Lead Through Strengths (careers)

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Activator to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Activator 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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.

Here are a bunch of Activator-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Instigator
  • Go Button Presser
  • Fresh Thinker
  • Action Jackson
  • Initiating
  • Movement Maker
  • Catalyst
  • Fast
  • Just Ship
  • Influential
  • Kick Off Crew
  • Eager
  • Brave
  • Change-Friendly
  • Energetic
  • Action-Oriented
  • Starter
  • Propulsive
  • Spark
  • Gets It Going
  • Momentum Creator
  • Early Adopter
  • Motivator

Red Flag Situations For Activator

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Activator. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Activator:

  1. Analysis Paralysis. If your industry or workplace culture is to carefully weigh every option before taking action, it can be very draining to Activators. The waiting game is extremely frustrating. If you lead through Activator, you get satisfaction from starting things, so every delay and moment of bureaucracy can make you feel like an animal trapped in a cage. Be sure to communicate with your leader that you’d love to be involved in as many pre-launch and starting line moments as possible. Since it’s unconventional to assign projects based on the place in the timeline, this can be an eye-opening step (and one that helps you shape your job toward the elements that put you at your best).
  2. Maintenance Mode. If you lead through Activator, you are most motivated, energized, and excellent at the starting line. If you find yourself assigned to the maintenance of processes or products, you’re more likely to get bored. Your magic mojo is usually not at the finish line and after. It can be a powerful insight to realize that you may be more attracted to short-cycle projects than to programs. After you try on that concept for awhile, have a conversation with your manager about your ideas for how to amplify your contribution by getting you involved at the momentum-creation phase, and then moving on to the next thing.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Activator

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Activator 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 Activator, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Come In, The Water Is Fine. Often, Activators are early adopters. If you’ve observed someone who leads through Activator, and they’re courageously braving a new way of doing things, use them as a model that the team can follow. Often, when big corporate rollouts happen, the team perceives the company messaging as “rah rah visioning.” Many people will sit on the sidelines until they know it really works or until they know this rollout is going to be a real thing that gets implemented. Meanwhile, your Activators are likely already in there, doing the thing, testing it out, and living in the new world. Get them to champion it by sharing exciting features or time savers with the team. Activators can be a practical voice to show others that the new way is working out great.
  2. Beta Testing. People who lead through Activator love being on the cutting edge. They bravely try new things. So if you ever need to pilot a program or beta test, they could be a great group to use to get things started.
  3. Change Management. When you have a major change initiative, often, you have a project team that has been working away for months or years. Getting people to adopt the change is often tougher than all of the tactics it took to plan and create the new thing. It can be exhausting for those who got the project to this place. Well, this is the finish line for one group and a starting line for another. It’s a great place to bring in Activators. They often love being part of a kick off crew. They are great at being a spark of energy. Notice the difference: they love creating spikes of energy at the kick-off, yet their energy for a project wanes as it drags on. So get them on the kick-off crew, not the maintenance crew.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 006-Activator.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Adaptability to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Adaptability 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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.

Here are a bunch of Adaptability-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Early adopter
  • Goes With Flow
  • Spontaneous
  • Responsive
  • Thrives Under Pressure
  • Mindful
  • Reassuring
  • Present
  • Calm
  • Easygoing
  • Right-Here-Right-Now
  • Adaptable
  • Flexible
  • Agreeable
  • Enjoys Change
  • First Responder
  • Accommodating
  • In the Moment

Red Flag Situations For Adaptability

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Adaptability. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Adaptability:

  1. Old Faithful. Just in case you’re not familiar, Old Faithful is a natural geyser. It sprays 100 ft in the air. It happens over and over again - over a dozen times a day. It’s in Yellowstone National Park, where Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho come together.If you lead through Adaptability, you might like to see Old Faithful, but you wouldn’t want to be Old Faithful. Mundane work, predictability and routine will likely bore you to tears. Repetitive work is not fun when you lead through Adaptability because you draw excitement from changes in the moment.

    Here’s a coping strategy: if you’re in a role where you do something similar over and over, search for the unique surprise inside of it. For example, if you do customer inquiries over and over, focus on the element that makes this person’s question unique. Focus on being fully present with the other person. Those two elements (the change/surprise part, and the right-here-right-now part) can help you find threads of motivation.

  2. Rich in tradition. Many companies are proud to represent years of tradition and history. If your company is heavily focused on the past, it might feel like stagnation to someone who leads through Adaptability.

    The stuck feeling of “same old, same old” can be frustrating for Adaptability. Even if you work for a cutting edge company that puts a heavy emphasis on lessons-learned meetings or post mortem processes, you might still feel the drain of not being able to live in the here-and-now. Every rehashing of the past can feel like an anchor in the water when you’re trying to drive a speedboat.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Adaptability

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Adaptability 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 Adaptability, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Unexpected Detours. If you manage someone who leads through Adaptability, they revel in change. They’ll likely have a fun work day when they can take immediate action and work things out "on the fly."

    They make people feel seen and heard during changes that are difficult for people to adopt. So pull them in to help you implement change that involves the buy-in of other people.

    When balls get dropped (even by others), you won't see this person sulking on the sidelines. You'll see productive progress. So next time you have unexpected changes at work or in your industry, think of people on your team who lead through Adaptability. Their ability to be amiable to change (on both the people and process side) can be a huge help to the team.

  2. Urgent Pressures. If your team works under urgent pressures, surprises, and emergencies, think of those who lead through Adaptability. Challenge them to fine-tune their responsiveness. For example, if the job demands unanticipated travel, see if they can learn to pack and leave in under 30 minutes.

    Also take advantage of their demeanor as a calm and reassuring person. When other teammates are upset by daily events, someone with the Adaptability talent can often help the team find productive ways to relieve stress and make progress. They can have the influence that moves teammates to acceptance rather than resistance.

  3. Never The Same Day Twice. Avoid assigning work that requires structure and predictability from someone who leads through Adaptability. As much as you can, avoid asking them to work on a project where they’re required to follow the same operating procedures every day (or where there are lots of rules and controls). These responsibilities will be frustrating. Look for projects or roles with constantly changing circumstances. Call on them when you need to respond to constantly-differing requests of customers, guests, patients, etc.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 105-Adaptability.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Analytical to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Analytical 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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.

Here are a bunch of Analytical-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Numbers Oriented
  • Truth-Finder
  • Data Driven
  • Systematic
  • Coherent
  • Evaluator
  • Questioning
  • Rigorous
  • Level Headed
  • Deep Thinker
  • Researcher
  • Inspector
  • Well-Reasoned
  • Methodical
  • Logical
  • Diagnostic
  • Reasoned
  • Scientific
  • Observer
  • Factual
  • Meticulous
  • Rational
  • Pragmatic
  • Measurer

Red Flag Situations For Analytical

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Analytical. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Analytical:

  1. Drama. If you lead through Analytical and you feel surrounded by constant drama on the team, it might suck the life out of you. Of course, workplaces have humans, so you’re going to have conflict and hurt feelings from time to time. At the same time, if you feel that decisions are continuously swayed by a heart-led focus that discounts the facts, you’ll be drained. If you have to work with a teammate who is highly emotional at every meeting, you might suspect that they’re unable to do the critical thinking necessary to do the job well. These high-drama situations will likely frustrate the heck out of you.
  2. Trust The Process Decision-Making. Imagine leading through Analytical and going through a big merger at work. You’re analyzing all of the angles, trying to figure out what the job will be in the future, and whether you’ll even have a job. Your leader keeps telling you “have faith.” The concept sounds simple, yet that likely won’t fly with you. Any version of, “just trust us” or “just do what I say” or “just believe us when we tell you we’ve thought about it from every angle.”…well, that won’t cut it for people who lead through Analytical. You will often need to see the sausage-making that people are trying to buffer you from. You want to know the ugly underbelly so that you can weigh the real facts rather than the sound bites. In fact, it can be helpful to communicate this need with your leader during tough times - that even when the underbelly is ugly, if you know the decision points and assumptions, you can get settled in the same way as the people who are comfortable with blind faith. It’s counterintuitive to many people, so this is an important red flag to explore and discuss with your leader.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Analytical

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Analytical 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 Analytical, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Poke Some Holes. You’re optimistic about something, but it’s high stakes. You want to be sure you’ve thought through all of the assumptions, downsides, risks, and objections. As a leader, this is the perfect time to bring in your team member who leads through Analytical. They can poke holes, be a skeptic, and give you watch-outs that you’d never think of. And in this context, it feels great because they’re doing it as a contribution rather than as a negative nelly.

  2. Deeper Insights. If you have a mound of data, and you don’t know what story it should be telling you, hand it off to someone who leads through Analytical. Ask them to bring back their top 3 insights. Besides allowing them to have fun swizzling the data in pivot tables and charts, you’ll get a new lens on an otherwise overwhelming pile of numbers.

  3. Level-Headed View. Imagine a situation where you need to make a go / no-go decision about a service you currently offer your customers. Most of your team is emotionally attached to this service because it’s the one that allows them to have tight relationships with customers. The simple mention of a go / no-go decision puts the team in a frantic, emotional state. This is the perfect task to give to someone who leads through Analytical. Ask them to provide the qualitative and quantitative data that will allow you to make a level-headed decision about this service. Come up with a rubric that is grounded in logic. With a scorecard and analysis in mind, this person will be able to put their personal preferences aside and get you a well-reasoned dissection.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 104-Analytical.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Arranger to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Arranger 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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.

Here are a bunch of Arranger-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Juggler
  • Multi Tasker
  • Organizer
  • Piece Fitter
  • Collaborative
  • Change Lover
  • Maestro
  • Turnaround Queen/King
  • Configurer
  • Flexible
  • Dynamic
  • Conductor
  • Coordinator
  • Resourceful
  • Unflappable
  • Change-ready
  • Puzzle Rearranger
  • Interactive
  • Decision Maker
  • Change Agent
  • Priority Adjuster
  • Enlister

Red Flag Situations For Arranger

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Arranger. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Arranger:

  1. The Slow, Steady Slog. If you lead through Arranger and you’re in a slow-paced, careful work environment, you might get antsy fast. If you feel bogged down by obsolete processes or technologies, you’ll be dying to make the positive changes needed to move forward. If you happen to be on a team where the obsolete guidelines are sacred, you’ll want to find other parts of the job that are not so steady-eddie to keep your Go Button firing.
  2. Stay In Your Lane. Let’s say you lead through Arranger, and you’re responsible for marketing analytics. Although the job is typically focused on the marketing and sales teams, you see a cool opportunity to bring in a panoramic view with customer data and product data. Then you get the news that you need to “stay in your lane” - keep focused on the job you were given. This can be extremely frustrating if you lead through Arranger because the broad collaboration and the ability to adapt to the current times is exactly where your genius lies.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Arranger

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Arranger 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 Arranger, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Stalemate. Imagine two teams have been battling each other for years. They never seem to agree on budgets. They seem to have competing priorities. Collaboration has halted. Consider bringing in someone on the team who leads through Arranger. They may thrive on the idea that they get to put together processes, plans, events, and tasks that will actually move both teams forward. It’s important to know that if you put them in a situation where you want them to get momentum where it stalled, they need to have enough sway to make things happen. If they get blocked and ignored, they’re likely to find a workaround, yet running into an entire team of people bellyaching about the change or telling your team member to “stop fixing what’s not broken” it will actually drain them rather than make them thrive.
  2. Progress During Adversity. Let’s say you lead a team of hardware engineers. Someone discovers a defect in the product that might set your go-to-market date back by two quarters. If someone on the team leads through Arranger, see what they can come up with. The puzzle of shifting resources, remaining unflappable, and keeping people enlisted in the project during these hard times - those are all things that this person will be fired up by.

  3. Matrix Mess. Imagine you’re like 49% of the workforces around the world, and you have a matrixed reporting environment. People might describe themselves as having 4 or 5 bosses. Let’s say you have a project that has become a complete mess. No one knows who owns it. Team members are spread all over the world, and no one can attend the conference calls at the same time. Most people work remotely, so getting everyone in a room to work things out is simply not an option. When you have a messy environment and a high stakes project that must get ironed out, call on your team members with the Arranger talent. Ask them specifically to focus on bringing functional collaboration. Ask them to be the maestro of the matrix. They will likely thrive if they get to think of themselves as a conductor in this seemingly muddled-up environment.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.

     

Direct download: 103-Arranger.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Belief to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Belief 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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.

Here are a bunch of Belief-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Anchor
  • Stable
  • Grounded
  • Mission-driven
  • Certain
  • Self-Sacrificing
  • Values-Driven
  • Evangelist
  • Committed
  • Principled
  • Passionate
  • Loyal (if values-aligned)
  • Purpose-centered
  • Altruistic
  • Purposeful
  • Consistent Advocate
  • Inspirer

Red Flag Situations For Belief

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Belief. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Belief:

  1. The mission isn’t what it seemed. For example, let’s say you joined a medical device company. You joined because you heard the vision of the lives you’d save with this new product that makes people’s pace makers last an additional 10 years. You were overjoyed by the idea of not putting elderly or weak patients into another risky surgery. A few months into the job, you overhear some people talking about a revenue strategy that makes you think they’re prioritizing revenue over the patient’s best interest. Now, if you lead through any talent and you think something unethical is going on, you’ll probably dislike it. But if you lead through Belief, and you suspect the mission that you joined the company for is a sham, it’s all over. Now I’m giving you an extreme example to make the point clear. Yet if you lead through Belief, be on watch for this. Even in small situations where things are not what they seemed on the surface (or people are not who they seemed to be on the surface), it is difficult to ever get your trust back. When you’re detached and “arms-length” because you’re skeptical, your engagement on the job changes. It can go downhill fast if you don’t get in front of this one.
  2. You have to work closely with your anti-belief. Let’s do another extreme example to make this one obvious. Say that you lead through the talent theme of Belief and one of your life’s missions is to protect and serve animals. You are an active member of PETA, which is something you spend every night on. In the daytime, you work at an advertising agency. Last week, you got assigned to a new client - and they’re a cosmetics company that does extensive animal testing. You try to suck it up because you need the job, but every time you talk to the product manager at the client, she makes your blood boil. If you lead through Belief, you probably can’t just grin and bear it. It’s more than that with Belief. Now, if you take a less extreme example, imagine that you learn a peer at work has a belief or closely held value that runs counter to yours. It gives you a seed of doubt about this person who you used to love working with. These are the moments you need to get ahead of before they derail the productivity you’ve always enjoyed when you work together. This is different for every person and every belief. For you, it may work out by simply finding other shared values so that you can feel rooted in other areas of trust. That can be a way to rebuild mutual respect. For others, it may be that you have to have an open conversation about your value that feels insulted.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Belief

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Belief 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 Belief, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Product Evangelist. If you know your team member leads through Belief and they deeply believe in the “why” of the product, it’s on! Unleash them as a product evangelist. Make it a thing to share the features, benefits, mission, and delight with the outside world. In a time when consumers are skeptical about “sales-ey ad copy,” imagine what would happen if your team member ties a life mission to it. That’s a product narrative that your customers will get behind.

  2. You Need An Ethical Rock. Imagine a situation where bribes are common. Or a role where a person is placed in a lot of tricky ethical situations. This might be a great place to bring your ethical rock - someone who leads through Belief. This person’s clarity and convictions around ethics and values will allow that person to shine where others waffle. They will see clear moral standards where other people struggle with gray areas.

  3. Make Some Meaning. Regardless of the task, Belief is considered an executing talent. That means that it helps people get things done. As you can imagine, if you feel so passionate and connected to a topic that you would run through walls for it, then you’d have someone who is going to get some mega-big task lists checked off. Next time you need to apply the Belief talent theme, take time to connect the job responsibility with the bigger purpose. This brings the internal motivation to bring the A-game to the job.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 102-Belief.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Command to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Command 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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.

Here are a bunch of Command-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Strong-willed
  • Bold
  • Challenging
  • Driven
  • Truthful
  • Decisive
  • Determined
  • Concise
  • Unruffled
  • Candid
  • Honest
  • Persuasive
  • Frank
  • Quick
  • Direct
  • Plain-spoken
  • Leader
  • On The Level
  • Assertive
  • Chaos Tamer
  • Purposeful
  • Influential
  • Clarifier
  • Forthright
  • Straightforward
  • Clear Communicator
  • Strong Presence
  • Unshakable
  • Truth Teller

Red Flag Situations For Command

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Command. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Command:

  1. Sugar Coating Culture. Do you have a team that avoids the issue behind the issue? Are there elephants in the room? Are people often beating around the bush? Are there passive aggressive comments? Do people skim past challenges because they’ll raise uncomfortable conflicts? Ooooh. If you lead through Command, all of the stuff I listed sounds awful. It could totally suck the life out of you. If colleagues sugar coat the bad news, you might feel like they’re patronizing you. If you lead through Command and you know a teammate is boiling hot about something, you want them to just say what it is. You will feel soul sucked if you think that work has turned into a giant mind-reading game. If you are great with the candor, yet you’re not feeling very tolerant of the over-harmonizing, I recommend practicing Radical Candor. Check out the book by Kim Scott. It’s a way of giving direct feedback with candor and compassion at the same time. You will become a great model for the team. They can watch you demonstrate candor in a way that they’ve never tried. Once they see how your truth-telling is a more efficient way to perform (and they get less scared of directness because they see the feedback working), you might be able to slowly turn the norms around on the team culture.

  2. Don’t Poke The Bear. See, if you lead through Command, you’re not afraid of poking that sleeping bear. Yet, when the corporate narrative is that you cannot challenge the assumptions of Mr. X (Mr. or Mrs. X could be any leader, subject matter expert, or sacred thing). If you lead through Command, you need the freedom to disagree (even if your stance is the unpopular one). You thrive when you can ignore the typical norms of an org chart where you’re “supposed” to defer to others and not dig underneath the decision to reveal a flaw. If you work in a culture like this, learn to bring your most mature version of challenging assumptions. You might be viewed as “having sharp elbows” or being too blunt. Yet truth-telling is how you thrive, so focus on the influencing part of the equation. Try a “yes, and” approach where you affirm something about what they did. Then your “and” comes in as a new layer of a building block, rather than calling them out. For example, Ted, I love how your solution put the customer experience right up front. And it strikes me that they’re likely to take this action next. In order to stay out in front of it, let’s add this element to your plan to make it lock-tight. See how that worked out? Rather than telling Ted he was a dumb dumb for missing a step, you built on his idea. And now he’s nodding along with you rather than resisting you or resenting you for catching his oversight.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Command

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Command 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 Command, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. When you need clarity over consensus. Sometimes you have a workplace situation that leaves one party to feel disappointed or upset - you know, one of those times when it feels like there will be a win-lose vibe by the department who doesn’t get their way?! When you need someone with an objective presence who can remove ambiguity, call on your team member with Command. Although they see consensus as a nice-to-have, it will not distort their decision-making process. This is great where you’ve had harmony-seeking teammates fail at getting to the core of the issue.

  2. When the messaging is a jumble. When you have a direction to communicate, and every department has thrown in their 2 cents…plus the kitchen sink, it can be a big ‘ol cluster. It can turn into an incomprehensible jumble-of-jargon. People who lead through Command are great concept people. They can easily narrow your thoughts into a few words or a few buckets so that people can understand the message clearly. Even in a small moment when you need someone who can “cut to the chase,” send in your person who leads through Command. They’re great at finding the three words that decode the mess in everyone’s head.

  3. When you need someone to take the driver’s seat. Maybe your team is in chaos. Maybe you have a lot wishy-washy-ness that has kept the team from progress. Maybe the team culture has always been one that defers to the leader, yet you don’t have time for someone to ask for your permission at every turn. When you need to get to a calm, clear future state, ask a person on the team who leads through Command to drive you there. They love being direct and decisive. They thrive when they can fix or manage out-of-control situations. And they will absolutely thrive if you give them permission to own it and then get out of the way. That will sound dreamy to most people with Command. When everyone else would be nervous to own a decision, they’ll be thinking, finally…less micromanagement.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 101-Command.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Communication 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 an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Communication 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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.

We often see two distinct "flavors" of the Communication talent theme. You may have one. You may have both. One is fairness in the treatment of people. The other is standardization for processes. So here are a bunch of Communication-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Presenter
  • Transparent
  • Eloquent
  • Captivating
  • Expressive
  • Clever
  • Nuanced
  • Conversationalist
  • Entertainer
  • Collaborative
  • Poignant
  • Vocal
  • Word Nerd
  • Explainer
  • Evocative
  • Witty
  • Storyteller
  • Writer
  • Interactive

Red Flag Situations For Communication

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Communication. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Communication:

  1. Dismissive About Words. If you lead through Communication, you believe that words carry truth. They matter, big time. Having your expression squashed or shut down will be draining. Seeing others get shut down will also feel draining. If someone keeps telling you to stick to the facts, and ditch the nuanced descriptors, you will likely feel handcuffed at work.

  2. Don’t Talk It Out. If you’re in a place where you’re expected to fully vet your ideas and think them through before expressing them, you may feel like you’re not at your best. If you lead through communication, your best ideas often happen while you’re talking out an idea…live! If you’re in a quiet, keep-to-yourself environment, it might feel stifling to you.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Communication

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Communication 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 Communication, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Volunteer To Give Presentations. You can become known as someone who captivates others. This may be through the colorful, charismatic way that you present. Or, it can be that you’re utterly compelling because of the way you craft the story arc.

  2. Invest In A/B Testing. Although you may love to improvise because you’re a natural communicator, the extreme strength in communication happens when you focus on craftsmanship. Give a presentation with 3 different metaphors. Or try 3 different attention grabbers to kick it off. As you watch people respond, you’ll learn a lot about which nuance lands with your audiences.

  3. Borrow From Hollywood. Think of your favorite movie plot. Re-watch the film to study how they reveal each new twist. Jot down ideas for how you can use similar techniques at work to deliver a training topic or to communicate a customer message. Experiment with ways to remix their techniques for building tension, surprise, and contrast. Use them at work to keep your audience on the edge of their seat – even if it’s just for an email.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 100-Communication.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Competition 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 an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Competition 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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.

We often see two distinct "flavors" of the Competition talent theme. You may have one. You may have both. One is fairness in the treatment of people. The other is standardization for processes. So here are a bunch of Competition-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Winner
  • Energetic
  • Selective
  • Intense
  • Record Holder
  • Driven
  • Scorekeeper
  • Striver
  • Measurer
  • Champion
  • Challenger
  • Scrappy
  • Ratings Creator
  • Gamer
  • Performer

Red Flag Situations For Competition

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Competition. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Competition:

  1. No Public Metrics. Call them KPIs. Winning Scorecards. Dashboards. Performance Metrics. Quotas. Standards. Job Levels. Targets. Whatever you call them, they’re something you need if you lead through Competition because you find it motivating to know where you stand. When there's no measure of success, you have no idea how you compare to others. And that’s no fun if your drive comes from your ranking of things.

  2. Everyone Gets A Trophy. If you're in a culture where people get rewarded for simply showing up, you might feel offended and drained. In a work environment, this can be more annoying than in 7-year-old soccer leagues because it tells you that you don’t work in a meritocracy. If everyone gets the same commission or bonus or job level for the same, mediocre performance, it will really take away the juice that makes you want to be awesome.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Competition

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Competition 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 Competition, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Earn A Personal Record. Even when you run a 5k by yourself, it’s fun to set a personal record (PR). Translate this to mundane tasks at work to give yourself the juice to blast through them at work. For example, if you made 90 phone calls one day, challenge yourself to get to 100 tomorrow, or to get to 90 in 7 hours rather than 8.

  2. Help Someone Else Win. Share your hacks and tactics. Help other people on the team step their game up. Since winning is fun, you’ll enjoy treating someone else to that feeling. Also, it allows you to keep stepping your game up so that you can feel challenged in a pool of smart and formidable teammates. As the water level of the whole pool goes up, so does yours. So do the company results.

  3. Challenge Someone To A Duel. Find someone else at work who thrives on winning. Look for a top performer who will make you step your game up in order to win the bragging rights. Make it a duel that you have a chance at winning. At the same time, be sure it’s not a “gimme” because it’s no fun when you’re not even in a legit challenge. Of course, the smack talk and the energy of the competition is fun, yet it’s also a great way to meet company goals by pushing each other to set new records and pull off more than you’ve ever done before.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 099-Competition.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:00am EST

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Connectedness 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 an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Connectedness 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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.

We often see two distinct "flavors" of the Connectedness talent theme. You may have one. You may have both. One is fairness in the treatment of people. The other is standardization for processes. So here are a bunch of Connectedness-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Integrator
  • Idea-Connector
  • Bridge-Builder
  • Comforter
  • Considerate
  • Abundance-Minded
  • Faithful
  • Kind
  • Listener
  • Seeker
  • Perceptive
  • Unifier
  • Caring
  • Nature-Lover
  • Advocate
  • Open-Minded
  • Philosophical
  • Thoughtful

Red Flag Situations For Connectedness

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Connectedness. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Connectedness:

  1. Silos. If your company is famous, internally, for a siloed, departmental approach, you might be drained by the closed-mindedness. When colleagues refuse to see that issues impact more than one small group, they could seem selfish. If you’re constantly trying to get people to be more aware of the downstream impact of their actions, you might wear yourself out, like you’re walking upstream in a fast-flowing river of non-collaboration.

  2. Experiencing Us vs Them Comments. If you constantly hear the service team complaining about the sales team, or the engineers complaining about product marketers, you’ll wonder how it’s possible to view things with such a self-serving mindset. You’re keenly aware of how we all have a ripple effect on each other. You even realize that disdain that is felt but not spoken has a ripple effect. If this is the vibe on your team, it can really bring you down.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Connectedness

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Connectedness 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 Connectedness, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Help People Live In The Matrix. You naturally see connections among people and processes that other miss. If you have a matrixed organization, where people report to 4 managers, take calls all over the world, and connect via conference call and instant messenger all day, it can feel like a sea of disparate transactions. But they don’t seem separated to you. Volunteer your talent by showing the connections and helping your colleagues understand how things fit into the larger picture.

  2. Leverage Your Network. With your strong sense of community, you can connect people to each other to amplify the teamwork in your group. You might be the only one on the team who would realize that Susmitha does the same thing in India that Mateo does in Argentina. Not only can you give them a sense of community with each other, but your insights might allow for some efficiencies that no one else would have seen.

  3. Make Someone Feel Like They’re The Only One In The Room. In a hard-charging, distracted environment, your teammates are probably used to not being seen, heard, and appreciated. You probably have a natural ability to listen and make someone feel like you’re fully present in the conversation. What a great way to spread the ripple effect of kindness.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 098-Connectedness.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Consistency 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 an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Consistency 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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 Consistency-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Policy-Maker
  • Operations-Focused
  • Rule Enforcer
  • Compliant
  • Systematic
  • Even-Handed
  • Standardizer
  • Practical
  • Reliable
  • Pragmatic
  • Equitable
  • Efficient
  • Steady
  • Guardian of Equality
  • Unbiased
  • Fair
  • Justice-Maker
  • Egalitarian
  • Impartial
  • Promise Keeper

Red Flag Situations For Consistency

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Consistency. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Consistency:

  1. Constant Customization. If you lead through Consistency, you might prefer stable routines and clear guidelines. If you do, you could feel very drained at work if all processes seem to be up for negotiation and tweaking. You have a keen eye for standardization and ways it could serve your team or customers better. If you feel like you constantly have to battle people to get them to follow the guidelines, it could be a real soul-suck for you.

  2. Special Favor. If you lead through Consistency, you might have more of the people-fairness variety of the theme. With this, you believe that people should be treated equally. If you observe a team or a person getting unfair advantages or special favors, it will annoy you. If you see a specific person getting an unfair disadvantage, you might even find yourself taking action as their advocate. If you’re in this environment and it feels unfair to you, you would likely feel drained by the culture because it runs counter to your personal values.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Consistency

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Consistency 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 Consistency, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Document Things. If you like the process side of Consistency, document processes so that they can be referenced by new hires or people new to that task. That way, the likelihood of inconsistencies goes down because they’re following your steps rather than loose verbal instructions that Emma-down-the-hall mentioned.

  2. Stabilize After Change. After a re-org or merger or team shake up, you’re likely going to create new norms, routines, and standards for yourself. It would be something that you naturally do because you want to get back to a routine that feels normal again. This is a great time to offer your processes to the team. Imagine how a standard operating procedure guide might help others find some calm in a sea of chaotic change. Even if you make something as simple as the “who does what” list, it will help people figure out the new norms.

  3. Rules Role. Look for responsibilities that allow you to establish or enforce guidelines. Even in knowledge worker roles, I’ve seen people become the creators of the team manifesto or the “keeper of the brand promise.” It’s a way to help the team keep standards, even when they’re inconvenient. Get an ISO 9000 certification. Become a Six Sigma black belt. Volunteer for compliance-related responsibilities.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 097-consistency.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Context 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 an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Context 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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 Context-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Grounded
  • Researcher
  • Company Storyteller
  • Perceptive
  • Highlighter
  • Business Unit Biographer
  • Studious
  • Collector
  • Culture Keeper
  • Archiver
  • History Buff
  • Trend Spotter
  • Comparer of Then & Now
  • Corporate Archaeologist

Red Flag Situations For Context

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Context. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Context:

  1. Rework. If you lead through Context, you value lessons from the past. So it would make sense that if you live in a work culture that experiences constant rework (especially rework caused by repeating the same mistakes over and over), you will likely feel frustrated. If you lead through Context, you proactively avoid failure by learning from the past - this is how you naturally think. You would use that information and insight as often as possible. Someone else already did the work or learned the lesson, why re-learn it the hard way? So watch out for frustrating rework. If your colleagues never slow down to understand where you came from so you can make informed decisions as a team, you’ll likely resent that you keep running into the same obstacles.

