Lead Through Strengths

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: Would StrengthsFinder make a great hiring tool? Although it might seem logical, once you dig a little deeper you realize it might not be a great idea. But don’t despair — Lisa also gives you tips on how to use your team’s natural Strengths to compensate for the ones it is lacking.

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you’ll notice what works, you’ll get more of what works because people can replicate what they’ve already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team..

Would StrengthsFinder Make A Great Hiring Tool?

Today the question is about StrengthsFinder as a hiring tool. This usually comes up when one of my StrengthsFinder training clients happens to also have an open position while we’re doing a team-building event. Or, this question comes up when a leader sees a visual map of their team’s natural talents. They spot holes. They want a well-rounded team. And the logical next thought is, “Oooh, this would be the perfect tool to help me find new hires who have these talents we don’t naturally have on the team.”

I’m with you. That feels totally logical, yet there are at least 5 reasons that this idea is flawed. Yup, I’m telling you that StrengthsFinder isn’t a hiring tool. Whahhhn. Wahhhn. So hang on. If you’re thinking that you want to use it to vet your candidates, slow down juuuuuuust a sec while you consider the whole picture.

Reason 1: StrengthsFinder Shows A Stack Rank, Not An Intensity or Maturity

Take two candidates: Madison and Abraham. Madison’s #2 talent theme is Focus. You’re psyched because that’s the talent you’re missing on your team DNA charts. Abraham has Focus at #10. So on the surface, Madison wins because she has that elusive talent you’re looking for.

But wait! One thing you need to know about the tool is that it tells you each person’s top talents ... for them. But it doesn’t give you a measure of how well developed that talent is. And it doesn’t give you an intensity level for that talent theme. So Abraham’s #10 Focus could be stronger and better developed than Madison’s #2 Focus talent. 

Reason 2: CliftonStrengths Was Designed As Development Tool, Not A Hiring Tool

CliftonStrengths (or StrengthsFinder as many of us know it by), is a tool offered by Gallup. Gallup is well known for their research, and they take their tools seriously. They designed the assessment as a professional development tool, not as a hiring tool. They recommend offering it to new hires when they join your company on the first day.

Imagine what a cool change-up that would be: being a new hire, coming in for your first day, and spending your onboarding experience learning more about what will put you at your best. That sounds so much better than filling out paperwork all day!

Gallup does, in addition to CliftonStrengths, have a consulting practice around Analytics Based Hiring. They have a whole segment of their business focused on employment, predictive analytics for a role, and custom assessments for hiring.

Most listeners will be saying, “Thanks Lisa, but I don’t have a five or six figure budget for that kind of consulting.” No worries. Of course, the main thing is to know how the research scientists designed the tool so that you don’t get yourself into liability hot water.

Reason 3: You Might Make Your Search Tougher Than It Already Is

Here’s a reaction I get constantly. It’s something like, “Oh my gosh. Not a single person on the team has the Command talent theme. We need to add some bold, decisive people because we have tough client base, and we need people who can hang. The next new hire absolutely has to have Command.”

Here’s the thing. If you tried to act on that thought, you would be creating a search for a needle in a haystack. See, the Command theme is the least commonly seen talent in the entire database. A small percentage of people will have that theme. And once you find this elusive person, they may not be qualified for the job.

Imagine that Madison has Command at #1, and she has spent her entire career as an accountant. Abraham has Command at #19, and he has spent his entire career nerding out on rare coding languages. If you’re filling a role for a software developer — and you need one of those critical and tough to find skills — you would be absolutely silly to prioritize Madison’s Command talent over Abraham’s rare skills. Not to mention, you would be dipping into reasons #4 and #5 …  

Reason 4: Searching By Strengths Might Distract You From Outcomes

When you look at a strengths DNA chart for your team and you see that your team has no one with Focus or Discipline, you might think, “Oh no, we’re doomed. We’ll never be able to make a plan and follow it to completion.”

