One of my favourite sessions with school leaders is to debrief a session where they identify and understand the respective strengths they bring to the team.
I love the Strengths Finder instrument from Gallup. Using the instrument each leader identifies their FIVE strengths. The top 5 for each leader are statistically identified from a bank of 34 strengths.
It doesn’t matter how amazing the leader is, the instrument only identifies their top 5!
Each of the strengths fit into one of four domains –
- Executing – getting tasks completed, they have the ability to ‘catch’ an idea and make it a reality
- Influencing – communicating and advocating both within and outside the school
- Relationship Building – people skills and the glue that holds teams together
- Strategic Thinking – focusing on the future and what could be
Whilst it is tempting for an individual leader to think that they have to cover ALL four domains to be effective, that can be statistically difficult if you have an area of great ability. For example a leader with great people skills may have three of their strengths in the Relationship Building domain. That only leaves two strengths to cover the other three domains.
For leadership teams to be highly effective they need to have coverage of all four domains.
Teams with great strengths in ONE domain will struggle. If the majority of the individual leader’s strengths in a team are in the EXECUTING domain the team will be ruthlessly organised, have beautiful colour coded folders, beautifully displayed in alphabetical order and meticulous documentation but they won’t have the relationship skills to maintain team harmony.
Conversely, if the team is filled with leaders who’s strengths are in RELATIONSHIP BUILDING they will create lovely, caring environments and will spend most days celebrating birthdays and other significant events but nothing will get done!
Coverage of the four domains is important and recognising the strengths that each leader brings to the team is one of the outcomes of the professional development session.
However, in the hundreds of school leadership teams I have worked with, ONE domain is almost always underrepresented – INFLUENCING. This appears to be the blindside for school leadership teams and may be the area that your leadership team needs to focus on.
Through my work I have found school leadership teams have strengths in executing or getting things done. They also have leaders that are very thoughtful and considerate that utilise their people skills and focus on building teams through relationships. School leadership teams also have people with very clear ideas about areas for improvement and where we need to be headed.
In almost all of the school leadership teams I have worked with the domain with fewest strengths is INFLUENCING.
Those who lead by influencing help the team reach a much broader audience. People with strength in this domain are always selling the leadership team’s ideas, both inside the school and outside. When you need someone to take charge, speak up and make sure the leadership team is heard, look to someone with the strength to influence.
School leaders would do well to adopt Dr Carol Dweck’s GROWTH Mindset and look for opportunities to add skills to INFLUENCE to their repertoire. The Gallup strengths that align with the INFLUENCING domain are:-
Communicator, Significance, Activator, Self-Assurance, Maximiser, Command, Competition and Woo
Developing these strengths and adding them to your repertoire as a leader is likely to have a significant impact on your leadership team’s effectiveness.
In the next edition of School Leadership Insights I’ll unpack the principles of INFLUENCING.
If you’d like me to work with your leadership team or staff to help them identify the strengths they bring to their team. Contact me here