  2. Bull In A China Shop. Imagine a culture where the mantra is “just ship,” where the ultimate priority is to quickly and consistently get new products out the door. Don’t stop, don’t look back. Well, that action bias might work great, yet moving forward hastily without knowing how we got there also has risks. If you lead through Context, you’ll be keenly aware of the potential to lose your grounding in the why and how. When the past is forgotten or under-valued, you might even feel under-valued as a contributor because you would feel like your opinion doesn’t matter. You will also feel drained if people ignore the lessons of the past by blazing forward, breaking things in the China shop, that could have stayed in perfectly good condition.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Context

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Context 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 Context, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Culture Keeper. Help your organization strengthen its culture through folklore. For example, collect symbols and stories that represent the best of the past. Use these to celebrate people’s contributions. Give major wins some air time. Rather than forgetting accomplishments one day after they’re done, celebrate their meaningfulness. This can help people feel that they are part of a legacy. Maybe you’ll inspire someone to honor the legacy of people before them. Or maybe you’ll inspire someone else to imagine how they can be remembered for significant accomplishments. Create a Hall of Fame award to show how early results and legacy team members have shaped the company you are today.

  2. Fail Forward. If “failing fast” is a part of the culture, volunteer to use your Context as a way to index the learning and keep it in a place that people can easily find it. Whether that’s a wiki or a story or a resource list or a lessons learned document, give people a way to remember this thing as they blaze into the future. You’ll help the lessons not get lost in the chaos.

  3. Study Success. Look at examples from the past that worked. Replicate those things to demonstrate how looking to the past for a minute can help you in the future. This is a great way to enjoy a look back while also making it useful for the current state.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 096-Context.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Deliberative 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 an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Deliberative 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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 Deliberative-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Cautious
  • Safe
  • Problem-Averter
  • Observant
  • Careful
  • Serious
  • Private
  • Risk-Manager
  • Forward-Looking
  • Confidence-Keeper
  • Sensible
  • Spotter of Downstream Impact
  • Thoughtful
  • Guardian
  • Threat Mitigator
  • Think 7 Stops Ahead Guy/Gal

Red Flag Situations For Deliberative

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Deliberative. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Deliberative:

  1. Ready, fire, aim culture. If you lead through Deliberative, you’ll likely be frustrated if you’re surrounded by hasty decision-making and action. You likely prefer to be careful and considered. You probably prefer to get it right rather than to get it done yesterday. If you’re in a culture where preventable mistakes happen often, you could get extraordinarily frustrated by this lack of prudence.

  2. Lovey, huggy, happy hour culture. Often, those who lead through deliberative are private people. They’re slow to open up personally at work. They often see work as work, and friendships as friendships. Yet as workplaces become more informal, it’s more common to see personal questions, shared emotions, friendships, and hugs. These things could be off-putting to you if you lead through Deliberative. And if you seem like the odd-person-out…wondering, “why are you in each other’s personal business so much” it might drain you as you wonder why they can’t just come in and get the job done.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Deliberative

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Deliberative 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 Deliberative, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Volunteer To Be The Risk Manager. If you lead through Deliberative, you’re likely exceptionally talented at thinking ahead about the pot holes the team might fall into. If you play that up on purpose, you can help the team in many situations where they’d otherwise step right into a pile of poo. Be sure to affirm parts of the idea or direction that you support, and that you’re calling out these “watch outs” so that the project or product can be successful and not get unraveled by an unforeseen roadblock.

  2. Find Confidence In Your Judgment. You have confidence in your own judgment, so take action on what you think is sensible, regardless of the impact on your popularity. Know that it’s possible to get labeled as a “Debbie Downer” type if you are the one always coming into meetings as the Devil’s Advocate for someone’s idea. With a slight tweak in your delivery, there’s huge power in this confidence that you see things others may not see. By adding a phrase, “I know it won’t be popular to share an insight that might slow us down, yet it’s worth it to share this insight that might put our goals at risk.” Then share the risks in the spirit of keeping on track to reach your team goals. This is a huge value to the team because it’s easy for most people to get blinded by the glossy, sexy parts of the project - and skim over the potential risks and downsides.

  3. Match Up The Gas And The Brakes. If you take an easy StrengthsFinder metaphor, you could say that the Activator talent theme likes to press the accelerator pedal of the car, and Deliberative likes to pump the brakes. Both are useful for the team. If you lead through Deliberative, you have a voice that needs to be heard on the team. And it’s one that many people miss. If you’ve ever seen head butting on a team where someone wants to slow down and ask questions…meanwhile someone wants to speed up and get the next thing off of their plate, you can see where an inherent conflict might exist. On the other hand, if you consciously partner up and make this a yin-yang thing, you can get the benefits of Activator-urgency and Deliberative-accuracy and risk mitigation. The trick is to go find the yin to your yang before there’s a conflict so that you can appreciate each other’s perspective and bring out the best of the combined approach.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 095-Deliberative.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Developer 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 an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Developer 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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 Developer-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Coach
  • Teacher
  • Mentor
  • Celebrator of Growth
  • Advocate
  • Capabilities Cultivator
  • Encouraging
  • Foster-er of The People
  • Caring
  • Patient
  • Perceptive
  • Recognizer
  • People-Investor
  • Talent-Nurturer
  • Potential-Spotter

Red Flag Situations For Developer

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Developer. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Developer:

  1. Wasted potential.  If you lead through the Developer theme, it will frustrate you if you see people being typecast into a single function. You see potential in people that other people are often not willing to see. For example, you might see careers being limited because someone doesn’t have a degree or they lack some experience. Yet you wish for people to take chances on them and let their talents bloom. This seems a bit odd as a red flag for Developer (if you don’t lead through this talent) because it’s often demoralizing for the person who leads through Developer when the overlooked talent is actually other people on the team. This isn’t weird at all to someone with Developer though - they feel enlivened by cultures that help each person reach their full potential. And they feel stifled and demotivated when they see potential getting wasted.

  2. Being the fixer. Now this red flag is actually self induced. It happens when you fall into a bit of a martyr syndrome, where it’s your mission to help every person be seen and heard and appreciated for what they are - even when they don’t want it. If you see that someone is consistently struggling the role, and they don’t want to be helped…or when you see that someone is a cancer on the team and they don’t want to turn around, you might want to let it go. I’ve seen this happen in organizations where low performance was tolerated for awhile, and complacency has set in. Now, as you swoop in to try to pump them up to see their greatness, they’re having none of it. If you see it as your job to turn them around, this burden can get emotionally heavy for you. Don’t let it bring your performance down. Now, I say all of this, knowing that you will still see potential in them. You’ll still believe in them. But you can’t make everyone care. You can’t own their performance results. They have to take accountability too.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Developer

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Developer 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 Developer, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Celebrate what you see. Fill some buckets, and do it over the seemingly small stuff. You’ll naturally see these small accomplishments because you know they aren’t small when you add up the ripple effect. For example, if you know a numbers-crunching peer has been working on their communication skills, compliment them when you see them customizing their interactions to be more palatable to the listener. When someone knows they’re on the right track, they’re more likely to continue on that track. Although it’s popular right now to bemoan the “everyone gets a trophy” mantra, you see the value in giving out small, metaphorical trophies for each person’s small wins. Don’t let that trophy thing get in the way of you noticing what works. You’re not giving away disingenuous compliments. You’re not giving them a participation trophy. You’re celebrating the small things so that they can tell that their efforts are actually working.

  2. Share your optimism behind the scenes. Tell a person what you see in them. If you lead through Developer, you can often see potential in people that they cannot see in themselves.   Make it a daily practice (or at least weekly), to share with someone how much you admire a thing about their work (or their work style). When you help someone see that their ability to provide clarity is useful to others, they’re more likely to give it in the future. When someone knows that their way of telling stories through data is insightful for others on the team, they’re more likely to share that data with the team next time. Give these small, personal encouragements so that people can see that their common sense is special…it’s in fact, not common at all.

  3. Nurture new hires. Be a mentor. Volunteer to help with on boarding programs. Make newbies feel welcome. Take someone who is green under your wings. Tell them where the learning curve will be steep in a new role, and how to get some quick wins within their first month on the job. Any of those things will be easy for you to know and convey - and it will be energizing for you to see new people step into their potential faster.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 094-Developer.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Discipline 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 an even stronger alignment between your current 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 Discipline 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. So many of us work on remote teams. 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 Discipline-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Organized
  • Orderly
  • Well-planned
  • Predictable
  • Structured
  • Team Blueprint Maker
  • Reliable
  • Timely
  • Gantt Chart Lover
  • Routine
  • Exacting
  • Goal Systemitizer
  • Neat
  • Efficient
  • Meticulous

Red Flag Situations For Discipline

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Discipline. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Discipline:

  1. Flavor of the month culture. People who lead through Discipline love routines, processes, systems, structures, and long term planning. They’re always scanning for what the norms are so that they know what to expect. If your team culture tends to have a lot of “flavor of the month” initiatives that start and stop, it might be maddening for you. Be on watch for these red flags, and look for the ones that bug you and kill your mojo. For example, you might be fine with a monthly book study initiative because you know that people are talking about the latest and greatest business topics. But if you notice that there’s a new flavor every month for the customer onboarding process, you’ll likely be frustrated because you can’t map your personal responsibilities to the ever-changing systems and frameworks.

  2. We’ll know the day’s priority when that day rolls around. If you have to be reactive at work, take note of whether this drains you. For example, if you work on dispatch (like, I don’t know what I’ll do that day until the customer calls start rolling in), that might be stress inducing. Or, if your days are filled with urgent requests that blow up your already-planned week, you might go crazy. That will not be fun. Especially when you feel a need to be precise and accurate. When urgencies blow up your day, you’re not only off-routine, but now your other plans are at risk for solid execution. Of course, most people don’t like it when their days are hijacked by someone else’s priorities, yet if you lead through Discipline, this can be especially draining. If it’s an unavoidable reality of your workplace, do your best to set up a structure that allows for the lack of structure (like pre-planned buffer time).

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Discipline

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Discipline 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 Discipline, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Share project planning templates. One of my friends (Laura, you know who you are), leads through Discipline. One day, she told me about her wedding planning spreadsheet. It had every potential vendor for every element of the event. Each vendor had categories that reflected their priorities and preferences so that they could be scored on a rubric of sorts. Everything had deadlines and timelines to seamlessly make every decision, bit by bit, so that things didn’t pile up into a big stress ball near the wedding date. When her friend marveled over this document, Laura was surprised that other people didn’t make spreadsheets like this.

    As you might guess, this is a superpower that extends into all areas of work and life. So if you lead through Discipline, share those documents with colleagues. They don’t have systems, structures, and routines like this in their lives. And they’d love to use your awesomeness to make their lives more streamlined and structured. Volunteering your project plans and routines to the team can be an amazing contribution.

  2. Create order. If you manage someone with the Discipline theme, think of them when things are in chaos. Whether you just went through a re-org at work, or if a new product launch created chaos, many people will naturally crave order. Whether you ask them to do it or not, people who lead through Discipline probably already have new systems, processes, and routines they’ve established to adapt to the new order. So why not mine this for the benefit of the whole team? Next time a major change is happening, think of them and ask them to help people get to their new status quo. This is brilliant because many people think of “change management” as the people-related stuff - like getting emotional acceptance for change. Yet often, the simple, day-to-day systems and routines bring the team a lot of that settled feeling. If you personally lead through Discipline, offer your new routines and hacks to your teammates. They’ll love how you’ve already moved into efficiency mode, and that you’re saving them time on the learning curve.

  3. Long haul view. If the team is great at starting things, and then fizzles in the middle, consider defining the role of the person with the Discipline talent theme to keep things on track over the long-term view. They have a long view of projects. They love to ensure that things get done over time. They’re not procrastinators, and they won’t fill the team’s inbox with urgent requests because they let the tasks in the middle of the project fall off of their radar. Nope! Instead, they are tuned in throughout the whole thing. Even if the person’s role isn’t formally a program manager or project manager role, they likely think like a PM. So use that for the good of the team.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. 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.
Direct download: 093-Discipline.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Empathy 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 Empathy 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 Empathy-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Spidey Sense
  • In Tune
  • Perceptive
  • Feeler
  • Caring
  • Sage
  • Listener
  • Sympathetic
  • Absorber
  • Confidant
  • Friendly
  • Intuitive

Red Flag Situations For Empathy

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Empathy. 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 Empathy:

  1. Give Me The Facts, I Don’t Care How You Feel. For someone who leads through Empathy, the emotions are where the truth lies. If you’re in a work culture that not only loves facts and data, but takes it further by also mocking or disregarding emotions, it might suck the life out of you.

  2. The Helper Job. Many people who lead through Empathy are drawn to helping careers like nursing, customer service, counseling, or support desks. Although you can provide a great service to those on the receiving end, you can also do yourself a disservice if you allow the escalations, irate customers, pain, and suffering into your psyche every day. The drain of these situations can be significant if you don’t get ahead of it and have a regimen for boosting the ratio of positive vibes.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Empathy

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Empathy 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 Empathy, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Persuasion Ninja. People who lead through Empathy innately know that people make decisions with their emotions and they justify those decisions with logic. Next time your team needs to be persuasive for a presentation or business case, get someone with Empathy to help you think through what you want to make the audience feel…and then now to present a story or data to make that happen.

  2. Name It. Many coaches and therapists have used a technique where people name their feelings. People who have the Empathy talent theme can often do this more readily. They understand that our thoughts create our feelings. And then they can name the feeling (beyond the obvious first ideas, like “anxious”). If they act as a model for how this can boost collaboration on the team, they can show others how effective it is. For example, imagine someone saying, I felt totally divided and disheveled when both teams demanded the opposite solution.

  3. Notice The Unnoticed. Often people with the Empathy talent theme will catch the unspoken elephant in the room. They’re the person who knows that everyone is nodding their head as if they’re aligned…yet that Frankie is not going to implement the agreement when you leave the room. Someone with the Empathy talent theme can be the one to say, “Hey Frankie, you look like you might have a reaction to this - what’s your opinion?” That small action of calling out an eye flinch that no one else saw may have saved the team 3 months of re-work and in-fighting.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.
Direct download: 092-Empathy.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

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:

  • Selective
  • Singular
  • Efficient
  • Persevering
  • Concentrated
  • Goal-oriented
  • Monomaniacal
  • Prioritizer
  • Rudder
  • Intentional
  • Driven

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.
Direct download: 091-Focus.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Futuristic 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 Futuristic 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 Futuristic-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Visionary
  • Imaginative
  • Creative
  • Inspiring
  • Energetic
  • Vivid
  • Forward-Looking
  • What-If Thinker
  • Anticipator
  • Dreamer
  • Futurist
  • Predictor

Red Flag Situations For Futuristic

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Futuristic. 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 Futuristic:

  1. The “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” Culture. Imagine the situation where the status quo is a good thing. You might work with a teammate who wants to steadily maintain the current excellence on the team. Yet you see standing still as shrinking into the past. You look ahead. You see a vision of “what can be” in the coming months and years. And you like to step forward toward that vision (even if they are baby steps). Yet if you encounter a work culture or colleague who constantly tells you to leave well enough alone, you might feel stifled.

  2. The “We Already Tried That And It Didn’t Work” Culture. Think about this scenario. You have a great idea for a process improvement. It’s big and bold and it requires some action-taking from others on the team. When you present your ideas, they quickly shut you down because they tried that two years ago and it failed. If this is a common experience for you and you lead through Futuristic, you will likely get frustrated with how they’re stuck in the past. You know that two years ago, things were different. The team was made of different people. The technology wasn’t ready. The implementation didn’t get followed up on. There are a hundred variables you can see that make it different today, and it would be maddening to the Futuristic talent theme to be dismissed because of dated ways of viewing the work.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Futuristic

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Futuristic 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 Futuristic, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Visualization. Encourage your Futuristic team member to spend 30 minutes each week thinking about the future of your department. Encourage the person to be extra concrete and visual with the vision for the future. Tell them to imagine what is already true and good and possible on the team – and then to project those good things into “what could be” 1-2 years out. The more vivid and concrete these ideas become, the more compelling they’ll be to other people as well.

  2. BHAGs and Dreams. If someone on your team leads through Futuristic, let them in on your BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Tell them about your career dreams. Ask them about their life dreams. This person thinks a lot about the future, and giving them space to marinate on those inspirational futures can be an energizing headspace for them. Many leaders will hesitate to share visions or ideas that are not fleshed out enough – they don’t want to lead people on. Yet those who lead with Futuristic can help you do just that. They can help you turn those dreams into realities.

  3. Early Adopter. If you have a major change, and you know people will resist, consider enlisting the help of a team member with the Futuristic talent theme. For example, let’s say you’re implementing a new CRM system and your existing Customer Relationship Management system has been in place for 12 years. The changeover will undoubtably cause some people pain for a few weeks, yet you know the new features are going to wow the team soon after. Someone with the Futuristic talent theme can see from here to there. They will not get mired down in the switching costs and how much extra work it will cost them over the next few weeks. Enlist them as an early adopter and promoter of the new change.

Here’s Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Want To Do StrengthsFinder Training With Your Whole Team?

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Direct download: 090-Futuristic.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Harmony 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 Harmony 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 Harmony-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Agreeable
  • Mediator
  • Pragmatist
  • Diplomat
  • Tactful
  • Ambassador
  • Sympathetic
  • Diplomatic
  • Ruffled Feather Smoother
  • Similarity Spotter
  • Consensus Finder

Red Flag Situations For Harmony

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Harmony. 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 Harmony:

  1. The Awkward Hushes: Imagine the situation where you walk into the kitchen at work, and you hear two of your teammates talking about another colleague and how to undo that thing that they all got pressured into. This makes you feel super uncomfortable, because you don’t like constant conflict - and it bugs you that they won’t work it out in a healthy way in the room together. If you see a lot of closed-door conversations or offline conversations that seem secretive, this environment might feel toxic to you.

  2. The My Way Or The Highway Team: Lets say you’re are a member of a team that has a few very strong personalities. Instead of focusing on what needs to be done during a meeting, many of the team members spend a good chunk of the time re-hashing things that you thought were addressed last week. They tend to do this. When they don’t get their way, they won’t let a topic die. This meeting deja vu is wasting your time, and it might crush your mental energy because you can so clearly see the common ground that they can’t see because they’re unwilling to hear the other party’s point of view.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Harmony

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Harmony 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 Harmony, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Find The Same Page. When you’re on a team that has a lot of unproductive fighting, ask your person who leads through Harmony to give voice to the things that they agree on. It can add a lot of value to the team to say, “It strikes me that we agree on these 4 things, and that item #5 is the only one we need to work out.” It will feel like Mr. Obvious to someone with Harmony, yet often with internal battles, people get lost in the argument and can’t stay clear and objective about what they’re negotiating.

  2. Set Agreements In Advance. If you see an issue that will likely lead to conflict with your team member who leads through Harmony, have them consider what could go wrong in advance. Have them chat about expectations with their teammates before the issue happens so that when it comes up, it’s easier to raise the situation. This will keep them out of conflict avoidance mode.

  3. Get A Wing Man. Ha! Not in that way. It’s a talent wing man. This is to have the person who leads through Harmony to match up with a person who leads through Command or Self-Assurance or Activator, basically, someone who will not waffle on a topic - they’ll be a partner who can help things move along and not get stuck when conflict arises. This partner can sometimes take over the conflict resolution. And, this person can also be a conflict-mentor who helps the person with Harmony see how things go down when they are addressed immediately and firmly. Although the person with Harmony won’t deliver the messages in the same way, they’ll get some resolution ideas and confidence by watching the masters at work.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Harmony. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 089-Harmony.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get tons of questions about how to go deeper to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Ideation with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per post.

That way, you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re reading 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 reading 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.

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Ideation. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding For Ideation

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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 in most resumes and profile is "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn. That's why it's not just for job seekers - it's also about shaping your career.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It's where your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to.

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 adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Discoverer
  • Insightful
  • Unbound
  • Stimulator
  • Fascinated
  • Designer
  • Creator
  • Innovator
  • Brainstormer
  • Spontaneous
  • Fast-Thinker

Red Flag Situations For Ideation

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Ideation. 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 disengage on the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Ideation:

  1. The “Yeah, But” Team. This is the team where there’s a table full of devil’s advocates ready to pick apart every idea. See, if you lead through Ideation, you love having ideas. You love exploring ideas. You love talking through them to see what they could turn into. If you’re part of a team that instantly greets new ideas with “Yeah, but that will never work here” or “Yeah, but we tried that two years ago and it didn’t work” “yeah, but” “yeah, but”…you’re going to feel really shut down if you lead through Ideation.

  2. The “Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action” Team. This is the team that loves to execute and crank out volumes of transactional work. If you’re on a team with this type of job responsibility, be on watch for what’s valued in the culture. Often you’ll hear that they need less talk and more action, which to you means fewer ideas, less exploration, and less growth. Which leads to boredom. Which leads to the death of your soul. I’m dramatizing, yet if you lead through Ideation, you likely love to think and dream and expand beyond what’s going on today - and to do that requires thinking and talking through new ideas. If your ideas constantly get squashed, you’re likely to feel like the environment is a total downer for you.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Ideation

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Ideation at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening 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 Ideation, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Making Unlikely Connections. People who lead through Ideation are great at brainstorming ways that things could be repackaged or reimagined. For example, they could take a stale product line and bring you 3 ideas for ways that they could be refreshed or remixed to solve a new problem for customers and create new revenue streams.

  2. The Blue Sky Dreamer. If you want the team to be thinking about what you could accomplish if you really dreamed big - without constraints - this person will be great at leading, generating, and even facilitating this kind of thinking from others. When you’re trying to pull the team out of the status quo, someone with Ideation would love spearheading that type of mental exercise.

  3. 10 Better Ways. Lets say you work in a customer-facing role, and your team uncovers that customers do not understand or use your help page when they have an issue. If you assign the person with Ideation to come up with 10 better ways of solving the problem for the customer, they will likely have a blast and offer innovative ideas that the team loves.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Ideation. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 088-Ideation.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get tons of questions about how to go deeper to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Includer with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per post.

That way, you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re reading 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 reading 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.

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Includer. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding For Includer

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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 in most resumes and profile is "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn. That's why it's not just for job seekers - it's also about shaping your career.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It's where your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to.

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 adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Accepting
  • Expander
  • People-Aware
  • Integrating
  • Welcome Wagon
  • Interactive
  • Others-Oriented
  • Warm
  • Barrier-Buster
  • Inviter
  • Tolerant

Red Flag Situations For Includer

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Includer. 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 disengage on the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Includer:

  1. Cliques. If you lead through Includer and you sense that the existing tight knit relationships inside of the company are impenetrable, it’s going to feel like a really frustrating place to work. If you think that your industry is filled with good ol' boys clubs, you are going to feel more than left out, you might begin to resent the structure and the idea of being closed off to outside viewpoints. The idea of in-groups and out-groups and exclusion really sucks the life out of someone with Includer.

  2. Loud Voices Always Win. If you work on a team or in a company culture where the ideas that get implemented seem to always come from the most talkative, extroverted, or loud people, you might begin to question the values of the company. When you lead through the Includer theme, you are keenly tuned in to each person‘s contributions and ideas...not just the ideas that are spoken aloud. So if it appears that the only way to succeed is to be a bold talker, you may come to resent this idea. This can be true even if you are extroverted or comfortable speaking aloud. When you have Includer you will be aware of this dynamic on behalf of other people.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Includer

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Includer at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening 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 Includer, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Assimilate New People. A great way to use the Includer talent is to help integrate new people into a team or a culture. You can make them feel part of the group quickly, and help them feel seen and appreciated, even when they are new. And being assigned to this kind of work is the type of thing that might light up the soul of someone with the Includer talent. This could be a new hire or a new team member or even a new customer - this is a fun way to feed the Includer talent theme while also making someone else feel like they’re a critical part of the group.

  2. Interested Party Finder. This one is about uncovering people who are interested in being involved in a project you may not know about. It makes me remember a customer situation where a team I worked with in Malaysia told me they were so frustrated that they were never consulted about the advertisements that were placed in their country by their marketing team. There was a billboard strategy across the company, but they felt that billboards were a waste of money in Malaysia because, living in the jungle, the logos and the text on the billboards constantly got covered up by fast growing trees. This is an example where the locals were contacted for translation, but not genuine localization. This is the type of investigation someone with Includer would be great at. They can find stakeholders who are feeling ignored, and give voices to people with no voice. They can help you prevent vetoes or internal battles that could’ve been prevented with better listening up front.

  3. Turn On The Megaphone. If you have people on the team who seem to never contribute in conversations, assign it to someone with Includer to turn the megaphone on for them. Often, quiet people will give their opinion if they are asked. If a person with Includer gets in the habit of saying things like “Maria you know a lot about advertising in southeast Asia; we haven’t heard from you yet. What do you think?“ You can unleash the power of hearing from people who are used to not sharing their voice. It will be fun for someone with the Includer talent to notice and bring those voices out, rather than being annoyed that the project leader is not doing this.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Includer. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 087-Includer.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Individualization 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 Individualization 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 Individualization-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Perceptive
  • Astute
  • Insightful
  • Outlier Detector
  • Customizer
  • Anthropologist
  • Uniqueness-Spotter
  • Sees Who People Are
  • Observant Biographer

Red Flag Situations For Individualization

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Individualization. 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 Individualization:

  1. Execution Over People. Imagine going to a kickoff meeting for a new project team, and the head of the team dives right into the task list. They don’t give you time to get to hear how each person’s strengths can fit into the bigger picture. They don’t even give you a second to get to know the people you’re going to work closely with. If the feeling of brushing over or devaluing the people side is part of the culture, it might be really draining for you when you lead through Individualization. This is because you thrive by knowing what makes each person tick. You’re at your best when you can see how people’s differences are their differentiators. Without having this step, you’ll feel like you need to cram that into your personal process. And if there’s no time made for “those soft things” you’re going to feel drained.

  2. One Size Fits All Rules. Imagine a situation where your manager distributes a list of canned responses that you are required to use when contacted by any customer. You are told not to deviate from this list, regardless of the person’s individual needs. I remember this happening early in my career when I was required to answer the phone by saying, “It’s a great day at ACME Company, how may I help you?” This drove me crazy. Although I could appreciate the positive vibes, it felt fake. Those were not words I’d ever choose, and they never felt genuine coming out of me.

    This is a double whammy for Individualization. First, if you have this theme, you likely don’t believe that one size fits all. Each person would be better off coming up with their own version of a positive vibes greeting. Secondly, if you have Individualization, you might dislike being boxed into rules. So when a one-size-fits-all rule gets implemented, it’s going to feel like an energy vampire every time you have to execute on it. You likely feel that any list of responses should only be a guideline. And you’ll know that it could be made better if you could put a unique spin on it based on each customer’s style.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Individualization

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Individualization 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 Individualization, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Style Spotting. When you get a new customer, and your team doesn’t know anything about them, assign someone with Individualization to research the customer and create a style profile. They’ll have fun uncovering how they are unique, and what kind of communication they prefer.

  2. Team Connector. Say you have a newly formed global team that’s working on a huge new project. You don’t know most of the team members, and they don’t know each other. Everyone’s in a different time zone, with unique cultures and experiences. If you want to kick off with a team building meeting or a get-to-know you activity, assign it to someone with Individualization. Even if you’re listening as an individual contributor and no one assigns you a task like this, take it on yourself. Find one fun fact about each person and make a one-pager that shows each person’s photo, role on the project team, and one fun fact. This will be a fun and useful exercise for you, which will help you get you feel more productive because you now know something about each person. And it helps the team connect as well. It’s a win all the way around.

