Not everyone can be Tony Stark.
You know … Iron Man. (Okay, if you’re somehow not aware, Tony Stark is the genius alter ego of Iron Man as portrayed by Robert Downy, Jr. in the Iron Man, The Avengers, some Captain America, and Spider Man movies.
“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist,” is how Stark describes himself in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.
Captain America? Yep – only one of him. A super-serum gave him super strength and speed, but as Captain America: The First Avenger taught us, that serum only increases a person’s own potential.
It was Steve Rogers (Captain America’s alter ego) courage, integrity and toughness that really make him into a super hero.
My point? The Avengers is a team made up of members with very different strengths. It would, of course, be a much different movie — and much less effective team — if it was made up of members with the same set of strengths.
While The Avengers is merely fiction, this is a lesson that any team — for work or play — should heed.
“Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be.” ― writes Tom Rath, author of the popular StrengthsFinder series of books, which are based on the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment and coaching program.
In Strengths Based Leadership, Rath writes of the results of a series of Gallup surveys done over a period of years, showing what makes the most effective teams.
“We began to see that while each member had his or her own unique strengths, the most cohesive and successful teams possessed broader groupings of strengths,” writes Rath. “So we went back and initiated our most thorough review of this research to date.”
In the case of the teams studied by Gallup, Rath and his team found that four distinct domains of leadership strength emerged among team members: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking.
“We found that it serves a team well to have a representation of strengths in each of these four domains,” writes Rath. “Instead of one dominant leader who tries to do everything or individuals who all have similar strengths, contributions from all four domains lead to a strong and cohesive team.”
In other words, while it would be cool to have a team of four Tony Starks, it wouldn’t be as effective as having the diverse mix of The Avengers.
Sometimes the power of Iron Man’s suit runs low. Captain America has super strength and speed, but he can’t fly. And nobody can smash as many aliens in a single bound as The Hulk.
You get the idea.
When recruiting teams, leaders should be aware of their own strengths, and then look to hire (or pick) members with varying strengths who can all mesh together.
Awareness is always the first step.
I suggest that any team leader begin by taking the StrengthsFinder assessment. Learn what your strengths are and how you can apply it to your work.
Then, have potential hires or new team members take the assessment. Find out their strengths to determine if how they fit with yours, and any other members of your team.
While you may not end up being as powerful as “Earth’s Mighiest Heroes”, you’ll no doubt find you’ve assembled the best team to defeat whatever project stands in your way.