You could take this deficit mentality and start obsessing over how your current team doesn’t do well with written plans. But don’t lose sight of the bigger goals. Ask yourself: What are the outcomes your team is responsible for? Do you currently meet them? If you do, you probably use the existing talents you have in a way that acts like (or gets the same results of) a talent theme you’re missing.

So maybe you have a person on the team with Activator who gets projects off of the starting blocks. And another guy with Arranger and Adaptability who shuffles things around seamlessly during your mid-project madness. And another team member with Achiever drives you to get-it-done status by keeping an eye on the finish line for each milestone.

As long as you’re meeting the outcomes, it doesn’t matter which talent gets you there. And finally, here’s reason #5.

Reason 5: If You Prioritize Natural Talents, You Might Diminish Critical Hiring Factors

This one is, in my opinion, the most powerful of all. It’s that your hiring decisions take into account a lot of factors about a candidate. You interview someone to vet their Knowledge, Skills, Experiences, and Talents.

A lot of times, you have critical timing factors as well. So for example, say you landed a big contract with a client. Your marketing team is creating a piece of cutting edge geo-targeted advertising software. You need this person yesterday (isn’t that always what it feels like?).

If you hired by talent themes, Madison’s Command and Focus would tell you she’s the one. But if you consider Abraham’s specialized coding languages, his experience with the client’s specialized urban agriculture industry, and the knowledge and skills he built in the last 10 years in marketing, it sounds like a no-brainer that Abraham will be a top candidate.

So remember: even though talent is important, it’s one of many factors.

Leverage Strengths To Build The Team

With all of that, you’ll want a takeaway beyond a list of watch-outs. What do you do if you are still thinking that your team is hurting because you’re missing a couple of talents? Three things:

1: On your existing team, have a conversation about how to partner up the talents you already have. In combination, they can act like the ones you’re missing.

2: On your existing team, remember to focus on your team’s strengths and easy buttons. Your talent gaps can stand out on a chart like a sore thumb and lead you to obsess over what you’re missing, yet if you’re building a strengths-based team, you’ll want to focus on leveraging what you do have.

3: For the role you’re hiring for, come up with questions that get to the thing you need. So, if you’re lamenting the lack of planning on the team, rather than only considering candidates with the Focus or Discipline talent, ask questions and open conversations that get to similar outcomes.

Things like: 

  • Tell me about a time when you took a complicated project from start to finish.
  • What’s your process for creating project timelines and communications? How do you keep yourself accountable to your commitments?
  • Tell me about a situation when you were given an unrealistic deadline for a product launch.

You get the idea here. Think of the things that you want from the talent theme you don’t have. And then ask about those things. You’ll find that people can get to those same outcomes through many different talent themes — and the label doesn’t matter as much as the result.

Strengths Resources

To get more of these strengths-focused conversation starters, check out our resources page — there are a bunch of tools related to StrengthsFinder, strengths-focused leadership, and on noticing what works so you can get more of what works.

Enjoyed the podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 52-strengthsfinder-hiring-tool.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this episode, Lisa explains how knowing your strengths, and the strengths of others, can help you get along better at work. You’ll also find out what grizzly bears have to do with the workplace!

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you'll notice what works, you'll get more of what works because people can replicate what they've already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team. Look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works."

Prevent Conflict by Knowing Your Talent's Needs, Expectations, and Assumptions

In this episode, you’ll get a conversation guide you can use in your one-on-ones as a way to prevent conflict at work. The root of most conflict and consternation at work is missed expectations. As a leader, you have expectations of your team and they have expectations of you.

Interestingly, built into each of the 34 StrengthsFinder talent themes, you’ll find some inherent needs and assumptions. For example, imagine an employee named Connor. He’s on your team and he leads through the Includer talent. He needs to know there’s room for everyone’s opinion — including his. No surprise, since it feels good for an Includer to be included.

