Most people don’t live in a world of perfect clarity. We don’t always have a yes or no answer, or a vivid picture of exactly where to go next. Everyone has a story, a reason, a background, a unique path that’s defined where they are today. There’s gray – lots of gray. Understanding where people are coming from and what they may be feeling in their own experience is so important when it comes to working effectively with others.

We have to be okay with the fact that very few things are going to be purely clear-cut, with razor-sharp definition. We have to listen, engage, and make an effort to grasp the human element of each individual’s past, present, and future. Particularly when we’re navigating toward change and aiming to bring a team along with us, we’re going to find ourselves playing in undefined space quite a bit. It’s how we handle the process of working through it with our teams that can make all the difference and positively drive us toward the desired result.

When we raise the expectations at work, ask our teams to do something new, or simply just change part of the day-to-day game, we’re likely going to encounter elements of resistance, or at the very least, emerging or intense feelings. When we do, it’s time to listen. It’s time to support our teams as a unit with a common goal but know that everyone might need to take their own path to arrive at the finish line. Being supportive, understanding, and willing to work with them in a way that reflects their strengths and inner drive is key.

When we actively work with our teams and embrace this spirit of empathy, we’ll likely find that we can produce something much greater than any of us could ever do on our own. When we allow natural talents to shine as we forge a path toward progress, the outcomes become stronger than ever. We just have to play to the strengths of our individual team members, so they can stay actively present and engaged. This is where we allow for, within reason, freedom within a framework to achieve the desired results. If we let reflections of our unique beings emerge in the process of reaching the end goal, we’ll get there together. We’ll very likely have team members who are more committed to the process and supportive of the final results, too.

As we learn from Tom Rath in the Strengths Finder 2.0, people are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs when they are given the chance to utilize their strengths at work. That’s a big number, and one that we need to be aware of when aiming to truly drive genuine growth and progress. So, the next time we’re challenged with achieving a team goal, let’s think about the best way to arrive at the finish line. Let’s think about the human element that ensues along the way, and the power our teams have to be more productive and aligned when they’re free to let their natural talents emerge. It may not be a path of clearly black and white. There may be a little gray, but the final product will be brighter, shinier, and emit more clarity than ever.

Rath, Tom. StrengthsFinder 2.0. New York, NY: Gallup Press, 2007.

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