Coaching: Leverage Your Team’s Hidden Competitive Advantage

By Don Cruickshank

“How do they keep beating us?”
“We should be able to run over them!”

Members of my high school basketball team had the same discussion year after year as we consistently lost to a smaller school’s team.

Don Cruickshank

Don Cruickshank

One of the opposing team’s players could only score when he was positioned five feet from the basket. Their small guy could never get close to the hoop without getting crushed. If there ever were a rag-tag group of individuals that when assembled made an outstanding team, then it was them.

So how did they do it?

It was not that the other team had a greater talent pool than us. We had more well-rounded players, while each player on the opposing team had just one or two strengths.

But the other team had a more insightful coach.

He positioned the big guy under the hoop to collect rebounds and pop them into the basket because he was now close enough to score. Meanwhile, the scrawny kid could not get close to the hoop, but he shot accurate three-pointers. He stayed on the fringes and scored repeatedly.

Their coach knew that each person on the team was like a chess piece.  He fully leveraged each player’s strength so that the team operated well together on his section of the board.

Your Hidden Competitive Advantage

The most successful organizations are not made up of “well-rounded” people!

Highly successful organizations are actually made up of people with different strengths who are allowed, encouraged, rewarded, and empowered to fully bring forward their strengths.

Yet while many businesses and organizations believe that truth, but do not know how to put it into action.

They measure their employees’ strengths. Yet once the data is in, these organizations don’t know how to activate it.

There is a direct correlation between employees’ strengths and employee engagement,  according to Tom Rath and Barry Conchie in Strengths Based Leadership  (Gallup Press, 2008).

When an organization’s leadership does not focus on finding and using an employee’s strengths, the chance that the individual will be engaged is only 9%.

However, if the organization does focus on using an individual’s strengths there is a 73% likelihood that he or she will be engaged. Furthermore, engaged employees in Canada are reported to give 54% more effort (Gallup, 2017).

If there was ever a competitive advantage to have, this is it.

Leverage Your Team Members’ Strengths

Over and over I have seen leaders and teams benefit from the Leading From Your Strengths process.

Each team member completes the Leading From Your Strengths assessment and receives a personal 20-page report.

But that’s just the beginning. The report reveals personal and leadership strengths and weaknesses along with each member’s General Characteristics, Value To The Team, Checklist For Communicating, Don’ts On Communicating, Ideal Environment, Keys To Motivating, Keys To Leading, Areas For Improvement, Self-Perception & Other’s Perception, How You Are Having To Adapt.

That’s a wealth of information.

That’s why the Leading From Your Strengths approach is called “a process.”  The complete process includes working through the reports together as a team. Then once you know your team members’ strengths, how can you empower each individual to use those strengths?

One key is coaching.

As I coach a team, together we break down assumptions, perceived or actual, that are blocking team members from fully using their strengths. The leader and team members both are empowered with strategies on how to move forward using their individual strengths to blend.

The process is similar to building a strong athletic team. A good coach knows each athlete’s strengths and by using that information, he determines where to place that person and how to motivate him to perform for the good of the team.

That’s what happens when leaders and teams activate their strengths-based data. Like the coach of my high school team’s opponent, the leaders I coach learn how to leverage their team members’ strengths.

It’s always a good idea to know your team members’ strengths. But don’t stop there.

Leveraging that data will give you a competitive advantage, not to mention a healthier, more engaged team.

*This post first appeared on Don’s website, DC Leadership Training and Consulting.

Don Cruickshank spent ten years in local church ministry before founding DC Leadership Training and Consulting. He holds a Masters of Leadership and Management from Briercrest Seminary and is a Ministry Insights certified coach. Don and his wife Crystal live in Manitoba, Canada, with their two children, Justice and Arianna.

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