Every successful leader was once a diamond in the rough.

focus on your strengthsDiamonds are a naturally occurring mineral, the hardest mineral known today.  All diamonds start as carbon in its most basic form.  Only after mining, cleaning, and cutting are they ready to be used in industrial tools or polished into beautiful jewelry.

Just like the diamond in the rough, everyone is born with the potential to be a leader inside of them, but that potential needs to be set free.  Michelangelo once said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Here are the three steps to bringing forth the leader inside of everyone on your team.

Prepare them to recognize and use their potential.  Mining for peoples strengths can be a challenge.  In this area I am a big fan of the Strengthfinders books and tools.  I have used these for many years with several hundreds of former and current team members.  The key concept in the book is that each person is born with certain natural strengths.  Some might call these talent.  These strengths are in areas such as communication, strategy, learning, maximizing, analytics and others.  Your strengths do not define what you can do, but they help you understand how you could best approach what you do.

I start every mentoring relationship, and every leadership assignment with a thorough review of the Strengthfinders results.  As the author Tom Rath said, “The key to human development is building on who you already are.”

I have not once had anyone disagree with their Strengthfinders results.  But, somehow seeing their strengths in print as strengths, frees people to use them to their maximum potential.

Polish their strength so they can shine The true beauty of a diamond does not show until it is cleaned and polished.  Recognizing the potential of your strengths only offers potential success until your strengths are allowed to shine. Once my team knows their strengths we use every opportunity for them to practice.  We work together to bring their full potential to the surface.  This brings rewards in two ways:  my team develops confidence in their strengths, and other people recognize their success.

Marilyn vos Savant, the columnist Ask Marilyn, is known as the person with the highest recorded IQ at 228.  Her take on this area is, “Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.”

Point them in the right direction Not all diamonds are destined for the jewelry store.  In fact about seventy-five percent of diamonds are used for industrial cutting tools.  Of the twenty-five percent that are used for jewelry, each diamond’s use is based on the four C’s:  color, clarity, carat, and cut.

Your final job as a leader is to place your team in the roles that will allow them to make the most of their strengths.  This gives each member of the team personal success, and it provides the best opportunity for team success.  Five time NBA All Star Paul Westphal said, “The key to any game is to use your strengths…”