Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year trying to recruit the "perfect" employee. Leaders obsess over getting top performers to join their teams. However, when you build a team of superstars, you also create a competitive culture, one that makes people feel they need to "be the best" instead of making them focus on being part of something that "is the best." Can you see the difference?

If you're a manager looking to build a better team, there's one technique you can use to help individuals move from an "I need to be the best" mentality to an "I want to be part of the best" mindset. It's called Team Decoding, and here's why it's so important:

  • Every team member has a unique combination of strengths that makes him or her good at what he or she does. As the manager, you likely know why you appreciate and value each member. But do the all the teammates know one another's strengths?
  • When teammates understand one another's professionals strengths and how those of one differ from everyone else's, they can see more clearly how, collectively, these strengths can be leveraged to create a stronger team.
  • When teammates start to tap into one another's strengths, not only do they do better work, but they also start giving praise and recognition to their teammates for their strengths. Studies show career satisfaction is tied to peer recognition. The more your team does this, the happier and more confident team members become.

30-minute Team Decoding exercise.

As a Team Decoding practitioner, I've found a simple team exercise can unlock immediate benefits. It works as follows.

Step 1: Have each teammate assess his or her workplace strengths using a common set of terms. NOTE: I use a free strengths quiz, the Career Decoder, to see what an employee's top three professional strengths are. Using the eight most valued workplace personas, this assessment enables employees to instantly see where they're similar to and different from one another.

Step 2: Bring the team together to review the results. Have each person share his or her top three and explain why these properly represent strengths germane to the job.

Step 3: Have teammates validate each co-worker's self-defined professional strengths by pointing out examples at work when they've seen the co-worker's success in leveraging them.

Step 4: Encourage teammates to consider the newly defined professional strengths of their teammates going forward and challenge them to leverage one another for greater collaborative results.

Depending on the size of your team, the exercise above can take less than 30 minutes to complete. Throw some food into the meeting and you've got yourself an excellent team-building session. Here's an example of how it can help.

Example: More cohesive customer service.

The new manager of a 10-person team reached out to me when he was hired to improve the department's customer service ratings. The group was responsible for the execution of complex software implementations for his company's customers. The team was getting average customer service scores. After several months on the job, the manager observed that while the team got along at work, the team chemistry wasn't strong. Each worker was clearly more focused on being seen as good at his or her own job, regardless of how his or her performance impacted the overall success of the team. The manager decided to do a Team Decoding session.

After team members completed the strengths quiz and submitted their results to the manager individually, it became clear to him that the undiscovered and undiscussed diversity of professional strengths across the team were causing the problem. In short, as individual contributors, everyone privately had opinions about how customer service should be done and what was a priority, but these thoughts didn't sync. The solution? The manager created a workflow process outlining every step of the customer experience and each person's involvement in it.

Next, he held a Team Decoding session as described above to discuss how the top personas of each employee were ideal for his or her role in the customer experience. In doing so, every teammate had a chance to share his or her own perspective on the need to approach the job a certain way. The result? The team now understood how important it was to have people with different professional strengths and a different priority for each role. A new level of mutual respect developed among the group. By being able to recognize and admire the strengths of one another, they created a stronger bond.

Within weeks, the trust among the team had skyrocketed and the manager found commitment to the job and productivity dramatically improved. The team was also more talkative, smiled more, and seemed genuinely excited to come to work and collaborate with their peers.

Team Decoding isn't hard. Working on a team without good chemistry is.

Every good leader knows that the stronger the team chemistry, the better the business results. Team Decoding is the key to unlocking your team's unique potential and helping them find bond better with one another. Try it and see what it can do for your team's productivity.