Every leader knows that a well-rounded staff makes for a better organization. As a leader, you desire to have a diversity of skills, capabilities, and even personalities on the team. You want a leadership team to provide different perspectives. You want a leadership team to contain unique individual abilities. You want an overall staff built upon a healthy diversity of talent.
You want people with financial strengths, administrative strengths, people strengths, and creative strengths. You want leaders around you who are feelers, doers, thinkers, strategist, contemplative, and decisive. You need this as a leader. And your organization needs this to be successful.
That should be easy to accomplish, right? I mean, all you really need to do is hire for strength and personality diversity. Not diversity of chemistry — we all need to love the people we work along side — but diversity of talent. Diversity of abilities. Diversity of personality.
For most, that’s not new information. Intentionally hiring for diversity is a known commodity for leaders, as well. The problem actually begins as the organization matures. Hiring for skill diversity isn’t enough to maintain skill diversity.
Good leaders know not to surround themselves with themselves. But great leaders realize the hidden drift working against organizational diversity: The drift toward desiring the leader’s strengths.
Let me explain: Every organizational leader is uniquely gifted with specific strengths. Those strengths, whether intentional or not, become the dominant strength personality of the organization. Over time, especially as an organization matures, individual staff’s unique talents and strengths can begin to feel “lesser than” compared to the leader’s. Everyone begins to model their growth path after the leader’s strengths. Staff members begin to (attempt to) mimic the leader’s unique abilities. Staff members desire the strengths of the point leader because those strengths appear to be the most important.
Personal Example: I live this every day in my role as Lead/Campus Pastor at Woodstock City Church (a campus location of North Point Ministries). I work for one of the absolute best communicators on the planet — Andy Stanley. With six locations and a wonderful central support staff, we need and are blessed to have a wide diversity of personalities, strengths, and talents across the organization. Can you guess the one personal strength people at North Point Ministries seem to desire to have the most? Yup — Communication. It’s not Andy’s fault. He doesn’t reward communicators more than those with other skills. The drift is natural — part of every organization.
What can we do to combat this natural drift?
Here are a few ideas from our leadership:
1. Celebrate people with non-point leader strengths.
We elevate what we celebrate. When we celebrate people in the origination who have talents different that the point leader, we elevate their strengths. The more public the celebration, the more powerful the elevation.
We use our staff meeting in this way. At the beginning of every meeting, we tell stories related to our mission, and we publicly thank people for contributing to our success. We thank our facilities team at every meeting — and none of them are communicators! We don’t need them to communicate, we need them to serve all the ministries within the church.
2. Build a strength diverse leadership team.
When the staff looks to the leadership team, they evaluate who is on the team and how they got in there. If the team represents a diverse set of skills and personalities, the staff will be more apt to embrace their diverse skills and personalities. Staff members will embrace their talent when they see their talents (themselves) in leadership seats.
3. Leverage intentional leadership development.
Great leaders learn to develop their direct reports based on their unique gifting. When we decide to grow people in the way God made them, we help refine their unique abilities and reinforce their position in the organization.
Always assume people on your team will desire to grow in your strengths rather than their’s. And when you see the early signs, call it out and head it off immediately.
4. Evaluate people personally.
Sure, staff assessments need to be somewhat consistent across an origination, but individual staff also need to be evaluated individually — against their role, expectations, and strength embracement. Don’t allow an annual evaluation to drive staff towards homogenous development.
While we’re evaluating, make sure to leverage this space to encourage staff to leverage their unique strengths across the organization, not just inside their role, team, or department. What makes them great will help the entire staff be greater.
5. Acknowledge this organizational reality — publicly.
As a leader, if you refuse to acknowledge the potential of this drift, you’ll quickly find yourself leading a staff all desiring your strengths (or the strengths of the point leader). And those who are not built to have your specific strengths will be frustrated, or worse, gone.
We all know the dangers of building teams without diversity. What we often miss is how easily a staff team can drift away from who they are to become closer to who the leader is. Hiring diversity just isn’t enough.