  3. Objective 3rd Party. If you have a personality clash on the team, or you’re having one yourself, call on a teammate who has Individualization. This person can be the objective 3rd party who is excellent at seeing the gifts and positive intent of each person. Often, their deep intuition for seeing value in each person can bring the battling parties to see that they’re not so far away from each other. Often, they can find the differences and see how they can be used as a positive partnership. Of course, use this one with caution. You don’t want to send in a peer as an arbitrator when the goals are not artfully set up and executed. Yet, if you have a highly mature and self-aware team, this is an outstanding use of Individualization.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Individualization. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: Individualization.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get a whole lot of questions about how to amplify your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Input with 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 Input 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 Input-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Inquirers
  • Collectors
  • Information Sponges
  • Generous
  • Appliers of Knowledge
  • Well-Read
  • Knowledgeable
  • Researchers
  • Investigators
  • Corporate Librarians
  • Archivists
  • Curators
  • Workplace Archeologists

Red Flag Situations For Input

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Input. 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 Input:

  1. Busy work. Because people with Input like to learn and then aim that learning at something useful, it’s really draining to do tasks that seems like “make work.” If you lead through Input and you see this happening, challenge yourself to share insights or document the process to make it useful to someone else. This way, you can still feel like you’re curating something useful to teammates.
  2. Outdated or unsearchable tools. If you lead through Input and you see something like a database or CRM system or customer service tool that is not kept current, it will be draining. You’ll be able to see the huge value in sharing information, and it will be extremely frustrating to find that others don’t value the repository in the same way.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Input

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Input 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 Input, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Make information findable. If you lead someone with Input and you want a system for curating, storing, and finding information that everyone can use, send it over to someone with Input. Whether you ask them to make a Wiki or update an intranet page or collect FAQs, the idea of gathering and sharing useful information will light up someone with Input.
  2. Research deeply. When you need someone to do a deep research quest, ask someone with Input. They’ll enjoy looking through archives, learning, and then distilling the important parts down to make them usable to others. The idea of researching and applying is highly energizing for those who lead through Input. And then translating them into usable bits will be a fun way for them to apply the information while being challenged to distill the important takeaways.
  3. Soak up practices from other teams. Basically, ask them to be a sponge and soak up the approaches that others are using. Then they can apply it to your team’s specific situation and make recommendations. The idea of investigating the options by being curious inquirer will be fun. From there, applying it to your team adds to the energy because someone with Input wants to apply the learning to a specific project or situation.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Input. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 085-Input.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get a whole lot of questions about how to amplify your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Intellection with 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 Intellection 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 Intellection-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Philosophers
  • Deep
  • Musers
  • Intense
  • Intellectuals
  • Critical Thinkers
  • Reflective People
  • Contemplative
  • Solitude Seekers
  • Introspective
  • Willing To Be Contrarian

Red Flag Situations For Intellection

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Intellection. 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 Intellection:

  1. Pressure to give answers in the moment. If you lead through Intellection, it will likely be annoying to go to a meeting where someone asks you to make an important decision or give your opinion on something they’ve sprung on you in the moment. You do your best thinking when you have time to marinate on it, so be sure to find a way to communicate to your team that you’ll be at your best when you have time to think about something in advance. This means, watch out for those blank calendar invitations that don’t tell you anything about the meeting at hand. Get the agenda in advance. Know what contribution someone is hoping for. Otherwise, they might pressure you to “talk it out” in the moment, which will likely drain you and frustrate you.
  2. Groupthink. If you lead through Intellection and you’re on a team where people blindly nod along with each other, you’ll probably feel frustrated with the lack of critical thinking. If you’re in this situation and you’re thinking that your team is a bunch of sheep or "Yes Men” or lemmings, imagine how difficult it would be for you to have a deep, trusting relationship with peers. The same goes for teams who seem to skim the surface and then act - while never doing the deep thinking on a topic. Watch out for these situations because they’ll be big energy-zappers for you.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Intellection

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Intellection 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 Intellection, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Help me poke holes in my idea. Many roles today are filled with distractions, quick meetings, and instant messenger. This can be efficient, yet it can also keep teams from the deep contemplation needed for important decisions. If someone on your team has Intellection, ask them, “what am I missing here” or “what else should I be thinking of” or “can you poke holes in my idea?” They will appreciate the idea to think beyond the surface.
  2. Contrarians wanted. Just because someone on your team has Intellection, it doesn’t mean that they'll disagree with everything. At the same time, using their critical thinking will unleash their best. Their deep reflection and reasoning skills are valuable to help teams see past the surface. They can see downstream impact that others can’t see. They can see the unexpected consequences that others can’t spot.
  3. A task of solitude. Next time you have a role where someone needs to work from home, or do a seemingly lonely job of traveling and being alone in hotel rooms (or holed up in a remote cabin), see what someone on your team with Intellection thinks. They will often love doing tasks that require solitude because they do their best thinking when they can contemplate alone. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like people. Yet often, they will be private people who need time alone to be at their best.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Intellection. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 084-Intellection.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 10:30am EST

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Learner 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 Learner 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 Learner-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Curious
  • Variety Seekers
  • Studious
  • Lifetime Learners
  • Expert
  • Multi-Passionate
  • Inquisitive
  • Dynamic
  • Explorers
  • Growth-Focused
  • Early Adopters

Red Flag Situations For Learner

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Learner. 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 Learner:

  1. Stagnation. If you lead through Learner and you stop growing and learning, you will likely feel like you’re dying inside. Use this as an early warning sign. If you’re bored. If you’re stagnant. If you’re assigned to maintain something and keep it the same, you have to find other ways to feed your Learner or you will be super drained.
  2. Maintenance. Think about the contrast between maintaining something that is already up and running versus being involved in a new project or program. If you’re involved in keeping something at status quo, you will likely have few days that feel energizing. That’s because you love to explore and learn and experience new things. If you own a program that has already launched, be sure that you’re continually working on your craft or your subject matter depth. That way, you can maintain the success while constantly bringing new information or new angles to the team.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Learner

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Learner 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 Learner, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. When you need a tester. If you have a change initiative and you need someone to be the early adopter, call on someone with Learner to be your pioneer. Tell them that you’re asking them to test and explore - to soak it all in - and to document the good and bad. They will have fun being on the cutting edge and being the trailblazer for the team.
  2. When you need to introduce something foreign. Imagine a situation where your team is taking on a whole new set of responsibilities. You’re going to have to ask some people on your team to think or act or learn in a whole new way. Pick someone with Learner and tell them that you’re introducing this to give them some variety and a growth-challenge.
  3. When you need one person on the team to learn everything there is to know on a topic. Sometimes teams want to be on the cutting edge of an ever-changing competency or subject matter. A project like this might seem insurmountable to the non-Learner. Or it might seem frustrating to a non-Learner because they’re never complete. But to a Learner, this continuous study and growth will be fulfilling.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Learner. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 083-Learner.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get a whole lot of questions about how to amplify your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Maximizer with 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 Maximizer 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 Maximizer-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Efficient
  • Sorters
  • Selective
  • Persuaders
  • Strengths-Oriented
  • Choosy
  • Challengers
  • Always Refining
  • Never Done
  • Transformers
  • Excellence-Seekers
  • Tinkerers
  • Iterators
  • Quality Boosters

Red Flag Situations For Maximizer

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Maximizer. 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 Maximizer:

  1. Premature Launch. If you lead through Maximizer, you naturally focus on quality. You have high expectations, and it hurts to hand over a work product before it meets your quality standard. So if you’re on a team that values quantity over quality, you’ll likely get frustrated. Also, if you find that a work product has huge potential…if only you could do this to it…(only to find out there’s no time or budget to allow it to live up to its potential), it will make your Maximizer sad.
  2. Weakness-Focused Culture. Maximizer is a talent theme that is naturally aligned with a strengths-focused culture. If you find yourself part of a team that obsesses over weaknesses and problems and what’s wrong, you’ll be yearning to flip things around. Sometimes your strengths point of view will be refreshing and welcomed, but if you find that it’s dismissed, you’ll feel drained by only working on what’s broken rather than getting the high leverage out of strengths.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Maximizer

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Maximizer 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 Maximizer, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. When the rest of the team can’t see potential in a project or person. The Maximizer talent sees potential all over. So you could apply this to a change that people are resisting, or a future vision that needs to be created. You can even turn on the Maximizer talent to bring an inspirational message to help other people see “what can be."
  2. When you need incremental improvement over time. People with the Maximizer talent don’t need to constantly work on exponential change. They get a charge out of incremental improvements that compound over time. If you need someone who can help you realize potential over the long-haul, tap into the powers of the Maximizer who loves to test and experiment and iterate to continually improve something.
  3. When you want to go from good to great. People who lead through Maximizer rarely rest on their laurels. Good isn’t good enough. They like to make things better and better and better. They’re constantly asking “what if we did this” or “I wonder what it could be like if we tried this” - they’re looking to get the most out of things, so they’re chasing efficiencies and mastery all the time. If you want someone who doesn’t get bored with continuous iteration, tap your Maximizers.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Maximizer. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 082-Maximizer.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get a whole lot of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Positivity with your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post.

That way, you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match 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.

 

Today, the talent theme of the post is Positivity.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding When Positivity Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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. This is an overlooked use for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t 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 adjectives you can use in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile. People who lead through Positivity are often:

  • Upbeat
  • Fun
  • Energetic
  • Hopeful
  • Magnetic
  • Encouraging
  • Optimistic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Warm & Friendly
  • Celebratory

Red Flag Situations For Positivity

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Positivity. 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 Responsibility:

  1. Devil’s Advocate. If your team has a pessimistic tone where people are awarded for their cynicism or constant reality checks, be on watch. This can suck the life out of you – especially if the team is constantly picking on each other’s ideas with a “that will never work” type of default response, rather than building on each other’s ideas and hearing each other out.
  2. Celebrate For A Nano Second. If you lead through Positivity and you’re in a culture that doesn’t stop to celebrate, regardless of how big the accomplishment, you’ll be constantly drained and baffled wondering why you can’t slow down for a second to acknowledge the accomplishment. Although you don’t expect everyone to give praise as readily as you do, it will drain you if you know it’s getting withheld.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Positivity

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Positivity 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 Positivity, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Lifting spirits though change. If you have someone on the team who leads through Positivity, call on them when the team is having trouble seeing the silver lining in the situation. Behind the scenes, brainstorm with them all of the things you can think of that are still going well. Also list all of the potential future outcomes this change will enable. You’ll have fun making the list, and you’ll likely come up with ideas that will help you get adoption for a tough change.
  2. Tone setting. When you need someone to pump up a room, consider someone with the Positivity talent. They often light up a room just by walking into it. So next time you have a kickoff event, or you want a moment of levity in a meeting, ask this person in advance to bring a fun segment to the event.
  3. Seeing possibilities. When a team feels stuck, the leader is often reluctant to come in with a rah-rah message about how you’ll be okay in the future (and rightly so). If you want to lead the team through a deep conversation along the lines of “Who do we need to become to make that happen?,” enlist your team member with the Positivity talent in advance. They’re awesome at possibilities-thinking, so they can seed the conversation with believable ideas to get the momentum going in the room.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Positivity. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 081-Positivity.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get tons of questions about how to go deeper to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Relator with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per episode.

That way,  you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re reading 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 reading 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.

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Relator. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding For Relator

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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 in most resumes and profile is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn. That’s why it’s not just for job seekers – it’s also about shaping your career.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s where your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting – to see who they’re about to talk to.

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 adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile. People who lead through Relator often have a tight-circle, a good BS Alert System, and are often:

  • Friendly
  • Genuine
  • Loyal
  • Transparent
  • Caring
  • Trustworthy
  • Authenticity-Spotters
  • Deep Connectors
  • Relationship-Focused

Red Flag Situations For Relator

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Relator. 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 disengage on the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Relator:

  1. Keeping Up Appearances. If you have the Relator talent and you feel that people are always Peacocking around to show off only the polished, perfect parts of their contributions at work, you’ll probably be drained by the relationships at work because you think they’re fake and superficial.
  2. Transactional. If you’re in a role where there’s no time or desire for building relationships over time, you’ll be drained by it. If the sterile, fast, transactional exchanges are part of the expectation, you need to find other ways to fuel your need for care and friendships. Try challenging yourself to see how quickly you can drip in relationship-building anecdotes into a 30-second conversation (note: this doesn’t mean superficial, talk-about-the-weather type of small talk). Activities like this will help you test it out to see if there’s room for relationships in your organization.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Relator

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Relator at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening 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 Relator, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Nurture. When you need a deep relationship to develop over time, think of someone with the Relator talent to nurture it over the long term. For example, this could be someone who manages your most important account. Or it could be the person who onboards new hires as their first-year mentor. Or it could be a performance coach who helps a peer develop over time.
  2. Confidentiality. Sometimes you can’t tell everyone about a decision or a product or a process change. Yet you need someone to be assigned to it. Often, people with the Relator talent are great keepers-of-confidences. Especially when they can tell it is important to someone else.
  3. Authentic. Imagine a situation where your team or your brand is getting dinged for being stiff, stodgy, and old school. You’re afraid to swing too far into the informality that seems to be taking the world by storm. You still worry about professionalism, yet you need to attract great talent to your team. If you’re trying to strike the balance, call on someone with the Relator talent to bring the authentic, professional personality of your team out to the world. This can be valuable for marketing your team and your company when you’re hiring for the next opening.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Relator. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 080-Relator.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get a whole lot of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Responsibility with 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 match 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.

 

Today, the talent theme of the post is Responsibility.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Responsibility Is Your Strength

Let’s start with career branding. You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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. Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t 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 howit is to work with you.

With that in mind, here are a bunch of adjectives you can use in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile. People who lead through Responsibility are often:

  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal
  • Diligent
  • Dependable
  • Accountable
  • Conscientious
  • Promise-Keepers
  • Honest
  • Committed
  • Responsive

Red Flag Situations For Responsibility

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Responsibility. 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 Responsibility:

  1. Chronically Missed Deadlines. If you lead through Responsibility and your team culture is one that is cavalier with deadlines, it will suck the life out of you. To you, your word is your honor, and you expect other people to honor their commitments as well. So when people miss their deadlines and treat it like no big deal, you’ll likely feel like it’s a place where mutual respect is severely lacking.
  2. Imposed Urgencies. You’re conscientious and dependable. You plan things out diligently so that you can keep your promises. So when other people constantly blow up your day with their lack of preparation, you’re likely fuming. If you work in a place where people tend to launch their hand grenades at you — which puts you at risk of not keeping your promises, this will suck the life right out of you.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Responsibility

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Responsibility 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 Responsibility, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. The long haul. When you need someone who will consistently chip away at a project over time, assign it to someone with Responsibility. They are self-starters who will diligently follow it through the long term.
  2. Trust. When you need to hand something off to someone you can trust, assign those responsibilities to someone with Responsibility. When you know you can’t babysit the process, the person who leads with Responsibility will keep you posted on timelines, deadlines, and progress without any hand-holding necessary.
  3. Ownership. Think of a project or process that no one has really owned before — one of those things that sort of gets done, but never that well. Change that up by assigning clear ownership to someone with the Responsibility talent theme. They’re great at covering it from soup to nuts when they know they can take charge and bring order to a neglected part of the business.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Responsibility. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 079-Responsibility.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get gobs of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Restorative with your career.

So 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 match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring 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 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.

Today, the talent theme of the post is Restorative.

 

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding For Restorative

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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. Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t 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 howit is to work with you.

With that in mind, here are a bunch of adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile. People who lead through Restorative are often:

  • Problem-Invaders
  • Issue CPR-Givers
  • Unintimidated by Big Problems
  • Root Cause Finders
  • Diagnosers
  • Fixers (or Fixer-Upper)
  • Investigators
  • Accountable
  • Rehabilitators
  • Realistic
  • Troubleshooters

Red Flag Situations For Restorative

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Restorative. 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 Restorative:

  1. False Harmony. If you lead through Restorative and you have a team culture where people are outwardly harmonious (when they don’t actually agree) — where they fake their agreement and go through great lengths to be conflict avoidant, you will probably feel super drained by that.
  2. Sweeping Issues Under the Rug. If you keep getting responses to your problem-solving ideas that sound like, “Well that’s not really something we own” or “That will never work here” or “No one else seems worried about it, so let’s not make mountains out of molehills” — you will be soul-sucked because you’re around people who are ignoring problems that you’d be happy to solve.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Restorative

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Restorative at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening 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 Restorative, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Give them your big, hairy problems. Many managers feel bad delegating problems. Yet problems are a treat for people who lead through Restorative. Tell them why you assigned them, and that you know they’ll be able to diagnose and propose at a level that few people can do.
  2. Get them assigned to solving problems for your best or biggest customers. This person will enjoy the challenge of discovering and removing the obstacles. You can rest assured that they’ll go about it in a businesslike, focused way (rather than the emotional panic that many would get into).
  3. When you’re stuck. When you catch anyone on the team saying, “I’m stumped” or “I’m baffled” or “I don’t know what to do” — consider partnering them with your team member with Restorative. This person has fun finding the root causes and helping people decide how to move forward.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Restorative. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 078-Restorative.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get a lot of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Self-Assurance with your career. In this series, I break down one strength per episode so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring 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 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.

The talent theme today is Self-Assurance. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding For Self-Assurance

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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 in most profiles is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding – because it’s the tool your teammates, customers, and vendors use to 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 adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile.

People who lead through Self-Assurance are often:

  • Independent
  • Instinctive
  • Self-Sufficient
  • Stable
  • Resilient
  • Confident
  • Courageous
  • Solid
  • Influential
  • Certain
  • Persistent

Red Flag Situations For Self-Assurance

These are the company cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Self-Assurance. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on the watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached at work.

Here are two red flags for Self-Assurance:

  1. False Collaborations. If you lead through self-assurance and you’re partnered up with another person or another department when your opinion doesn’t really matter, it will drive you crazy. You will already know a direction you’d propose, and if your ideas constantly fall on deaf ears, you’ll feel totally soul-sucked by it.
  2. Hand Holding. If you work with someone who needs constant hand-holding, it will wear you out. You work independently and you expect others to at least try to figure it out on their own before leaning on you. And if you feel like someone is trying to constantly hand-hold you, you’re likely to resist and feel as if they’re treating you like a child or a newbie or a dummy.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Self-Assurance

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Self-Assurance at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening 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 Self-Assurance, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. When a critical issue comes up, think of the person who leads through Self-Assurance. This doesn’t mean to dump all of the problems on them. It means to look for situations where a lot is riding on the decision or execution (good or bad). Rather than being scared and hesitant as many would be, someone with Self-Assurance can confidently handle the challenge without getting ruffled.
  2. Watch for change that makes others nervous. Think about things like process changes, re-orgs, or mergers that make others fear that they’ll be redundant and lose their jobs. This is the situation where you can put the person with Self-Assurance out front to show people how to confidently and resiliently flow through major organizational changes.
  3. Assign this person to responsibilities that benefit from no second-guessing. Those with strong Self-Assurance have strong instincts and can move forward quickly. If you need someone who will not hem and haw over a decision, make this person your go to.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Self-Assurance. Here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 077-self-assurance.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get tons of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Significance with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per episode. That way, you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring 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 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.

 

Career Branding For Significance

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Significance. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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.

Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is. an. overlooked. use. for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are 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. It’s their most efficient way to learn about 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. Here are a bunch of adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile.

People who lead through Significance are often:

  • High Visibility
    • Big Dreamers
    • Difference-Makers
    • Credible
    • Purpose-Driven
    • Not Afraid Of The Spotlight
    • Results and Performance Oriented
    • People Who Want Their Lives to BE for Something … Not Frittered Away

Red Flag Situations For Significance

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Significance. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on the watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Significance:

  1. Busy work. If you lead through Significance and you think the work you’re doing has no purpose, it will bother you at a values level because this is not how you want to spend your life.
  2. No one sees or cares about your results. If you’ve been busting your butt for months in a thankless role, you have a red flag on your hands. People who lead through Significance want to leave their mark on the world — they like to be recognized for making an impact through what they do at work. If you’re doing something big, and it seems that no one will see it or no one will care, it will drain your energy fast.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Significance

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Significance at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re reading this 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 Significance, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Take a chance on something big. If you manage someone with Significance, give them a highly visible project that has a lot riding on it. Be sure to communicate the importance and the gravity — when they know that their success (or failure) will be in the spotlight, it’s a hugely motivating factor. Whereas others might feel crushed by this pressure, it brings someone with Significance alive.
  2. Put them on a project to start a recognition campaign. While people with Significance love to BE recognized, they also love to help others feel significant. Ask them to create a shift in the team culture over the next 6 months so that praise and credit-giving feels like the norm on the team.
  3. Rub elbows with high achievers. Ask this person to name a few of the top achievers that he or she admires in the company. Then get them linked up on a project. People with Significance love the opportunity to step their game up by standing side by side with people who are great.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Significance. So, here’s your homework:

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 076-Significance.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I get a steady stream of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Strategic to your career. In this series, I break down one strength per episode — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring 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 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.

 

Career Branding When Strategic Is Your Strength

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Strategic. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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. Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t 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 howit is to work with you. To that end, here are a bunch of adjectives you can use in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile.

People who lead through Strategic are often:

  • Fast Decision Maker
  • Culler of Lists
  • Pattern-Spotter
  • Vetter of Ideas
  • Simplifier
  • Planner
  • Creative Strategist
  • Anticipator Who Sees The Downstream Impact

Red Flag Situations For Strategic

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Strategic. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on the watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Strategic:

  1. A culture of slow decision making or analysis paralysis. If you have Strategic and you’re stuck in status quo while you can already see the clear path ahead, you will likely spend your days at work in extreme frustration.
  2. Micromanaging your decision process after trust and credibility are built. If you have Strategic and you’ve already built credibility, yet you’re still being questioned deeply and constantly about your decisions, it will impact you beyond the lack of trust. It will hit you at the core because you like moving into the future. If you have to justify every detail, you’ll likely be counting the wasted minutes you could have been using toward progress, which is a serious drain on your psyche. Instead, you’re probably at your best when you can sort quickly and take action.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Strategic

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Strategic at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re reading this 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 Strategic, put this talent to good use with one of these action items:

  1. Put this talent to use when you need a workaround. Sometimes, the long-term solution to a problem is in in the works…and meanwhile you need a bandaid-type solution to also cope in the short-term. Usually, someone with the Strategic talent will be able to sort all of the options quickly and get into the workaround-action on the same day.
  2. When there’s a topic on the team that seems confusing and overly complex to everyone. Get a whiteboard in front of the person with the Strategic talent and see if they can simplify the complex in a way that helps everyone nod their heads in agreement that they’re looking at the same thing. This could be drawing a contextual model or framework. This could be dissecting a problem. Or even getting everyone to agree on what the problem is that you’re solving.
  3. Use this person for collaboration insight. When you’re hearing that stakeholders are not getting consulted or that people are frustrated that your process changes have a negative impact on their work, get someone with Strategic talent involved. They’re great at seeing the handoffs between steps in the process. And they can predict what consequences will come from small upstream changes by the time they get to the 3rd or 4th person down the way.

Your Homework

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Strategic. So, here’s your homework if you have this talent theme:

  1. 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.
  2. Think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 075-strategic.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

I constantly get questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Woo with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per episode — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring 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 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.

 

Talent Theme: Woo

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Woo.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding For Woo

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume 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.

Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like most of my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding – because 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 adjectives you can use in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile to represent the Woo talent theme.

People who lead through Woo are often:

  • Charming
  • Social Butterflies
  • Interactive
  • The One Who Knows Everybody
  • Welcoming
  • Instant Connectors
  • Engaging
  • Great Conversationalist
  • Energetic

Red Flag Situations At Work For Woo

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Woo. 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 at work.

Here are two red flags for Woo:

  1. Weeks in isolation where you don’t get social interaction — if you lead through Woo and you work from home, be sure to “get your people fix” through video calls with colleagues or by getting out of the house for social hour.
  2. The need to continually deliver bad news or work with irate customers — if you lead through Woo, you’re usually watching for a positive reception from that person. If you’re in many interactions per day where people don’t like you or your answers, it will be extremely draining.

3 Fresh Application Ideas For Woo

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Woo at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re reading this 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 Woo, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Onboarding New Hires: Consider how this person could play a role in onboarding new team members or customers. They will likely enjoy the opportunity to create a welcoming experience.
  2. Making Strangers Feel Comfortable: Talk about responsibilities that include meeting a lot of new people — anything from software demos to creating a destination booth at a trade show to delivering presentations or doing customer tours.
  3. Emcee or Experience-Creator: If you have annual events, like holiday parties or customer appreciation events, see if your team members with Woo would love to Emcee them or be part of designing a magical experience. Keep in mind that there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work with big events. Someone with the talent of Woo is usually more energized by the front-of-house type of responsibilities.

Your Homework

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Woo. So, here’s your homework if you lead through this CliftonStrengths theme:

  1. LinkedIn: 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.
  2. Audit For Red Flags: Think over the 2 red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. Offer Your Talents To The Team: 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.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

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: 074-woo.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am EST

Today we're exploring your CliftonStrengths Q&A with a question someone asked me in a training class the other day. He said, “Hey, I only have two of the four CliftonStrengths colors in my StrengthsFinder DNA chart. Is that bad?” My answer to this one is like that Lil Jon Song “Work What Your Mama Gave Ya.” Maybe he said Shake What Your Mama Gave Ya, but you know what I'm talking about here. It’s the best thing you can do with your lineup of talents: use the ones you have.

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.

The DNA Colors = 4 Demands You Have In The Workplace

If you're not sure what I'm talking about when I say, “the DNA colors,” there are these 4 domains or 4 demands that all of us have in our work day. These demands are represented by color in the CliftonStrengths StrengthsFinder report. Those are:

  1. Purple for executing talent themes
  2. Blue for relationship building talent themes
  3. Red for strategic thinking talent themes
  4. Yellow for influencing talent themes

If you’re interested in StrengthsFinder colors, you might also like the episode “What Do StrengthsFinder Colors Mean?

Royal Flush Gets A Unicorn Trophy

I have to admit, I have been known to celebrate with a game-show-like moment when someone has all five talent themes in a single color. It’s usually in a big giant ballroom of people in a training class or a StrengthsFinder speech. If we have one of those royal flush moments where someone has all of the same suit (or same color in this case), it’s a fun thing to spot. When you have a room of 300 people and somebody has 100% purple executing talents or 100% blue relationship talents — it really is a rare sight, so I get excited. Then yeah, yeah, I admit it. I give out Unicorn Sticks and I make a thing of it for a second because it's fun.

Dang. I Only Have 2 of 4 Colors. Surely I Need Those Other Ones.

Most often, what happens is that people say, “Oh Dang, I only have two of the four, so I'm probably missing something really important that I need.” Or, “Oh man, I have three, but I really need that 4th color for the job I’m in right now.” To know what to do here, you really have to go back to that concept of working with what you have. It's almost like that scene from Pretty Woman where she's saying, “Work it! Own it!” You have what you have. So instead of trying to go back to game the assessment by retaking it to get it to say what you want, look at the ones that you do have and figure out how to use those to meet those very same demands.

What To Do When You’re Missing A Color From Your Top 5

I’ll give you an example from my personal lineup of all 34 talent themes. Of the Top 14, I have 1 executing talent. So you would read that and think, just like participants do in my training sessions, “Oh no, I'm not going to ever get anything done because I only have one executing talent out of my top 14.” But the thing is I do get things done. Focus is the only talent theme that is in my top 14. And so yes, I have an easy go-to talent theme when I need to get things done.

Get The Full 34 CliftonStrengths Report To See Where Each Color Comes In

When you get the upgraded CliftonStrengths 34 Report, you can see all 34 potential talent themes in stack rank order. I mention that in case you're wondering how I know what my top 14 are. So if you get the full report, you can look to it for your easy go-to colors that represent each demand. That’s why, when I really need to get something done, I'm going to rely on my focus talent theme. That’s not the only option though. There are other things to do besides going to your obvious go-to talent. My favorite alternate option is to think of all 4 of those demands with all of your talent themes, regardless of color.

Action Step: Make Your Top 5 Meet The Demand At Hand

You can actually impact any of those demands through any talent theme if you stretch your brain creatively. It's an innovative application of strengths thinking that I love to do. So that's my action item I offer you for this question: think of 1 of those 4 demands — pick the one that is calling on you in your job right now.

Example of Stretching A Talent To Look Like Another DNA Color

Let's say I really need to get some stuff done. So I would pick the executing demand for this activity. Oops. Now I look at my top 5 and I see that I don't have any executing talent themes to call on. I have zero purple and my top 5. This is where you have to tell yourself to not fret. I'll give you an example by running through my top 5 and this will just demonstrate for you how you could do this for yourself.

Maximizer Can Impact How I Execute

If I used my Maximizer talent in a git-r-done moment, it would be when I need high quality because my Maximizer loves to tweak and keep working on stuff. It’s fun to keep making it better.

Strategic Can Impact How I Execute

For an execution situation where I need to get a lot of decisions made fast, I would rely on my Strategic talent. It helps me sort out what the options are quickly, then pick a path, and then press the go button. Although it’s technically in the thinking talent domain, Strategic allows me to get moving and not belabor the thing or have buyer's remorse.

Positivity Can Impact How I Execute

If I needed to execute on something and I wanted to use my Positivity talent, it would likely be on one of those crap tasks that you hate doing, yet you also don't want to waste your time bellyaching about things. So Positivity could make light of it or find a silver lining in it. It helps me reframe and move on.

Individualization Can Impact How I Execute

If I wanted to get things done and I really needed to customize, that would be a great way to call on my Individualization talent. So even though it's technically a relationship talent, I certainly use it to accomplish things because I would be thinking about the audience and what the recipient cares about. It helps me think, “How can I make this palatable for them, not just me?”

Woo Can Impact How I Execute

Woo would be great if I'm collaborating with some new people and we need to get to know each other. Or maybe there's a task that has to do with spreading an idea. The Woo talent loves to get the word out — and that would be a great way to execute on an organizational change.

Your Turn To Run Through Your Top Five Applied To A Single Demand

When you look at your top 5, don’t worry about what colors you do have or don’t have. Instead, think about a specific demand that you're getting called to do right now at work:

  1. Executing
  2. Relationship Building
  3. Strategic Thinking
  4. Influencing

After you pick 1 specific demand that you're getting called to do in your work, run all 5 of your talents through that single demand. See how they could support you in that endeavor.

It's a really cool way to stretch your talent themes and think of them in a way you haven't used them before. I hope you really enjoy that way of looking at talent themes with a new lens. Instead of lamenting what you don't have, love and leverage what you do have. Now get on out there, claim your talents and share them with the world — no matter what color they are!

Remember to 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. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

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: 073-cliftonstrengths-dna-colors-missing.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q12_-_Uncommon_Sense.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: LTS-Strengths_Q11_-_Cultures_You_Value.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q10_-_Wins_At_Work.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q9_-_Team_Reputation.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q8_-_Lend_Your_Talent.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q7_-_Face_Lit_Up.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q6_-_Daily_Good.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q5_-_Career_Branding_Quote.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q4_-_Favorite_Job_Duty.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q3_-_Dream_Jobs.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q2_-_Favorite_Thing_About_Team.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q1_-_Proudest_Accomplishment.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge

Direct download: Announcement.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Today’s episode is a question that came up this week when I did an event for one of my awesome tech clients here in Austin, Texas. I was checking in with security and he asked about the purpose of my visit. I said I was delivering a StrengthsFinder team session. Pretty soon, he's telling me his top five talent themes and we were asking each other questions about our CliftonStrengths profiles, which led to the answer highlighted in this episode.

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.

My First Major Strengths Insight … Ever

He asked me a unique question, which was what my first ever major insight was from strengths. So here I am, quickly scanning over 13 years of insights, and boom — it hit me like a bolt of lightning. My answer was that seeing my strengths and the strengths of people on my team (my direct reports) helped me understand that I had some dangerous unconscious biases. Now, I am not talking about the biases that many workplaces are focused on right now, like racial biases or gender biases. Cognitive bias is another layer entirely. What I discovered is that I had strong cognitive biases. And being in a people-manager role, it was leading me to value the thought processes of certain people on the team more than others. It was leading me to appreciate the relationship styles of some people over others. It was leading me to think that some people were high maintenance and not enrolled in our vision. But once I explored our talents at a team level — our natural ways of thinking and feeling and acting — it helped me discover that I placed the greatest value on people who thought most like me. It was a dangerous bias because I didn’t realize I was doing it.

