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Discover Your Superpowers and Kryptonite

Embrace your team members' perspectives and assets. Identify everyone's superpowers and kryptonite.

By Gustavo Razzetti

December 10, 2018

Get to Know Your Team Better

The perspectives and assets that we bring to the table can empower or hinder our team’s potential –the Superpower and Kryptonite exercise is ideal for launching a new team, getting to know your current team members better, or for increasing your own self-awareness. Unlike the weaknesses and strengths approach that uses a right-or-wrong mindset; this approach is a friendlier way to get to know your team better. It encourages people to assess themselves using a metaphor that people usually find more human and engaging.

Why Your Team’s Superpower & Kryptonite Matter?

The Superpower and Kryptonite exercise is an empathy tool to identify and assess what makes us stronger and what neutralizes our superpowers –– it’s very effective for both professional and personal development.

The difference between the usual strengths and weaknesses tools is that there are no boxes; people define their assets with their own words. But, most importantly, it doesn’t use a right-or-wrong approach –both our superpowers and Kryptonite can work in our favor – or not.

A superpower is your unique force or contribution – something that gets the best out of you. In my case, one of my superpowers is the ability to connect the dots in a simple way. Where others see lots of unrelated things, I find a common thread and make sense out of it.

Your kryptonite sucks your energy and passion, bringing out the worst of you. In my case, my kryptonite is frustration. When things don't happen at the speed I want or people move to slow or get stuck, I get frustrated. However, as a facilitator I had to learn to overcome that. I'm helping get people navigate uncharted waters and to explore beyond their comfort zone. I learned to turn frustration into energy for change.

Overplaying your superpower can be dangerous. If I always trust in my ability to connect the dots, I might be missing something or forcing connections where there aren't any. On the other hand, you can turn your kryptonite into something helpful. When I feel frustrated I ask myself, what's the real issues? What am I relieving? Am I being too demanding? When the frustration kryptonite gets in my way, I reflect on the that I can and I can't change – and I focus on the first ones instead of getting stuck on the latter.

How to Facilitate the Team Superpower And  Kryptonite Exercise?

There are many iterations to assessing Superpowers and Kryptonite. Most people use it as an icebreaker to create empathy within people that haven’t worked together before. While that’s fine and effective, the magic of the tool goes well beyond that.

If you want to use this activity as an icebreaker, ask people to write one superpower on a piece of paper. Then introduce the notion of Kryptonite and ask them to write theirs (one each), on the other side of the paper. This helps to build the metaphor that they are the two sides of who we are.

The approach for team assessment is similar to the above, but people will write many (not just one). Also, they should rank them from most to least critical. When sharing with the broader team, each person should focus on the top one and provide a brief explanation; they could then share the rest out loud without any details.

Here's an example of a team's individual kryptonites and superpowers.

Once everyone has shared theirs reflect on how the team can leverage everyone's superpowers and kryptonites.

What have you learned about yourself?

What have you learned about your teammates? What have you learned about the team?

How do individual superpowers can complement each other or offset kryptonites?

What are the dangers of playing your superpowers to the extreme? How can you turn your kryptonite into a force for good?

Discuss how the exercise made them feel, both personally and as a team. Use the following questions to prompt feedback:

Encourage them to reflect on how this exercise can make them more open to those who have different perspectives– diversity of thinking makes teams more interesting.

You can do the exercise on your own as well.

When we accept our wholeness – both the good and bad within us – we do not only embrace being vulnerable; we become more accepting of others. Thus, it becomes easier to work with us.

This exercise is fun and powerful. By using the superhero metaphor it taps into collective archetypes, creating engagement and removing the fear of judgment or being labeled.

Coaching Tips to Get to Know Your Team

Remind people that this not about strengths and weaknesses – how we use either our superpowers or Kryptonite can create a positive or negative effect.

Listen to the underlying story:

When working with an existing team, are the ‘assets’ balanced? Or are most teammates very similarly in terms of Kryptonite and Superpowers?

When working with a new team, ask each member to share one thing people should always do or avoid doing when interacting with them. Ask them to explain the ‘why,’ connecting it to their Superpowers and Kryptonite.

In both cases, find common themes and ask the team to reflect upon them. In a recent workshop I saw a lot of people mentioning ‘anxiety’ as their Kryptonite. Is that something related to current projects, workload, or company culture? What does it say about the company? What can they collectively do to minimize this (anxiety or others)?

Remember to model behaviors. Share your Kryptonite and superpower first. Providing examples helps illustrate the point, but also encourages people to embrace vulnerability. My superpower is connecting the dots – to identify insights that bring things together which seemed completely disconnected before. My Kryptonite is impatience – I tend to get nervous or anxious when people doubt, or take too much time to do something or arrive at a conclusion.

Additional Reading to Get to Know Your Team

You Don’t Need to Change the World Alone

36 Questions that Will Turn Strangers into Friends

How to Free Your Mind from Toxic Behaviors

Leaders Must Stop Being Superheroes

What do you think?

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