Clue Into Your Staff’s Superpowers

Named by Inc. as one of the top 100 leadership speakers, Shelley Row, P.E., is an engineer and former government and association executive. Shelley’s leadership work focuses on developing insightful leaders who can see beyond the data.

When you started in your management position what was your initial objective? For most of us, we dove into the technical work. We identified the big projects and how we could help keep them on time and within the budget. We focused on the technical challenges and the financial picture.

While those are all important facets on which to focus, you also want to learn about your staff. Which workers get which type of work done? How they do it? How can you match those skills with the organizational needs?

This process can take time – months or years even – and you may not have that kind of time.  Here’s a trick that short-cuts the process so that you get a sense of each person’s skills right away.

Simply ask for a briefing on his or her project and remember not to say how to do it. Then, pay attention to the approach he or she uses. You may find that each person falls into a specific “superpower.” The four main superpowers include:

Analytical analyzers. Analytical analyzers will provide a presentation that is grounded in data and facts. They love charts and graphs. But, in most management positions, you must frequently make decisions before you have a chance to obtain all the data. This is where your analytical analyzers shine. Go to them to find out the data that is available and hear the data that they wish they had. You can use their information to decide if the risk is too great without having all the data available. Analytical analyzers will keep you fact-based and honest. There will be no room for fake news from them!

The briefing style your staff chooses will tell you as much about them as it does about the project.


Tactical executioners

Tactical executioners focus on the activities that are underway – who’s doing what and when each project is due. They are all about getting actions completed. I had a staff person with this talent. She prided herself on diligently tracking every task and its completion. She could tell me the status of everything all the time. Someone with this superpower is perfect when you have various complex projects to manage. They will be on top of it

Politically savvy

The politically savvy staff member will talk about the people who are essential to project success or who are actively involved in the project. They understand that relationships play a big role in project success. As a manager, you need them and you also need to learn from them (especially if this isn’t your superpower.) They are typically networked into the organization and know everyone and everything. I had a chief of staff like this, and she knew how to get things done by leveraging her relationships with others. This skill is invaluable. Find these types of people within your staff and cultivate their superpower.

Big picture thinkers

Big picture thinkers are your strategists. They will be the ones that begin the briefing by setting the context and describing the project goals. They may lay out a project strategy that flows from the goals. They’ll know the direction you want to go and keep their eye on the ball. This keeps you and others from going off on tangents. They are less likely to be lost in the details and they will be the ones to ask the tough questions.

The briefing style your staff chooses will tell you as much about them as it does about the project. Their approach will point to their preferred work style and their superpower. By using this approach, you’ll learn about the project and about your staff at the same time. Your next task is to align their superpower with the work so that you use their natural talents to effectively accomplish your mission. 

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