Clark Health Communications | Celebrating differences: How valuing…

Celebrating differences: How valuing individual strengths can improve team performance

How many times have you asked yourself “what kind of leader am I or do I want to be?” After attending a great training session, I encouraged some of the team to try the Inspirational Leadership: Insight to Action tool to find out more about their individual leadership styles so that we could better play to our own strengths and each other’s.

Working in any agency means working collaboratively across various account and cross-divisional teams, with external suppliers, and with our clients. It is, therefore, imperative that we are able to adapt and work well with a myriad of individuals that have different strengths and ways of working, so that we can achieve our goals and our clients’ goals

Now, picture your ‘dream team’ in your own mind. You’ve probably opted for people who think and work in a similar way to yourself. Whilst this may help in the short term, do you end up just working in an echo chamber where everyone agrees? Does it push you to deliver the best work you can? What happens when you bring people together who don’t think like you and work or communicate in a different way? That’s when things get exciting. The challenge, and the beauty, can come from seeing these differences as a valuable way to gain strength from collaboration and reap the rewards!

This all sounds very idyllic, but do we always understand our own strengths, and how easy is it to identify them in our team members?

The Inspirational Leadership: Insight to Action tool is based on research findings from the Department of Trade & Industry, in partnership with the Chartered Management Institute. Its purpose is to help leaders identify their natural leadership styles and strengths so that they can shape their roles and those of their team accordingly.1

Completing the questionnaire (available for free here) takes just 20 minutes and provides you with a report that breaks down your ratings across four leadership dimensions and 18 attributes, including things like ‘team builder’, ‘enabler’, ‘visionary’ and ‘legacy builder’.

It's not just about having a group of individuals; it's about having the right mix of personalities and strengths to make a better team.

After completing the questionnaire, members of our team re-grouped to discuss our own strengths and weaknesses, what results surprised us, and which didn’t. This sparked conversations about the ways in which we can lean on each other more in particular areas or learn from each other – and ultimately it showed us that together, we are a stronger team because of our differences.

The results were useful in validating what I thought of as some of my own strengths, and perhaps unsurprisingly, reflected those that I value highly as well. What I found interesting was the suggestion that although you can upskill in your weaker areas, you can also partner with people who have complementary strengths. Great advice when building a team!

Emily and Kirsty also completed the questionnaire and shared their thoughts:

Emily: “I've done a few of these questionnaires during my time in the industry. It's interesting to see how my strengths and weaknesses have evolved over time, yet, much like Jess, my leadership attributes align closely with my personal values. I believe this helps me to be an authentic and 'human centred' leader – whilst still getting things done!”

Kirsty: "Early on in my career, my first line manager asked me what type of leader I wanted to be. This has stuck with me for years, and it's reassuring to see those qualities that I value so highly come out in my results. At the same time, it's helpful to be mindful of the areas that don't come as naturally to me, so I can work on building them further, or collaborate with someone who can bring their expertise to a task."

We all bring different strengths to a team. Some individuals are more analytical and data-driven, while others are more creative and intuitive; some are more methodical and sequential in how they approach tasks, while others maintain momentum and energy by jumping from project to project; some are better at thinking about the bigger picture, while others are better at focusing on details and executing tasks. When these different strengths are combined, the team benefits from a diverse range of perspectives and skills.

One of our CHC values is ‘connecting as a team’, and we believe that ‘bringing healthcare to life’ requires us to bring our life to healthcare. This means creating a culture where everyone is supported, valued and respected. You can read more about our values here.

We take this one step further though. Not only do we support and respect each other’s differences, we look to celebrate them and capitalise on them – to use them to make our team (and the work we deliver) stronger.

In aiming for sameness, you may think you are making life easier, but you are making your team weaker.

Ultimately, a successful team is one that recognises and embraces the unique contributions of each individual and leverages those strengths to better achieve common goals.

It’s always interesting to learn more about yourself, but we feel this insight into our own strengths, and each other’s, is going to have really positive impact on the way we work.

Do you consider your team members’ individual strengths when building account teams? Do you enjoy working with people who approach tasks from a totally different perspective?