Cognitive Biases Are Extraordinarily Powerful Yet Often Unconsidered

Just imagine what this awareness could do to improve performance on the team. For example, one person on the team leads through the Consistency, Deliberative, and Intellection themes. She is probably at peak performance when she can think deeply and carefully about changes, how they will affect the people and processes on the team, and how they could be implemented prudently. Meanwhile, imagine my Strategic theme: decision-making and pressing the go-button fast. And my Individualization theme leads me to rarely feel married to a consistent, standard way of doing things. If a situation calls for something else, I love to adjust and customize and change. To take it further, my Maximizer loves to tweak and change and make things better. All the while, I am driving her crazy with my constant changes. And if you’ve read the book Strengths-Based Leadership, you know that stability is one of the deepest needs of your team. So in this scenario, which happens to be a real-life memory from one of my teams, my personal biases and preferences were leading me to create an environment that put her at her worst and left her feeling frustrated every day.

Self Awareness Of Your Patterns

To apply this to yourself, think about your talents and consider these questions:

  • What kind of people do you most enjoy being around? This tells you something about your relationship-building patterns and preferences.
  • What kind of thinkers do you love working with? Is it fast thinkers with lots of ideas? Is it careful thinkers who go deep? It is it analytical thinkers who always consider data, credibility, and proof?
  • What are your trust patterns? My friend Lexy Thompson has this concept of a trust faucet. Are you a person who trusts easily — the type of person who extends trust quickly, like a faucet that is turned all the way on? Or do people earn your trust slowly over time, like you’re releasing it one drop at a time?

As a manager of a team, if you will take the time to understand these things about your team members, you can have massive insights about where you are similar and where you are different from people on your team. And if you’re honest with yourself and you’re willing to be very self-aware, you may find that you are biased toward people who are like you. Or, you might be biased toward experiences that honor your talents or bring you personal energy. Even when these biases are totally fine (which they sometimes are), it’s great to have an awareness of them.

Here’s a super simple example of being biased toward experiences that honor your talents: When I was sitting in the lobby with that guy, chatting about strengths, there was a Rolling Stones song playing in the background. It’s the one called Sympathy for the Devil. Nope, I’m not about to dive into a lesson on devilish biases. What happened is that just as he asked me my talent themes and I finished with my #5 Woo, the song breaks into the part where the rest of the band does the “Woo Woo.” I pointed at the speakers and add in my own “Woo Woo.” He thought it was awesome because his Connectedness talent knows that song came at the perfect moment for a reason and that there are all sorts of connections like this for us to make if we’re looking around for it. My Positivity talent theme loved being able to create a second of comic relief by singing in the middle of the lobby and getting to crack up together. We each had a bias toward that moment, yet it came from a different place. So that’s another reason why this concept of cognitive biases is fascinating because your preferences might be similar on the outside, yet on the inside, you have vast differences in the motivations and values that sit underneath them.

Differences Are Differentiators

The beauty of a strengths-focused culture is that you can see differences as differentiators rather than seeing them as annoyances. It helps you understand how to use each person's unique awesomeness to improve your overall team performance. And rather than viewing those “different” team members as high maintenance, you can reframe that to understand that there are people on the team that do not think like you. Which means they cover important ways of thinking, acting, doing, and performing that do not appeal to you. And likely, your organization needs some of that “other way."

So if you can value those ways of thinking, you can make the person a superstar in that area. And — bonus! You don’t personally have to spend your headspace in that zone. For example, I don’t personally love to think about all of the risks and possibilities for where things might go wrong. There are usually people on my team who do enjoy that. So, in this example, I could delegate risk management-related responsibilities to the person who enjoys it. I could send juicy problems to people with the Restorative talent theme — to people who have a great time working out the solutions — people who love the puzzle of exploring the problems and fixing things. It’s no surprise that my Positivity talent theme doesn’t get energy or enjoyment from wallowing in problems. To give you another example, a manager I met with last week is not strong in relationship talents and so rather than lamenting all of the critical customer relationships he needed to build, he instead delegated that authority to someone on his team who leads through Includer, Empathy, and Connectedness. Then both people get to have more fun and be more aligned with their highest and best use. The customer gets a better experience. And the company gets better overall performance.

Reflections To Consider Your Biases

So to summarize, take a look at your own biases. Here are three questions to get you started:

  1. Who do you like spending time with? And to go deeper, after you think of those specific people or those types of people, now ask yourself if you tend to believe that the people you like are the higher performers? That’s a dangerous bias I’ve fallen into as a manager in the past.
  2. If you've unlocked your full 34 StrengthsFinder lineup, look at your lesser talents, which are probably your bottom five. Ask yourself which themes, at the bottom of your personal list, bring you a tendency to potentially insult those talent themes in others who hold them in their Top 5. For example, Harmony is #33 on my list. And someone who leads through Harmony might feel totally drained in a work environment where people are disagreeing all the time. Well, my Individualization doesn’t mind if people disagree because I think we can all come at things differently and still be a functional team. Yet someone who has Harmony at #1 might get a gut-wrenching feeling when we are not moving toward consensus or not trying to find areas of similarity. To make this self-reflection even cooler, extend it into an others-assessment also. If you can see the lineup of all 34 of your direct reports, go explore your themes that seem opposite of each other on the surface. Look for where you might drive each other crazy if you’re not conscious of pairing your strengths for and awesome yin-yang thing.
  3. Think about whether your biases are allowing people to be seen and heard and appreciated at work. My friend Dave Stachowiak mentions this on our podcast interview. His insight really stuck with me. And if you think of this in the context of biases, you’ll quickly see that most of us have preferences that would make it tougher for someone else to feel appreciated. Of course, as your self-awareness increases and as your talent themes mature, you learn to ask great questions and be curious and to value other peoples' opinions even when you don’t agree with them. And if you want to amp up your emotional intelligence and your overall effectiveness as a leader, it’s important to give this a good consideration.

Burnout Might Bring Your Bias Out

As we bring this in for a landing, it's important to note that I don’t believe that our strengths and natural talents bring us negative cognitive biases all the time. But we’re human, which means we’re flawed. And you’re probably a growth-minded lifetime learner if you’re listening to a show like this. So think of these cognitive biases as states of mind that you can change. And that might be more likely to crop up in you when you’re overtaxed, burned out, and falling into lazy thinking. But when your awareness is high, you can invest in those talents to apply them as contributions — and you will be on watch for other people’s contributions (especially the ones that are different from yours). I’ll leave you with the idea that using your strengths on the team will help you build stronger performance on the team. To keep your biases in your awareness, watch for differences and use them as differentiators!

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: 059-strengths-unconscious-biases.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Today’s episode is a question that comes up every time we prepare clients for a training event that includes StrengthsFinder. The question today is whether you can take old or existing results and use them in a team or leadership training event today.

I know this question is a bit tactical and technical compared to our usual topics, yet I thought it would be important to answer because we get asked so often. As you listen on, you will hear both HOW to find existing results (even if you think they’re wayyyy old), and we will offer a quick reason WHY it’s important to get old results.

You’ll also get a list of books that you may have used a code from that you can import into the newest, snazziest report layout and dashboard. Even if you have your personal results already, if you’re a people manager or strengths champion, this could be an important question for you to know the answer to because your new hires or future people you’ll coach will likely have this question.

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.

What To Do If You Have Existing Results But You Don’t Know Where They Are

If you have existing results, you can use your credentials from any of the old Gallup sites to import your data into the newest version of the Gallup Strengths Center. If you're working with a leadership and strengths training company like mine, you’ll get asked for each person’s individual results so that we can give you better insights and make custom company level reports that take the individual insights and turn them into team level conversations. 

Over the years, there have been different landing pages and dashboards for all of these different places where you could get started with strengths. Although the books were different, the assessment is the same. So you can take your login information from those old sites and use the same credentials in the Gallup Strengths Center. If you do that, it will import your old results into the most recent report layout and dashboard. 

This is helpful if you’re a busy person and you have a calendar already filled with meetings and to do’s — because when you have a training coming up and you’d rather not spend 45 minutes of your life answering questions you already answered when you did it years ago — you can just pull in your existing data. The problem is that people say, “Oh geez … I did StrengthsFinder like 3 jobs ago. I have no idea how to find it.”

Or if you’re like me and you first did the StrengthsFinder assessment over 15 years ago, you'll probably have no way of guessing your username and password from those days.

If You Had An Account At One Point But You Have No Idea What Site To Log Into Or What Your Credentials Are

My recommendation is to first go into the Gallup Strengths Center, click Sign In at the top right (or if you’re on mobile, tap the main menu in the top left to get the sign in). THEN do a test with your old email addresses. Check your old work and personal email addresses you might have used with the forgot password function. On their site, their version of “forgot password” is a link called "Need help with your username or password?" If you do this first, it will help you confirm whether an account exists at Gallup with a given email address.

For example, I found mine with a yahoo account from the 1990s. If you type in your old address and it works, you'll get a message back from Gallup saying they sent you an email to update your account. Boom you’re in.

Even when you are unsuccessful, It helps you narrow down the accounts. For example I typed in my old email address from the employer I worked for in those years. And I got a message that says, “Your email address does not match any accounts that we have on record. Please try again or create an account." So it’s a step in your sleuth work to tell you whether you used that address back in the day. 

Now, of course if you no longer work there, you would not be able to get the password recovery data in your inbox — because that inbox no longer exists. If that were to happen where you learn that the account exists but you can’t get the recovery by email, you can use the Gallup Strengths Center support team. They are extremely helpful. I will link to their support page in the show notes so you have access to that too. Their Contact Us page from there also has a phone number where you can troubleshoot with a human if you don’t want to do it by email. 

You Think You May Have CliftonStrengths Results But Your Book Or Assessment Had A Different Name

There are also a bunch of books from Gallup press that have a code for StrengthsFinder. Over the years, you may have used a code from these books and now you want to import it in for your team StrengthsFinder training. Only the most recent copies would have flap with a CliftonStrengths assessment code. All of the older ones would have called it StrengthsFinder. It’s the same assessment — just a name change to honor Donald Clifton, the original creator. Regardless of the original Gallup website you went to to redeem the code, you can get them all imported into the Gallup Strengths Center site today.

Here are 5 of the books our corporate clients most commonly used when they’re importing “old” StrengthsFinder results in:

  1. StrengthsFinder 2.0 
  2. How Full Is Your Bucket? The Expanded Anniversary Edition
  3. Strengths-based Leadership
  4. StrengthsQuest or CliftonStrengths for Students
  5. Strengths-based Selling 

If you originally did StrengthsFinder through a code in one of those books, you’ll want to get yourself transferred into the new system. And when I say transferred in, I mean remember your login because your old credentials will work over on these (if you remember them).

It Has Been A Long Time, So Should You Retake StrengthsFinder Anyway?

There’s a whole episode-worth of conversation on that topic, but the short answer is we recommend using your original results. Here are a couple of links from Gallup on whether your strengths change over time and how retaking the assessment can change your results (even decrease the accuracy of the results).

Another Step If You’ve Done The CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder) More Than Once

If you have already taken StrengthsFinder more than once, you can contact the Strengths Center support team to have them combine your data so that it represents the data of a single person (versus making it appear that two people have similar results). Gallup takes their data integrity seriously, so they would appreciate having the most accurate database possible. And It also helps us make you the best charts possible because our comparisons against the entire database will be more accurate, which means that your team charts will be more meaningful if you help us keep a nice and tidy database.

Remember to 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. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

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: 058-Import-Old-StrengthsFinder-Results.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: Will a strengths approach work in different cultures and countries? She the shares how leaders can use strengths to fulfill the five different needs of Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

Remember to grab the strengths-focused 1x1 and team meeting resource to get your 12 weeks of conversation starters. That will help you start applying the conversations to your cross-culture understanding.

Will A Strengths Approach Work In Different Cultures and Countries?

Today a question came in from Molly about whether strengths-focused development will work across any culture or country. If you manage a team of people from around the world, or if you’re about to roll out a strengths approach across your company or university — this is an important question to ask!

The short answer is, yes strengths-focused development will, in fact, work around the world. Let’s break the question down from a literal translation standpoint and then the conceptual.

Can You Translate Strengths Language?

Yes! And If you want to give team of people a native language experience, I definitely recommend looking at Clifton StrengthsFinder or the VIA Character Survey. Both of them are available in more than two dozen languages, so whether your native language is Polish, Croatian, or Indonesian, they have you covered. I think that’s an important factor to know because if you’re answering questions about your natural thoughts and feelings and behaviors (on a 20 second timer), you can’t waste time looking up vocabulary words because it would impact your results. The other good thing is that you'll also receive your reports in the native language.

Something you might find fascinating or surprising is that even after millions of people have used the tool, the data shows us that the differences are negligible when you break them down by race, gender, age, and nationality.

If you’re into the data side of things, you can also find some interesting factoids in different countries, like with CliftonStrengths, the #1 talent theme in India is Responsibility, whereas you see Learner #1 in Mexico, Panama, and Argentina. And then you see Maximizer and Harmony in the #1 and #2 spots in Japan.

As you can see, different countries do have some different “typical” top spots, and yes, those differences by country probably tell us something about the strong effect of cultural values.

But one thing we haven’t been able to isolate with empirical research is how much of this is nature vs. nurture. Our hypothesis is that it’s both. Your environment, your upbringing, your family values, your experiences, and your DNA all play a role in how your strengths show up and what your unique lineup of talents is.

How Strengths Can Bring Understanding Across Cultures

This question about whether strengths can bring appreciation across cultures first made me think of Grace. She’s a client in Taiwan. And she was thrilled about StrengthsFinder because she works for an American manager and it gave her a way to map work conversations to her values and her natural way of thinking.

If you’ve ever studied different cultural dimensions, you might instantly think about the potential for Grace, with her #1 Harmony and #2 Responsibility to be on a different page from her manager with #1 Individualization and #2 Competition because she’s from a country high on the collectivism scale and her manager is from a country high on the individualism scale. And their personal talent themes happen to reflect their country’s values pretty closely.

Using the language of strengths, it gave each of them a way to describe what they bring to the team. And it helped Grace find a language for talking about her potential contributions to the team without feeling like she was running against her country’s values of saving face, being humble, and showing loyalty to the team — even when it means putting her personal agenda last.

By the way, if you’ve never studied cultural dimensions, it’s totally fascinating. You can see how each country maps on continuum across 5-6 categories. The super quick preview is that these continuums cover your relationship to people, power, certainty, and time.

My favorite resource on cultural understanding is the book Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands. It helps you understand each country’s government, religion, decision making values, negotiation styles, and how they tend to process information. It goes even further to help you out with gestures, gifts, and clothing so you can be sure that you know the basic expectations and keep you from making a fool of yourself.

Different experts use different labels, yet most look something like this:

  • Individualism <——> Collectivism
  • Accepts Unequal Power <——> Rejects Unequal Power
  • Uncertainty Avoidant <——> Accepts Unknown
  • Cooperation <——> Competition
  • Short-Term Orientation <——> Long-Term Orientation

To bring this back to strengths, I look at it like another layer of understanding. Cultural differences can run sooooo deep. And we don’t know where we might view a topic differently from another country.

I remember the first time I visited India and learned how uncommon it is for men to wear shorts. The more traditional view is that if they have shorts on, something must have happened to their pants! I also found it so fascinating that it’s totally normal to wear a sari to work and show your midriff. Whereas in the US, it would not be okay to show your midriff and work. Don’t even get me started on how hard I worked to tame my left-handedness. It took a few visits to work that one out.

My point is, when you are working across cultures, there are a million ways for people to spot their differences. Of course, the visual ones like clothing are the easiest to spot. Then there are many ways to accidentally offend colleagues during conversations. And there are some stressors when team members bring their local assumptions about how work relationships work. And they assign meaning to things differently — not just the meaning of men’s pants.

Strengths give you a language to talk about these things in a productive way. For example, Grace, with her Responsibility talent, would naturally see ways that she could jump in to help the team meet its commitments. But before having some strengths-focused conversations, she didn’t volunteer because she was used to a more hierarchical approach where she would wait to be assigned those responsibilities.

How Strengths Can Help Leaders Create Significant Meaning For Their Team

Now let’s add one more important layer: it’s that basic human needs cut across all cultures.

No matter where you live in the world, your team shares the same basic needs. Most people remember hearing something about food, water, and shelter when they think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

If you do some digging on this topic, you’ll see that there are a bunch of others that managers can impact. And these others are where you’re really helping people feel seen, heard, and appreciated in a way that gives them purpose. And strengths-focused conversations make it easy and natural for that to happen. Let’s look at each of these 5 needs.

1. Physiological Needs

If you look at this like the typical pyramid, you’ll see physiological needs at the bottom. Yes, that’s where you get your food, water, shelter, and sleep. After you get past this one, it gets really interesting as you layer in strengths.

2. Safety & Security Needs

The next one is safety needs. In Gallup’s extensive leadership research, Stability is one of the four primary “follower” needs. Yes there are some safety needs that have nothing to do with work, but employment stability, social stability, and sometimes health are items that you can address through strengths.

Or, you can think about your natural talents and how they might lead you, at your default, to make your team feel un-safe. For example, my Maximizer talent constantly leads me to change things. Over the years, I’ve seen how that can feel unstable because people don’t know what to expect from week to week. And strengths have given me a way to look at that with a different lens because I can acknowledge that people need to feel a sense of stability.

3. Love & Belonging

Yes, there are friendships, family, and other parts of life where people fill this human need. Now switch over to work. People want to belong. They love knowing that they’re contributing to the team. They love knowing they’re doing important work — that the 8 (or 12) hours they spend every day is for something that matters. They love accomplishing something bigger than themselves.

So when you use strengths, you can use their talents to help them see their superpowers. You can use their strengths as a lens to help you see when to recognize them. And you can help them feel the connection between their actions and the bigger cause they are a part of.

If you want to help your team members feel a bigger sense of belonging by connecting their strengths to the contributions they can offer the team, be sure to get the conversation starters in your 12-week Activation Series.

Each week, you’ll get a strengths-focused 1x1 conversation starter and quick team meeting topic so you can keep learning more about what puts your team members at their best so that they can feel like they are a meaningful part of the team.

4. Self-Esteem

Moving up the scale, you have self-esteem, which includes things like feeling respected, being recognized, knowing their strengths, and achieving. Strengths help you create a culture of recognition. It helps people know what they’re great at.

And I call them your “easy buttons” to high performance. If you provide your team members an easier path to high performance, they’ll achieve more and feel better about themselves, which tends to create a virtuous circle where they feel better and better about their contributions and they continue to achieve bigger things for the team.

5. Self-Actualization

Finally, you have self-actualization. This includes deeper life meaning and living up to their potential. It’s all about being the best they can be. It even gets into things like innovation and creativity because their outputs reflect a unique view of the work that no one else could bring.

Now think about this in terms of strengths and workplaces. When teams are in turmoil with RIFs, re-orgs, and conflict, they revert back to safety mode. They give less because they’re trying to survive the explosion of uncertainty or despair.

But if you contrast that with a fully functional team, you can start to imagine some moments and some team members who have been way up in this self-actualization zone. And as a leader, you have the ability to move people through these categories. Of course, it’s not 100% on you. They have to take personal accountability in their lives. Yet, you have a heck of a lot of influence on helping them unlock these other categories.

Basic Human Needs Exist Across Cultures

It may have surprised you that the question on culture led to this angle for an answer. Yet when I think about international businesses and organizations, the best ones cut across cultural differences by getting to the humanity of it all. We all have some basic needs, and strengths can give you a way to have conversations about these human needs without feeling weird.

And when it comes to the cultural dimensions I brought up at the beginning, each person’s talent themes can give you a great doorway into talking about how their personal thoughts, feelings, and actions line up with cultural norms. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me, “Aha! No wonder I am a fish out of water at this company (or in this country).” And then rather than feeling bad about it, their strengths give them a way to see the other side of it — the side that brings value.

Remember to grab the strengths-focused 1x1 and team meeting resource to get your 12 weeks of conversation starters. That will help you start applying the conversations to your cross-culture understanding. It helps you open up topics like their ideal work culture, their untapped strengths, and even get them to fess up about the soul-sucking elements of their job. Each week, it gives you one question to ask in a 1x1 and one question for the team. That way, you can spend your time having these conversations rather than spending a bunch of time trying to come up with new strengths conversations.

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: 057-strengths-across-cultures.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: How can you share your awesomeness without sounding arrogant or entitled?

Have You Downloaded Your Manager Tool For Strengths Conversations?

If you’re a manager and you want to help your team members feel less awkward about speaking positively about the contributions they can make to the team, please please please, open these conversations and make them a regular part of how you operate with each other.

And since it’s tough to put this into practice, we actually have a 12-week series made just for people-leaders. You’ll get 12 weeks of conversation starters for strengths-focused 1x1s and quick team meeting topics so you can keep learning more about what puts your team members at their best. 

Resources of the Episode

Awesomeness Without Arrogance

Today you’ll explore a question that came up in a strengths workshop I did with a group of high potential team members who want their talents to shine, yet they don’t want to seem like braggadocios jerks. Their question was, “How can you share your awesomeness without sounding arrogant or entitled?”  

What an important question. I hear it from all levels, and even from every cultural background I’ve experienced so far.

For example, Australians will tell you about the tall poppy syndrome. This concept is about cutting down someone who is higher in stature or prominence to bring them down back to size. Of course, many Aussies are reluctant to talk about their standout areas because it has been such a cultural faux pas to try to stand out. 

My Japanese clients tell me about the saying, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” 

In Western cultures I hear things like, “Don’t rock the boat” or “Don’t make waves.” 

Regardless of the country, most of these sayings are meant to keep you humble and remind you to not run around being an arrogant jerk. Yet, unfortunately, they also keep a lot of people from sharing their gifts with the world.

So, back to thinking of this in a self-reflective way, how do you begin to offer your personal strengths to the world while also staying humble and being perceived well? Here are three steps to becoming known for your talents without having to brag about them.

Step 1 - Know What You Want To Be Known For

First, take some time to imagine what you want to be known for. Yes, this can be knowledge, skills, or abilities. If you’re thinking about natural talents, think about how you would be getting work done if it brought you energy — if you were totally in flow — and things even felt easy. Imagine the kind of work you’d be doing and how you’d get work done.

To help you with this, try the "More Of Inventory" where you’ll see a list of phrases to spark your ideas. You’ll can imagine that someone who picks “give advice” and “poke the bear” as the two things they’d want more of — well, they would be more of a status quo busting person who wants to push the team forward and get people on the edge of discomfort — maybe even someone who loves living risk-taking mode.

And you can imagine another person who wants to “ensure quality” and “work carefully” — well, they would be way more excited about a project or role all about operational effectiveness or safety or compliance.

That’s why it’s important to do this step first. If you don’t know what you want to get known for, you’ll get known for what you did well last. I’ve seen way too many people become known as the quality assurance guru or the best team notetaker or the one who delivers the quarterly ops review presentation — and they’re only known for it because they did it well last time. 

When actually, it may have sucked the life out of them. It may have taken up all of their mental energy for days. It may have drained them and felt dreadful, but when you’re a highly accountable high achiever, you’ll try to knock it out of the park. Even on work you hate. 

You’ll use brute force to become competent, even in your weaknesses so that your performance is solid. And if you’re not a complainer, no one will ever know you don’t like that work. That’s why you need to spend a bit of time thinking about what you’d really love to be known for. In your ideal world. Then you can start aligning to that reputation over time. 

Step 2 - Focus Outward

This is all about taking an outward focus. It’s thinking about a business outcome your talent can serve. It’s thinking about a person you can help. Since your talents will help you feel ease, energy, and enjoyment on the job, people will see the enlivened version of you while you serve another person or a team goal or business outcome.

For example, if you’ve been nerding out on the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Physics literature on the understanding of dark matter — and you happen to have the Clifton StrengthsFinder talent theme of Input — you could move toward the enlivenment scale by sharing your findings with the team rather than just reading the journals for your personal education.

You could summarize the key findings and mention a team goal that it applies to. This would be fun for someone with the Input talent and it would also help the team. They’d see your awesomeness and would appreciate it. 

And if you offer your talents this way, you’ll often uncover where one person’s trash tasks are another person’s treasured tasks. That can lead you to task swapping opportunities where you can do a task-switcheroo with teammates to get more of the work you love. 

You can also volunteer your talents. You may have heard my interview with Ben Fanning where he talked about finding all of the things you look forward to on your to do list or your calendar. Then he encouraged you to find the trend in the things you enjoy.

He also suggested seeking out more of them by volunteering to help a teammate in one of those areas. Or offer a Lunch and Learn to the team on something you get jazzed about. Offer data or articles on topics that would be helpful to the team. It’s basically sharing things with others that would be fun for you to do anyway. 

This is all about finding ways to offer up your talents as a contribution to the team — and not waiting for someone to offer you the golden-ticket job. It’s more about creating small moments for yourself that put you in a state of flow or energy or enjoyment so that over time you can become known for that. And once you build a reputation for it, the offers for project work and roles and assignments (even at small task levels) will begin to match up with your strengths.

Step 3 - Talk To Your Leader About It

This is an important step, of course, because your manager has a lot of sway when it comes to the tasks and responsibilities of your role. 

Here are three flavors of conversations that work well when you want to put your strengths on your leader’s radar. These are great for 1x1s. Or you could tweak them for email. Put them in your own words, and you’re on your way.

Flavor 1: I Want To Support A Team Or Company Goal  

"I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can personally support [goal], and wanted to volunteer some help around [talent or thing you want to build a reputation around]. Are you game to hear an idea?”

So an example might sound like, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can personally support [our goal to increase customer retention by 15%], and wanted to volunteer some help around [our contact center coaching]. Are you game to hear an idea?”

And then, once this conversation opens, you could volunteer a small or large contribution — anything from the creation of a quick cheat sheet resource, all the way through spending one day each month coaching contact center reps in your area of expertise.

Flavor 2:  I Want To Bring My A-Game To The Company

“As you know, I’ve been digging into StrengthsFinder and thinking about how we can amp up our performance. It got me thinking about what puts me in A-game mode, and one of them is [talent or thing you want to build a reputation around]. Next time you’re assigning a project like that, would you consider me for it?”

So an example might sound like, “As you know, I’ve been digging into StrengthsFinder and thinking about how we can amp up our performance. It got me thinking about what puts me in A-game mode, and one of them is [that I’m really on fire when I’m pushing my limits of learning]. Next time you’re assigning a project that has a steep learning curve on a short timeline, would you consider me for it?”

Managers in my training sessions tell me that they’d love it if they knew what kind of projects their team members want to be considered for. A simple “please consider me …” request increases the chances that when they’re making decisions in the future, they’ll think of you.

Flavor 3: I Will Be Applying Self-Development To A Project And Would Love Feedback

“This has been a year of big development for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to amp up the contributions I make to the team. One talent I’ve decided to consciously leverage more is my [talent or thing you want to build a reputation around]. It’s different from the way I’ve approached my projects in the past, so wanted to mention it to you for feedback purposes. If you see or hear comments (both good or bad) about me, I’d love to hear them. I’m going in thinking that it will be well received, yet it’s different from how we normally do it so wanted to get your antennae up for it.”

So an example might sound like, “This has been a year of big development for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to amp up the contributions I make to the team. One talent I’ve decided to consciously leverage more is my [natural ability to build an use a network]. It’s different from the way I’ve approached my projects in the past because we’ve stayed pretty siloed on this project, so wanted to mention it to you for feedback purposes. If you see or hear comments (both good or bad) about the new collaborations, I’d love to hear them. I’m going in thinking that it will be well received, yet it’s different from how we normally do it so wanted to get your antennae up for it.”

Three steps for bringing awareness to your awesomeness without sounding braggadocios. And if you’re a people manager, as many listeners are, you can see why these strengths-focused conversations are so tough. They’re awkward for people. Yet if you initiate the conversations, you give them permission to unleash their talents. Ask them what puts them at their best. Ask them what their most favorite and least favorite elements of the job are. Ask them what they would love more of. 

Extra Help For Managers

Remember to grab the strengths-focused 1x1 and team meeting series. You’ll get 12 weeks of conversation starters for strengths-focused 1x1s and team meetings. It’s super simple in format. It opens up topics like recognition, motivation, and their favorite elements of the job. Each week, it gives you one question to ask in a 1x1 and one question for the team. That way, you can focus on learning more about them rather than spending a bunch of time coming up with new strengths conversations.

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: 056-awesomeness-without-arrogance.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

 

In this episode, Mike Ganino joins Lisa to answer the question: How can team culture be shaped by strengths?

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.

How Can Team Culture Be Shaped By Strengths?

055-how-can-team-culture-be-shaped-by-strengths

If It Is So Important For Managers To Build Culture, Why Can I Only Find Articles About Offering Stand Up Desks And Pinball Machines - Perks That Hr Offers?

Ohhhhh, culture, we love to talk about it, write about it, read about it, and even watch the 2,000,000 videos on Youtube about it. We love to blame it, leverage it, and try to change it. We spend billions of dollars and a whole bunch of hours on employee engagement and culture improvement initiatives to try to improve it and yet we keep coming up empty.

Is it really all about office fun slides, cold brew coffee on tap, and nap rooms? Do the rest of us have a chance at dipping into the power of culture without the budget of a tech giant who seems to print their own cash?

If you're only managing a project, a team or a division in a bigger organization, do you have any chance of fixing things if the culture and the wider organization isn't promoting the kind of vibe you're looking for? Before I answer all of those questions, let's get clear on exactly what culture is and what it isn't.

Does The Physical Environment Create Culture?

So culture is not about the stated values written in the handbook or hanging on a wall somewhere. It's not about the mission that adorns the company website or the funky design of the open office floor plan. It's not even about how often you get together for happy hours. It isn't about making everyone happy all the time or being a pet-friendly workplace.

