I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Focus to your career.
In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.
- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.
- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.
You’ll get three layers to chew on:
1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas
Career Branding When Focus Is Your Strength
You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.
Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.
So here are a bunch of Focus-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:
Red Flag Situations For Focus
These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Focus. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.
Here are two Red flags for Focus:
The Do-Not Do-Not-Disturb Team. You know that setting on your instant messenger - the DND (or Do Not Disturb) setting? Well, it very well may be imperative for someone with the Focus talent theme. Yet if you lead through Focus and you believe that the only acceptable way to behave on the team is to be always-on and fully distractible, this will severely challenge your success. I recently met a woman who said if she didn’t keep Skype open all day, she’d get feedback immediately about being un-collaborative or unhelpful.
Squirrel Brain. You know that saying when you’re in the middle of a thought, and then you go on a tangent, and then you come back and claim, “Sorry, squirrel.” If this is how the team always works - exploring rabbit trails, going off-topic in meetings, and playfully admiring the team ADHD, it will be enormously frustrating for someone with the Focus talent theme. If you lead through this theme, you know you’re talented at being monomaniacal. You naturally use FOCUS like an acronym to stand for Follow One Course Until Success. If the team is pinging around all over the place, you might stay in frustration zone.
3 Fresh Application Ideas for Focus
These are ways to apply the talent theme of Focus at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.
For someone who leads through Focus, put this talent to good use with one of these options:
Team North Star. When your team has been bogged down, and there are way too many tasks to do within the allotted amount of time, use the Focus talent theme as a compass. This person is naturally going to keep the end in mind - they can probably see a straight line to the finish line. So when your team seems distracted by low-priority urgencies and pet-projects, give the Focus talent theme a voice by asking them to keep pointing to the most important thing.
Project Plan. Next time there’s a big shake-up at work, (imagine a re-org or acquisition or team changes), have the person who leads through Focus clear up the murky waters for everyone. Often, when these big changes happen, people can’t make sense of their day-to-day work for the first few months. With the Focus talent theme, they can break things down into baby steps, important dependencies, and a project plan. This turns stressful chaos into order.
Alone Time. A person who leads through Focus will often be at their best when they’re left alone to get the job done (after the planning phase is over). Allow this person to buckle-down and do the tasks. Usually there’s no need to micromanage someone who leads through Focus. They’re great at making the most of quiet time, and moving things forward in a blitz of action.
Here's Your Personal Branding Homework
- Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
- Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
- And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.