Uncover Your Team's Potential - Page 1

Sep 29, 2006

Katherine Spencer Lee

In every IT department, there are star performers who make high-profile contributions to the group. However, the core of your team is likely comprised of individuals who meet their job obligations but don’t necessarily stand out from the crowd. Are you doing all you can to maximize their potential?

Often, your middle-of-the-road staff members have secret talents or strengths that, if applied, can make them extremely valuable to your organization.

Here are some strategies for uncovering hidden assets in your group:

Ask employees what they find fulfilling. Frequently, managers use performance reviews to establish goals for the coming year but fail to take the time to ask employees what they really enjoy about their work.

Sometimes simply asking people what motivates them can yield insight into individual strengths or aptitude. For instance, a network administrator may have become involved in security issues and find this aspect of his job to be the most interesting.

That person might be an ideal candidate for in-depth training in network security in order to play a larger role on future initiatives.

Additionally, be careful about automatically turning to the same employees when forming project teams. There may be opportunities for others in your group to assume new responsibilities and grow professionally.

So, when possible, ask for volunteers. You may be surprised at who shows an interest in particular initiatives. For those who consistently do not volunteer, you should assign them to a few project teams.

Be flexible with job descriptions. While you certainly need some general guidelines on a person’s job responsibilities, be careful about limiting roles too narrowly.

For instance, a help desk professional with a flair for writing might be able to use down time to develop some basic technical documentation for the support section of the company website. If your job descriptions are too strict you may not be giving people the freedom to test their talents, make new contributions to the firm or cross-train in other areas.

As long as workers are meeting their responsibilities, try to provide them with some time to get involved in other types of projects.

Consider 360-degree reviews. Remember that managers may not always be aware of the strengths their employees possess. For this reason, when compiling performance reviews, you may want to solicit feedback from others, such as a staff member’s coworkers and clients who interact with him or her on a daily basis.

These “360-degree” evaluations may help you identify hidden talents.

You may not realize, for example, that an applications developer frequently assumes and thrives in leadership roles when on project teams, even if she is not designated the team leader. Or a webpage designer may have a knack for resolving conflicts with other departments and ensuring initiatives progress as expected.

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