Building strong teams is on every leader's agenda; however, when I ask how we do that, leaders give very vague answers. They talk about selecting team members with complementary skills and abilities to bring a diverse range of ideas and opinions to the table. They advocate for team members to understand their and others' strengths to know their unique contribution to team success. Leaders tend to understand this, but the execution is often poor. Why? Because it requires a different mindset and the guts to eliminate your excess pieces.
Picture your team members as a giant jigsaw puzzle. You will have:
- The ones who create the frame (Strategic Thinkers). They are critical as they set directions, rules, and boundaries.
- The ones with unique colours or shapes (Influencers) who will help you put part of the puzzle together because influencers will mobilise people around an idea as they group together.
- The ones with similar shapes and colours (Relationship Builders) connect the unique parts. Those are the fields, sky or water on any jigsaw puzzle. They might not be exciting to look at, but they are vital in filling the gap between two or more existing parts of the picture, bringing it all together.
- The ones that get the job done quickly and show tangible progress by letting you know at a glance where and how they fit (Executers). They are the easiest and quickest ones, and their role is to move things forward.
Unfortunately, in the real world, you will also have:
Excess pieces. The ones that you have too many of.
- Just think about it, you only need a certain number for the frame that thinks of strategic steps and orders. If you have too many, there will be no execution of any of them. You will constantly expand the picture representing your vision, mission, goals, culture, and team. You must set boundaries with it, as too big of a frame with too little to fill will leave you unaccomplished.
- You can also have only a certain number of unique parts, those who create new ideas or set trends, because nothing will ever get done if we all just have ideas.
- This also applies to the executors; they become redundant if there are no new ideas to execute. Worse, too many executors will have the drive to do so and will likely end up doing things for the sake of it but with little to no real progress towards the ultimate goal.
- Finally, imagine having too many relationship builders, the connectors. You will have a great team that does or creates very little. They will go for coffee & lunch breaks and organise fun activities, and think little of the business needs.
Pieces that belong to another puzzle. Yes, we don't like to think of this as we are too nice, and we have been told way too many times that good leaders will find the strengths and purpose of each team member and leverage that. That's true, but let's be honest here, we all have or had colleagues with little to no use or need to be there. A good leader recognises that and takes action.
Leaders might know all the ingredients to build a strong team, but without a shift in their mindset towards looking at their team members based on their strengths (the raw materials they bring to the table) and figuring out their place or no place in the puzzle, they will have a hard time executing it.