Yeah, I get it. I love the idea of an office full of cuddly little Corgis as much as the next guy, but I know it won't help improve the business or the working conditions for the team. It's possible to have a great culture even when the perks are best in class. Yes, even when there aren't fancy modern Norwegian looking desks all around.

Manufacturing plants and ships in the ocean and military bases can have great cultures. Sorry to break it to all those fun committees out there, but we don't need another group picnic to have a great culture.

Now I'm not saying that all of those things aren't useful and aren't helpful. I mean, the point of them should be in getting people to connect with each other. So if you are one of these fun committee folks out there, don't despair — but I do want you to change your objectives a little bit.

Instead of getting people to sign up to go have fun together outside of work, make sure that the events are helping people build relationships — helping them connect with people they don't normally talk to — because if we all go to happy hour and we all just talk to the normal people we talk to, it isn't improving your culture.

So if you are doing fun stuff, make sure you're getting the best out of it by making sure that you're encouraging people to talk to people they don't normally interact with.

Culture = The Existing Beliefs On The Team

OK, back to the topic at hand. See, culture is actually the collection of beliefs on your team and don't worry, I'm not going to go all hippy dippy here and ask you to start meditating or saying namaste day to each other.

But culture is still the beliefs that your team has about what it's like to work there. The beliefs they about leadership, about what matters. It's the beliefs about how they act, how they work, how they build relationships. Those shape the way we treat each other.

If I were to meet you and I thought, hey, this is someone pretty awesome. If my belief about you was that you were a good person and I thought I wanted to get to know you, I would act a certain way. If my belief about you was that you were out to get me or that you were somebody who was ... you know, not so fun to be around, then I would treat you a different way.

To Get More Practical, Think Of The Beliefs As Stories Or Examples That Get Passed Around

I like to think of those beliefs as stories. The stories we tell at work, the stories we tell ourselves (and sometimes we tell each other at work) are our beliefs. They impact the way we choose to act, the way we choose to work and the relationships we commit to at work. The stories that we tell each other become the culture of the company.

Every company has stories that are unspoken expectations about things like:

  • The way things get done
  • When it’s a good idea to speak up (or stay quiet)
  • What kind of people and behaviors wins or lose (and how the game of work is played)

That becomes your culture. The stories your employees tell is where your culture lives. Think of what they say. What is their story about their first day at work or their first week?

What are their beliefs about performance reviews? What are their beliefs about speaking up in meetings and contributing their best ideas to projects? Do you know what they're telling each other? Do you know what you're telling your new hires or even what they’re telling themselves? Because all of those things are being played out.

When it comes time to sit down in a meeting and contribute, when it comes to showing up for a performance conversation and saying, "I'm invested in this because this is about making me better." All of those stories are ultimately what shape and drive your culture.

Now, I'm not saying that you need to just basically go and create a whole new world of storytelling at work. There are a lot of storytelling folks out there who focus on brand and marketing storytelling, which is really about controlling the narrative. No, no.

Is It Effective To Try To Guide Or Control The Stories That Get Passed Around?

I'm not telling you to control your culture or control your narrative. In fact, I don't think you can. What I'm saying is, as a leader, as a manager, as somebody who wants to make a difference, you have the power and the ability to fuel a different kind of story, and when you fuel that different kind of story, you create a different set of beliefs which creates a different set of actions from your team and those sorts of actions. You probably guessed it. Those create your culture.

The way we decide how to show up every day is the culture and some of that is based on how we see leaders responding. A lot of it is based on what the expectations are every day. So what do you do if you're a leader and you say, "Hey, I want to start thinking about culture in a different way. But we can't get the insurance to do a slip and slide through the grass in the grassy area outside of the office.”

Well, you don't need to do any of that and in fact I wouldn't recommend it. It sounds weird and creepy, but what you can do is start to source the stories that your team is telling.

How often do you ask and listen to and document what's really going on with them outside of an annual employee engagement survey? How often do you look for the common variables and the stories they tell?

Are you collecting long form survey data more than just a score on a piece of paper? Are you asking questions like, "What do you believe leadership cares about here? What do you think matters most? Or how do you think people get ahead in this organization?"

Uncover The Stories That Highlight What You Already Do Well As A Team

You can use the stories that you hear to start to uncover common trends in your culture. Then I've got a maybe not so surprising thing for you — you'll start to recognize the strengths from your team. You'll start to see what your culture is strong at. You'll start to see what your leaders are strong at and I'd imagine that those start to look like things that you would have found in a StrengthsFinder assessment. You'll start to see ideas and words resonating.

If your team is all about taking action, you're going to notice that your team is all about moving forward and not stopping to consider lots of options. You're going to see that and you're going to recognize that as one of the strengths that people have.

What's interesting is that you can also use those to start to develop a clearer story for your culture. Once you understand what the strengths of your team and the strengths of your culture are, then you can start to get specific about telling more stories like that. You can start to use that in the way that you interview people and the way that you talk to people.

Leveraging your strengths gives you a really interesting opportunity to create a new kind of culture. So let's go back to culture for just a minute.

If You Work For A Large Company, Create A Culture Pocket

When you think about culture, a lot of times what happens is that we think of this big, big culture of the entire organization. That might be true if you're working for a small company where there's only 20 of you. Then yes, the culture of the team is probably the culture of the company and I would argue that the culture of a 20-employee team probably matches up pretty closely with how the leader believes and the stories the leader creates.

As a company gets bigger and bigger and you start to go into national and global territory with the hundreds or thousands of employees. You start to see that cultures gets pocketed almost. There's a chapter in the book where I talk about cultural pockets and I show how even in a huge organization there are all of these little cultures that exist.

You have the ability to create a culture pocket for the way that your team interacts. You don't have to worry about having perks and happy hours and food trucks outside of your office every day in order to get top talent and be known as a great place to work. You know, Lisa always says that differences are differentiators and I can't agree more when it comes to culture.

Notice What Already Works - What Already Attracts People To Your Team

If you start to use the stories and the strengths of your team, you'll start to see the differences on your team. You know, Apple is a very different place to work than Google. Both are interesting companies creating cool new products and services, but it feels very different to work there. They both have cool offices and perks and benefits, but it feels different to work there. The digital component of Disney feels very different than working at Netflix. Why? Because of culture.

At the end of the day, the three weeks of vacation, the ping pong tables, the catered lunches — those don't necessarily drive the experience with each other. These perks don't change the relationships or the stories that we have about our coworkers, our manager, or the work we do. These perks are easy to copy and if all that it took to build a great culture was having the perks, then everyone could do it.

By leveraging your strengths to tell new kinds of stories about your team and the way you work, you can start to find the thread of your culture and then you can leverage it, communicate it and double down on it so that you can get the kind of people on your team who can help it grow. Whether you're a team of 10 or you're a company of thousands, leveraging those parts of your strengths to create new stories will drive your culture.

Don’t Worry - You Don’t Have To Create A Circus Of Entertainment At The Office

Look, you don't have to treat people like preschoolers who need to be tickled, entertained, and fed every hour to have a great culture. It's about diving in, listening to the stories, promoting those stories, and creating new ones.

As a leader, your job is to create the culture on your team that creates the kinds of stories based on the strengths of your team and the group. So go out there and start thinking about culture in a new way. You don't need 5 tips, 7 Hacks, 9 habits — you don't need any of that. What you need to do is start listening to the stories and changing the way your team works.

Get More Culture Learning From Mike

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: 055-how-can-team-culture-be-shaped-by-strengths.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

 

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: What should you do when two talents contradict each other? Don’t worry — you’ll be fine if you work on situational fluency and communication.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

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.

What Should You Do When Two Talents Contradict Each Other?

This question came in when someone in a virtual StrengthsFinder training said, “Uh oh, my Top 5 might be bad news because two of my strengths are opposites.”

I said, “Sounds interesting, tell me more.” He clarified by saying that his Ideation is the opposite of his Consistency talent theme because Ideation makes him come up with constantly new ways of doing things while his Consistency talent theme makes him want to do things the same every time to be efficient and clear.

One of the beautiful things about virtual events is that they’re often big. So with 250 people in the same training room, it was possible to find someone else with those two talent themes.

I asked the other person, “How do these two work on you?” She said, “I’m more into fairness than anything else. So Consistency drives me to treat people the same. Consistency bosses around Ideation and tells it what to work on. So my Ideation’s job is to find more and more ways to be fair in every part of life and work.”

From that conversation, you can see the two important things to explore in your own Top 5 and in the Top 5 of your team members so that you can be extra effective when you work together.  It comes down to (1) Situational Fluency and (2) Communication.

Using Seemingly Opposite Talent Themes For Situational Fluency

By situational fluency, I mean being able to bring your best to a situation or challenge that comes up at work. Let’s use Deliberative and Activator as the example StrengthsFinder talent themes because they’re simple to understand, even if you haven’t done anything yet with CliftonStrengths.

You’ll often hear people using a car metaphor to describe Deliberative as a talent that likes to put on the brakes — to stop or to think carefully about risks before acting. You’ll often hear about Activator as a talent theme that likes to push the accelerator and get going. 

Now think about your own talents in a tough situation at work. You’ve put 20 million dollars into a product launch that failed. Everyone thought it would bring about 100 million dollars in revenue last year, and instead, you lost money.

Half of the team wants to kill the product and cut the losses. Half of the team wants to tweak it and try to fix some issues before doing something so drastic. Meanwhile, you’re bleeding out cash and the board expects a plan by next week. Your team has been spinning in circles. 

Now think about your personal talent themes. Which ones make you feel cautious? Which ones help you feel brave? Which ones put you into high collaboration mode? Which ones make you go into deep thinking? 

Depending on the situation, you might need different things at different times. So, if you think, “Yikes, I have two strengths that can’t really work together well” — then dig into it more because, instead, you can think of it as having more tools for a given situation.

For example, go back to the car metaphor. You have headlights on the exterior and you have dash lights inside of the car. Think of those two as if they're talent themes. If it gets dark outside, you turn on the headlights so you can see. And in the dark, you don’t need so much of those interior lights, so they go dim. Otherwise they’re distracting. They’re too much for the situation. 

Your talents are the same. In one situation, you turn it up. In another situation you turn it down. In some cases, both are in use, but one is bright and one is dim. Think of your talents like that. You can control how bright or dim they are. You can bring the right light to the situation. That’s situational fluency. Rather than bringing all of you all the time, you bring the part that serves the situation. 

So watch for this. Next time you face a tricky challenge or debate like the example I gave you about killing the product, do a quick, mental run through of your talent themes to consciously decide which ones (and how much of them) to bring to the situation.

Communicating About Seemingly Opposite Talent Themes So People Understand Your Intent And Actions

After that Ideation + Consistency example came up in the chat box in the virtual StrengthsFinder training, the next comment was, “Don’t worry. My report tells me that I have dual personalities.” 

What’s funny is that this comment comes up in nearly every workshop. It’s because people imagine these paradoxes inside themselves and they realize the outside world may not be able to make sense of it. Most of us have a bunch of these. I can think of lots of personal paradoxes.

  • Sometimes I’m a workaholic. Sometimes I’m a playaholic.
  • Sometimes I’m a foodie food snob. Sometimes I eat green beans out of a can.
  • Sometimes I’m a luxury buyer. Sometimes I go to thrift stores.

You have things like this too. And you can make sense of them. Yet to an outsider, they can be confusing. If you have the Deliberative talent theme and you love to be the one who makes people stop and think before they do something rash, it might be confusing when 25% of the time your Activator is talking and you’re the one in the room saying, “C’mon, we’ve kicked this around enough.  We could have executed on all three possible solutions already. Let’s go.”

So if you fear you might be perceived as “of two minds” or someone who seems to act inconsistently, be sure to bring it up in conversation. This is why I offered this section on communicating your paradoxes. Of course, before you communicate it, you need to be able to understand it yourself.

For example, I talked to a person recently after a strengths-based leadership speech. She said this was insightful because her Activator shows up constantly in meetings. When there’s small talk, she wants it to hurry up and be done. When people schedule three meetings and you have meeting deja vu because the same things keep coming up over and over again, her Activator is going crazy. It’s dying for a little less talk and a lot more action. 

She also has the Deliberative talent. It doesn’t take up many thoughts in her head during meetings. But when she has a big decision to make, it’s prominent. When she needs to consider a complex situation, she leans on Deliberative heavily.

Her takeaway was that her direct reports hear her saying, “Let’s do this” in meetings. And when she writes emails about big decisions, they hear her say “Let’s slow down for a sec.” She realized that’s why they see her as indecisive but she doesn’t see herself that way. And she left that event knowing that the simple act of communicating this seemingly opposite viewpoint is exactly what her team needs in order to make sense of her two modes. 

To bring it all together, here are two action steps for you as you think through your personal paradoxes:

1) Apply Situational Fluency. Pick a talent and think about when it needs to be the bright headlight you lead with and what situation calls for the dimmers. Know this in advance so that you can bring the situation what it needs.

2) Communicate So Your Paradoxes Do Not Confuse People. Spend the week watching for your potential paradox-perceptions. Where might you look like you’re of two minds? How can you make sense of these two things that live in perfect harmony inside of your head so that others around you know what to expect of you and where these two perspectives come from?

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: 054-talents-contradict-each-other.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

 

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: What do strengths look like under stress? She shares the three things that will highlight the shadow side of your strengths under stress, and then gives you ways to reframe them from bad to better.

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.

What Do Strengths Look Like Under Stress?

Today the question is about whether strengths look or act different when they’re under stress.  

This is such a timely question because I woke up today ... well, not at my best. After an awesome team StrengthsFinder event in NYC last week, I sat next to a prolific cougher and sneezer on the plane. I’m pretty sure he’s the one that passed me this horrible funk that has taken over my body.

Today, I woke up out of sleeping hard. My head hurts. My throat hurts. My ears ring. I coughed all night — as you can probably hear in my voice. And to top it off, my comforter was covered in puke. Not my puke. My dog’s. Apparently, my dog Monkey is also sick today and she jumped in the bed to get me to let her out. I slept through that.

So, why are you hearing this gross story right now? It’s because, no matter how great your life is — no matter how much you love your job, you’ll still have bad days. And you need to know how your talents show up when you’re under stress, when you’re sick, and when you’re burned out. It’s good to know what do to with them on the days that you want to hide under the covers and do nothing. 

Like me, you probably have client meetings, deadlines, and commitments that lead you to get out of bed anyway — even on a really bad day. You tough it out. I know you’ve had days like this — where it all seems to be going wrong before the alarm even goes off.

Well, those days can definitely bring out the shadow sides of your strengths. Those days can expose ugly sides of your talents — the side that doesn’t normally show up, even though you haven’t invested fully in that talent. The ugly side doesn’t show up day to day, yet it will rear its ugly head when you’re having a terrible week at work. 

For example, if you lead with Activator, you might snap at someone because you’re feeling exceptionally impatient with her lack of movement. If you lead with Consistency, you might throw the rule book at someone who constantly asks for exceptions and today, you’re so done with it. If you lead through Intellection, you might “hole up” in your cave and isolate yourself from the team.

You get the idea here. Now that you have a couple of examples in mind, here are three stressful situations that might expose the dark side of your talent themes.

Three Things That Will Highlight Your Strengths Under Stress (And How To Reframe From Bad To Better)

Three things that will highlight the shadow side of your strengths when under stress are:

  1. Having A Bad Day 
  2. A Person (or Team) Who Frustrates You
  3. An Environment Where You Feel Mismatched

1: Having A Bad Day Or Week —> Your Strengths Can Strengthen You

When things are frustrating, what’s your typical response? For example, maybe you lead through Restorative and you resent the very problem that gave you the bad day. Maybe your Learner talent is annoyed because your team moves too fast to give you a chance to become the deep subject matter expert you want to become to put you at your best.

Think of yours. You probably have a thing you get frustrated about or have a typical reaction, regardless of the cause of the bad day. 

One way to use your strengths in this situation is to rely on old faithful. Of your Top 5 talent themes, you probably have one that’s easy to call on in tough times.

Maybe your Strategic talent allows you to see simplicity through the overwhelm. So turn up the dial on your Strategic talent today. Maybe your Empathy theme gives you unlimited doses of patience. Or your Focus talent allows you to feel some calm in knowing that you’ll knock out today’s list one item at a time, and that it can keep you on task even with the urgent issues exploding all around you.

So that’s it. When you’re having a bad day or week, rely on one that’s easy to call on. Crank up the volume on a different virtue that can shine through despite the craziness around you.

2: A Person (Or Team) Who Frustrates You —> You’ll Make Partners

Think of someone at work who you don’t love working with. If you lead through Responsibility, maybe it’s someone who constantly misses deadlines. For me, I remember feeling eternally frustrated with a woman who treated our sales team poorly.

If you lead through Context, maybe it’s a person on the team who refuses to acknowledge and learn from the failures the team already experienced and you feel that they put the vision out to the organization foolishly because that same vision has failed four times, the only difference is that they called it by a different name each time.

Think about that person for you. Try to concretely imagine a specific person who has been tough for you during your career.

So what do you do about it? One is to identify where, specifically, you think the person is different from you. Even if you don’t know their StrengthsFinder talent themes, just think about what they seem to value and where they’re coming from. As tough as it might seem, assume they have positive intent and imagine a possible positive thing they could bring to the situation.

For example, the person who is frustrated because her teammate misses deadlines could notice (when she looks carefully) that it’s because her colleague wanted to be absolutely sure that the data is correct. He delayed because new information became available, and because he leads through Analytical, there’s no way he would put out misleading data. He’d rather be late than wrong.

In my personal example, think back to the woman who treated the sales team with constant snarky and dismissive comments. Well, when I looked carefully and open-mindedly (and assumed positive intent), I noticed that my team member had an operational focus. She was great at standardizing processes and making us efficient.

So rather than coming at the angle with the frustration about how she treated sales people, we could first find common value in the fact that she made those rules in order to create a good customer experience. We both valued that. When it came time to solve her problem of the sales people not filling out her forms (which is why she was rude to them), we could use the customer experience to keep our conversation aligned to something we both wanted.

The idea here is that even when someone drives you crazy, there’s a thread of something good that they bring to the team. Look for that thread rather than the irritant.

In many ways, you get what you look for. If you see the good that this person brings and you acknowledge it, they’ll bring you more of that good stuff. And you’ll notice that their way of bringing good stuff is probably not how you love to operate. So you should be celebrating it. You can think, “Wow, I’m so happy someone wants to obsess over the data because I’d rather brush over that and get to the customer messaging” or “Wow, I’m thrilled that someone likes to deliver presentations to customers because I’d rather be off in my R&D think tank, speccing out the next product.”

This is the ultimate case of how one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. You probably have a few tasks or responsibilities that you’d like to throw in the trash. And you probably have a few that you treasure.

And amazingly, these are different for each person, so it’s possible to literally swap out your trash tasks for treasured ones. Or you can partner up with someone where you divide out the parts of a project or task so that you each take the part that lights you up rather than the one that highlights your dark side.

3: An Environment Where You Feel Mismatched —> Your Differences Are Your Differentiators

Think of one of your talent themes that you didn’t want to own when you first saw your Top 5 StrengthsFinder talent themes. I often hear things like, “This description of Input makes me sound like a hoarder” or “This description of Competition makes me sound super judge-y with all of these notes about how I love comparison.”

Or someone tells me they don’t think their talent is good for them in their environment. For example, a woman recently told me that she gets negative feedback about her Communication talent theme. Her manager told her she talks too much and that she’s coming on too strong for her teammates.

Looking at the team DNA charts, we saw how that could be an easy place for her to feel mismatched because her team was exceptionally high in Relator and Intellection. Most people on the team were academics who were used to communicating formally, and only after having thought deeply on a topic. On the other hand, she likes to talk things out. She actually does her thinking through the act of talking. And she felt like a fish out of water.

When you feel mismatched, think about how the team needs the diversity of thought. Think about how the team could benefit from other ways of solving problems and interacting with the world. In the case of the woman with the Communication talent we just talked about, she was able to use this as a differentiator.

She became the go-to on the team for PR and customer communications because her teammates preferred to stay behind the scenes. It was a way for her create value for the organization rather than deciding she should squash it or hide it. As she put it, “Now they like it when I talk a lot because it means they don’t have to talk to customers as often."

Another women with the Competition talent decided to use her constant comparison to become a cheerleader for the team. She would dig into the metrics, both inside and outside the company, to highlight where other people were their best in their roles or in their industry.

She helped people see that they were good at something that they didn’t even know about. And it showed the team that Competition didn’t mean she wanted to beat them, it meant that she gets a charge out of winning. And that includes helping the company win and helping other team members win in their roles.

Strengths Resources

To take the “Under Stress” exercise further, explore your talents at the Yucks page. Ask yourself which 1-2 of the words or phrases are big hot buttons for you. Then consider what situations call on that “Yuck” often.

It will give you clues about how to avoid it, get less of it, or to reframe it like you did in this episode. Very often, you can address that same situation through another one of your talent themes. Or you can partner with someone who doesn’t see it as a Yuck at all. 

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: 053-strengths-under-stress.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

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

050: What do StrengthsFinder Colors Mean?

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: What do the StrengthsFinder colors mean? She describes the three things you need to consider when looking at your colors: your thoughts, your demands, and your filters.

Have you downloaded your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer 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. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

What do StrengthsFinder Colors Mean?

Today’s question is: What do the StrengthsFinder colors mean? This question comes up straight away because smart people see the DNA icons on the Gallup Strength Center dashboard, or they notice there are some colors on their Signature Theme Reports or their Insight Report.

 

There are four of these potential categories, which Gallup calls Leadership Domains. The blue ones are Relationship talent themes, yellow are Influencing talent themes, red are Strategic Thinking themes, and purple are are Executing themes. Those words make the acronym RISE, so it makes it easier to remember: R-I-S-E for relationship, influence, strategic thinking, and executing.

 

Once you have that information, then what? I’ll give you three ways to think about your color lineups or the StrengthsFinder colors you see for the people on your team.

One thing that’s important to mention is that getting into the real detailed nitty-gritty of how to use these domains, or as I call them demands, is a more useful exercise once you have explored a lot of other elements related to StrengthsFinder. But, the question often comes up right away, so I’ll give you three quick things to think about:

  1. Your thoughts
  2. Your demands
  3. Your filters

Your Thoughts

Number one: your thoughts. These are your thoughts and reactions to actually seeing these colors. And the major point here is don’t panic if you’re looking at your own, and don’t stereotype if you’re looking at someone else’s.

 

So, for example, you have no red in your lineup? No worries. Everybody still thinks, even if they don’t have Strategic Thinking talents in their top five. Have no blue? You might say, “Oh, no, I can’t even build a relationship? I’m a people manager. That sounds terrible.” Well, everyone has relationships, unless you’re a hermit living in the woods.

 

There’s a concept that came up from a senior practice consultant at Gallup, I think it might’ve been Jacque Merritt. The idea is that there’s not a brick wall that separates these four categories, it’s more like a chain link fence.

 

You might have one category that is highly present in your top five that makes you think, “Oh look, I’m missing one.” So, for example, I personally have no Executing talents on my top five, but I don’t say, “Oh no, I’m doomed. I don’t get anything done.” My company would go out of business if that was the case, so we know that’s not true. With this idea of it being more like a chain link fence, you can see how the concepts can flow into each other and you can make one color act like the other.

 

So that’s the first one. Don’t panic. Your strengths look the way they look and they are perfect for you. And if you see something on a teammate, don’t stereotype them and assume they’re going to be a certain way, because they are going to combine their whole 34-strength lineup to create who they are. Don’t oversimplify things.

Your Demands

 

Number two: your demands.

Gallup calls these colors the Four Domains of Leadership because they originated from Gallup’s study of team leadership. Their research found that the most cohesive and most successful teams had clusters of strengths.

There are 34 potential StrengthsFinder talent themes, but there are specific clusters in four areas. These clusters are useful for thinking about how each person might naturally contribute to a team and how a leader’s personal lineup of talent will impact their leadership approach. Those four domains (and the four colors) are relationship, influencing, strategic thinking, and executing.

 

I actually call them the four demands, because most performers at work have to do all these things, not just those of you who are people managers.

So, rather than limiting them to be leadership domains, I like to call them demands because it includes people in team sessions in a way they can understand. And they can relate to them personally because they, too, have reports that have colors all over them and they also need to make sense of them.

 

Even when you don’t have a given color in your top five, you likely have that demand on you in your workplace. What you can do with this is ask yourself what talent you have that can act in a way that compensates for the missing color.

I mentioned earlier that I don’t have any Executing talents in my top five, but I definitely do execute. If I ran through my top five, I could think, “Well, how do these help me execute?”

My Strategic Talent helps me sort out options really quickly so I can decide how I’m going to do things and how I’m going to take action. I can do that quickly, rather than getting bogged down in analysis or holding more meetings about meetings. It helps me take fast and decisive action. So, it helps me execute, but it’s actually a Strategic Thinking talent.

 

Let’s look at some others. I have Positivity, Individualization, and Woo in my top five. Those three really combine as a lineup to make me a person with a lot of relationships in my life, relationships that I’ve nurtured over a long period of time.

So, when something needs to get done, they me find smart people who can get a given task done better than I can. Or, if I need to call on help from people, I inevitably have someone in my network where I can get a question answered easily. These are based on my Relationship and Influencing talents, but they still are helping me execute.

 

In the last example, I would use my Maximizer talent. That’s an Influencing talent by category, but it also makes me want things to be better all the time. It creates a strong drive in me to get things done, to realize the latent potential that I see all over the place — the things and people and processes that could be better if we just put a little more execution effort into them.

Even though Maximizer is not an Execution talent, it’s like an Execution motivator. You might not have a given color that represents that domain or that demand, but you can certainly apply it in that way.

Your Filters

 

Number 3: your filters. These four colors are also like a first filter — they define how you see and approach the world when something happens to you. They are your initial reaction.

Let’s use an example of a big reorganization at a company, and I’ll run through each of the four colors and talk about what it might look like if you were really heavy in that domain.

 

Relationship talents: Maybe you had a lot of blue Relationship talents, and a big reorganization gets announced. Let’s say you work for a very large Fortune 500 company and you’re going to have a merger or acquisition that will make your company double in size. You’re going to go from huge to gigantic, and you know that’s going to bring a lot of reorganization and questions about what is going to happen to different elements of work, who does what, what teams you’ll be on, or whether you’ll be redundant.

 

If you get that announcement and you have three or four Relationship talents in your top five, most likely you’re going to be thinking first — your first filter — “Who is this going to affect? How are they going to react to the change?” Especially if you’re a people leader, you’ll be thinking of each person on your team who reports to you and how they’re going to take this news and what they might be thinking about it.

 

Influencing talents: Let’s take the example of Influencing talents. If you hear about a big reorganization and you’re a people leader, you might be thinking, “Okay, how am I going to communicate this to the team? What is it going to sound like? How can I cast a vision that will make people want to come along? How can I make this exciting? How can I get momentum for the change going?”

 

Strategic Thinking talents: If you had four or five red Strategic Thinking themes, your first reaction to something like that might be to go do some deep pondering. Or it might be to crunch some numbers and really consider what this is going to do. You might learn all you can, collecting tons of information. It’s a cerebral exercise. When something big happens, you go inside your head.

 

Executing talents: If you had three or four Executing talents, instead of thinking of this big picture merger, you would likely go straight from that 30,000-foot view of a merger down to the 3-foot view. How is it going to affect the operations? Who is going to do what? What will it look like at a task-level and a man-hours level? How will it affect the operations? What about redundant systems? How are we going to approach this great idea of what these two companies can become? And how do you make it practical and work for the everyday?

 

What if you’re heavy in one color?

 

You can see how all four of those filters are really important for people to have in an organization., and it’s great for all four to be represented on a team. But I also want to make sure that you don’t feel like it’s a bad thing if you are heavy in one color. This is a reaction I get often where people think, “Oh my gosh. I’m just a one-dimensional person. I have four or five in one color.”

 

Remember that Strengths-based development is all about what comes naturally to you. Your natural talents are how you think and feel and behave at your natural best. They are your easy buttons for great performance. If you start lamenting what you’re not, you’re doing the opposite of Strengths-based development. You don’t have to covet the people that have the Skittles mix with all sorts of colors in their top five.

 

What if you have all the colors?

 

Now, if you do have all four of the colors presented in your top five, you may have a hard time relating to the concept of the first filter — your first filter may not be strong in one of those areas like it would be if you had three, four, or five in one color. If you have the Skittles mix of colors, I would suggest you just consider which of your top five talents speaks loudest when there’s a big change.

 

For example, for me, it’s probably Woo because I’m instantly thinking, “How are we going to message this? How can I make this change palatable or likeable to people on the team? How can I make this exciting?” I also might be thinking things like, “Who else do I need to meet and learn from to become who I need to become to reach this next goal?” So, I would say that Woo is the loudest and my first filter. You might recognize one talent as the strongest, even if you have a big mix of colors.

 

Conclusion

 

So that’s it. If you just took the StrengthsFinder assessment for the first time and noticed these colors and are wondering what they mean, you’re smart and you picked up on something very nuanced.

 

Just remember these three ideas:

  1. Your thoughts: Manage your thoughts and your reactions to seeing the colors. Don’t panic, don’t stereotype.
  2. Your demands: You actually have the four demands on your personal leadership, or the four domains if you want to refer to them that way.
  3. Your filters: Think of your Talent Themes and see if they offer you a first filter when major things happen to you.

If you want some other Strengths-focused tools to use with your team at work, check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources. There you’ll find at least one handout that references these four demands, plus a lot of other tools related to StrengthsFinder and Strengths-focused leadership.

 

I look forward to hearing how you and your team members will claim your talents and share them with the world!

