How does our “cultural matrix” impact our worldview and our interaction with others?
This interest in human behavior led me to practice interior design and subsequently to an interest in creating synergistic networks of people. I began using personality tests as part of the new hire interview process 20 years ago when I first started my company. Utilizing Lattauer, Enneagram, DISC, Myers Briggs, I became a bit obsessed with understanding team dynamics and how I could best use this knowledge to be a better leader.
Stephen Covey says, “The essence of synergy is to value differences¾to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses.”
I came across StrengthsFinder in 2007 and have since settled on this as the best way to bring together a team to co-create projects. On the New York Times best seller list for some time, the premise of author Tom Rath’s theory is we live in a society that too often focuses on weaknesses that we must improve. If we focus instead on our strengths, we are, by his calculation, six times more likely to fully engage in our work and have a higher quality of life. My interest in human potentiation coupled with this growth quality was intriguing and a foundation for building a network of people that not only honored the strengths (vs. differences) of others but actually took an active role in assisting each other build their individual talents. The result is a move away from a competitive and judging environment to one that is supportive of individual growth.
Marshall Ganz, a Harvard professor and thought leader on the subject of leadership, says, “Organizations that really work are united and manage their differences well so they can accomplish their common purpose. They share an understanding, and a common sense of purpose. I’ve found no better way over the years to create a depth of understanding among colleagues then Rath’s strategies of focusing on individual strengths to create a team.”
Our process was for each member of the team to each complete the online StrengthsFinder assessment tool to discover our top three strengths. Of the 23 possibilities, mine were Command, Futuristic and Arranger. Go figure. I would lead a company called The Vision Group. We then created a matrix format where we identified our team and our individual strengths. Other exercises included creating our own Strength Discovery Plan. Talent + Investment = Strength. So, building on our Talent with an Investment (time spent practicing, developing our skills, building our knowledge base) would equal our Strength (consistently providing near-perfect performance).
Secondly, we engaged the team in exercises to discuss and commit to writing how we could help develop each other’s strengths. This was a powerful tool in appreciating and celebrating differences versus judging them. The camaraderie among the team was evident, as I found my own appreciation of my team was also heightened. I have used the exercise with my son, as well as in other personal relationships, and find the depth of understanding gained in team building, as well as individual growth opportunity, far exceeds other personality paths I’ve explored. I’ve yet to expand the process to a project team with clients, but see it as my next Command, Future, Arranger challenge!
BJ Miller, FASID, is founder and president of The Vision Group Studios, a multidisciplinary collaborative utilizing a human centered approach to create generative space in the development, design and identity of Lifestyle Communities.