Each talent also often comes with the assumption and expectation that others might notice or value the same thing they do. It’s natural for all of us to not realize how unique each person’s assumptions and expectations are.

So in that example, Connor would notice that someone’s ideas are being ignored. And he’d probably expect you, as the manager of the team, to rectify the situation. And then when you don’t, he might wonder why you’re such a jerk to flagrantly ignore the situation. Meanwhile, you lead through Analytical, Activator, and Command and it never occurred to you that someone has an issue. After all, if you had an issue, you’d say something quickly and directly.

The source of most conflict in the workplace is missed expectations. Usually these expectations are never spoken of. It’s like we keep secrets in our minds. Well, not exactly. But we often assume others think the way we think or instantly understand what we expect from them. Our natural way of thinking and acting is so innate that we often don’t notice we’re doing it or that it’s different from anyone else’s perspective.

What a Vacation Taught Me About Leadership

Here’s an example to illustrate how conflict comes from missed expectations. I went to Glacier National Park for vacation. The most exciting hiking trail is called the Highline Trail. It’s one of those trails that is only the width of the footpath. Teeny. There is a rail attached to the face of the mountain so that you can hang on because if you are the least bit afraid of heights you will think you are about to fall off the mountain to your death. So of course that is the trail I wanted to go on! We showed up at the visitor center ready to go, but there was a sign that said the Highline Trail is closed. Boo! Written on the whiteboard, it said they closed the trail because there’s a carcass in the way. I was so bummed because it was THE attraction I wanted to experience at Glacier.hiking trail is closed

From the View of the Manager. Now let’s break this example down in the context of expectations. Let’s take the person who closed the trail. Imagine they are the manager on the team. They had to look out for the best interest of the team. They were afraid that hikers would be attacked because wildlife were trying to eat the carcass and we might be in danger if we got anywhere near the carcass. This is quite similar to what happens to managers at work. As a leader, you have to consider the broadest perspective. Without fail, you have conflicting demands — the things people want from you. And those things are rarely in alignment. A team member wants something different from you than your peer. And that request is different from what your leader is asking for. And that’s different from what your customer has been requesting. And … inevitably you have to make tough decisions that disappoint people, in the same way that the park ranger's decision disappointed me at first.

From the View of the Team. Now, imagine grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions on the team. Where else do you hear a business show that tells you to get in the mind of a grizzly bear. Ha!  If they see a carcass on the trail they ar

e going to get it. If a tourist comes by, they will see the tourist as a food thief. They see someone who threatens their survival. They will assume that I want to eat that carcass and they will attack me. It is an incorrect assumption, but if you get in the mind of a mountain lion or grizzly bear you can absolutely understand. Likewise, you have seen this at the office before. This is why silos exist inside of companies. People are protecting information or status quo in order to ensure they can survive or thrive in their environment.

bear on trail

From the View of a Colleague in Another Department. And then there’s me as a character in the example story from the hiking trail. I represent your disappointed colleague, visiting from another department. When I got the news that the trail was closed, I pouted for a minute (only in my mind, not out loud). I lamented the fact that the mountain lion and grizzly bear cannot understand me and just let me pass by. This is very much what happens on the job when you imagine people in other departments at the office. You wonder if they are blocking your progress on purpose. You wonder if they are ignoring your request or failing to trust you for any good reason. You know all you’re trying to do is get your project further down the hiking trail.

Now to bring this (sort of silly) hiking metaphor into action, take a look at how StrengthsFinder can help you overcome these assumptions and expectations that lead to disappointment and conflict.

Three Tips to Help Overcome Unmet Expectations

Assume positive intent.

Each party is probably doing the best they can with what they have or what they know. Very few people come to work intending to sabotage. If you are lucky enough to know each other‘s StrengthsFinder talent themes, consider that person‘s top five themes to give you perspective on where they might be coming from. It will help you look for the good they are attempting to bring to the situation.

Get further into the psyche of the person you’re working with.

