Faith Ralston

Article Summary:

Team success can be achieved by using the specific talents each team member possesses.

Team Success Using Talents

I can’t stand working with the marketing, IT, claims, and sales department! They’re driving me nuts!

Are you frustrated with another person or department at work? If so, you may be dealing with talent differences. One person likes to ideate — while another likes to implement. Getting things done requires both types of talents. Knowledge worker talents are valuable assets to the organization. But struggles with talent differences can cause problems. The person who ties up loose ends can feel dumped on. The person who launches new projects feels like they are the only one who cares. To succeed, we need to recognize talent differences and respect what each person brings to the table.

In my research on talents, I’ve discovered four distinctly different talents that are essential to success. Each of the talent types plays a critical role in an organization’s ability to implement new products and services. For ease of use, I have named the four talent types as: ‘Diamond talents, Heart talents, Club talents, and Spade talents’. Most of us are capable of using all four talents. However, we have a favorite or ‘preferred talent’.

Roughly eighty-percent of the individuals who take our Talent Assessment indicate they are ‘low’ or deficient in at least one of these core talents. Very few of us have an equal measure of capability in all four areas. Yet all four types are required to implement an idea from start to finish.

Every Talent is Valuable
The following model shows where in a work project each talent contributes best to results.

Different Contributions
The four talent types have unique strengths and contribute to success in different ways.

A Diamond Talent likes to recognize emerging needs and imagine solutions. This individual is a master of possibility thinking. They like to look for ‘diamonds in the rough,’ and find the one idea among many that holds hidden potential.

Caution: Diamonds must slow down long enough to understand what it will take to implement their idea. Many ideas are harder to implement than the Diamond anticipates.

Club talents like to champion an idea and ensure its success. The Club Talent uses personal and organizational power to turn ideas into reality. Without the initiative and structure provided by Club Talents, new initiatives often wither and die.

Caution: Clubs are focused on achievement. A Club Talent may ignore relationships and fail to recognize the impact on others. They don’t secure adequate buy-in from those affected by the change.

Spade talents likes to organize what needs to be done and make sure projects are cross the finish line. The Spade Talent literally ‘digs in’ and gets things done. A Spade Talent will orchestrate the details and make sure projects are completed on time and within budget. Without the tireless efforts of Spade Talents, deadlines and details are frequently missed.

Caution: Spade talents can become enmeshed in too many details and get bogged down. They get caught up in the crisis de jour and entwined in details. Often the Spade Talent assumes too much responsibility.

Heart Talents like to motivate others and gain commitment to new initiatives. Heart talents deal with ‘matters of the heart’. Low morale, mistrust, and team conflicts are the domain of the Heart talent. Their expertise helps people work together and build high trust. Without the caring attention of Heart Talents, employee commitment and morale can plummet.

Caution: Heart Talents can assume too much responsibility for the burdens of others. They feel all the dynamics going on among individuals. Heart Talents need to draw the line, set clear limits, and let go of people and situations beyond their control.

Success with new initiatives requires all four-talents. Each talent type brings a different strength to the mix. Ideally, the Diamond Talent provides the innovative spark. The Club Talent champions the idea. The Spade Talent makes sure the project crosses the finish line. And the Heart Talent builds the trust and teamwork necessary to keep things humming.

The Opportunity
When the four talent types work well together, it’s a dream come true! Projects and initiatives thrive. But when differences arise, it can become a nightmare.

Actionable Ideas
Here are five practical actions leaders can take to optimize the four talent types and get more done.

1. Mix and Match Talents
Deliberately match talents to project needs. Learn everyone’s talent on the team. Look at the projects and identify the top tasks that need to be done. Match individuals with these tasks. If the project is in start up mode, be sure to include Diamond talents on the team. For projects underway and in a state of chaos, ask Spades to clean up the mess. Utilize Club talents to develop an overall strategy and Hearts to gain buy-in. Encourage team members to sync up their talents in productive ways. Like a game of volleyball, individuals learn to take their best shot and set up others to hit the ball over the net. Teams who successfully orchestrate and synergize their talents — win big!

2. Avoid ‘Too Much of a Good Thing’
At any point you can have too much of one talent or not enough of another. For example, if you have too many Hearts Talents on a team, meetings can become emotional and unproductive. Not enough energy is directed at the task and moving the agenda forward. Add Spades and Clubs to the mix to help the team get going again. There’s a time and place for every talent to make their contribution. Be alert to any imbalance of talents and include other types to ensue optimum results.

3. Challenge the ‘It’s Not My Job!’ Mindset
Respect and appreciate the work of other talent types. When you’re not using your talent, you will feel like you’re not doing “real” work. For a Spade, brainstorming and strategic planning don’t feel like real work. A Spade wants to deal with projects that are due next week–not next year. For a Diamond, dealing with the details of implementation is not ‘real work’. A Club Talent participating in team building might feel like it’s a giant waste of time. The Club wonders, “When is this going to be over so I can get back to my real job?”

Every talent type does real work. And all four talents are essential for strong performance. When working with others talents types, take times to recognize and appreciate their perspectives and the value they bring. Be patient and know that your turn will come.

4. Manage hand-offs
Whenever one person hands off work to another — problems arise. This is especially true when we are handing off work to a different talent type. Clubs who hand off to Spades need to be willing to listen to potential problems and roadblocks. Spades who work with Diamonds need to be open and receptive to their new ideas. Diamonds who come up with a bright idea need to acknowledge the impact on others and the realities of implementation. Hearts need to let of perfect relationships and move on with the plan. It’s easy for blame each other when differences arise and expectations are not met. Take care to manage the transition when handing off work to other talent types.

5. Focus on results
Just because we do our part, doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. Everyone must be accountable for the end-goal. A Diamond might think, “I’ve just made an incredible breakthrough! Why do I need to get bogged down with the mundane details?” But ultimate success requires that we keep the end goal in mind and stay involved. We can’t just do our part and sit back. We must take responsibility for the results.

Today it ‘takes a village’ to succeed in the marketplace. Team up with others who have different talents than you do and value their abilities. It’s the lively exchange of talents that gets things done!

Faith Ralston, Ph.D. is an expert in leadership and team development and Chief Talent Officer of the Play to Your Strengths consulting group. Faith has 26 years of experience helping leaders improve performance and results. She specialized in dealing with project teams and helping everyone contribute their best talents. She is author of PLAY YOUR BEST HAND, speaker, executive coach and creator of Play to Your Strengths talent system for leaders and teams. For more information, visit Play To Your

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