|A Winning Team Plays To Members’ Strengths|
|Written by Jim Seybert|
|Monday, 15 August 2011 10:47 AM America/New_York|
Even skeleton crews can find ways to flesh out a beneficial ‘sweet spot’ emphasis
If there’s one theme shared by everyone who manages a small business, it’s that there is never enough—never enough time, money or space to do all you want or need to do.
Part of the key to success in small business involves learning how to focus your energies and attention on things that work—like fine-tuning core inventories and building good customer relationships.
But there’s one resource that many businesses—large and small—typically under-utilize: the human potential that lives inside every person on your payroll.
Baseball bats have a distinct spot on them where the grain of the wood and the shape of the bat coincide to deliver maximum force. Connecting bat and ball at this precise spot drives the ball farther. The player exerts the same amount of effort, but gets a much better result.
People have sweet spots, too. The psalmist David wrote that God had “knit [him] together” in his mother’s womb. My vision of this is that God handcrafts every individual with an intentional purpose. When you knit something, you touch every thread and pay attention to every knot. You don’t just start knitting and wonder what it’s going to be.
There’s plenty of evidence in Scripture to suggest that God has plans for everyone, and that each person has been “knit together” with unique gifts (talents) to accomplish those plans. He even provides clues to those plans by giving us appetites and desires. He promises to satisfy the desires of our hearts if we live out His plan for us. The story of Eric Liddell is a great example of this.
Liddell was an Olympic runner with an intense appetite for his sport. He believed God had given him the desire to run and told his sister, “When I run, I feel His presence.”
Running fast was Eric Liddell’s sweet spot. He was not only good at it, but he also had an appetite for running. The intense physical exertion may have exhausted his body, but the nourishment he got from satisfying his appetite gave him the will and stamina to run even faster.
The Gallup organization conducted a 25-year study on worker productivity and the findings might surprise you. They found that pay and benefits were not necessarily common elements among highly productive teams. They also found highly paid teams that didn’t perform at the highest level, and in contrast, very productive teams that weren’t well paid.
The most effective teams were those where each and every person on the team had the opportunity—every day—to work on something that energized them. These teams were 38% more likely to have higher productivity than other groups in the same company. They also earned better customer satisfaction scores and had 50% less turnover.
In Donald Clifton and Marcus Buckingham’s book Now Discover Your Strengths, the authors define a “strength” as an activity that energizes you, something you look forward to, that nourishes you. Their research proved that workers who are given a chance to “play to their strengths” are more productive.
Staffing levels at Christian stores have been cut to a point where two people are often doing the work of five, and it may sound ludicrous to suggest that employees be told to focus on fewer tasks.
But there’s a common misconception that encouraging employees to “play to their strengths” will leave a lot of necessary jobs undone. In fact, the outcome is often an increase in worker output.
You see, it’s not about employees doing only what energizes them. It’s about looking for each employee’s sweet spot (strength) and giving them the opportunity—every day—to use it.
Here’s an example: Perhaps you have a frontline employee who is the ultimate “people person.” You notice she has an amazing knack for making even the most difficult customers feel comfortable.
She may even spend too much time helping people. Talking to shoppers seems to be a sweet spot for her. She’s not only good at it, but it strengthens her as well. It satisfies an appetite that God may have given her before birth.
What if you gave this frontliner an opportunity to channel her people skills by taking 20 minutes every day to call 10 customers and just thank them for shopping with you? Her calls would be good PR for the store, but the greatest benefit will be the added boost she gets from playing to a strength—a boost that will carry over into her other assignments.
Some strengths aren’t as obvious. You should schedule time with each employee and ask them what specific activity at the store gives them the most satisfaction. Ask what tasks they’d like to spend more time on. Be persistent and don’t settle for generalities. Everyone has desires.
Fine-tune their answers by asking follow-up questions. Let them know you are looking for one or two specific things that they love doing so you can design the work schedule to give them more chances to do what they do best.
A weakness is not necessarily something you don’t do well. Just as a strength is an activity that energizes you, a weakness is an activity that drains you—regardless of your abilities.
You can be very good at something for which you have absolutely no desire.
Don’t feel guilty about an activity that drains you. God does not want you to be miserable. The apostle Paul admitted to having a “thorn” and he prayed to have it removed.
When an employee tells you that a certain task zaps their energy, celebrate their candor and then look for ways to manage the weakness.
Could they trade assignments with someone? Could they look at the task from a different perspective and apply a strength? You’re not looking to ignore the weakness, but to acknowledge it and mitigate its effect.