Ignorance is bliss. Ever heard that statement? I certainly have. However, when it comes to teams I beg to differ. In our workplaces people are generally expected to fulfill specific functions individually, and as part of the team, in order to meet the requirements of their job description. Although this is a necessary function of the workplace it can stifle the innovation and achievement of results for both employees and the team.

People have talent, skills, experience, and passion that are often not easily visible to others, and kept hidden beneath the surface. When employees feel that their work consists of merely ticking off a list of items from their job description there is a loss of engagement. People have a desire to feel connected at work, and to feel like their work has impact. We feel engaged when we are being challenged and we are making full use of our skills, particularly those that are beneath the surface.

Think about what you know about your team. Now, think about what you probably don’t know. Teams rely on having diverse, yet cohesive, skills and abilities. Not being aware of hidden talent, and subsequently, not making use of that talent could be seriously affecting the effectiveness and engagement of your team.

As a leader, finding out what is hidden below the surface on your team can be tricky. Here are some ideas to learn more about your team.

 Be Authentic

People are more likely to be open to sharing their hidden skills and passion if they see you, as the leader, doing the same. Be visible in the workplace, and commit to ensuring it is the real you showing up. Your words and actions matter, so ensure that both are authentic.

 Listen Actively

Active listening is key to learning more about your team. Make a point of taking the time to listen and consciously understand what is important to your employees. In our busy workdays this is not easy, but it is well worth the effort. Your employees will recognize your genuine interest and will respond by communicating more openly about what they want you to hear.

 Ask Questions

People need to know that their thoughts and opinions matter. Take the time to ask purposeful questions that help you to understand the strengths, perspectives, and beliefs about the work your employees are doing. Be frank and ask them how they would like to be challenged. People often have a good idea of when they are being underutilized and how this can be remedied.

Encourage a Problem Solving Culture

Once you have a better idea of the hidden talents, experience, and skills of your employees make it a priority to leverage those abilities. Leadership involves looking for ways for employees to contribute fully. Remember, people want to be engaged through the use of all of their abilities.

 Open and Honest Feedback

Build in regular opportunities for feedback, particularly beyond performance appraisals. Important to feedback is to ensure equal opportunity for you to give feedback to your employees as well as your employees giving feedback to you. This alleviates much of the fear associated with feedback and facilitates the understanding that people have the ability to influence their work and to seek opportunity for fulfillment.

Passion is directly linked to engagement through the full use of our abilities, including those that are normally hidden beneath the surface. When we are challenged and engaged we work harder and smarter, thus enhancing innovation and effectiveness. More importantly people become ambassadors for the work being done, as well as the organization.

How do you learn about the hidden abilities of your team? How does it make a difference to your leadership?