Looking to determine the passions and pitfalls of your team? Here is a team exercise I have used to help teams establish their focus and improve communication.
The Core Qualities Team Exercise
The following chart, developed by Daniel Ofman, and the corresponding exercise have been very successful in helping leaders identify core qualities (such as passion) and work through the pitfalls, challenges, and reactions to those core qualities. This team exercise is an effective way to help leaders examine themselves and then better understand how to maximize their core qualities. I have found that the exercise works best when done with a team.
Step 1: Core Quality
Identify all the aspects of a specific core quality. For example, if passion is one of your core qualities, you may describe it as exciting, adds energy, fires everyone up, contagious, overcomes obstacles, sees how things could be, and so on. Select no more than one or two core qualities to examine. This step seeks to focus on your best core qualities.
Step 2: Pitfalls
What happens when you get too much of a good thing? As is true for almost everyone, your strengths can become your Achilles heel. For example, what happens if you have too much passion? You could be driven, have tunnel vision, avoid reality, not accept failure or shortcomings, shy away from challenges, and so on. Therefore, we list all the pitfalls of passion in this step.
Step 3: Challenges
What are some positive opposites of the pitfalls of your core quality? What are some positive actions you can take
to avoid these pitfalls? For example, to address some of the pitfalls we listed above, you could ask a person or a team to function as a sounding board for you, setting specified times to check the reality of your situation. You could ask for and be open to challenges, or you could have another person or the whole team help you place your passion in the big picture of the organization. Look for positive opposites—ways to challenge and avoid the pitfalls and help yourself stay focused.
Step 4: Reaction
What happens when you carry efforts to challenge your pitfalls too far? You may become discouraged and back away from your core quality. One reaction might be to not share your passion or to share it only with those who will not pose any challenges. Defensiveness or withdrawal are other reactions. This step will help you recognize your reactions and work to overcome your natural tendency to recoil under pressure.
A middle manager I know recently shared her concern with her supervisor about a program he wanted but that she believed might negatively impact the organization financially. She is a good manager and personally takes budgets and sales quotas to heart; it is her passion to hit the numbers every month. She also takes her job seriously and does not hesitate to speak up. In response to her criticism, the CEO pulled her aside and led her to believe that she was wrong in what she was saying. Her reaction to this confrontation was to say, “I’ll just keep my mouth shut from now on!” Finding her passion threatened, she became discouraged by the CEO’s remarks and wanted to avoid future confrontation. This woman’s manager needs help finding some positive opposites to her reaction that will lead her back to her core quality.
The goal of this exercise is to help all team members stay in their positive balance, bouncing between their core qualities and their challenges rather than falling into the negative pattern of bouncing between their pitfalls and their reactions.
You can see from the arrows how this can happen. When played out in real-life situations, this chart is not a circle, but rather we move from corner to corner, either bouncing between our core qualities and challenges or bouncing between our pitfalls and reactions.
Finally, we draw your attention to the arrows between the boxes labeled “Too Much of a Good Thing.” Notice that too much of the core quality leads to pitfalls, and too much working on the challenges leads to reactions. In either case, being out of balance leads to wrong behavior. Too much of anything leads us to a point of concern.
I hope this team exercise is an effective way to help leaders on your staff examine themselves and better understand how to maximize their core qualities as well as the qualities of their teams.