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13 Ways Leaders Can Better Understand The Unique Strengths Of Their Team Members

Understanding the unique strengths of your team is the surest way to both help your company achieve its larger goals and help employees feel engaged and motivated. But understanding each individual's strength is a practice in psychology that involves empowering and aligning talent with work opportunities. We asked 13 professional coaches of Forbes Coaches Council how leaders can incorporate a strength-based approach to their management style. Here's what they said: 1. Ask Great Questions Asking questions is a great way for leaders to learn more about how to best leverage employees' strengths. These may include: "What type of work are you doing when you lose track of time?""What skills or attributes do you get the most compliments on?""What are 2-3 strengths you can use that will benefit the team?"The responses can help leaders better match strengths to the work of the team.

2. Use Assessment Testing To Leverage Team Member Strengths For teams to come into their own, they need to know and leverage their unique talents and strengths. Position teams for success through simple strengths-finder-based assessments. There are many valuable low-cost tools available that will help you and your team members know what they bring to the team, boost their confidence, and contribute. 3. Use Gallup's StrengthsFinder Leaders should start by utilizing Gallup's online StrengthsFinder, an assessment that helps employees discover their top five talents. Managers should then make some one-on-one time to sit with their direct report and find out exactly what drives them, what are their values, and what are they most passionate about. Finally, they should ask them, "How can we best leverage all of your strengths?"

4. Encourage All Team Members To Acknowledge Strengths In Others Understanding team members' strengths is for everyone — not just team leaders. Create an environment where people are invited to regularly acknowledge each other's strengths. Make it part of the vocabulary at meetings. Talk about best fit between strengths and tasks that need to be done. Build appreciation into the culture, and you'll soon know everyone's strengths.

5. Ask What Responsibility Or Task Makes Them Feel Energized Everyone's unique talents are often discounted because it feels as easy as breathing to them. Take the time to ask questions to discover these hidden gems in your people. When someone feels excited and energized by their tasks, it usually is a strong talent or passion they have. Leverage this knowledge for higher performance and productivity.

6. Foster Engagement Sure, you can ask an employee what their strengths are, but what if they are not aware? The role of the leader is to identify the potential in others and foster the evolution of that potential. The only way leaders can understand their team's unique strengths is by actually getting to know each employee as a person. If the leader has engagement with his/her team, strengths will be uncovered.

7. Apply The Rule Of Three Asking seems obvious. The challenge is they may not know. Try asking questions three different ways and to three different people to get at the truth. Ask the employee: "What do you look forward to most about your work?" Or, "What is one aspect of work you want to do more of and why?” Ask coworkers: "What are the person’s best qualities?" Look for consistency and then share your conclusions.

8. Assess And Discuss Conduct either a strengths-based or personality type assessment with team members. Then facilitate a discussion where they get together with people of similar strengths. The combination of self-awareness and discussion among peers creates a shared understanding and appreciation for strengths and also for differences. This shared understanding is designed to build team cohesion and effectiveness.

9. Try Them Out Once you have an idea of what the unique strengths are through observation, assessments and asking, try them out. To better understand how that unique strength can be used in your organization or team, try out a few assignments geared toward using that skill. Think about how the employee who loves lists, or has an eye for color, or how a strong memory for dates could help in a different way.

10. Start With An Open Culture Understanding the unique strengths of team members ultimately comes back to whether or not the company culture prioritizes these conversations. Implementing a culture that values leaders and team members consistently assessing strengths and areas for improvement will go a long way in helping leaders better understand their team members’ innate capabilities. This will also likely increase job happiness.

11. Learn From The Past If you ask them about past experiences they really enjoyed and why — somehow it's easier than answering the direct question, "What are your unique strengths?" Ask about teamwork experiences, projects or assignments they've enjoyed. Then ask why these are favored. We humans generally like to use our strengths. You can extrapolate from their answers. Then check with them on what you pick up.

12. Hold A Team Member Story Day Get your team together for a day and have each one of them "draw" the story of their life up until now on a flip chart page. Tell them to include key events, defining moments, milestones, struggles and accomplishments. Ask them to tell the story in 10 minutes or less and include the key learnings they have garnered from this journey so far. You will be amazed by what you hear.

13. Understand Your Team's Strengths Using The STAR Method Ask your team member to use the STAR method to illustrate their strengths. Their description of the Situation and Task will establish context, while their description of the Actions they took will give you insight into their thinking and way of getting from A to B. Lastly, have them connect the dots to the Result produced. This active reflection will always unveil specific strengths.

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