This is the third piece of the #FeedbackFriday series. Click here to read last week’s post.
Everyone loves fall. It’s the time of year for sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, and football. Football dominates the headlines from September to January. I live in Atlanta, GA, and college football is the topic of nearly every conversation.
Football is a great analogy for life and leadership. For example, a great coach helps his players improve. Through practice, film study, and drills, a coach leads his players to be better.
A great coach helps his players by identifying patterns. Players and coaches spend a lot of time together, and that time allows the coach to observe strengths, weaknesses, and areas of growth.
Time is the only way to identify these patterns because time allows for observation.
The same is true with leadership. As you develop your relationship with your team and lead them longer, you will begin to notice patterns their work. Patterns are those things they do consistently, whether good or bad. Sometimes inconsistencies are actually a pattern, and identifying those gives us insight to improve.
How to find patterns
So how can you identify patterns? What things should you look for? Here are four areas that you should observe when trying to discern patterns in the team:
- Strengths – What does the person consistently do well? Where do they have higher results with less effort? Look for strengths first, because that is the easiest way to encourage and empower your team. Our culture is obsessed with patterns of weakness. Those are important, but not as important as strengths. When we identify strengths, we bring clarity and affirmation to others. By clarity, I mean we may help someone realize their actual strengths. We all need outside help to increase our self-awareness, and this is particularly true of our strengths.
- Stuck Where do they consistently hit a wall? Where does productivity consistently stop? Whether a project, process, or task, we get stuck. Sometimes we get stuck in the same place. If we anticipate where we may get stuck, we prepare to break through that point.
- Stress How does the person respond under pressure? Stress is an unfortunate part of life. Even top performers act differently under stress. When we know our stress patterns, we prepare differently. We have the knowledge to prepare for stress, which allows us to shift our behaviors. Don’t let someone assume they perform well under stress. This strategy may work in occasional short-term moments, but it is not a long-term strategy.
- Struggle What does someone not do well? These patterns tend to be obvious, yet they are the most difficult to address. Why? Because people take it personally. We mistakingly assume weakness is a bad thing. Not true. Remember when Michael Jordan tried to play baseball? He’s arguably one of the greatest basketball players in history, but he was terrible at baseball. When we know our strengths and struggles, we know where to focus the most time and energy for maximum output.
As you spend more time with your team leading them, look for these four areas. Ask these questions regularly of each team member, and see what you can observe for the answer. As you look for patterns, focus most on strengths. Doing this will allow you to be more encouraging and positive in your tone, and it will make it much easier when you come alongside someone and point out areas where I struggle or how they can stress.
Remember, feedback is about remaining positive to help someone move forward. And identifying patterns help someone move forward better.