Growing up with my sister Ginny, I learned a lot about personal strengths and the best use of them. While each of us is supportive of the other (and willing to go to battle if necessary) we don’t approach goals in precisely the same manner, nor with the actions. When we participated in a HS level swim team, our coach commented on the diverse talents – calling out our physical differences as well. Gin could crawl across the lap using only her upper body, whereas I could simply power kick my way across the pool! Yes, we are different.
To be honest, competition isn’t my greatest strength. I take a cooperative or collaborative approach to goals. I step into research mode at the outset; seeking a secure foundation of best practices – crossing off method I think won’t work. Once I’m confident in my approach, I work through the challenge methodically. I’m not motivated by what other people are doing. I focus instead on what I can do, on what I can impact. So, all those self-help articles admonishing me to “go for the gold”? Yeah, they were kind of lost on me. My strength lies in the slow lift, not the rabbit start.
My sister, in contrast, is an archetypal competitor. She lives for the challenge, for the threat of someone else pursuing the same end result, and trying to get there faster, better, and with more to show for her efforts. She powers through whatever she takes on, with high energy and a stubborn pit-bull ferocity. And she generally succeeds in achieving her goals, although not always in the manner she might have expected. Using my more methodical approach would frustrate her, leaving her thinking “let’s just move on this!”
But not all goals can be achieved individually, some require strength in numbers – a team. When we work together, Gin and I still rely on our individual strengths (rather than emulating on another). We respect the powerful skills of the other and have found ways to mesh the approaches together to produce the result we want. Yes, it was effort to get here, but definitely worth it. There were times when each of us argued that the other was wrong, and if they’d only learn to do MY way, then we’d be better off. We were of course, mistaken. Differing strengths make a team more agile and capable; more able to pivot based on what’s working now.
As Captain of the RealTime Trailblazers (our Walk MS Team) I am reminded that many of my team members will have strengths that differ. In identifying and celebrating the strengths of my individual team members—encouraging them to employ those skills— we can become a stronger team. So, tell me—what kind of team member are you? Do you know the strengths of your team mates?
Take a moment to look at your own team – whether on the job or the playing field. What kind of role do you play within your team? Have you and your team mates developed a process by which you can collaborate, or are you simply trying to power-through based on a single type (and demanding that the others adapt)?