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: lts-050.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

 

In this episode, Lisa tackles the topic of managing employee burnout. She uses the example of an overwatered plant: if you see the leaves turning yellow, your first thought is to add more water. But sometimes yellow leaves are a sign that the plant is overwatered—by adding more, you’re just drowning it. In the same way, many actions managers take to help their employees actually make things worse. In this episode, Lisa shows you how to discern the true causes of burnout and teaches you how to help in the right ways.

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. On our homepage, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Can Working In Your Weakness Zone Lead To Burnout?

I made a comment in a team StrengthsFinder session the other day. It was that when you find yourself procrastinating on the same task over and over again, it might be a sign that it’s in your weakness zone.

A few faces in the crowd made the lightbulb look. A few had this look of, “Whoa, I never even considered that.” Pretty quickly, they started asking about what signs and symptoms to look out for.

There are three important symptoms that are clues you’re frequently working in your weakness zone:

  1. You’re frustrated.
  2. You feel soul-sucked.
  3. You’re burned out.

As a regular listener, you hear me say all the time that using your strengths at work will strengthen your performance. So wouldn’t it also hold true that using your weaknesses at work would weaken your performance?

When you think about yourself, it’s easy to notice these symptoms: You know when you’re personally in a state of burnout or frustration. You know when work is feeling like soul-sucking drudgery, even if you’re trying to not show it on the outside. Sometimes these symptoms can sneak up on you over time, yet once they hit you hard, you know they’re there. Now you simply have to figure out what’s causing it and do something about it.

If you’re a people manager or a talent management professional, this gets tougher. That’s because often the same symptoms show up in people who are disengaged out of boredom or lack of care are the symptoms that show up when someone is giving every ounce of energy to the job … only it’s in a weak area, so it sucks the life out of them.

People are kind of like plants in this way. You know how the leaves turn yellow if your plant needs water and is unhealthy? They show the same symptom when they’re overwatered. So you might have a plant that is drowning and you think, “This plant is yellow. It must need water.” So you water it. And it drowns more. It gets worse.

People are the same. They might be soul-sucked from working in their weakness zone. Rather than turning yellow, they turn disengaged. They appear bored or detached. They have less fire and zeal in their attitude. So you try to find them more work to offer them a challenge. And oops … you were over-watering their weakness zone already. Things only get worse.

My mother in law helped me fix this with my plants — she gave me a moisture meter. If a leaf is yellow, I can stick a probe in the ground and see if it’s too wet or too dry. Yessss! I stopped killing plants. An easy fix. But what about humans? They’re not that easy. There’s no strengths-zone probe. You have to have conversations to dig deeper.

Let’s look at an example for each of the three symptoms so you can explore the kind of conversations you might have as a team to uncover these draining weakness-zone responsibilities.

1. Frustration

What to do about it: If you have a team member who is mature and highly accountable, they’re not going to complain and kvetch. So be on the lookout for the tiniest comments about a project that’s eating them up. For example, they may make light of banging their head against the wall.

Even if you can’t assign them fast-moving projects without red tape because you’re in a culture with a lot of bureaucracy, think about things like assigning them to the front end of a project and then handing it off to a partner who thinks it’s fun to get to the finish line and use persistence to solve problems. Or, you can keep an eye out for projects that create something new versus maintaining or changing long-standing traditions.

2. Feeling soul-sucked

What to do about it: If you have someone calling on talents that run counter to their values, it is going to suck their soul. You can often see this one on people’s faces. When people are performing regular job duties that insult their personal values, they will procrastinate. They will resist. They will roll their eyes. Even if they’re mature and they wouldn’t literally roll their eyes, you can usually see subtle signs show up in offhand comments or in how they act.

Be on watch so you can open up a conversation that helps them reframe it by approaching the situation through another talent. Or, help them address the conflict constructively so that they can have a productive conversation with the person or team who hold the conflicting value.

3. Burnout

What to do about it: This one is easy to spot in yourself, yet tougher to spot in high performers. When top performers are burned out, they try to keep going. They often use brute force to keep performing. They’ll stay up later. They’ll skip workouts. They’ll push through. There will often be few signs of trouble, at least for a while. For other employees, burnout is easier to spot because they appear and act disengaged. That’s easy to see and address — it’s your top performers that you need to check in with more deliberately because they often won’t say anything for months.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard way too many stories where burnout led top performers to start a job search in the background because they don’t want to ask for help or appear like a weak performer by bringing up their burnout.

Now you have three symptoms to look for in yourself or on your team, four if you count procrastination as a bonus symptom. Of course, there are many actions you can take to get out of your weakness zone.

Action steps to take after you see symptoms

  • Swap tasks around on the team.
  • Partner up with someone who loves doing that thing you loathe.
  • Use one of your Top 5 StrengthsFinder talent themes to get the same outcome in a new way.
  • Name the situation, because simply knowing that it’s driving you crazy will often diffuse a lot of the stress from it.
  • Make a Stop Doing list — ask stakeholders, managers, peers, and customers more questions about how they use the results of the work that you’re doing (the work that’s sucking the life out of you). Often, participants from my training events tell me that the task isn’t even required any longer.
  • Reframe the situation. For example, a recent virtual training attendee told me that he was late on his expense reports 100% of the time. He got scolded for it every month and didn’t care. That is, until his colleague in the accounting department told him that he was killing her — she was staying late and missing her deadlines for closing out the books every month. He quickly mended his ways by tapping into his Relator talent, which made him care about the outcome because he cared about her.

Questions To Ponder

What’s going on with you at work? What makes you feel frustrated regularly? What happens in the weeks and months when you feel burned out? What responsibilities feel soul-sucking?

Then apply this to people around you. If you supervise people, this is important to watch for. Open up the conversation. Talk to your direct reports in one-on-ones about what responsibilities and projects make them feel alive and excited and which ones make them feel consistent dread and stress?

Since your team members will have stronger performance by working in their strengths, what can you do to align their work and their thinking with their natural talents?

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

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

 

Direct download: weakness-zone-burnout.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Strengths Focus For This Episode

In this episode Lisa answers the question, "If every person has unique gifts, shouldn't they be easier to spot?" She uses the example of her trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, to explain that it's hard to see what's going on in our own heads every day. To help us learn what our strengths are, and the strengths of others, Lisa provides individual and team exercises that are easy to follow. She points out that it's extremely important that you bring out the talents on the team. You can do it by noticing what’s working so that you can get more of what’s already working for you. This notice-and-say-something approach allows you to leverage areas of team potential that bring out your top performance in life and in work.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Here's the video of Lisa telling the Bratislava story as an example of not being able to see things in yourself that stand out to others.

Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths based culture is to offer 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. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Here's a Full Transcript of The Show

You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you’ll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and today I’m here to help you answer this episode’s question, “Hey, if everyone has unique gifts, wouldn’t they be easy to see?”

This is such an important question. It came from someone at a recent StrengthsFinder training event. She felt totally competent on the job, but she didn’t feel “gifted” in any way. Now, if you’re listening as a people leader or a Strengths champion this is doubly important to tune in to, because it makes your role in strengths-spotting that much more important.

People often can’t see their own strengths. One of the most important roles you have as a manager, or as a leader of a strengths movement, is to develop the talent on your team. There’s so much power in you seeing and unleashing their talents. You can change the course of your team and whether it meets its goals. You can even change the course of your team members’ entire careers - just by being able to tap into their potential.

So let’s back up and get to the why of the original question.

Why Are Talents So Tough To Spot?

The essence of the original question is, “Why are talents so tough to spot?” I experienced an example on a business trip that explains it really well. I went to Bratislava, Slovakia to deliver a training event, and on the way, I needed to pick something up from the store, and I’m noticing, as I’m driving through the city, that cars were double parked and they were blocking each other in. This was something I noticed at first and didn’t think a whole lot of. I just thought, “Oh, maybe someone blocked someone in.”

Then I noticed it was everywhere around the city, or at least everywhere to me. Everywhere I looked, I saw cars blocking each other in. They were stacked two deep all over the place. Pretty quickly I thought, “There’s no way this is an accident, because this is not one rude person blocking another person in. There’s something going on here.”

So, the next morning I go to the event and I asked my host, “Hey, tell me about this thing. I noticed these cars parked this way. How does this work? What if you go into the store to do something fast, like buy a loaf of bread, and then someone blocks you in, but they wanted to shop for one hour? Are you stuck waiting for them for that hour?”

He laughed, because he knew where I was going with that, and he said, “No, no, we have a parking shortage here in Bratislava (and we all drive cars that are standards) so you can leave it in neutral, so that it can roll." Luckily it’s a very flat there so cars won’t roll down a hill. If you were the person who bought the loaf of bread and you came out and you wanted to leave, you would literally go to the car that’s blocking you in...and you would push it with your hands.

Okay, guys, if you’re listening to this, you’re imagining, “Cars are really heavy.” Most of the cars there are pretty small, so you can literally push it with your hands. And, in fact, if you’re being courteous, you might even turn your wheel so that, as it pushes out, the car rolls out nicely into the aisle-way behind it. Isn’t it crazy or what? I love this so much.

This is how they fixed the parking shortage. After you get your car out, you take the car that you pushed out, and you push back into the front slot. Now, as a side note, some of my clients who live in Bratislava, Slovakia today (we have fast-forwarded a few years later) - they said they’re having fewer problems with parking, so you don’t see much of that any longer.

What was so great about that moment is that he said, “Huh, this is funny that you asked me this question because the first time I visited Austin, Texas, where you live, I went to Target. I parked in the parking lot, and I was stunned at how far apart, side to side, the cars would park from each other.” He thought, at first, that it looked rude, because if only they would squish in tighter to each other they could fit so many more cars in the parking lot.

Of course, you know where it’s going here. In Austin, Texas, with this giant expanse of land, we can park far apart. The lines in the parking lot are even designed way further apart than the would be in Bratislava, Slovakia, because we’re trying to be polite and not door-ding each other, because we don’t have the same shortage in parking.

If you’re listening and you’ve been to any other country in the world, you’ve experienced some thing like this where you go somewhere else, and you realize, “Oh, wow, this is really different here. I wonder what’s behind it.” Then you can really see the contrast. You can really see the differences, because it’s something you’re not used to.

Look At Your Talents From Another Point Of View

Well, likewise, this all gets back to the original question of why talents are so tough to spot. It’s because you live in your brain every day. You have to get out, as though you’re in another talent country, to see how different your talents are from theirs. I hear every single day examples of people saying, “Well, yeah, I’m pretty good at that but it’s not anything special. Yeah, that’s just kind-of naturally how I think.”

Catch yourself, and catch people on your team, when they’re making comments like this so that you can make notes that, you know what, that probably is something very special that you have. In fact, it likely doesn’t come easily to other people.

Just like in those moments when I was in Bratislava and I was noticing, “Oh, wow, this is so different here,” and then he was able to show me how Austin, Texas, looked so different, I thought, “Oh, yeah, I can totally see that now but I wouldn’t have noticed it without the contrast.” This is how you, as a team, can get really good at spotting what your greatest talents are, and application on the job if you start spotting them as a team, and you start talking about them with each other. You can really bring out those contrasts that you couldn’t see if you hadn’t been doing it together.

What do you do with all this information? Show this Bratislava video to your team as an example, and then talk about what talents you can see in each other that they can’t see in themselves.

Personal Strengths Scavenger Hunt: You

In the "Self" part of the exercise, go on a personal scavenger hunt and you look for five things this week. Each one is described in more detail below.

Five questions to answer this week:

  1. I've always nerded out on these topics and types of activities:

  2. This comes easily to me, yet not to others (things you do or the way you think):

  3. I get a jolt of energy when I'm:

  4. I lost track of time last time I was:

  5. Someone told me I'm good at:

1) Something you’ve always been into. When you’re noticing these things at work this week, you start to see, “Oh, yeah, this is something that I’ve always had a penchant for.” This item description is a bit informal compared with the rest (in the way that I ask the question). So as an example, I notice that I’ve always been into doing something physical. My first couple of jobs were 100% physical and active. I was a lifeguard and an aerobics instructor in my late teen years. Both were active jobs where I was moving a lot. It’s no surprise that I got into the training field. It’s up, it’s active, and it’s moving around. It’s no surprise that inside of that I like to do a lot of StrengthsFinder activities that get people up and moving around and experiencing something physically. It’s no surprise that when I work, I’m often at a standup desk, or that I’m a drummer in my spare time. So for this first scavenger hunt item, watch yourself in action and go, “Yeah, this is something that I’ve always been into. No wonder it’s showing up like this today.”

2) Something that’s easy for you, but not to others. This is the time when someone goes, “Oh, yeah, you’re so good at that.” Someone makes the comment. Or you notice it in yourself. Even if you notice it in a negative way, give yourself some forgiveness. Even if you notice something really obvious and think, “Okay, what is up with these dum-dums? They can’t think of this thing that was so easy.” Well, that’s something that was probably really easy for you, yet not for others so take note of that. And, of course, don’t tell them that you thought they were dum-dums.

3) Something that energizes you at work. If you get a jolt of, “Oh, yeah, that was a cool moment,” note that. If you feel good after completing a task, or something makes you feel alive and alert, write it down. That’s one of the items in your scavenger hunt.

5-clues-to-talent

4) A moment this week when you lose track of time. You’re in the middle of a project and you have no idea what time it is, or you could get lost in that for eight more hours if you didn’t have a meeting coming up.

5) When someone notices you’re good at something. Now, this one can be really hard because you think, “Well, gosh. What if I work from home, and I don’t have a lot of feedback like that? And I don’t have in-person moments for someone to say that I'm great at something?” Make this as easy as possible, so it can be the slightest comment. Don’t wait for a trophy or an award or something really formal and big.

This can be a tiny moment where someone sends you an email to thank you for a spot-on response to a customer. Or you’re having a phone conversation and someone goes, “Oh, duh, that was so obvious after you brought it to light.” Take that as a clue to your greatness. Someone noticed you’re good at something. They noticed that you had an easy way of thinking about something that they couldn’t see, so take that as a sign that someone noticed something that you’re good at.

These five things align with Gallup’s work on the Five Major Clues to Talent. In the "5 Clues To Talent" image, you're seeing Gallup's version of them. I offered ours in the same order so that each number 1-5 corresponds with theirs.

The Three Things Exercise: Others

The other part of this exercise is getting "Others" focused input. It’s hard to spot talents because they’re right under your nose. It's exactly like the Bratislava example, where you have trouble seeing what's in the "easy-everyday-obvious" category to you. This exercise will help you see things that stand out to others. It's called the Three Things Exercise. This is something that was originally inspired by Dorie Clark. Check out this Dorie Clark episode to get a deeper look at your personal brand. The Three Things Exercise is to get a group of trusted advisors.

This can be something that you do in person with a group of people. Or you can do a few quick phone interviews. Or you can literally post the question in social media. Ask people:

“When you think of me, what are the three words you think of?”

That’s it. “What are the first three words you think of, when you think of me?” You’re going to get adjectives that tell you whether your personal brand and your experience with your talents is the same as how they show up in the world. Now don’t be scared of this exercise. A lot of times I mention it and people say, “Oh, my gosh, I don’t know if I want to hear what people have to say.” So far, to the person, I have had zero people tell me that anyone has ever come back and said anything but positive things. So expect positive words to come back. These are people who care about you and they’re going to share three words that are virtues.

What’s interesting is the trends, so make sure you ask enough people that you can see patterns in their answers. Ten is a great number. If you do it on social media, who knows...you might get 50 answers. But you start to see words that reemerge, and you think, “Aha! You know, this is really part of how I show up in the world, and this might be one of my gifts. I haven't been giving it any credit, because I don’t even notice it’s a thing.”

The bottom line is, it is difficult to see something that comes so naturally and so easily to you. Yet it’s extremely important that you bring these out, that you notice what’s working so that you can get more of what’s working for you. Do this so that you can leverage those areas of your greatest potential. They bring out your top strengths, and your best performance, in life and in work.

The Three Things Exercise: Team

If you’re a leader, I encourage you to do a version of the scavenger hunt or Three Things Exercise with your team. Spotting talents (and telling each other) can be one of the most meaningful, memorable experiences that people have together.

Step 1: Pass out one sheet of printer paper per person. Have each person write his or her name on it (really big in the center with a marker) so that it’ll stand out. After that, you'll be passing them around, and everyone will use a pen on everyone else's sheet. So be sure to have paper, markers, and pens on hand. This works most easily if you're in a big circle around a conference table.

Alternate method: If you don't have tables, you can attach a string and wear your sign on your back. That sounds a little strange to people because wearing a sign on their back often has them associating bad memories from 3rd grade when someone wrote "kick me" on their back, so you'll have to do a strong reframe of what it means to have a sign on your back. As you can guess, if you use that variation, you rotate by walking to the next person rather than passing the paper around.

The rest of the description assumes you're doing this with the standard set up at a conference table.

Step 2: Pass the sheet to the right one time. Have each person write 1-3 words about the person whose name they have in front of them. Write adjectives that describe what you appreciate about that person. Then (this is important), all together...at the same time...all synchronized at once, you pass the paper to the right. Tell them up front that you will do the passing at the same time. Using a timer with a dinging sound can be effective.

Make sure you give people enough time to think of a few words. If you’re asking them to do three words and not just one, you might even tell them in advance so that they can begin thinking of words that describe people that they work with. I mentioned how important it is to pass at the same time, and to set this expectation up front. If you don't, you will have a pile up. A few people will be really fast at this, and they will process people's papers by writing their words and sending them to the next person like it's a speed competition. Then it stresses out the slower people, who stop being thoughtful about what they write because the person beside them is giving them a pile of work.

I’ve seen teams do this activity and then keep the sheets so proudly. In fact, it’s an exercise that I did with a team over 10 years ago, and I still have a piece of paper. The example you see in this post was from about 15 years ago. It still means a lot to me to see the words that people wrote, and they really were great clues to my talents. Also it becomes a memoir for the team and helps you understand what is valued about you as an individual. As a leader, it’s a really great gift you can offer the team.

With that, I hope you’ll take this inspiration and will do some level of this exercise personally or with your team, so that you can help them claim their talents and share them with the world.

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: gifts-tough-to-spot.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Strengths Focus For This Episode

In this episode Lisa answers the question, "Is StrengthsFinder a personality test?" She uses proof from both research data and real-life examples. She shows that StrengthsFinder is actually not a personality test, but instead a performance-based tool.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

To find proof points and stats that can help you make the case for focusing on Strengths at your organization, check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/stats.

Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths based culture is to offer 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. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Here's a Full Transcript of The Show

You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you’ll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and I’ve gotta tell ya: using your strengths at work is one of the most energizing things you can do for your workplace.

Today, the question is whether StrengthsFinder is a personality test. I get this question often. It comes in many forms. Usually, it comes from managers or strengths champions who are asking me a question because they were trying to get strengths to be implemented in a bigger way in their organization, and they got stymied.

It sounds something like this, “Oh, no, not another personality test,” or they take it to get approved and they hear, “Oh, we already had a personality test last year.” Or, somebody says something like, “I’m not sure I’m into these personality tests.”

What Is StrengthsFinder?

It surprises many people to learn that StrengthsFinder is actually not a personality test at all. So, if you’re making a case for rolling out StrengthsFinder or Strengths-focused culture tools, it is nice to know that it is something totally different. It’s actually a performance-based tool.

I’ll give you an explanation of how it’s different from the typical personality test. Then I’ll give you a proof point or two you can use in your workplace. I'll also offer you a way of thinking about this topic to explain the difference between what people do on the job, and how they get it done on the job.

I think this is an important thing to explore when you’re rolling out StrengthsFinder because some workplaces are really focused on the knowledge and skills someone needs to do the job – that’s the what part – but they don’t spend very much time focusing on how people can show up at their very best.

Focusing On Strengths Every Day Increases Productivity

Let’s start with a proof point. If you’re going to do an initiative like StrengthsFinder in your organization, you want proof points like Gallup’s research that shows teams that focus on Strengths every day have 12.5% greater productivity than those who don’t. And, at the end of the show, I’ll give you a bunch more of those, a place where you can find the proof points that are most relevant to your organization and to your situation.

Personality Tests (Assessments) Are Usually Based On The 5-Factor Model

On the personality test question, the thing I think is most important for you to understand is that most of these personality assessments that exist are actually based on the five-factor model that you can learn about when you study psychology. If you have industrial organizational psychologists in your organization, they’ll know all about the five-factor model. Even if you’re not an I/O psychologist, you probably know about these because you’ve heard of DiSC, or Myers Briggs (MBTI), Insights, or Hogan. These are different assessments that are based on the five-factor model. Those 5 factors are things like Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness. Most of those, although not all, throw out the Neuroticism category.

Your CliftonStrengths Are Your Areas Of Greatest Potential

How is this different from StrengthsFinder? The answer is in the study of performance excellence. StrengthsFinder researchers at Gallup studied performance for decades. They discovered Themes that people use to deliver their best performance.

In Gallup’s words, Talent Themes “are the areas in which an individual has the greatest potential for building strength.”

There are 34 of these Talent Themes. When you get your Clifton StrengthsFinder results, you’ll actually see that they’re actually called Talent Themes. To put it in layman’s terms, think of them like easy buttons...easy buttons that people use to approach their goals.

The "What" Part: Knowledge, Skills, Experience

For example, say you lead a marketing department. There’s what you do and then there’s how you do it. In the “what” category, you have things like knowledge and skills and past experiences. Inside of a greater marketing department you have high-level knowledge and skill areas: things like marketing communication, product marketing, demand generation, pricing, etc. Of course, each area can go really deep into sub-level skills.

If you take something like a creative team inside of marketing, they’re going to have really specific knowledge and skill areas: graphic design, color, Adobe InDesign, buyer psychology, all sorts of layers like that.

In those “what” categories (like the ones mentioned above), people are pretty good at understanding what they need to know. Those are easy enough to identify. You can tell when they are present or when they’re not. And you can figure out how to go get those knowledge and skill areas.

The "How" Part: Your Talents - How You Naturally Think, Feel, And Act

The trickier part is “how” every unique human being approaches that job at their very best. This is why, of course, we’re humans and not robots, so we’re a little more complicated. Each person can’t just approach the job in the exact same way and get the same results. As a manager, StrengthsFinder can help you tap into each person’s best performance because it tells you what their easy buttons are, or “how” they can uniquely get that job done at their best.

If you manage that same team of creative pros, you’ll see they’re reaching their best output when you can get it done through their talents. For example, someone who leads through the Futuristic Talent Theme will want to know where that specific marketing campaign is going to take the company and the customer so that they can align to that.

If you contrast that with somebody who has the Maximizer Talent, they’re on the same creative team and they have to get the same job done, but you may find that they’re totally focused on something else. They’re over there trying to reuse some video footage so that you can get more out of something that already exists. Or they’re off creating actions in your Adobe InDesign software to save time on repetitive tasks - to free them up to get more time in their creative headspace.

You can see that within this same job, you can have two people who are off in their own worlds doing very different things, but those very different things are the things that put them at their best. This is how your StrengthsFinder Talent Themes, once you know them, can really help you unleash their easy buttons to perform at your best. Of course, as a people manager, this is like magic once you learn each of these things about your team members, because you can understand how to put them in that environment to get them at their very best.

StrengthsFinder Is An Assessment Built On Performance and Potential

To bring this episode all together, StrengthsFinder, in fact, is not a personality test. It is an assessment that was built on the study of performance and potential. If you want to look up, specifically for you and your organization, proof points that will be most supportive of the objectives you have in your organization, check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/stats. You’ll see a page that has dozens of proof points and stats that can help you make the case for this in your organization.

A final note, if you’re listening as a people manager or a strengths champion, one of the reasons I think it’s important to answer this question about personality test is that I also see, when people take personality tests or surveys or assessments, (whatever you choose to call them), on the receiving end of them, your employees are often guarded about the conversations that follow.

They are nervous that you’re going to come up with labels for them. They might have had some experiences in the past where they’ve been put into a box about how they are, or who they are as people.

Depending on who you have on your team, you might have to do some work in explaining how StrengthsFinder is framed: that it is focused on those areas of their greatest potential. Usually they see it very quickly and they’re super psyched because you’re talking about what makes them great.

When I do StrengthsFinder training programs, I don’t find many resistors to the process (like I did when I facilitated programs based on personality assessments). It’s one reason why I love StrengthsFinder so much. But coming into it, many people don’t know this, and they don’t know how it is all going to be framed up or applied on the job.

Depending on how they’ve been used in your organization in the past, or if you sense that somebody is a little hesitant about all of this kind of stuff, it’s helpful to share how the point of going through the process with StrengthsFinder is to find their greatest area of potential so that you can unleash their strengths at work.

If you do this in a way that shows you, as a leader, are being supportive of them, and putting them at their best and that, in fact, when you’re using your strengths at work you feel more ease and energy and enjoyment on the job, most people pretty quickly go, “Okay. I’ll give this thing a chance.”

Luckily, in my experience, the hesitant people have been a very small slice of the population. I would say, anecdotally, more than 95% of people in any given room or organization come in pretty excited about the future when we do StrengthsFinder or Strengths-based process.

In fact, one guy recently said,

“Oh, my gosh, that StrengthsFinder report was full of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me.”

I thought he summed up really well - people’s reaction to it when they first get exposed to StrengthsFinder, and how it can explain what puts you at your very best.

With that, I hope this helps you as you make the case to bring a Strengths-focused culture to your organization. From here, I hope you’ll take this information and use it to help people in your company claim their talents and share them with the world.

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: 047-personality-test.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Austin, TX StrengthsFinder Training for Leaders

Strengths Focus For This Episode

In this episode Lisa answers the question, "Should you stop using natural talents that cause you trouble at work?" The short answer is no. The talent, or combination of talents, that's causing you trouble is your natural talent. No matter what you do to squash it, it will pop out somehow and scare people. It's much better to work to find other ways to utilize that troublesome talent. Lisa provides two different exercises for you: one for you as an individual, and one for your team.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

If you or your team hasn't completed the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, you will find the list of adjectives on our website useful for the exercises in this episode.

Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths based culture is to offer 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. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Here's a Full Transcript of The Show

You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and I gotta tell ya, using your strengths is one of the most energizing things you can do on the job. Today's question and topic is about what to do when your strengths are making trouble for you. I know it sounds completely backwards, but there's this concept I call troublemaker talents. What happens is that sometimes your greatest strengths, your talent themes, if you will, (if you're doing this from a strengths finder lens), they can sometimes be overused, underused, misapplied. They can be unrefined if you've been ignoring them, or squashing them down. Let me give you an example. You have someone with the Includer talent and he says, “You know, I don't like my Includer. When I saw that on the list, I wanted to give it back because it makes me too slow.”

It makes me miss deadlines because I'm always getting everyone's opinion and I put the word out. I ask the question, I go one on one. People ask me for more time, and by the time I get everyone's input on something, I'm already behind schedule. Another one I've heard recently in a big corporate training was a woman with the Communication talent who said, “you know, I don't see this one as a strength at all. I get told I talk too much.” I can also give you my personal example. It's my Maximizer and Strategic. They come in together like a one-two troublemaking punch, and it's me always tweaking things. I'm always trying to make them better, but this concept of me never being done, also sometimes means me never sleeping. On the surface, all of those things I just mentioned, yes, they are real troubles.

The thing is though, you can't just get the effect you're having on the surface and decide to squash it down, and stamp it out and say, “Oh, that one's not serving me. I don't want it anymore,” because remember, your natural talents are patterns in you. They’re how you think, feel, behave at your natural default so they're gonna come out. It's like the jack in the box. Do you remember that toy that you might have had when you were a little kid, and you push this toy down into the box, close the lid, and you start turning the crank and you hear that “Du, De, Du, Du, Du, Du, Du, Du, Du, Du Du Du Du Du Du to BAM! Then that thing jumps out and scares you when you least expect it. Your talents are really just like that. If you squash them down because you think, “ah, my boss doesn't seem to like that one.”

“Ooh, I got bad feedback on that one once, so I don't want that one. I'll just put that one away.” Or you stamp it down, because you don't perceive that the culture you work in is appreciative of that talent, so you decide, “I'll just use that one at home. I’ll use that one at work.” These are all things I hear in training constantly, but the thing is it's kinda like the jack in the box. If you try to squash out those talents, they are going to jump out and scare people, because they're your natural default ways of thinking and feeling and acting, so they're going to come out. Since they're going to come out, what you want to do is spend more time refining it, nurturing it, putting it to work, send it to the gym, get others aware. Think about how that talent shows up on other people.

It really will help you invest in it, in a targeted way. For example, you take that person who mentioned that about the Communication talent. Imagine how refined it would be, if she knows who is willing to talk it out loud. She likes to talk it out. She knows the audience of people who love to talk it out with her. She can do that. But she also needs to be aware of those peers who perceive it like a waste of time because they don't like ideas that aren't well thought out. So part of it is knowing your audience. Another thing she could do is really think about different modes where she could practice her Communications talent - email, spoken word, written word. Maybe she's getting this feedback because she was taking over in meetings, and not letting anyone else have a voice. So we're taking one situation (meetings) and one mode of communication (the spoken word) and she just decided, oh, I don't want this talent at all. It’s not serving me.

Actually, she has all these other ways of applying it and refining it. You take the other example that I brought up with a guy who has the Includer talent. It was making him slow; it was making him miss deadlines,because in his way of applying it naturally, he was asking people for their opinion, but he wasn't giving them any time binding around his question. He would throw something out there in person or in an email and tell them he wanted to hear their voice, but he didn't give them a deadline. Something really specific here when he asks, now that he's refining it, he's still noticing people. He's still getting the unheard voices to be heard. He's still making people feel seen and heard and appreciated, but now he gives them deadlines, so he can also meet his commitments.

The other thing that he's been doing is running experiments for in-the-moment Includer. When he's in a meeting and he notices, everyone's spoken up except these two people, now he can say, “you know, John, we haven't heard from you, what do you think?” He started to give himself some script items that we haven't heard from you. What do you think? It's a great way to be able to feed the talent, without discarding it altogether. Don't squash them; refine them. Action item for you to apply. Now you're listening. You of course have your own personal set of talent themes, or natural strengths, that you bring to this world.

