Setting People Up for Success: How to Lead People to their Strengths

The hard part of leadership is leading others. It’s not a skill we learn at university. Unless you’re in a services-based industry which requires you to interact with others frequently, there’s limited “leadership skills” we learn while on the job. The easiest way to begin setting yourself (and others) up for success through your leadership is firstly forgetting what your mum told you;

“Treat others how you would want to be treated”Group of women from different cultures standing in a line

Unfortunately, mum was wrong. Universal statements such as this only work when talking about hard physical science-based things. For example, gravity. That is, an apple will drop at the same speed in your living room as it will in your kitchen. However, when talking about humans, these hard rules don’t exist. What works for you, may not work for someone else. What you perceive to be an enjoyable task might be torture for someone else. Instead, for leadership, the key is:

“Treat others, how they want to be treated”

When talking about success at work, it’s ensuring that you put the right people in the right place, doing the things they enjoy and are good at. Enjoyment may seem trivial, but reflect now… do you personally perform better at tasks you enjoy or detest?

We all vary greatly. To learn about how to efficiently use our ‘differences’ and how they play out in the workplace, acquaint  yourself with the Myer Briggs theory of human preference (refer to January Blog 1). Use these differences to your advantage as a leader when assigning people to tasks, and also putting together ‘action groups’. Ultimately the Myer Briggs theory places humans on four continuums in regard to their preferences.

These preferences refer to:

  • How we make decisions: logic or impact
  • Where we get our energy from: people or thinking
  • How we look at situations: big picture dreamers/innovators or action orientated process
  • How we order our selves: regimented and planned or flexible and pressure prompted

The use of this theory and its tremendous impact in business is widely documented. Ray Dalio who founded Bridgewater Associates, which currently manages $138 Billion in assets, has been very vocal in his use of the Myer Briggs Type Indicator to help him assign the correct staff to the correct tasks.

But enough with the background. How do we actually set people up for success?

Team of professionals working togetherFirst step is getting to know and understand your people.

Too often we see leaders rushing around keeping everyone busy and viewing this as effective leadership. It’s not. Effective leadership is getting the most out of your team. It’s about ensuring the output of the group exceeds the output if the team members were operating as individuals. This is achieved through knowing them. This allows you to align them to the common purpose of the business and expose them to tasks which work to their strengths.

It is important to discern your people, how they work, how they make decisions, and when they work their best. Then, you can much easier, and more frequently get the right people in the right place at the right time. There is no short cut to getting to know your people. This is achieved through conversations; yes – taking time away from actually doing work. This involves reviewing their work style and process, not just their results. It can also be boosted through exercise such as completing the Myer Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as a team and debriefing your results.

Yes, these take time, more importantly time away from tasks. However, it’s to help your team become more effective and efficient. Remember a train running at 80km/hr for 10 hours is not going to move as far as a train moving at 100km/hr for 9 hours. Especially if it keeps breaking down because things are wrong with it.

Meaning? A team operating to its strengths and as efficiently as possible is going to get more done in a shorter amount of time than otherwise it could. There is always time available to get better.

Once you know your people it’s about getting the right people, in the right place, doing the right thing.

When a body of work comes in, take the time to think through. What it’s going to take to get this done properly? What type of decisions are going to be needed? What is the timeline? Will there be many unscheduled pivots which require flexibility? Will teamwork and collaboration be needed, or individual expertise and thinking?

Assigning tasks appropriately.Basketball team with their hands together

Once understanding this, you can assign tasks appropriately, and put together teams which will be effective and complement each other’s strengths. For example, if you know there’s a short deadline, or last minute changes are guaranteed, then get people on the task who align more with perceiving side of the judging – perceiving continuum. Perceiving individuals adapt with changes and work better under pressure than judging individuals. If you know there will be a long lead time and likely minimal changes, stack the team with more judging aligned team members. These individuals will be better at ordering out the timeline enabling the most efficient use of everyone’s time.

If a complex decision is needed to be made, pull together a team which is primarily filled with thinking aligned individuals as opposed to feeling. These individuals are better at looking at the situation and making a decision based on what is best for the majority vs looking at the impact on people. Having some feeling individuals in the team will ensure that although a ‘tough decision’ may be made, the impact on others is considered, particularly when it comes to communicating this decision.

Idea generators or process thinkers?

Furthermore, another important consideration is looking at a task as to whether or not it needs individuals aligned to generating ideas. Answering the “what is possible questions” or if it needs process thinkers. These are people most aligned to breaking thinking. This involves breaking a task into its components and working methodically through them. Tasks that require imagination and creativity should be assigned to those in your team most aligned to the intuition side of the intuition vs sensing continuum. However, if the task requires meticulous execution of a process then assign it to those on the sensing side. The above continuums I have mentioned are outlined further in the previous blogs from this month.

Of course, doing this for every single task can be time consuming to the point of limiting progress. This is why to be an effective leader it’s essential to reflect on these differences. Not just at the task allocation part of your team’s activities, but also in the hiring and acquiring of talent into your team. Look at what strengths you already have, and what is missing to balance your team.

For more information contact us today. Please send us an email, give us a call at (02) 9929 8515, check out our LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or find more Psych Up! resources here.