While researching healthier ways to practice law, I came across the concept of strengths-based cultures and teams. It made sense and felt right!
Strengths-based teams identify each member’s strengths and nutures the growth of those strengths to complete the goals of the team. This limits mistakes, decision fatique, increases confidence, and has other benefits. The other members of our team, Kristie (paralegal) and Josie (business manager), were also most familiar with their deficit-based culture. With hope for calmer days at work, even in a law firm, we agreed to work on creating a strengths-based team.
After a full year of developing our strengths-based team, it works! It is a process. As we continue to shift away from weaknesses, each team member has expressed feeling more passionate about work and having calmer days, restful nights, and clearer minds. This means our team is mentally present to do excellent work for our clients that makes us feel passionate. Here are some steps we took to create our strengths-based team.
In 10 minutes, each team member wrote a list of the tasks they performed at work. Each person discussed whether they felt the tasks they performed were what that person considered to be within their strengths and whether they enjoyed and preferred those tasks over others. Everyone confirmed their preference for strengths-based tasks.
Identifying our strengths was more complex than I initially expected because most of us have been trained to focus on the opposite: “Deficit-based” work cultures concentrate on problem-solving, overcoming weaknesses, and anticipating future risks to control and reduce them. Because this was our foundational work culture, we got help.
Each team member used CliftonStrengths’ 34, a questionnaire-type tool that evaluates each person on 34 identified strengths. It emphasizes an individual’s top five strengths, but it ranks the strengths 1-34. This tool helped us connect with our strengths so that we could identify them in our daily work.
SHIFT WEAKNESSES TO ALIGN WITH STRENGTHS.
Because modern work culture makes us aware of our weaknesses, they were easy to find. We also used CliftonStrengths 34 to affirm weaknesses. When we found tasks that fell within a person’s “weaknesses,” the team worked together to shift those tasks away from that person. The team completed these tasks, but maybe a member with a different title would perform it or it might not be performed quite up to our standards until we find better alternatives. Some alternatives we have implemented include the following:
- Remote-reception service
- Visual tools that show processes with pictures and drawings instead of outlines
- Later time for daily team meeting (for all of us!)
As we completed one year as a strengths-based team, we reviewed ourselves by repeating this process. (We referenced CliftonStrengths 34 results and did not take it again). Changing from a deficit to a strengths-based culture requires a deep look at ourselves and admit to ourselves (and our team) what we really can and cannot do well. Our team reports increasing satisfaction with work and their days. We are finding good, creative alternatives, and our business is flourishing. In future articles, we will discuss our process in more detail and the research I relied on when making change.
I will take a week off writing because our team has a four-day easement dispute trial. Our webpage is almost complete so that you can subscribe to our blog soon! If that is not your thing, keep following wherever you found us!
Enjoy the weekend!