StrengthsFinder Activity: Experiment With New Ways To Use Your Talents

What's your troublemaker talent, or what is your combination of talents that kind of team up to create trouble, like I mentioned, my Maximizer and Strategic? Then, once you think of your personal answer, what experiments can you run to try them on in new ways? Remember, it's not an either/or. It's not that your strengths, or your talents, need to be turned on or off. Keep giving them new environments to play in, because the more you nurture them and experiment with them, and try them on and aim them to specific performance, the more refined they're going to be.

StrengthsFinder Activity: Work As A Team To Use Talents

Now, if you want to apply this at a team level because you're a strengths champion or you're a people manager who is awesome, here's an activity that you can do with the team.

Give everyone around the table a blank sheet of paper and then write down their troublemaker talent on that piece of paper at the top, like a title. If you've done StrengthsFinder, that would be one of your StrengthsFinder talent themes. If you haven't done StrengthsFinder then one resource on our website, you could use LeadThroughStrengths.com/adjectives, and that page gives you a bunch of words that might describe you as a person, and you can have people go through an additional exercise before you come to the meeting, where they get two or three words that define them most strongly, and usually each of those words, even though there are positively framed, they're going to have the great side of them, and they also might bring a shadow side with them.

It'll take a little extra work if you haven't done StrengthsFinder, but you can get there by reframing it into the troublemaker, out of that adjective list. Back to the sheet of paper, where you have your thing written at the top. For example, it might say Responsibility is the troublemaker talent for this person on your team. Then, they write one sentence about the trouble it's causing them; what is the pain? For example, if you had the responsibility talent, it might say, “I can't say no.” If you're leading this exercise, be sure you've thought of your own in advance so that you can model for them what yours sounds like. You can use the example I just used, and then you give your own as well, and then they'll see how to make a nice crisp problem statement.

Then what you do, just pass it to the right one time. Of course they know who it came from, because it came from the person sitting right next to them, and as it gets passed you asked for the person who receives it to come up with one way you could address the situation while still honoring the talent That part, while still honoring the talent, is important because if you pass the Responsibility paper over and the person writes, “just say the word NO,” that's not going to work for someone with the Responsibility talent, but maybe the person next to them writes something like “next time you feel yourself needing to set a boundary and having a tough time with it, imagine the other commitments this will put at risk if you say YES.”

That's more of a thinking exercise. The next person might give a different tip, but it still honors the Responsibility talent and they give them a script, some words that they might use, that would feel comfortable for someone with the Responsibility talent. So they might say something like, “next time you feel like you want to say no, but you can't find the words. Tell them, ‘Ooh, that project sounds really valuable. Let me look at my calendar and review all of my commitments and I'll get back to you by tomorrow.’” Essentially they're offering a stalling tactic, so that they can get their head together and find the right words and the right approach instead of just saying yes in the moment, so you get where I'm going here. The idea is to give the person ideas that can solve this challenge while still honoring the talent.

If you know all of your talent themes, what can be really cool with StrengthsFinder, to make this even more layered and get people learning the StrengthsFinder talent themes and get them to really honor the person, is to write all five of their talent themes in a corner and then do the same thing I already mentioned, so that when you see the person with Responsibility also has Command, also has Includer, also has Connectedness, also has Individualization. Then, you can give an answer that is, Ooh, look, this person has Individualization, so in this way the person with Responsibility would probably find it important to give a custom answer to every person who asks for something from them, so you could give them something like a formula for finding the words we're saying no, but that also allows it to be customized to the person who's receiving it, so that's the exercise. I like passing it to the right three times because you get three different layers of answers and then you send it back to the original person, and it just gives them a way of thinking about the world that isn't in their typical mind-frame. It's a nice way to help them brainstorm some potential solutions and see how other people view the same situation at work.

A final thought on troublemaker talents is to remember there's not an on and off switch as the right answer here because something's not serving you today. Don't shut it off, squash it down, stamp it out. The idea is to refine what you have. It's gonna come out anyway, like a jack in the box. It will jump out and scare people if you choose to not invest in it. So with that, I'll see you next time and I can't wait to hear how you've claimed that talent invested in it and shared it with the world.

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: 046-talents-causing-trouble.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Strengths Focus For This Episode

In this episode Lisa clearly answers the question, "Is there proof that strengths focused development works?" First, she presents a case study. It's research from the University of Nebraska that proves focusing on strengths yields better ROI than training yourself in your weakness zone. Second, she offers the metaphor of a fish and a cat to bring the point alive.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Lisa also mentions this classic book by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson, Soar with Your Strengths: A Simple Yet Revolutionary Philosophy of Business and Management

Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths based culture is to offer 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. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Here's a Full Transcript of The Show

You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and today we cover the question, “Is there proof that strengths-based development works?” If you're considering StrengthsFinder or strengths-based development, strengths based culture in your organization. This comes up pretty often. People say, “Hey, if I'm going to move away from this thing that you call a lopsided obsession with weakness fixing, I want to know is it actually going to work?” What I have for you today is 1) a proof point through a case study...some actual research...and then 2) the other is a metaphor because it's a really clear way of thinking and making it obvious that strengths-based development is the way to amplify performance on the job. First, for your proof point, some researchers at the University of Nebraska did a study to quantify the effects of what it is like when you invest in your strengths, versus when you invest in something that you're just average in.

They did this test with the topic of speed-reading. They brought people in off the streets and subjected them to this speed-reading test, and at the end of the speed-reading test, they divided the subjects into two groups. Group 1: they were naturally talented at it. Group 2: they were average at the skill. The average people read 90 words per minute and the naturally talented people read 350 words per minute in this is the first round with no training. Just imagine bringing you in off the street and testing you on how fast you can read. Next, after that first round: they offered the same training to all subject. What they were going to look for, of course, is the answer to the question: "Can the naturally talented people use the same training to amplify their performance at a better pace than those who didn't have the natural talent?"

Well imagine this is very much like work. You see people come in to the same job, but they have different background, skills, talents, knowledge, experience. You see that one person really takes to the job easily. And another person - they don't ramp up as fast, and the work is not intuitive to them. They're slower at it and it never feels quite right for them.

045-proof-point

Now, back to the study. All the subjects were given the same training and in the second round, after this training, those average participants, who started out only being able to read 90 words per minute, made some improvements. They went up to a 150 words per minute. This is very much like what you see on the job. You bring in people from off the street. You say, “Hey, you're going to go through the phone rep training and everybody's going to go through the same thing, and everybody who tries hard is going to improve.”

So, as expected, these subjects got better. They made a 66% improvement in their performance. That's great. It did something, yet the first piece of insight here is if you remember back to a minute ago...I said the naturally talented group already read 350 words per minute in their first round. So they already beat the trained (average) people right there. That's an interesting insight because you see how your natural talents can help you perform, even when you've never been trained in something. Now, the real magic in this story, in this case study is what happened to the people who were naturally talented. That group improved 828%. So if you ever hear me talk about your triple-digit-performance-improvement-shortcut being strengths, this is what I'm talking about. They went from 350 words per minute to 2900 words per minute with the same training as the other people.

One group of people improved to get to 150. The other group of people improved to get to 2900. You've seen this in the workplace, if you've looked around. You have the same people with the same training exposure, and you see very different performance levels. With those performance levels, you can see high performers who try really hard, but you can also see low performers who try really hard and they're just not getting it because it's not in their zone of genius, so there's the proof point for you: 828% performance improvement for that group of people who focused on what they were already naturally talented in. Now I mentioned that I would give you a proof point and then I would also offer you a metaphor that demonstrates it I think had a real guttural kind of level like, yes, this is how we should be thinking.

So there is a book put out by Donald Clifton and the Gallup organization called Soar With Your Strengths. Now this is an older book and it's actually a fable. It has a really good metaphor in there about taking an animal and sending it to training in something that it’s not good at. I'm going to extend the metaphor and do the Lisa version of it. It's a little bit silly, but this way if you read the book, you can still get something out of it, so imagine this. Imagine you're going to work and at work you have a fish, and at work you have a cat, and it's been a year into their experience at work and you say,

“Fish, it's time for the performance review and I’ve gotta tell ya, we've had you on that responsibility of mouse catching and you've been doing a really cruddy job at catching mice. We're going to really focus in, we're behind you, we want you to be successful, so we're going to spend the next year putting you through a training program so you can be really good at mouse catching. Fish, you're going to go to mouse-catching school."

"Now, Cat, time for your performance review. Gotta tell ya, you did great at mouse catching, but you've also had that responsibility of swimming and you know every time we put you near the pool...you scream...you scratch. You’ve got people in the HR office because their faces are all cut up when they're trying to throw you in the pool. It's been a real nightmare. We want you to be successful though. We're going to send you through a year long training program to make you a great swimmer."

soar with your strengths metaphor - try to get a fish to climb a tree

Ok, so got my weird HR conversation here and you can imagine how ridiculous it would be to spend a year trying to teach a fish to catch a mouse and how ridiculous it would be to get a cat to swim. But if you flip that around and send that fish to swimming school and make it the best fish on the planet, you can see what would happen. Oh yeah! That's its natural tendency and that's what it was made to do. Same thing with a cat. It's made to catch a mouse.

This is something that of course it's not as easy and clear with human beings what they were born to do and we're a lot more complicated because we've probably been squashing a lot of those things out of ourselves and hiding them and it's more difficult to make them apparent. But even the notion that you as yourself or that you as a people manager are looking for the genius in that other person that is exactly the path that's going to unleash performance in the organization. So get your fish in fish school. That's the big lesson.

StrengthsFinder Activity: Conversation With Your Team

Now let's talk application. As you listen to this audio and think about yourself personally, think of a time when you learned something new and it came really easily to you...more easily than that same thing would come to most people. If you make yourself think of 5 or 10 of these types of things, you're going to see some trends. You can extend those trends into your current role and think, “all right, if this stuff comes naturally to me, then how can I extend that into my current job?” If you want to apply the same question at a team level because you're a people manager or you're a strength champion (and awesomely) you are bringing this to a bigger conversation, then you can answer the question by going around the table and having a chat about it.

For example, somebody says, “OK, you know, every time we have to learn new software, it is just so easy for me. I don't even know why user manuals exist. I don't know why help screens exists. I can't believe they have to be built out in such detail, because it's just obvious to me how it's going to work.”

Maybe another person in a sales role says, “you know, you're doing a new initiative on storytelling,” and when that gets launched, the person is like, “Yeah! That seems easy and fun. This is how you want me to sell. Okay, no problem. Forget those other models we've been talking about. This is what I've been wishing for all along.”

Or, maybe you have someone in a project management role and they say, “you know, I can really spot the dependent tasks, I mean like nobody's business...even when the rest of the team can't see the connections. They're oblivious to some of these things that are really connected to each other and are going to make the critical path, and others have to experience the whole thing to realize that some of those steps were connected and that they matter.

That's the start of the question as a team, and then of course the magic isn't just knowing that something in the past happened. Then, the next part of the question is:

“How do we amplify this talent? If this is something you're naturally gifted in, how do we get you more of that? How can we get more of your genius on display at work?”

That makes a great team conversation. Based on the size of your team, you can spend however much or little time you have for this. I'd recommend allocating about 5 minutes a person, so it might be a 30 minute conversation, but if you only have 5 total minutes to spare at the beginning of a team meeting, ask people to submit the answer to you in advance. Put it in a spreadsheet. Collect it before you show up in the meeting so that you've done the first-level work in advance.

Then when you get in the room, it's 5 minutes of, "Here we go. Rapid fire. How can we amplify this stuff?" And then you can take it further in the time that you're actually in person together.

Okay, with that, you have a new question. Hopefully you have a newfound appreciation for how strengths based development really does work - how it does amplify your performance more than an obsession with weakness-fixing would. Now you have some questions to discuss as a team, and some things to think about on your own so you can amplify your own performance at work, and the performance of those around you.

So with that, I'll leave you until next time. Thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths. To find more strengths-focused tools, go out to our website at LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources. There's a whole host of documents and videos and things that you can do to apply this on your team. I'll see you next time.

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: 44-proof-strengthsfinder-works.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:00am EST

Thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths! Remember, using your strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. If you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents. And share them with the world. 

If you want some strengths-focused tools to use with your team at work, also check out leadthroughstrengths.com/resources - 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.

Direct download: 044-announcement.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa chats with Cheikh Tall, Maya Tremelling, and Merywen "Wenny" Wigley, of FHI 360. Their amazing company is working in 70 countries to find cures for many of the world's deadliest diseases, provide water for villages in Africa, and promote the health and well-being of all people.

In this special episode, you'll hear how FHI 360 has built a strengths-based team, while nurturing a strong company culture. You'll learn about these 10 ideas:

  1. Charity Cube
  2. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
  3. Focus On The People
  4. Offer Awesome Grants
  5. Randomized Coffee Trials
  6. Thank You Cards
  7. Now Awards
  8. Annual Awards
  9. Leaders Set The Tone
  10. Creative Work Schedules

[caption id="attachment_3508" align="alignleft" width="400"] FHI 360's Awesome Mission[/caption]

Meet the interviewees (see photos below):

Cheikh's Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Maximizer, Adaptability, Achiever, Responsibility, Deliberative (such a great fit for getting a financial analyst in the zone!)

Maya's Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Positivity, Includer, Woo, Developer, Harmony (what a beautiful set of relationship talents to bring to a records management role!)

Wenny's Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Arranger, Empathy, Activator, Harmony, Maximizer (imagine how handy it would be to have this talent lineup as a project director who needs to get things executed through others!)

Lisa’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode

You can connect with the FHI 360 team through their website, Twitter, and their interesting and informative blog.

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our ="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://leadthroughstrengths.com/resources&source=gmail&ust=1487264698482000&usg=AFQjCNHUtPcayNXycHfGq_r2Crj5sPIU7w">Strengths Resources page.

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.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa: You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where YOU'LL learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. [music break]

I’m your host, Lisa Cummings—and I gotta tell ya, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself…it’s hard to find something more **ENERGIZING** and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

Today, you’ll hear a special episode, where I’m onsite in the Raleigh Durham area of North Carolina. I’m with an organization called FHI 360. They do work in 70 countries, and wow...talk about bringing out the best in humanity…

I was onsite, delivering a StrengthsFinder program to their Global Leadership Team. They came from all over the world and, man, we got to apply the concept of strengths to [00:01:00] suuuuch a wide range of job responsibilities.

We had research scientists, we had country directors, we had clinical operations leaders, and we had people whose career mission is to cure malaria. We had leaders who devoted their entire lives to getting clean drinking water to villages in Africa.

It was amazing, and their organizational culture really stuck me.

It feels different (in a special way) when you walk in their building. So [00:01:30] I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to chat with some of their team members about what makes this organization so special.

Now, bear with us. The audio on this episode is not as good as our usual standard. We’re on site, in a common space, with four of us on one centralized microphone. The setup was not ideal for your ear buds, yet we made it work on the fly.  And, even with the extra fuzz and distance in your ears, you’ll absolutely benefit by listening to their creative tips and culture-building ideas.

In just a sec, they’ll start giving you 10 specific ideas you can borrow for YOUR work culture. If you find it tough to follow who is talking (because there are 4 of us), take a glance over at leadthroughstrengths.com/listen. When you see the podcast episode art with three faces, you’ll know you found them. We added photos of each person throughout the show notes - so I think you’ll love checking out those visuals (we even have some that show the 10 tips in action). That page also includes each person’s StrengthsFinder talent themes, so it might be fun for you to spot their natural talents as you hear how they describe their ideas.

We kick it off with Wenny. She jumps right in with their [00:03:00] Charity Cube idea. Here she is, giving you a cool use for the empty cubicle in your office!

Wenny: Hi, I'm Wenny and I'm a project director. My favorite thing about working here or one cool thing I look forward to is an initiative we have called the Charity Cube. It's an empty cube that we use as a mini-thrift store to raise funds [00:03:30] for charities that are nominated by our staff.

Sometimes it will be a charity that our staff cares about, local or national, or sometimes it'll be something thathas personal significance to someone, right? Now for example, this month, the funds raised through the Charity Cube are going to the Leukemia Society because one of our colleagues lost her husband recently to leukemia, so it's raising money in honor of him.

Lisa: I can already tell it's something of meaning here. Tell me a little bit [00:04:00] about what that cube looks like. If you walk up to that cube, what do you see? Because I imagine almost everybody listening has an empty cube somewhere around the office and they want to do this. What does that look like?

Wenny: Sure. We invested in a portable clothing rack. I think a company called Neatfreak makes it. We have clothes hanging there. We ask people to only bring in really nice stuff. We usually have some shoes and purses. There are books, CDs and DVDs [00:04:30]. Knickknacks. People bring in all kinds of things. Some things we wish they didn't, but usually what happens is the good stuff is gone in a second. What's left over is the stuff that nobody wants, so once a month, we get volunteers to come clean it out and to purge it, then we start over. We've raised $5,000 in the Charity Cube.

We've been doing it two years and each month, it's a different charity and [00:05:00] staff nominates it. It's fun. It needs to be placed somewhere strategic. Our Charity Cube is placed right next to the canteen, so everyone who's going to warm up their lunch stops by. It's an honor system. There's a moneybox. People put in the cash and once a month, we add up all the money and send it to a charity.

Lisa: It's like a little retail store in a cube. I wasn't even imagining it at first.

Wenny: Yeah. It manages itself, for the most part.

Lisa: And anybody listening to this could implement something like that. They don't have to be a people [00:05:30] manager to do that. That can be anyone who wants to demonstrate leadership and do something meaningful. Ooh. Maya, this is a lot to live up to. What kind of cool thing do you love here?

Maya: My name is Maya Tremelling [00:05:43]. I'm responsible for record management and I’ve worked for FHI for almost nine years. What I like most about working in this company are the people.

Lisa: Let's talk about relationships for a second and what happens when you're so far away. I talk to more and more people at companies, organizations everywhere that have remote employees all over the place. Your tightest knit team might not be anywhere near you, so how do you ... This answer could be for anyone even though, Cheikh, you haven't been able to introduce yourself yet. How do you stay connected like that relationship-wise when you're not physically seeing each other?

Cheikh: The ERG.

Maya: Yeah, ERG. I don't know if you heard of them [00:06:29].

Lisa: Employee Resource Groups?

Cheikh: Employee [00:06:30] Resource Group. Yes.

Lisa: Yes. Talk about them.

Cheikh: And then people that share…

Wenny: Common interests.

Maya: We have so many groups. Maybe I can talk for “Tapioca” [00:06:38], which is Asian people, but people who care about Asia also can join. You don't need to be Asian to join. We have really good causes too, like fundraising. We celebrate New Year's for all the countries in Asia. We have potlucks. Being away from our countries can feel lonely, but it feels like we are family here. It's just nice.

Lisa: Yeah, so you mentioned Tapioca. You mentioned Young Professionals. Is that an Employee Resource Group?

Maya: Yes.

Lisa: What are some other ones?

Maya: Africa.

Wenny: Working parents.

Cheikh: I think a bicycle group.

Lisa: Bicycle?

Cheikh: They have a bunch of bicycles. Yeah.

Wenny: Yeah. We have a bicycle one, working parents. Oh, Toastmasters, public speaking, Africa, Asia. Military veterans? [00:07:25] Oh, a fitness one that does yoga and meditation.

Lisa: It's as if you find a special connection point, you could makeone of these.

Wenny: Sure. You can propose it.

Cheikh: The last one is a women’s group.

Wenny: Oh, yeah. The women's group? Yeah.

Cheikh: I attended that one [smiles].

Wenny: That's awesome. Good for you [cheerful crosstalk].

Lisa: Okay, so now people have sort of met you.

Cheikh: Yes.

Lisa: Tell them who you are and one of the cool things you love about working here.

Cheikh: My name is Cheikh Tall [00:07:52]. I've been with FHI for about a year. The purpose for me to join FHI was the work that FHI was doing. I was just sitting at my old job - just working and I guess it wasn't meaningful to me. It wasn't about the money, it's about what I want to do personally. I think working here - and the work that FHI is doing, that's one of the main things that I like about working here.

Lisa: Yeah. I think people listening to this will almost feel like you [00:08:30] have an advantage because when you're in a company like this, that is so mission driven and so out for humanity and what the world could become, you certainly (on the purpose and meaning part) have something special.

Let's just say you're a manager listening to this and they work in a manufacturing company. They're making widgets and you're trying to figure out - how do you tap into meaning? You've obviously had this experience when you didn't feel that connection. [00:09:00] Do you think that connection can be made when it's a hardware product or something like that?

Cheikh: Yes. I think it's good to take time to understand what somebody's motivation is. It's important to tap into that motivation and keep that person going.

Lisa: If you just asked one question to try to get at somebody's motivation, what would that thing be?

Wenny: Whenever I work with someone that I don't know, I make sure that the very first meeting has nothing to do with work. That it's [00:09:30] just about getting to know each other and understanding. You don't want to make people say things that they're not comfortable sharing, but just opening a dialogue for people to share what they're comfortable with about their life and their family and where they went to school or what books they love, what music they love, what their hobbies are, so that you can build trust. I think in order to be able to be on a team and have healthy conflict about ideas, you have to trust each other. In order to build trust, you have to know something about the person [00:10:00] beyond their name and their title.

Lisa: It doesn't cost any money, either. That's a great one, Wenny, for that.

Wenny: Exactly. You do it over lunch. You go out, "Hey, I'm so glad we're working together. Can we go and grab lunch?" You just talk about life and each other. Also in keeping that feeling going and building that relationship too, a lot of times, we work with people that are overseas.

I had a team that was all in Kenya. We did so much better, we were so much more engaged when we were on video, rather than when we were on the phone. As much as we could, we did Skype and video calls more than just being on the phone. When you're on the phone and someone could be doing something else and it's too passive. When you're on video, you have to really focus.

So yeah, using video and just keeping a personal relationship just when you start meeting like, "How's everything going with you guys? How's your family?" You know what their kids are doing. "How's soccer going?" or something. "How's your garden going? You grow tomatoes. Do you have any tomatoes yet?" Just to have ahuman connection and not be so boring about work, because things can get boring sometimes.

Lisa: [00:11:00] It's big. People say, "Oh, you're not focusing on work", but you're focusing on work by focusing on the people that do the work, so you have to have that piece.

Cheikh: Adding to that, I might be an introvert sometimes. I don't like to talk. I just sometimes just keep it business as usual.

Lisa: Perfect for having someone on a video right now, right? [sarcasm] “Let's do an in public interview with someone to make him feel really uncomfortable.”

Cheikh: I've been working with my manager for a while. She can tell by how I react if I'm excited about something or not. She knows that I like to be challenged. If a new challenge comes up, she can see the excitement in me. I think paying attention to the non-verbal action of people pays a lot. They can't help unless they are 100% sure what motivates that person.

Lisa: I like how practical your ideas are. You were talking about the fact that someone can read you [00:12:00] and know. The same thing applies with anybody that you're working with whether they're your direct report or a colleague who's a peer. If you get to know each other at those informal lunches and they know, "Oh, you want a little more time to think about things" or "Don't put me under pressure to speak in the moment" or "Now I can see that eye twitch means that's a good thing". All those little signs.

Wenny: One of the things that I love about FHI is HR has set aside funds and resources for employees to come up with [00:12:30] ideas. We have the Awesome grant: give us an idea that's awesome that you can do for $1,000 and we'll consider it. Everyone can submit his or her ideas. One of the Awesome grants was to get some bicycles that employees can check out and go for lunch, go ride into downtown and grab a coffee or a lunch.

HR, it's not tons of money, but it's very encouraging to feel like your ideas are valued and for HR to say, "We want to know what ..." [00:13:00] The Awesome grants are about the culture. $1,000 projects to make our culture better. I love that HR is thinking that way because that's creative and it's not expensive. It's pretty easy. The staff is doing all the work. They're coming up with an idea they're implementing.

Lisa: And executing. I hear that and I think if someone said, "Oh, we don't have that. We have $100", you could do an Awesome grant with $100. That's cool.

Paige Winn (cameo appearance): Do you guys know about the randomized coffee trials?

Maya: Yeah. Every [00:13:30] month, people who register to be part of it will get an invite. They match us with other people and we can have talking and it's just having a coffee or tea or even lunch if you want. I meet most of the time with someone new that I never met before. It's really good because we are such a big company. So many new people - we benefit.

Lisa: Yeah. Say more about how this actually works. You're an employee and I'm imagining [00:14:00] it could be something like networking and I just want to meet someonein whatever department?

Maya: Yes.

Lisa: Networking, mostly? Does it happen through software or how does this happen?

Maya: It's just an email.

Wenny: It's part of the Awesome thing. Someone manages it. They get all the names of people and then they use random matching and send out emails.

Cheikh: Usually the people that they match are in the same department.

Wenny: Yeah.

Cheikh: We end up being matched to somebody who is doing something totally different than your area of work, so you can talk about projects you’re working on.

Wenny: The ones that I've been in, we talk about work some and what kind of projects you're doing and what excites you about what's coming down the pike.

Maya: Most of the time. Yeah.

Wenny: "Where did you come from? Who are you?" It's all the employees who schedule it and reschedule it if you need to cancel. That's your gig. They just tell you whom you're matched to and then you can take it and run.

Lisa: You're hitting [00:15:00] on an enormously important concept. I talk a lot with managers about individualizing to each person and what makes them tick.

Wenny: One thing I really appreciate is that we get handed out stationary that is a thank you note. It has a logo and it says 'We are FHI'. You get those and when someone does something that you appreciate or helps you out, you can send them a handwritten thank you note. I have handwritten thank you [00:15:30] notes from people in leadership that mean so much. The power of that is just so real and wonderful. We can do that to each other. We also have an ability to nominate people for awards.

Cheikh: Yeah. The Now Award.

Wenny: On an ongoing basis, we have a Now Award, which is just someone helped you out. It can be a $10 gift card or $20, whatever. Once a year, then we have the big award. They take nominations from around, many, many offices around [00:16:00] the world. It's nice. There's a ceremony and peopleget to tell their story. You hear why people got this award and they give it to teams. It's not about individual accomplishments, it's about team accomplishment and project accomplishment. That's awesome because then you're really creating a culture that values teamwork.

Cheikh: Also, what I like especially about the Now Award is that it is something that you get from peers. You're working next to each other.

Maya: Right. In the same department.

Cheikh: It doesn't come from the top leader. [00:16:30] My direct manager or my direct coworkers are the ones that can nominate me. Just getting an award from them means a lot because they are the people that you interact with all the time, and they see you putting in the work. The direct manager knows what I'm doing every day. Getting recognition from them sometime means a lot.

Lisa: As I was listening to your answers, I was thinking about how that gave people a [00:17:00] big, bigger, biggest option where thank you cards, recognition cards can be big, Now Awards can be bigger, the team impact thing, the biggest. But that something as simple as a peer recognition getting a handwritten note whether it's from a peer, even an email, that it's big.

It's a big meaning to you even though it's a small easy action to take. Anybody can keep a stack full of blank cards at their desk to recognize peers, even if their company doesn't [00:17:30] provide something. Okay. Closing thought. It's a simple question, yet a deep question. What do you know about team dynamics today that you didn't know five years ago?

Wenny: I don't know if I didn't know it five years ago, but I certainly know now that the leader sets the tone. I'm on a team now where the leader will send out a message [00:18:00] and it's completely heartfelt. "This morning I woke up and there was a beautiful sunrise and I was on my run. I was just thinking about how much we've accomplished in the last month, and how hard you guys have worked, and how much I appreciate it. I'm just thankful that you all are my team."

He's setting the tone. He's setting the tone and then that becomes the tone of the team. I think it goes all the way up to our CEO. We have a CEO suggestion box. You can say anything you want in the suggestion box. Anything. [00:18:30] He will respond publicly unless it's private, if it's an HR issue that is private.

He sets the tone for communication. That would be my nugget: the leader sets the tone. It's your responsibility to set the tone for your team. If there's gnarly-ness going on in your team, you have to not just want to blame it on them but look inward and accept some responsibility. How do I turn this around? What can I do? Instead of just saying, "All those people are hopeless." I [00:19:00] believe it comes from the top.

Lisa: It takes a lot of small interactions to make that openness happen, so that's a really good lesson.

Wenny: You know one thing we didn't talk about, but I think is really great, is that I only work 60% of the time. That's a choice that I made, so that I cannot make my kids eat TV dinner every day, right?

Lisa: Ooh, it is a big one.

Wenny: I work less and I make less money, but I still know, and I think most people here know, that you don't get all this [00:19:30] stuff. Culture is not going to just ... someone else is going to create it. You have to put the time in even though I'm only working 60%, but I put the time in for the Charity Cube. We put the time in for the ERGs. We do it because we know that it's our responsibility. We get to own whether this place is awesome to work at or not. It's everybody's responsibility and we all chip in, don't we?

Maya: Yeah. [00:19:53].

Wenny: People chip in. We're not getting compensated for these things that we're doing. We shouldn't be. We're doing them because we want to work at an awesome place [00:20:00] and that's what it takes to work somewhere awesome. If you're not willing to give a couple of hours a month or one hour a month to make this place awesome, then it's not going to be awesome. That's why it's awesome. If you think everyone else is going to create the culture and then you get to benefit from it? No. That's not how it works.

Lisa: It's so uncommon to see any fractional work schedule.

Wenny: Yeah. It has to be that your project, it meshes with your project needs, but yeah. If you can justify in how it will work and it works [00:20:30] for your group, then you can do it.

Lisa: Wenny ended it so perfectly, didn't she? You know what, if you want your workplace to be great, it's built from the inside out. A culture's not an HR initiative, it's not a vision from one single leader. It's actually a reflection of the past and the present and all of those actions, habits, preferences, commitments and trusts that are going on in your organization.

