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At Leadfully, we believe in superpowers.

Superpowers are the strengths that define us. Not skills or areas of expertise that we learn over time, like managing projects or creating presentations, but innate talents or capacities that are part of our identity — for instance, creative thinking, problem solving, or grit. When you’re channeling your superpower, you’re totally in your element.

On a team, knowing what superpower each person brings lets you take advantage of the team’s full inherent potential. As leaders, our job is to discover those individual strengths and create opportunities for them to shine.

Look for complementary strengths

Create powerful duos by pairing up people with complementary superpowers — for instance, someone who’s strong in systems thinking with someone who’s strong in experimentation. Working with someone whose superpower complements your own helps fill in any gaps or weaknesses in how you might approach the work alone.

Finding complements will also reveal which superpowers don’t mix so well. A peacemaker and a provocateur, for example, may not see eye to eye. Plan for potential conflicts by understanding where people’s strengths might work at cross purposes.

Strive for balance

A team is usually more effective when there’s both a diversity and a balance of superpowers. Examples include decisiveness, vision, pattern mapping, negotiation, energy, and many others.

But, as we mention above, keep in mind that someone who’s a natural peacemaker might not appreciate that provocation is just as vital for the work, and vice versa. While the peacemaker is focused on commonalities and getting everyone on the same page, the provocateur can’t help playing devil’s advocate and challenging the consensus. Without empathy among teammates, this can lead to tension instead of appreciation.

Swap superpowers for a day

One exercise that can help build empathy and stretch individual comfort zones is to adopt someone else’s superpower for a day. It takes effort to force a certain mode of thought or behavior, especially if it goes against the grain — the result being that you better appreciate what comes naturally to you and gain respect for the strengths that others bring to the table. Afterwards, debrief: Share your experience with the person who has that superpower on your team.

Keep team strengths in consideration

Visually presenting information helps keep ideas tangible and present. Try making a map or chart of the various superpowers on your team. This can serve as a layer of project planning: First map out the superpowers. Then, when you’re figuring out responsibilities, you can divvy up tasks based on individual talents — or create partnerships and small groups that become stronger with their superpowers combined.

If you need a hand getting started, check out the Superpowers card deck — it’s a fun way to discover and gain insight into your superpower, and makes it easy to share the exercise with your team.

Adapted with permission from Teamworks.

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