Understand what their talent themes need at the office. At leadthroughstrengths.com/resources I posted a conversation guide to help you prevent conflict by using StrengthsFinder. Look for a thumbnail image that says "strengths tips for teams" at the top and "prevent conflict" in the middle.

This document outlines the inherent needs that every one of the 34 talent themes has. If you can have an open conversation with the person on your team about these, you can prevent these missed expectations before they happen. If possible, you will want to have this conversation in a one-on-one meeting when you’re not in the middle of a conflict. Knowing these things in advance will help you not assume things and will help you understand your team members' natural assumptions. If you use this guide during a conversation, here’s what you do: Have the person look at their top five talent themes on the document. See if the Needs listed for their top five resonate with them. For those that do, ask them about what they would naturally assume or expect based on that need.

For example, if you have a new team member who leads through Consistency, he might expect that you have documented processes. That’s one of his needs listed in the conversation guide. Then, when you ask about Assumptions, he tells you that he assumes he can and should enforce policies related to these processes. Imagine how good it would be for you to know that if he’s replacing someone who was willy-nilly about things. Your new team member will likely be frustrated by the cobbled-together mess he’s inheriting. And people from other departments will be surprised by his policing efforts. Yet if you know these things before conflicts happen, you can turn it around into a celebration of how he’s going to get an efficient operation established.

Know thyself.

If you want to make this Expectations and Assumptions one-on-one ultra–effective, come to that conversation having already prepared your own document. Of course, it’s always good to be self-aware. It also allows you to show them an example so that they know what you’re getting at. It keeps them from raising the skeptical eyebrow wondering why you’re asking these things. Most of all, the reason to look inward first is that you have your own assumptions and expectations that you naturally view the world with. It’s important to know these because it affects the way you lead.

For example, I expect that if someone sees something broken, misspelled, or incorrect, that they will fix it in the moment, regardless of whether it is their job description or not. This expectation comes from my Maximizer talent. And if you look at the document I made for you to download, you’ll see that there’s an inherent need that talent has — it’s to respect quality as much as speed and quantity. On the other hand, It’s perfectly reasonable for someone on the team to take a note of something broken and plan to fix that thing they noticed ... later. Well, reasonable to them. See, this is exactly why it’s helpful for you to know how your expectations might be different from your team members. And, it’s critical that you get comfortable verbalizing them to each other so that it’s not only about you making demands of them. It’s about an open conversation so you understand where each person is coming from and you can avoid the conflicts before they happen. In all directions.

To close out, here’s one more example using the Connor with the Includer talent and the manager with the Analytical talent. Imagine you’re the manager and you assigned a research project to Connor. He starts by collecting information from peers who are in a similar role. He gathers feedback from customers, from peers, and from end-users. Meanwhile, you are waiting for a spreadsheet to help you make a Go vs. No Go decision by using charts and graphs and data. Both are natural assumptions. Connor, the Includer, uses relationships to inform decisions through people‘s past experiences and feedback. You, leading with Analytical, find truth in data. One is qualitative. One is quantitative. Both are valuable. And if you don’t know this about each other, you’ll drive each other crazy! And of course, if you do know this about each other, you can make a powerful partnership.

Data On Strengths Helping With Alignment Of Expectations

Speaking of data, I’ll end this episode with a bit of data for you. This is from Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement research. They found that Employees who regularly apply strengths at work are 5.1x more likely to strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. Interesting, isn’t it? That makes a direct and unexpected connection between the application of strengths and clear expectations.

Resources of the Episode

Remember, if you want to use the document I made for you to explore Assumptions and Expectations according to their StrengthsFinder talent theme, get it at leadthroughstrengths.com/resources. Look for the “Preventing Conflict” image. Remember, the root of most disappointment and conflict at work is unmet expectations. You can get ahead of that by using StrengthsFinder to explore these default assumptions and expectations with each person on your team.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 051-prevent-conflict-strengthsfinder.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST