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2 simple yet powerful ways to bring the best out of people

Collaboration and engagement are all the rage today in organizational leadership. All leaders, regardless of cultures and industries, recognize the importance of these competencies to their organizations’ successes. Much have been researched and written on these subject matters. While most of the literature out there is helpful, it seems that what is seemingly simple is made complex sometimes. I shall instead attempt to make the complex simple there.

How do we bring the best of out of others? I like to think in terms of complementing and supplementing people.

Complement: This is not about showering praises and patting others on their backs. What it entails is leveraging on people’s strengths. To enable and empower people to make full use of their strengths. Someone who is energetic and extroverted would be happier and more effective if tasked to make a presentation or lead a project team. Another person who is more introverted and analytical would be better suited to a support role collecting and providing information and advice in the same team. Leaders need to find and use the right people for the right roles. In personal relationships, this can translate into simple acts like allowing someone who loves to talk the space and floor to do so even if you yourself love to talk. It is about respecting others’ inclinations and perspectives to put them first before self. Those of us who are proponents of Positive Psychology would attest to the importance of developing and emphasizing our strengths and at the same time, downplaying our “weaknesses”.

Supplement: Talking of “weaknesses”, we cannot simply dismiss or ignore them. They are real and everyone has them. Key is to compensate for them. Or work around them. There are 3 ways to do this. Firstly, as much as possible, allow people to avoid tasks or assignments that require the use of competencies that are challenging to them. For example, don’t hold a reality-grounded/pragmatic engineer accountable for creating the next generation of products. Or make someone who is imaginative handles a routine/operational job. A second way to supplement would be to augment these “weaknesses”- get someone else who is better to help out. A leader who is strategic needs a right-hand person who is execution-oriented. A task master needs a partner who is more empathetic to keep the team together and achieve the goals at the same time. Thirdly, when one cannot avoid or augment unpleasant tasks, a person would need the support of someone else to encourage and challenge him/her to accept and complete the said tasks. This supporter has to possess the courage and will to balance the carrots and sticks. A typical approach is to give constant feedback, both positive and developmental. Consciously give a thumb up to a normally brash person who controlled his temper and tongue during a key meeting. Or kick him under the table when he is about to lose his cool. This is about caring enough for others to make them look good and be willing to be unpopular to stretch them to do so.

When we treat every relationship in terms of complementing another person’s strengths and supplementing his/her shortcomings, we make the relationship and the person whole. Try it and experience the impact for yourself.