As a leader, there are a million choices, directions, tasks, and risks that are front of mind. So naturally, some tasks fall by the wayside. One task (I shutter as I write “task” as it’s so foundational) is connecting with your team and truly understanding their aspirations, motivators, demotivators, strengths, expectations of you as a leader, etc. 

Coaching to Strengths

No one is perfect — no one on your team, nor you. But as an imperfect leader, I believe the least I can do is understand my team’s strengths. Why? People who focus on developing their strengths (not weaknesses) simply develop faster, are more engaged and productive, and are simply happier. In fact, they are three times more likely to have an excellent quality of life. But to do that, (spoiler alert – about to say something really obvious) leaders need to make the time to connect with their teams, understand their strengths and tailor their coaching and development to those strengths. 

The best way to do this is by having an “All About You” day, or at minimum a half-day, with each of your direct reports. If your direct reports are leaders, have them do the same with their teams. My suggested agenda for the “All About You” day is:

  • Your History — Professional and personal, as much as they are comfortable sharing
  • Your Aspirations — Again, both personal and professional
  • Your Strengths (Google StrengthsFinder® to learn more)
  • Your DISC and/or Insights, HBDI or Myers-Briggs or any other test they’ve taken. See if there are any trends.
  • Your Top 3 Motivators (I use the following list to get them started)
    • A Sense of Belonging
    • Job Security
    • Opportunity for Promotion
    • Opportunity for Travel
    • Recognition from Above
    • Challenging Work
    • Money
    • Pleasant Work Environment
    • Interesting Work
    • Opportunity to Learn
    • Loyalty from Above
    • Being Trusted
    • Other
  • Your Expectations of Me

When I schedule an “All About You” day with any new direct report, most say, “This won’t take all day (or a half-day),” or, “This should only take an hour.” But inevitably, in my 15+ years of having these sessions, all have been four hours or more. They’ve been invaluable in helping build a foundation for me to help better tailor their development and career path to achieve their aspirations.

I’m still an imperfect leader, indeed. But believe coaching to strengths helps my colleagues be happier, and a step closer to perfection.