It is one thing to know your strengths but quite another to be applying it in a team situation where there is a conflict of values. How then does the strengths-based philosophy work positively in a negatively-charged situation? Here is where we need to go beyond self-awareness and begin to wrestle with the dynamics of vision-value interaction. Unless, we have a mechanism to address potential mismatch of vision and values, then each person's strengths would be displayed in a raw, unproductive manner.
The Conviction of Vision
Values such as recognition, passion, control, justice and knowledge ranks differently with different individuals. Hence, just depending on values alone to drive a team or an organization is an idealistic scenario. Here is where the act of "vision casting" comes in. The synergistic demonstration of individual strengths within a diverse employee base can only gain traction when the leadership steps up to the plate and declare what is "true north" for the organization. While the individual employee needs the clarity of strengths, the leader has the added responsibility of communicating the conviction of a motivating vision. When the vision is crystal clear, individual demonstration of strengths adjusts to accommodate various nuances and "irritations". In the absence of a noble vision, the default mode is one of self-centered "empire building". That is why the most obvious symptom of a distracted organization is strong personalities without strong leadership. Therefore, strengths in and of itself do not resolve conflicts, it requires the conviction of a common vision to direct a matured expression of strengths.
The Correlation of Values
Once the vision has been set, the following task is to correlate values for team chemistry. Managers often fall into the common practice of hiring based on competencies alone while neglecting the potential team chemistry mix. This matter is further compounded by the fact that strengths is values-neutral. So then, how do you identify and ensure you have the right "values mix" that results in chemistry and minimizes unnecessary conflicts?
The right time to take a "chemistry snapshot" of your team is when there is a crisis or challenge. Someone once said that despite the terror of war, it brings out the best and worst in an individual. When the going gets tough, do you know who are the tough ones that keep going and what are the values which hold them together? While strengths is a great way to identify potential, the leader must also be alert to the surfacing of values during moments of crisis. Challenging situations provide an excellent backdrop for the expression of both values and strengths and the wise leader is someone who is not so caught up with the "noise"of the conflict until he misses out on identifying the underlying values.
So, what if there is a mis-correlation of values? What's next?
The Call for Valor
While the vision stays constant, the manager need to keep abreast with the "values mix" of the team. In other words, the manager is someone who looks out for moments of courageous conversations with the following possible outcomes :
(1) Job enlargement - getting someone to do more of what she enjoys doing.
(2) Job enrichment - getting someone to incorporate more varied tasks and responsibilities.
(3) Job exploration - getting an entirely new position.
As an effective manager, meaningful conversations with the employee should not start and end with the job interview. In fact, the richness of the conversation should grow in tandem with the one's career. Vision casting and values correlation are two critical leadership mindsets that form a fertile backdrop in creating an effective strengths-based culture.
While actualizing one's strengths reinforce self-awareness, the practice of leadership requires vision and valor. In moments of team conflicts, we need individuals of courage who gives direction and demonstrate inspiring examples to foster matured expression of strengths.
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