How could it be improved? Some go with a “top 3 things going well” and then a “top 3 things to improve” review.

6. Now the key to maintaining the high standard is what happens when the team falls short of the high standard. It is important not to lower the standard to mediocrity, or else your team will become mediocre. Instead, move towards showing grace.  This is a time to show a high degree of empathy and to lead with appropriate vulnerability. This is a great time for both you and your direct report to look for ways to improve. Since you made sure the standard was achievable, you want to move towards a solid debrief. I would encourage the direct report to write how they should have done things differently, and you can refine their thoughts so that you both have principles for the future

Holding a high standard is essential. So is showing grace when the standard is not met. The key is to keep believing in your direct report until they show they cannot perform their role or are unwilling to grow in their role.

Chew On This:

  • What would your team be like if they were fighting for the higher standard while knowing that they would be met with grace if they came up short?

Ryan Bailey is an Executive Coach who specializes advancing excellence in leadership and across business teams.

MBTI Bite: Must-Have Tips For Working With The Dominant Personality Type In the Corporate World

mbti-bite-estjESTJ’s dominate middle management and above, for lots of reasons. This personality type loves work. They are dedicated, tough, and they delight in making order out of chaos. They know how to delegate and how to do it fairly. They are direct and honest. These are all traits that senior leadership values. Even without knowing anything about personality types, it’s not hard to spot patterns in who gets promoted, and to notice that it often happens to the ESTJ’s. They are naturally-bent leaders, and it shows in the hiring and promoting process. However, there are 15 other equal personality types in the workplace. They too have gifts and talents that are extremely valuable to the corporate world.

We are entering an era in which a flexible management style is imperative for drawing out the best our teams have to offer. A flexible management style results when a leader learns the personality type of each person he/she leads, draws out their particular gifts, and utilizes those gifts to produce superior results for the team.

We have learned that if we allow one personality type to dominate, blind spots are created through the lack of diversity on our teams. This leads to a sharper and often more diverse competitor taking market share.

We can’t afford that any more.

So we are seeing other personality types ascend to the top of the corporate ladder. However, I think we will always have more ESTJ’s in leadership because their natural gifts are so crucially beneficial.

Here are some tips on how to work with the ESTJ's on your team:

1. ESTJ’s are unlikely to experiment with new ways of doing things, but they are open to a new idea that is proven to work better.

ESTJ’s love creating order out of chaos. Once in order, they will follow whatever routines are necessary to enforce that order.

This often leads to them doing things just ONE way.

This can get boring to those who have a personality type that values variety or experimentation.

What’s worse is that a team that is not taking risks will stop growing. So ESTJ’s need to have their one way appropriately challenged with a proven new method.

Once the new method is proven, the ESTJ will see great value in you and your thought leadership.

Those of us who like to speculate on ways that something could be done better would do well to prove it to ourselves first, before presenting it to an ESTJ boss.

Another option is to announce ahead of time that you want to brainstorm a possibility with your ESTJ boss. Most ESTJ’s want to take action on ideas; they don’t relish “just talking about ideas for the sake of talking."

2. Since ESTJs do things by the book, you have to be careful when you challenge the book, because that can be viewed as a direct challenge to their authority.

So for me, the key phrase in point one that will help us with point two is “appropriately challenged." ESTJ team leaders want to be respected. They will defend their team hard against those who may want to harm the team through a cutback or some other threat. Since they are loyal to their team, they get rankled when they perceive that someone on their team is disrespecting or questioning their authority.

Challenging the rules or established routines that have saved the team from chaos in former days is often perceived by an ESTJ leader as a personal core challenge.

If you catch your ESTJ boss on a day when they are especially stressed, don’t be surprised if you are hit with an outburst of emotions.

Before you challenge the established way of doing something, make sure you’ve proven that it works, or at least ask to brainstorm a new solution.

Then make sure to ask the boss for time to discuss.

Be direct yet tactful with them. If you’re brainstorming, say something like, “I think I see a way to make XYZ even better. Would you be open to discuss it?”

