Putting Together Strengths That Result In A Great Team
By Dr. Emily Watson
All of us have strengths, those traits that help us excel and accomplish whatever tasks are put before us on any given day.
And one of the beautiful things about working as a team, which we do at Warsaw Orthodontics, is that our strengths can complement each other. One person may be good at strategic thinking, another at relationship building, and still another at executing a plan that has been laid out before them.
When those different talents mesh, a workplace becomes an exciting and productive place to be, with each person bringing their best talents forward, and helping to make up for areas where someone else may not be as strong.
Sure, ideally we would all be effective in every trait imaginable, but that’s not the reality. And while we can all improve on our weak areas, when you are hiring new people and building a team, it’s important to know just where everyone’s strengths and weaknesses lie so you can place them in the best possible situation for success.
There are a number of assessments available to help leaders, or individuals, understand where people shine their brightest and where they are lacking. The one I like to use is Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment, which gauges people for 34 strengths and gives each person a list of five to 15 strengths that they rely on the most. This knowledge can be especially helpful when assigning duties to your team. If someone is weak in communication, for example, you might not want them to be at the front desk, greeting those who walk through the door and providing everyone with their first impression of you and your operation.
Putting the Assessment to Use
All of our team members have taken the assessment, and it’s important to note that this is not something we do and then file away, never to be looked at again. In our breakroom, we have a board that shows each team member and their strengths, so each of us knows what the others are most adept at.
Here’s an example: One of our treatment coordinators, who works with new patients, has “woo” as one of her top five strengths. Woo is a great attribute for someone in her position to have. According to Gallup, someone with this strength enjoys “the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you.”
Part of the treatment coordinator’s job is to make new patients comfortable, and she is excellent at that because of this strength that Gallup likes to call “woo,” but really is just an ability to make a connection with people, even strangers.
Not everyone is so skilled at building a quick rapport with people they don’t know. For example, according to the strengths assessments, someone who has the strength “deliberative” tends to be a private person and “approaches life with a certain reserve.” They aren’t likely to chat up strangers as if they are long-lost pals, but the deliberative person has other attributes that are useful in their own way. They are good at identifying, assessing, and reducing risks.
At Warsaw Orthodontics, we have been doing this assessment for the past seven years. Based on what I’ve seen over that time, I do think the assessment is pretty accurate and, yes, I have taken it myself. My strengths are harmony, empathy, consistency, futuristic, and developer. Those can be excellent traits for a business owner, but one thing you learn is that even a trait that’s helpful in many instances can have its downsides in other situations.
Balconies and Basements
All of the Gallup strengths have what they refer to as “balconies” and “basements.” The balconies are the positive aspects of the strength. The basements are the drawbacks, the ways in which the strength could become a weakness under certain circumstances.
Harmony, for example, means that when people have differing opinions, you try to find common ground. Building consensus, the balcony in this case, can be a good thing, a way to solve problems and bring people together when there is friction between them. So I’m glad that harmony is one of my top five, helping me to work with people who see things from different perspectives and allowing me to find ways to bring them together.
But people for whom harmony is a strength also tend to avoid conflict at all costs, and that’s the basement. When you own a business and have to make tough decisions, eventually you have no choice but to address conflict head on. So you have to overcome that natural inclination for conflict avoidance.
As with so many things, how well this assessment tool works depends on what people do with it. If people won’t take the time to learn their strengths, and use those strengths productively, then it’s unlikely to be beneficial. I’ve found that it’s hit or miss whether people take advantage of the assessment and use the information it provides.
But when people are willing to learn from it, then it can help any business or organization build a better and stronger team––one where everyone’s strengths are put to their best use.