|Photo courtesy of Symphony of Love via Compfight|
Spring seems way so far away. In the Great Lakes area we will have snowbanks that won't melt until late May. Every day I try to force myself to find something positive and bright about all of this snow spewing a constant spray of flakes under the dim skies. It isn't easy! Then, one cold, bitter, morning I found it. The snow was falling lightly with large flat flakes. The flakes that fell onto my windshield were a kaleidoscope of artwork. No two flakes were alike. There was a continuous variety of all shapes and sizes. Some had sprawling arms like a starfish. Others were compact like handcrafted Lego pieces. I had to smile. I finally remembered one unique and beautiful thing about winter.. the uniqueness of snowflakes!
It really is true that structurally no two snowflakes are alike. So many factors affect the shape and intricate design of a flake. As flakes form from water they are constantly changing as they grow and morph. Their final form is impacted by temperature, air currents, humidity, and specs of dirt in the air. They literally change as they fall through the various layers of the sky. Because each layer of the air has a slightly different temperature, there is more/less moisture available for adding to the crystal structure of a flake. The flakes start as water vapor and then become ice crystals that continually crystallize until they fall down into your yard. Colder flakes have more integral shapes while warmer flakes are smoother and form more slowly. A piece of art is born as it tumbles down towards us. That being said, there are similarities between flakes. They tend to take one of the following forms and then add their own personal twist to their shape:
- 6 sided thin hexagonal crystals that are formed within high clouds.
- Needled/flat sided crystals that form in middle clouds.
- A variety of hollow column 6 sided flakes that are made in low clouds. About.com Snowflake Chemistry
If you have never thought of your people as snowflakes - you may want to!
As a leader, it's your job to strength find, appreciate, nourish, and grow your people. Be the catalyst that helps capitalize on their strengths and form their "shape". Appreciate and cultivate what makes them unique. They in turn will group together and form a solid, powerful team.
So...How do you cultivate and grow your team of "Snowflakes"?
- Capitalize on what makes people unique. Use their strengths and forget about changing their weaknesses. The weaknesses of some are the strengths of others. Mix and match for success.
- Concentrate on your top employees, not your low producing people. Your top people will come through for you via their dedication, work, and attitude. Your time is better spent cultivating these people.
- Be innovative and creative where you place people in their roles. Play to their uniqueness and think out of the box where their talents can best be utilized.
- Acknowledge the uniqueness of every person. Treat them as if they are your best clients. They are the front that will bring growth, profits, and success to your company.
- Cultivate a "snowflake" culture where uniqueness, new ideas, approaches, and views are appreciated and encouraged.
Working with the individuality of every person on your team isn't easy. It's a lot of work and will initially take an exurbanite amount of time. Your may be tempted to take short cuts to get the process going so that you can concentrate on other things. Don't. Look long term and realize that your work up front will build a strong team with highly empowered people down the road. The means justify the end.
Your biggest task will be discovering the uniqueness and strengths of your people. Here's how:
- Note where people consistently perform well and produce results.
- Discover what skills/knowledge each person learns quickly - what's their "sweet spot"?
- What does each person love to do? Slide them into that role.
- What gives each team member gratification in their work? This will give you a glimpse into their uniqueness.
- Help them see their true strengths and help them understand why they perform so well in certain areas. Encourage them to develop these areas and strengths.
- Challenge every one's strengths and uniqueness by encouraging them to apply their skills on a higher level within the organization. This could be an actual management level or moving someone with tech skills into a more technical area to rev up their skills.
- Help everyone apply their strengths and unique skills more broadly. Help them feel empowered by mentoring others or leading teams with different skills to help them grow.
The old saying that your people are your best asset may seem overplayed, but it is the best advice that I can give to anyone. Recognize that like snowflakes, every single person is unique and has gifts that must be appreciated and developed. Like the crystal that falls through the layer of air as it forms, your people are constantly changing and building on their uniqueness. Be there to help guide them and welcome them to your "perfect storm"!
|Photo courtesy of CaptPiper via Compfight.com|