By Connie Charles, Founder and CEO, Strategic Solutions International Inc.
The last few years of economic volatility has tested the capabilities of all leaders, no matter what industry they work in. Success is not a factor of what school you went to, whom you know, or what the posters on the wall say about the leadership competencies of your company. Instead, it is the ability to look at bad forecasts, sizeable layoffs, and even personal uncertainty about your own employment, and not blink. To survive and thrive has required a new set of skills I call Rock-Steady Leadership. It is the steady hand on the tiller despite the raging storm. The calm voice of reason that keeps the panic at bay. It is the type of leader who can find hope in desperate times and inspire people to their best performance even though they live in an uncertain world.
As a result of this recent economic uncertainty, a new emphasis in leadership development is required. A leader needs to develop the stability of a rock to serve as the team’s foundation in turbulent times, but at the same time must be able to rock and roll, or, in other words, motivate and inspire people to do and be their best. Three types of stones are essential to building this rock-steady leadership foundation:
Matrix teams pose a challenge to rock-steady leadership. Building a team to handle any task takes an affirmative effort to identify and enhance the best fit between personal skills, job responsibilities, and the team supervisor’s approach, so all members can perform to their true productive potential. As in a chemical formula, it requires a predictive understanding of how all the elements of human factors interact and how those elements should be directed. There is no “one-size-fits-all” leadership solution.
The challenge of rock-steady leadership is made easier by the use of personality assessment tools. Testing identifies whether people are comfortable with the team concept, whether they prefer a structured or flexible work structure, whether they take initiative or need guidance, whether they think in terms of details or broad concepts. Each person has unique strengths, weaknesses, productive behaviors, and stress behaviors. Personality testing identifies and brings those characteristics into focus, helping individuals understand how to accept and adapt to the roles that better integrate their core capabilities into a workplace team.
When team leaders use testing to understand what motivates the people on the team, they can be more effective at structuring team assignments. Tests give employees and supervisors a common language to neutralize negative assumptions, creating a foundation for trust and collaboration in which employees can make the best contribution and will be most likely to succeed. Testing takes the guesswork out of building a matrix team. Effectively used, it will strengthen any team’s dynamics and results.
A case study on how this process works can be seen at an operation of one of the world’s leading aerospace companies, a manufacturer of aircraft, defense systems, and communication systems. As a highly successful organization in a highly competitive global marketplace, the company could not and would not carry an underachieving team. At one key operation, a new leader was transferred from a division CFO’s role to an operating leadership position for the first time. This program manager was asked to head a $2 billion product group that was suffering from low customer satisfaction because of cost, schedule, quality, and labor issues. I had the opportunity to introduce this supervisor to personality assessment instruments, giving him a test and walking through the results with him. The results showed his own personal characteristics, with great depth, breadth, and accuracy. From the report and coaching sessions, this supervisor gained insight into how and, more importantly, why he tended to react as he did in various business situations. He learned that such an individual assessment could be used to compare the personalities of two or more individuals and could even be aggregated to define a team dynamic.
The supervisor had his entire team take the same personality assessment, and was able to construct a complete team map. This data demonstrated that team interactions were not based on personal preferences or job skills, but on how members fit together from a personality profile. The data removed the mystery about why team members behaved the way they did. The entire team now could leverage differences because they were better understood and were no longer a point of contention but a point of strength. Team members began surfacing issues earlier, grew more collaborative, and successfully addressed quality and morale problems. The financial results improved, and the esprit de corpsof the whole organization changed for the better.
Teams don’t just “happen.” Members often need help in skills such as listening, communicating with different kinds of people, and staying focused on the task. The challenge to build teamwork that encompasses all members can be made easier by the use of The Birkman Method, a behavioral assessment tool. The best personality tests can define an individual’s underlying needs and motivations toshow what drives that person’s behavior. This allows each person to assume more personal responsibility. The more an assessment measures, the more useful it is to predict workplace behavior and the greater insight it provides on how best to boost the performance of individuals and the teams of which they’re a part. Teambuilding becomes a systematic process that builds collaboration by:
Testing and assessment are tools that help managers understand how individuals interact and communicate in everyday workplace situations. Its can build the relationships between managers and work teams, and among work team members. Collaboration is built one team at a time, when team members are engaged with an intrinsic desire and passion for excellence and want their organization to succeed because they feel connected emotionally to its mission and purpose.
Connie Charles, founder and CEO of Strategic Solutions International Inc., specializes in helping organizations meet their objectives through improving the way they motivate, manage, and educate their people. SSI’s domestic and international client base includes Aramark, PNC Bank, DuPont, Lockheed Martin, Visa, J.P. Morgan, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, First Data Corp., Boeing and Accenture. For more information, visit http://www.ssizone.com or e-mail mailto:email@example.com.