If you have actually proven the solution, then it could be, “Jack and I may have found a way to make XYZ even better. We have run some experiments that show promise. Would you like to hear about it?”

Even though S’s on Myers Briggs love details, if your boss is a VP (or above) at a large company, don’t be surprised if they can fill in the details once they hear your bullet points. So let them know what the bullet points are and that you have details behind them.

3. ESTJ’s will micromanage or be overbearing, especially if they believe you are not working smart or, even worse, have a bad work ethic.

If you want to kill your chances of being promoted with your ESTJ boss, just let them see you have a bad work ethic and they will find a way to silo you. ESTJ's are hard workers. They respect and value a team that works hard as well.

If you are the type of person that does your best work as the deadline gets closer (See P is for Perceiver), then let your boss know about that. Specifically request that the project be broken down into smaller pieces, with hard deadlines for each of those pieces. Then let your boss know that you will get the highest inspiration about “an hour” before the deadline is due.

Let them see the magic you can do in that last hour so that they understand that you don’t necessarily have a bad work ethic the rest of the time.

ESTJ’s are incredible managers. They will fight for you and the team and stand their ground even through some tough resistance. Play to their strengths and you will see the dynamic between the two of you grow stronger.

Chew On This:

  • What does your ESTJ boss need to know about how you work best in order for the two of you to work more effectively?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business 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.

12 Steps to Lead Effective Meetings

12 steps to lead effective meetings Meetings are inevitable.  They are important to get the team members aligned and leverage their talents.  

But do there have to be so many?  Some business leaders look at their calendar and realize that most of their week is spent in meetings.  There is nothing worse than going to a meeting and wondering why you are there or thinking that your time could have been better spent elsewhere.  

As the lead for your team, it is important that you train those who report to you on how to run effective meetings.  

Like it or not, an unacknowledged recommendation for promotion is the ability to lead meetings effectively.  Those who run meetings well are viewed as credible, capable and respectable.  Those who don’t are typically viewed as incapable, uncaring, disorganized, or incompetent.  

Here are some on how to lead meetings well:

  • Structure the meeting.

Everyone needs to get on the same page. It is important that participants know why they are attending the meeting and how to focus their contributions.  A simple structure that is effective for getting the team aligned includes:

      • What is the purpose of the meeting?
      • What are the objectives and goals?
      • What are we going to walk away from the meeting with?
  • Send out Request for Input.

Once you have the structure, send it out to the participants at least one day ahead and ask for any agenda items that are relevant, given the structure.  Let them know that they have until X day and time to get those agenda items in, so you can evaluate which ones to go with and send out the agenda to the entire team.

This Request for Input will help the participants to start thinking about the meeting.  It will clue them in on how to prepare.

It will help you to gain insights on what is brewing in each individual’s mind and in their various departments.  

  • Determine the agenda, time allotments and attendees.

Few agenda items should be focused on the desired action that will be taken. (Don’t use meeting time to review or share information.  That should happen in the pre-read.)

Make sure that the agenda flows according to your priority.  Don’t try to please everyone.  It is not going to happen.  Go with the best that you received for the greater good of the company and team.  (Show each participant that they are valuable even if others are given more time or accolades.)

For each item:

  • Determine start and stop time.
  • State the goal for that agenda item.
  • List who is the Presenter/Owner.

Make sure the Presenter/Owner is clear on what they are presenting.

Be sure to get their goals and objectives for their section so that you can send it out in the official agenda.

Leave time in each section for open discussion.

  • Prep the meeting locale.

If possible, change up the meeting locale just to give the team different experiences.  

(For shorter meetings, try doing stand-up meetings where all participants are standing.)

Make sure the room is equipped with what you need (whiteboard, markers, whiteboard eraser, projectors, screens).

On your calendar, set an appointment for yourself before the meeting to make sure that the room is set up as desired.

  • Disseminate pre-meeting prep.

Determine what pre-reads are absolutely necessary to make decisions.  This can include any supporting documents such as reports, surveys, etc.  If helpful, highlight the key points to make it easier for participants to scan those documents, in case they haven’t had time to do a thorough pre-read.

