Teams need a focus on Strength

An anthropologist proposed a game to a group of kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruits near a tree and told the kids that whoever got there first would get the fruits. When he told them to run, they took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together to enjoy their treats. When he asked them why they had ran like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said: ”UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?’

Picture and story by: Truus Huisman (VP Sustainable Business and Communications at Unilever)

In today’s world, it is observed that we have lost the spirit of caring and sharing, which is what we should possess in community living. We tend to look towards our own needs, rather than assisting others to achieve their needs and contribute towards a collective team development.

We want to have a bigger car than our neighbors, raise brighter kids compared to our friends and enjoy a better quality life than everyone else. Such kind of self-achievements are what we term as “stress” in today’s context. It is not always wrong, as such comparisons with our counterparts motivate us to work harder and achieve more. But the inability to manage such unnecessary stress would affect our lives negatively with unlimited needs and wants.

Such competitions are prominent, especially in the corporate context. One day, your manager may call you and your colleague to his room and say this: “If any of you is able to get that order, I will recommend you for your promotion with a fat year-end bonus”. By hearing this, you would do whatever it takes to outdo your colleagues and team members to pursue that goal. You will try all ways to defeat him even he is working as hard as you to win that order. And out of your “stress”, you will outshine him in front your customer and hopefully get a bigger share of the cake at the end of the day.

Eventually, you will behave just like what the anthropologist said: “Whoever gets there first gets the fruits.” We often see this ugly side of ourselves when we go to the stage to receive the award alone, leaving our disappointed and unhappy team member in a corner. True teamwork, in fact, would be a situation that one spares a thought for another towards your fellow teammates and as what the African children did, no matter how fast or slow he may be and vice versa. There must be a collective mindset between team members to reach the goal and to share the fruit of labor and that is true teamwork.

Being committed heart and soul to a team means that we work together and help one another to achieve a collective goal. As we are imperfect yet good in different aspects of our lives, we tend to cover our weakness by shunning away from it. However, there would be times where our weakness would be revealed, for example, when it comes to certain demanding situations, we can’t perform as what others perceive us to be and fail to come up to the standard.

In actual fact, when we are facing a demanding situation, we tend to put in double or triple energy to overcome our weakness and yet we cannot perform to the expected results. We perform well on what we are good at, but not what we are weak in. Knowing what we are good at can lead us to a higher level and we should leave those areas that we are weak to someone who is stronger at it with in the team, so that as a team can achieve the collective goal.

How can I know what I am actually good at? How can I find out my talents and strengths?

Strengthsfinder is a powerful tool developed by Gallup which helps us to identify our talents and show us how we can contribute hand in hand with our fellow teammates, use our talents to help the other team member who are less talented in certain area.

An analogy that could be given, is one that we imagine the team as a completed puzzle. Each team member is akin to an individual piece of puzzle, all team members come together and form part and parcel of the completed piece of picture.

And a team which works together with their respective talents would be like a beautiful, completed puzzle, in which complements are given. The whole team would be acknowledged collectively, the puzzle would not be complete with the absence of an individual piece. Similarly, team dynamics would be different and incomplete where one does not use their strengths to contribute to team building.

An example of utilizing team’s talents is like imagining someonewho is strong in strategic thinking, who creates an alternative way to proceed when faced with any given scenario. They can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues, chart out a path for the team to take. Others who are strong in the “restorative” talent are swift at dealing with problems. Such individuals are quick to find out the best way to solve an issue. There are many other different talents that a person may have and Strengthsfinder can help you to uncover them. It is amazing how many different talents a team can consist of.

Exercising each of our unique talents would complement one another in the team so that a common set of goals could be achieved and to create a win-win situation for everyone to enjoy. Fruits taste best when shared among others.




Joshua is a certified Strengths Coach who works with corporate leaders and managers to improve their operations performance through Lean Transformation as well as leveraging Strengthsfinder to transform their business culture and uncover on the full potential of their resources.