During one of my recent StrengthsFinder coaching sessions, I witnessed the epitome of someone managing with strengths for his team.
When Mark was offered his first management promotion, he was asked to relocate under the following condition: he could either choose to move to a brand-new location or to one that was performing worse than where he was presently. Mark was told if he picked the worse performing location, he would likely need to let go of several employees but he was not permitted to terminate anyone during his first thirty days there. Since Competition and Achiever were in Mark’s top five strengths, he opted to transfer to the latter location for his promotion.
Mark knew his choice would mean new challenges, and was honest with his wife about it: “Don’t expect to see much of me during the next year, because I’m going to put all my energy into making this place successful.” Once he arrived at the new location, Mark told his assistant manager that he wanted her to continue to run the store as she had been doing; he would simply work the counter and monitor for the first month. During the first thirty days, Mark put his Relator skills—also one of his top five strengths—to work by observing each employee’s interests, background, motivations, desires, fears, and work style.
Mark tapped his Focus to generate a plan to turn the store around and make it the number one location in the company. Once the initial thirty days were up, Mark met with his employees and told them something that no one likes to hear: he had been told by headquarters to expect to reorganize the team and let several people go. However, Mark followed up with good news. After actively observing over the past month, he had seen each employee’s strengths and how they contributed to the team. The assistant manager’s strengths were her administrative skills and her attention to detail—her role complemented Mark’s since he was more of a “big picture” leader. Mark had also noticed another employee who was terrible with customers but who was incredible at putting up and breaking down displays; by working “behind the scenes” instead of front-of-house, tensions were eased between both staff and customers.
After determining each employee’s strengths and how the location could most benefit from them, Mark decided to make each team member an “honorary manager” of their particular area of expertise. He shared his vision of being the top revenue producing location, and communicated a plan on how that vision would be realized. Mark promised his team that if they worked together through their strengths, they would achieve the goal and each of them would become a true manager in the organization.
Not surprisingly, Mark and his team rallied together and the once under-performing store skyrocketed, reaching #1 in revenue for eleven months straight. True to his word, all of Mark’s employees (with the exception of one who left the organization) eventually became managers.
I was honored to work with Mark and to hear his experience, and I know his lesson is a valuable one to share. If we would take the time to understand our own strengths as well as those of around us, we can truly foster a committed, engaged, and motivated team that can reach success EVERY time.
- In News