Also, have in mind which participants would be best for key roles, such as:

      • The Note taker- They are responsible for:
        • Action items, noting who is responsible and by when it will be accomplished.
        • Key decisions.
        • Issues that came up.
        • What needs to be discussed in the future.
        • Preparing all of the above in a template.
        • (Note: They are not to take notes on the discussion itself, only the decisions.)
      • The Time Tracker- They:
        • Have permission to interrupt, with countdowns of when that topic is to be completed.
        • If the leader says that more time is necessary, the time tracker needs to know how many more minutes is worth giving to that section.
      • The Option Generator:
        • This person is responsible for ensuring that at least three options for resolving a decision are generated (even if quickly dismissed).
  • Set up rules for meeting success.

As the facilitator of the meeting, it’s your call if a tangent is useful or not.  Keep in mind that tangents that generate ideas, or suggest solutions are typically valuable, but tangents that involve complaining, blame-shifting, minimizing responsibility, or rationalizing a mistake, typically are not.

Let the team know that you are going to risk hurting feelings for the sake of the team, and in the future there should be fewer negative tangents.

Let the team know that if one member starts to discuss a topic that is not germane to the goals of this meeting, you will ask the note taker to write that topic down for a future meeting.

Encourage everyone to speak, because even “dumb things can spark ideas in someone else’s mind, which the team would not have heard otherwise.

Also, let them know that in the interests of respecting everyone’s time, and to encourage each person to grow in their ability to contribute meaningfully, you will be ending the meeting on time (see below for exception).

  • Once starting the meeting:
    • Thank everyone for participating in the meeting.
    • Share what is going to happen in the meeting.
    • Share the desired outcomes.
  • Facilitate keeping the structure while still allowing for flexibility:
    • Know what stage you are in:
      • When it is time to brainstorm, let others know and make sure to stress that there is to be no judgment during this phase.
      • When it is time to evaluate options, let the others know that brainstorming has ended.
      • When it is time to make decisions, let them know that the evaluation of options has ended.

Spell out key action items framed in SMART format, decisions made, steps to follow-up, and future issues to consider so that the Note Taker has them

Use humor effectively to make meetings more fun

Make sure to add a flexible portion to the meeting towards the end.  It is important to give some open-ended time.

Don’t be afraid to chuck a part of the agenda if it is clear that the flow of the meeting is going in a different direction.

  • Radical idea- Always end the meeting on time.

Some participants can get really detailed.  Sometimes the details are important, but in order to help them and the others to be sharper and more focused, end the meeting on time, regardless of where you are.

At first, this may frustrate some people, but you as the agenda setter will learn how much time a meeting actually needs, and the participants will learn to be sharper and more succinct when they need to be.

If you let them know at the beginning of the meeting, that will help them as they go through the meeting.

The exception: if it looks like something major is about to happen, then just ask for 10mins to complete it, but the idea is to get the team used to working within a specific time frame, and no longer.

  • Close the meeting with action steps.

Summarize what was accomplished.

Ask the Note Taker to read the action items:

  • Make sure it is clear
  • Frame as much as possible in a SMART format
  • This creates team accountability

State that notes will be disseminated within 24 hours.

Ask for progress emails to be sent at critical intervals.

  • Do not hold meetings to discuss progress; that is expensive.
  • Only request follow up meetings if there are more decisions that need to be made.
  • Send out thank you’s with the meeting minutes within 24 hours of the meeting
  • Thank the participants for their contribution and time.
  • Clearly list action items, who is responsible for them, and the deadlines.
  • If not clear from the action items list, state what other things were decided.
  • Do not share what was discussed.
  • Refine, refine, refine.

Leave time after the meeting to ask yourself:

      • What were the highlights of the meeting?
      • What should I keep doing?
      • If I could wave a magic wand, what would I do differently?
      • What should I start doing?

Following a template like the one above will simplify facilitation and will give your team a routine to follow that everyone can get in to.  Be sure to refine the template as you go.  

Chew On This:

  • What would it be like if everyone on your team could run effective meetings?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

How To Help Your Team Reach Their Potential

potential 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.