1997 research by McKinsey and a 2001 book, The War for Talent gave rise to the concept of “Talent Management”, the recruiting, developing and managing of the people within an organization. This aspect of organizational leadership is the top challenge facing the executives with which I work. These leaders seem to be constantly wrestling with how to most effectively get the best out of their teams. The first step, I tell them, is to seek knowing and understanding their team, both collectively and individually.
Let me illustrate this with a story from my high school days on the hard-court. I played varsity basketball for 3 seasons. Bill Bowman was my coach. For my money, he was the best high school basketball coach that ever donned a whistle. In a high school that had 40 students (yes, you read that right…40), he had winning season after winning season. He was a master at strategy, game management, and maximizing his players.
At the start of each season, he would assess the team to determine its strengths. Once he understood the team, and each player, he built a strategy around their strengths. My first year, we were small, not super fast, but we could handle the ball really well. So, we put in a ball control offense. My junior year, the team’s strength was height and power. So, we ran a low post offense. My senior year, we again were small, but with lots of speed. The strategy then was “run and gun”. Different each year, but it worked. In those 3 seasons, we were 48-17, and won two state championships.
Organizational leaders can learn from my coach. The best thing they can do before implementing any kind of team development, or even strategy, is to know who they have on the team. Leaders should learn their strengths, their abilities, their gaps, how they process information, etc. Having that knowledge is essential in setting them, and ultimately the company, up for success.
One of the most effective tools I use in team assessment is called the Thinking Wavelength. It was developed by Tom Paterson as a way of helping leaders to understand how people receive, process and respond to information. This simple tool describes 5 types of “thinkers”…
- Grinders: Detail-minded doers who plow through work, and lots of it, one step at a time.
- Minders: Skillful “minders of the store”, they solve problems and keep small groups focused on a task.
- Keepers: A blend of strategic and operational strengths. They are organized, can deal with variables and change, and work well with people.
- Finders: Entrepreneurial people who love change and look to seize opportunities.
- Conceivers: Theorists who love the big picture and ideas. They are bright and articulate, but struggle with execution.
Having an effective team begins with knowing who they are and how they’re wired. By knowing his or herself, a leader is better able to lead from his or her strengths. By knowing their team members, leaders can better care for them, and develop them. All of this will lead to overall organizational success.