Building a strengths-based culture takes [00:21:00] some time, effort, and ongoing communication. They did such a great job of showing how yes, it does take an effort by many people over a long period of time to shape a culture yet at the same time, they demonstrate really beautifully that these 10 ideas can be executed by anyone at any level and really with any budget level.

To do a quick recap, here are the 10 ideas. I hope you will take some inspiration [00:21:30] and implement a spark that you got from this episode in your company.

  1. Turn an empty cube into a Charity Cube.Use it to give to causes that employees select and care about.
  2. Form Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and don’t limit them to ethnic diversity groups. Allow team members to find connection points and create groups, like their cyclist group or veterans group.
  3. Focus on the work by focusing on the people doing the work. Build human connections by being willing to chat about non-work topics. Get on video for remote team members. Going deeper builds trust that translates into results.
  4. Offer Awesome Grants. Give people the opportunity to apply for grants that build a great workplace. They implemented everything from a sharable bike program to buying StrengthsFinder assessments - all from their Awesome Grants.
  5. Create a program like their Randomized Coffee Trials.They literally get matched up with a random person from another department to have coffee and try on a conversation. It has been awesome for cross-functional networking and collaboration.
  6. Provide an inventory of Thank You cards. They provide stationery to each employee so that offering appreciation is convenient. This removes cost barriers and convenience barriers that would otherwise keep people from doing it. I know, that sounds like a lame excuse to not say thank you…yet I don’t see fat stacks of thank you cards on people’s desks, so this idea rocks. Make it easy.
  7. Now Awards.Start a peer-nomination system. Get rid of the bureaucracy and approvals. Allow people to give something simple, like a $10 gift card to a peer.
  8. Annual Awards.This is their big team award, so it’s different from peer awards. This one recognizes project level success. They go all out with stories that describe the team’s experience together. And they pump up the pomp and circumstance to really make a celebration out of it.
  9. Set the tone.As a leader, FHI leaders are comfortable with a heartfelt tone. They are willing to listen and help each person feel important. They see from their results and loyalty that it's a big deal. Whether it’s a meaningful team message or their CEO suggestion box, they’re out to show people that they matter.
  10. Get creative with work schedules.FHI offers what they call “Reduced LOE” where any professional on their team can work fractional hours and get prorated benefits. What a creative way to keep your best employees through different seasons of their lives. It makes team members feel accountable to keeping the amazing culture train going - what a brilliant way to build a feeling of ownership all the way through. At its simplest level, consider offering a job sharing program or part time roles. The important differentiator here is that it’s not just for entry-level jobs. When you show people they have a career path with flexibility, you can keep your top talent rather than having them opt out of the workforce entirely.

It makes the team members feel accountable to keeping the amazing culture train going, you heard that from Wenny, and what a brilliant way to build a feeling of ownership all the way through the organization. If you offered this at its simplest level, just consider doing a job-sharing program where two employees can share a job 50/50 or maybe you offer part-time roles.

The important differentiator is that it's not just for entry-level jobs. I do see people experimenting with part-time offerings, yet they stop at the entry-level jobs. The magic here is that when you show people they have a career path with flexibility, you can keep your top talent rather than having them opt out of the workforce entirely. All right. With that, I'd love to hear what this episode inspires you to put into practice.

If you've done the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment with your team, it's a great [00:27:00] spark. I say this often. It's a great start, it's a great spark, but it needs the continued conversation and execution to have the deep impact on an organization. First, I'm virtually high fiving you if you've gotten the conversation started already and the examples in this episode are a great way to support talents and put them into action.

Just think about this for a second. If someone on your team leads through the Discipline or Focus talent themes, maybe they create the calendaring process for something like those randomized coffee trials because they really dig the organizational skills and the follow through part. If someone leads through restorative, maybe they institute their own ERG.

They create an employee resource group called the Fix It Amigos, I don't know, to tinker on electronics or solve business issues that people submit. If someone leads through the developer talent, maybe they propose a mentoring program or they offer to be someone's mentor so they can take them through those small steps of development and have someone who they can celebrate the success of.

If someone leads through Includer, they might offer to become the onboarding welcome wagon and offer tour guides to ensure that new hires feel totally comfortable and grounded in their first week on the job. You get the idea here. I'm just spit balling. The idea though is take your talents and the talents of people on your team and aim them at culture building conversations. Aim them at specific company programs.

Get people involved in ways [00:28:30] that light them up. Encourage people to contribute in ways that bring them ease and energy and enjoyment about the workplace and about their culture and about their roles. After all, if they're obsessed with fixing their weaknesses, you know what I'm about to say here. They are performing on the road of most resistance. So help them claim their talents and share them with your culture.

 

Direct download: FHI-360-Culture-Building-Tips.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Should You Stay Or Should You Go Now? With Scott Barlow

This Episode's Question
Ingrid says she's pretty close to knowing what she wants to do with her career. And she even has a list of potential employers collected. These are companies where she could put these new ideas to use. Yet she's just not sure of the timing.  She's afraid once she actually gets into the career change...will she still be happy? Will she have picked the right thing?

She asked, "Is it okay to go after what I think (at least right now) my dream job is...simply because I need to have the experience of it to know what it is all about? Or do I need to know exactly what my dream job is before I go after it."

 

What You'll Learn In The Audio
- Whether to take the risk of the grass not being greener in a new job. Sometimes you worry that you might be romanticizing the role or the company. Or you worry that the interview process is not what the "real" day-in-a-life will be like.

- How you can Happen To Your Career rather than slugging through your work days by letting career "happenings" get imposed upon you. Note: you'll get some super special Scott Anthony Barlow wisdom in this department. And you'll leave wanting to subscribe to his podcast or sign up for his One Stop career shop for getting you where you want to go. This guy rocks.

- Examples of times when a dream job didn't turn out as planned. Yup, even your hosts have experienced these "wrong" turns and came out on a great note. And why you should go for it...even if it turns out to be one of your "not it" roles you're bound to experience in your career.

- Why it's good to go through some career conflict and get outside of your comfort zone. You'll become more self-aware, you'll know better what your strengths are, and you'll get clearer on what you want.

- If you don't try it, you'll miss the chance of knowing whether this is "it" for you. And why not? Because what you want and need today won't be what you want and need in the future. You'll keep changing, growing, and evolving as a person. So go for what feels right today because it will change tomorrow.

- Humans are wired with a survival instinct. You'll tackle pain head on. It's your fight or flight response. You'll take risks to avoid pain. Yet when it comes to gain, humans take far less risk. That's why Ingrid's feelings and question are 100% normal. To get massive career happiness, sometimes you have to take risk on the gain side. And it's a lot tougher to muster up the courage on that end.

 

Resource of the Episode
At Happen To Your Career, you can find a  14 day course on how to figure out what you want to do with your career.  There's no charge. What a super resource to get you started.

 

Subscribe to the Career Q&A Podcast
To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher radio. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode - let the app notify you each week when the latest question gets published. 

Ask Your Career Question
Send your question on Twitter @careerpodcast or on the Career Q&A Facebook page.

Even better, leave your question through the audio hotline so we can hear your voice.

Related Episodes to Go Deeper on The Topic
- People who are in a similar career space are often debating about money and happiness...trying to find out if it's possible to have both.

- They also wonder if their current team is the right set of peers and colleagues to keep their game moving upward.

 

Direct download: 014-Scott-Barlow.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 11:48am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa chats with Murray Guest. They focus on embedding strengths into your company culture after StrengthsFinder training. Instead of just participating in a training, then putting your results and notes away, find ways to sustain the use of strengths at work and home.

Using your strengths will improve your company culture, inspire your team to learn and grow, and increase your bottom line (and it will improve your family life too)!

Murray is a consultant who works with companies and leaders to weave StrengthsFinder into their businesses. He shares this list of four things he addresses when helping people build strengths-based cultures: 1. Systems 2. Physical Environment 3. Leadership 4. Attitudes. He and Lisa also give a ton of easy-to-implement ideas to infuse strengths into your everyday life, most of which are free, so listen in.

Murray's Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Relator, Futuristic, Individualization, Communication, Responsibility

Lisa’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode

You can connect with Murray through LinkedInTwitter, Instagram, and his website. Murray also created the Strengths Culture Toolkit to help teams use the Clifton StrengthsFinder beyond their initial team building event.

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our ="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://leadthroughstrengths.com/resources&source=gmail&ust=1487264698482000&usg=AFQjCNHUtPcayNXycHfGq_r2Crj5sPIU7w">Strengths Resources page.

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.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:10] You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you’ll learn to apply your greatest Strengths at work. I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and I gotta tell you, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:27] Today your guest is a Strengths expert who I wanted to bring on the show because of a conversation we originally had about sustaining Strengths on your team over the long haul. So both of us had too many experience where we sparked an interest in Strengths in organization with a speech, or the training, or some coaching, but the company didn’t have the infrastructure or resources behind it to make it part of the everyday culture. And we’re both making it part of our personal mission and our business models to support leaders in a way that helps them embed Strengths into the fabric of the company and to the everyday culture at work.

[00:01:04] A fun fact about your guest’s uniqueness, we shared a crush on Lita Ford in the 1980s and we’re both drummers. How fun is that? So, Murray Guest, let’s rock this show. Welcome!

Murray Guest: [00:01:17] Woo-hoo. Lisa, so good to be with you today. I’m excited to talk about Strengths, but also, yeah, we’ve got a bit of a love of rock drumming. I’m learning. I’m behind you in my skills. I know it’s all about practice, and I’m loving when we connect and you just encourage me to keep going and keep practicing.

[00:01:34] And, yeah, I’ve a crush on Lita Ford and I got to see her recently play live. And to see someone that was so excited and so happy on stage doing what she loves, and I’m sure she was tapping to her Strengths while she was doing it too.

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:46] Such a good metaphor for what Strengths do for you when you’re in flow and you’re just totally in your groove at work or on stage, because you love it and it shines through and it makes people want to work with you. It’s a good reason to embed Strengths into your culture, because you get to experience people like that at work.

[caption id="attachment_3365" align="alignleft" width="400"] Murray In Action - Inspiring Someone's Business Growth[/caption]

Murray Guest: [00:02:01] Yeah, I’m so passionate about the idea of people being in the state of flow. Unfortunately, not everyone’s in that place, and I think Strengths is such a perfect vehicle for people to get in that state where it’s energizing and it’s not, “Thank God it’s Friday,” it’s, “Thank God it’s Monday.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:18:] I saw that in your Instagram, TGIM, and I thought, “Yes, that is the kind of movement I want.” So, okay, let’s talk about that from the perspective of loading up listeners with ideas for vetting Strengths into their culture because they take the StrengthsFinder assessment, maybe they do it as a team, and then they don’t mean to go back to work and put it in a file and forget about it, but it does happen. We know it does, and it’s sad because we see the spark and they know they’re going to find their flow with it, and then sometimes it can wane.

[00:02:47] So I want to get into a whole bunch of actionable tips and viewpoints about how people can use this, but I do want to start everyone off by being able to hear your Strengths, so kick us off with your top five first.

Murray Guest: [00:03:00] My top five: Relator, Futuristic, Individualization, Communication and Responsibility. I completed my Strengths assessment back in 2012 so it’s been five years that I’ve really known my Strengths and everyday thinking about how they sharpen and how they apply. But actually, Lisa, so like a bit of a path or a bit of a structure in my top five I just want to quickly explain that. So, for me, Relator is all about building these relationships. Number two, Futuristic, where you want to go as a team or as an organization or a leader and how can we get there.

[00:03:32] Individualization, how can we connect and specifically what it is for you? Communication then is about how we communicate that out for you as a leader or within your business, or if it’s someone running their business, how they market themselves. And the Responsibility, that’s me and it’s a foundation of how I can continue to serve you as a coach. And it’s a process, I think, that’s showing up and working for me really well as a coach.

Lisa Cummings: [00:03:56] Just last week, I did a training session and we had cards where they were representing each person’s talent, and this people manager called me over and he said, “I think my Strengths in this order are like a process that I use for how I handle situations or how I think about things.” So as you were saying that I was having a flashback to this guy, and I thought, “Wow, that would be really interesting to ask people to see, ‘Does this represent like a thought flow or almost like how you operationalize how you work through challenges or situations or something new?’” Because I bet your talents do reflect an order, not necessarily the order of the Talent Themes number one through five, but an order in how they work in your brain. You might be onto something cool there.

Murray Guest: [00:04:37] Yeah. Well, I love that he identified that in your course last week because I think that’s such a great awareness and a claiming of his dominant Themes. If there’s a way that we can think about a lot of what you’re saying about the thought process, or the way we might problem solve, or the way we might organize ourselves, any way that we can connect and really claim those Strengths that we have is part of the process.

[00:05:02] In my previous life, I worked for an organization where what we did was psychology-based safety training. So it’s all about building a culture where people go home safe every day. So when we talk about embedding Strengths, I’m transferring a lot from what I learned from embedding what we call a safe culture where people go home safe, where leaders think about the way they communicate and they lead, and the way that people have an environment where it’s safe to speak up.

[00:05:35] In that organization, I worked with a whole range of companies and about 10,000 people across some very large high-risk organizations, and one of them was a mining organization which employed about 2,000 people. This company had bought from us a couple of million dollars’ worth of training, of programs and coaching and different sorts of initiatives to develop their culture.

[00:05:58] There was a maintenance team, and you would go into that maintenance team and you would swear that we’d been there only yesterday with our programs. The language, the posters, the way that they would discuss things in their meetings and look after each other, and you would actually see the results of their safety and their performance and their attitudes was actually indicative of that because of how well they were going.

[00:06:23] There was another part, which is the main part of this mining operation, where you would think that we had never been there, we had never run a program, never had a coaching session with the leader, never introduced these models and tools and concepts.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:37] Same company.

Murray Guest: [00:06:38] Same company. Same site. Quite a large mining operation but same company, same site. Here’s the thing. The maintenance team, we hadn’t actually done any work with them for nearly seven years. The mining operation, we’d actually been there only in the weeks before, and it was critical to how much the leaders were actually living and breathing and embedding and, I would say, just adopting the language in their everyday conversations which kept this concept or these concepts alive.

[00:07:10] In the maintenance team, you had frontline leaders that are there managing these teams, day in and day out, and they had embraced it, and they didn’t need us as coaches and facilitators to come back, and you could see then that was keeping alive, day in, day out. And, like I said, we haven’t been there for seven years in that part of the business.

[00:07:27] In this other main operation, being there in the weeks before, yet it wasn’t being embedded and sustained because the leaders didn’t believe in it, and they weren’t bringing into their language, they were sending people to the training courses, saying, “You have to go,” but they weren’t having, where I would say, the critical conversations before and after the programs.

[00:07:49] So if there was a key insight out of all that that I really want to share is to get the value from, say, building a Strengths culture and thinking about how we actually just make it part of the way we work. We really need to engage our leaders and support them in how they just bring it into part of their everyday language and the conversations they’re having with their teams.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:11] And we’ve all seen the difference between the compliance training, where the person in the session is rolling their eyes, and saying, “Yeah, yeah.” We’re talking safety, but in reality they just want it faster and cheaper, and out in the field it’s not really going to go down like this. How do you do this with Strengths?

[00:08:08:27] If you translate that, and you’re a manager who is just experiencing StrengthsFinder for the first time yourself, and you don’t know the jargon, and you don’t know the language, can you help simplify that and just give people an idea of a few things, “Hey, you’re an everyday people manager, you’re used to being an ops guy, or a finance person, or a marketing person, or something like that”? How do you start embedding this in your daily talk and conversation when you don’t know the language yet?

Murray Guest: [00:08:55] I break up the culture into four areas, the culture within organizations: systems, environment, the leadership and their attitudes. To help us have those conversations and make it easy, I think one of the little things we can start to bring into those four areas so it’s really easy to have those conversations. For example, if I’ve got a diary and I’m going to meetings with my people, what are the Strengths references I can put in there?

[00:09:20] If I’ve got a notice board or a whiteboard in my office or somewhere in that team area, what can we stick up there to remind us of Strengths and the Strengths language? As a leader, how am I investing my time when I’m not talking to my people to learn about Strengths? So this podcast, you’ve got a fantastic podcast, and also things like the Called to Coach that Gallup put out. They are resources that, as leaders, tapping into those when I’m not in front of my people, traveling to and from work, they’re great to actually start to learn and get some deep insights around Strengths.

[00:09:52] I also think asking people questions is one of the most powerful tools in a leader’s toolkit. Asking people about their Strengths, how they’re showing up, what do they want to get out of knowing about their Strengths? And then once people are starting to experience Strengths, whether it’s through workshops or coaching, ask them how actually it’s helped them, what’s come up for them, how have their Strengths shown up for them in the past?

[00:10:16] I’m a big believer, Lisa, that the 10-minute conversation a manager has before a coaching or a workshop event and the 10 minutes after, might be a cup of coffee, it’s those little informal conversations which show that, as a leader, “I care about you, and I want to know what you got out of that training, or that coaching session. How can I help you apply that

[caption id="attachment_3366" align="alignright" width="400"] Murray Guest with Paul Allen - Top Strengths Evangelists[/caption]

more?”

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:36] And you’re breaking down those four categories and talking about things like systems. Instantly I thought of things like the HR systems where I’ve seen some people in their HRIS where they do performance reviews and where they have their talent information or talent management system, where they actually put in top five talents or they put in some of the career aspirations related to Strengths, or they link the Strengths conversation into the development plans, and they’re building it into stuff that already happens in the organization.

[00:11:06] You know, when you said the diary, my ears perked up. And I know some Americans who are listening their ears perked up because they were thinking of a journal kind of diary, so you’re talking calendar kind of diary, right?

Murray Guest: [00:11:17] Yes, that’s right. [laughs] I’m still a writer in, let’s call it, my day-to-day diary or planner, yeah. Not my deep, deep diary, “Today my Strengths showed up like this.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:28] [laughs] I had to call that out because I know it’s fun language barrier we have.

Murray Guest: [00:11:31] If you’re doing that and write in your journal that’s fantastic.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:33] Could be. A lot of “Dear, Diary,” good stuff about Strengths for sure. But even in the calendar, making that part of the system where if you can’t remember this stuff as a manager and it seems like it’s just such a heavy load because you’re busy, just having a quarterly meeting that you put on a recurring cycle that is a Strengths one-on-one, and you just had the language showing up on someone’s calendar that’s a Strengths one-on-one, that alone holds you accountable to think of a couple of questions, I’m going to ask them about their Strengths in this meeting.

Murray Guest: [00:12:00] Yeah, and your link to the HRIS, I totally agree. I was with a client earlier this week and we’re talking about their annual performance reviews. I said to him, “How about we put a question in there which says, ‘How have you used your Strengths to achieve your goals?’ or, ‘How have you applied your Strengths to develop this year? How will you apply your Strengths in the coming year to achieve our strategic plan?’” Those little prompts in that performance review and those planning guides are just keeping Strengths alive and will get people thinking about it, and not just in that discussion but the preparation and the follow-on as well.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:35] And maybe help people not dread the performance review season and just think of an outgoing conversation.

Murray Guest: [00:12:40] I bet that’s a whole lot of conversation.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:43] I know. That could really derail us into a whole separate interview. We’ll do that one next time. So give me a couple more for managers, because I think, as you mentioned, they are a linchpin in all of this to keep it going. So you mentioned environment, say a little about what you can do to have Strengths around your environment and keep the thought of Strengths alive in people’s minds.

Murray Guest: [00:13:08] One of the best things I’ve seen, and I love this as an initiative, is building a Strengths wall in your team environment. What I’ve seen, Lisa, is the very simple one where it’s just pieces of paper. And I’ve seen some very elaborate ones where people are getting photos taken, they’ve got a board that goes into a frame, and on that board next to their photo they’ve written their top five Strengths and how they’re applying their Strengths to achieve their goals, or how they’re using their Strengths to be more successful in their roles or to serve the team.

[00:13:39] And so these Strengths walls have been led by leaders who’ve said, “Right, let’s just keep this alive in our area.” And so whenever anyone new joins the team, they get put up on the wall. If anyone thinks, “How am I going to work on a project, or who am I going to collaborate with and draw on their strengths?” Here’s this great wall, the pictures of our team members and their top five and how they can really use them to be successful.

[00:14:06] In the environment, when I say that I mean it’s the physical environment, things you can touch. We can do certificates on the wall, and we can do top five on our desks and things like that, but I think this next level with the Strengths wall provides that deeper understanding about the individuals that make up the team.

Lisa Cummings: [00:14:24] Mm-hmm. I like that a lot. And the deeper understanding point, I’ve seen some of my clients go deeper in a way that was really cool. Like I’ll provide in a training these four-by-six frames that have people’s talents so that, beyond the training event, they’re on their desk and they look nice and they can filter their thinking through them. But then they take it further, and one of my clients, I think it’s really cool, they have started to essentially hashtag their talents when they see it in action.

[00:14:54] For example, this woman had Positivity talent. She needs to put her headphones on and go into her kind of crank it out mode and not be disrupted, but she hates making people feel like she’s shutting them down, and so she’s really interruptible because she has Positivity, and it’s fun to have fun at work. And so she made this really clever sign that goes on the back of her chair about how she has her headphones on.

[00:15:17] And then at the bottom of this note about how she’s in her cave working, it was #Positivity. And then people can remember back to the conversation they had as a team, and that keeps deepening it as well. So it’s kind of like a mix of your ongoing conversations in support of leadership and the physical environment, seeing them around you and going, “Oh, yeah, that’s that one.”

Murray Guest: [00:15:39] I love the #Talent so I think that’s great. I’m going to borrow that one. There’s assumptions that we make as humans, and here’s an assumption that I might make that, “Oh, because one of my team members had their headphones in that it means X, Y or Z.” But with this little message, and the #Positivity, it’s taking me back to Strengths, but it’s also removing these assumptions. I love it. And I love these little things that we can do in organizations which actually don’t costs a lot of money, or it don’t costs anything, and they can have such value and such impact in developing the Strengths culture.

[00:16:12] Speaking of leaders, Lisa, one that I really want to share, too, is what I called a Strengths leadership commitment. Leaders taking that time to write down what’s their commitment to keep Strengths alive, to acknowledge and embrace the Strengths in their team members, and actually signing that and then putting on display.

[00:16:30] But not just putting on display but also communicating that to their team and talking about it, and saying, “How am I going to live and breathe this and asking the team to hold them accountable for it?” Because when we sign something we make that commitment. That’s real. That’s like signing a check or signing a contract. So here’s this contract that I’m signing now that, “Hey, I’m making my Strengths leadership commitment to you as a team.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:53] I love how it speaks to the accountability that you’re putting out there. I’ve never seen anyone do that, and I haven’t suggested that one yet, so cool. Thanks. We’re borrowing all sorts of good ideas from each other. Because, once you put that onto them, of course, then they’re going to hold you to it, and that’s why you’re telling them, and putting it out there.

[00:17:09] I have had situations where managers are starting in a way different place, and I would say a lesser way of showing support, where they almost didn’t, has come up recently several times, where a company will bring me in and they want a leadership session and they want a session for all. And they’ll say, “Okay, we think all of the people who manage people are going to go to leadership session, and then everyone else will go to this other event.”

[00:17:38] And they’re not doing it to be unsupportive, they just kind of think, “Oh, there’s this version and that version.” And really talking through the message that sends to someone who is an individual contributor on the team, thinking, “My manager doesn’t even care to hear what I have to say about my Strengths in here. They don’t even want to understand what we do when we’re at our best when we’re in the session.” All those assumptions and things that are going on in their head.

[00:18:01] So that’s been a really useful conversation about embedding them with the message that you’re sending about the interest you’re showing in it. This had no mal intent in the times that it’s come up recently but it does keep coming up and it’s just as a practical “we’re busy” kind of thought. And they really miss that key point which somebody would think, “Oh, gosh, well, they don’t even care.”

Murray Guest: [00:18:22] Yeah, and I’d like to think, Lisa, everyone has good intent. So, as a leader, “I have good intent. I’m busy. I want my team to do this. I think it’s great. I believe in it. But, hey, I’m too busy. I want to do other things or I’ve got somebody else, and we’ll go to a different program.” So there’s good intent. However, the way it’s communicated, or the assumptions team members might make might be, like you’re saying, “We’re not part of the greater team, or they don’t really care.” And so breaking down those assumptions is so important.

[00:18:49] Something that I’ve actually found that’s really helped is when we do need to do that because the leader might have lots of teams, is having a leader open the sessions, so come in and explain, “These are my top five Strengths. This is what I got out of knowing my Strengths. This is what I hope you get out of it, and I look forward to hearing about it, please come tell me.” And having that sort of 10-minute opening has also been really powerful.

Lisa Cummings: [00:19:13] And it’s so practical. It’s easy for them to take the time. I’ve had a few sessions like that where that company leader, or department leader, or that manager, they kick off and say, “I went through this process. That’s why we’re doing it because I believe it’s that powerful. I want to know this about you. Here’s what I got out of it, and I can’t wait to see what you’ll get out of it too.”

[00:19:32] Wow! Then people come in with a really open mind and excitement about it, they’ve said it in their company’s language, and then they take down all those barriers about, “Oh, what’s this? What’s this outsider going to tell us about our careers or about our Strengths?”

Murray Guest: [00:19:45] Yes, yes, totally. The other one that, I think, leaders can do is how they’re integrating Strengths into their meetings. Meetings are such an interesting topic. I think, Lisa, so many people I talk to say, “Oh, we have so many meetings, and we have meetings about meetings, and we don’t make decisions but we have more meetings, and all of that sort of stuff going on.”

[00:20:06] Yet organizations are going to continue have meetings, it’s just we need to get more effective at them, and I fundamentally believe we need to meet more regularly, for less time, more effectively. But what it would like if every time a team met they started their meeting with a Strengths share, “How have I seen the Strengths show up in one of my team members? How have I used them on the weekend with my friends or family? How am I using my Strengths currently to solve a problem? Or how are we using them currently to collaborate on a project?”

[00:20:38] And it’s only a very short discussion, but it sets these habits, and once we form these habits that’s just going to be part of the way we work. So what if that was a standing agenda or item at the start 1of every team meeting?

Lisa Cummings: [00:20:52] Beautiful. And it could five minutes or three minutes, it could even be one person’s one Strengths share and that’s it.

Murray Guest: [00:20:57] Yeah, that’s right.

Lisa Cummings: [00:20:59] Oh. I’ve had a client recently do this where they were passing around the responsibility of the opener. They were doing something very similar to a Strengths share but it was more like a, “What is the question related to Strengths we’re going to open the meeting with?” And it’s something that would take like 30 seconds to report out each person so that it only took up a few minutes at the beginning.

[00:21:19] And they assigned a new person who would come up with that question each time. So it wasn’t just on the manager, and it got everybody really involved in it, and it made each person think about Strengths in a deeper way. I thought that was a clever way to do it, and involve everyone and really embed it further.

Murray Guest: [00:21:36] Again it’s another great example and I love that. It’s just simple, it’s short, it’s effective, it’s building habits, and it’s setting the tone, I think, also for the rest of the meeting. Then, as we talk about other topics or things that we may need to discuss, it sets this tone that Strengths is going to be part of the way we do that as well.

[00:21:55] A team I worked with, Lisa, the culture prior to the team and the leader knowing Strengths, was, well, this person, let’s call her Jane, is always seeing the bad, always seeing the wrong. And then the assumption of, “Hey, guess what? Jane is not on board.” So then, after Strengths workshops and some coaching with the leader, it’s actually Jane’s number one Strengths is, guess what, Restorative. She just wanted to fix problems and she had this, “Straight away what could go wrong? And I want to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

[00:22:25] So what that turned around in their meetings was, “Actually, here’s the next initiative we’re doing. Hey, Jane, can you tell us what you think could be some of our possible pitfalls and how we can address them?” It just changed the whole dynamics of the meeting and actually how engaged she was in the conversations.

Lisa Cummings: [00:22:43] See Jane run after that. [laughs]

Murray Guest: [00:22:45] I love it. Yes.

Lisa Cummings: [00:22:47] Hey, I think it would be fun if we could do the last two minutes of this episode trying to kind of lighting round out some cheap or free things that we’ve seen people use to keep Strengths alive in an ongoing way. What do you think?

Murray Guest: [00:23:01] Yeah, great. Let’s go.

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:02] How about you do one, I do one. You do one, I do one. We’ll just go as fast as we can.

Murray Guest: [00:23:06] Fast as we can. Okay, let’s do this. So I actually think one of the key things is Strengths report swapping. Here’s just going, “Okay, here’s mine, here’s yours. And then catch up at the end of the week for a coffee. What did you think? What did you get to know about me? And let’s chat.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:21] Hmm, neat idea. How about virtual meet-ups for remote teams who don’t get to see each other in person, once a quarter, totally dedicated to a Strengths chat for one hour, Brady Bunch style show in your camera?

Murray Guest: [00:23:33] Love it. And there are so many remote teams these days. It’s a great one. Strengths stories in company newsletters. So it’s powerful internally, but it’s also powerful externally about how we’re a Strengths-based culture, how we’re embracing Strengths, and it doesn’t just need to be about work. It can be about how I’ve seen this done around other cultural initiatives where people go, “Wow! That’s absolutely something we’re really living and breathing.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:56] And then they start using metaphors like you do about mountain biking, how it’s related to Strengths, yes.

Murray Guest: [00:24:00] Yes!

Lisa Cummings: [00:24:01] Let’s say on-boarding someone new. Assign someone, a Strengths champion or a success coach, so somebody else who’s already in the company feels accountable to help that person unleash their Strengths at the company.

Murray Guest: [00:24:16] Nice. Love it. Here’s one that one of my clients did recently where they actually asked everyone in their team to send to a neutral person a song that they love and how it reflects one of their Strengths. Then, at their monthly team meeting, they had a playlist and they played the songs, and people had to guess whose song it was and what Strength it was related to. And they all had a dance in the meeting and then they just went through them quite quickly and had this huge energy.

Lisa Cummings: [00:24:45] Wow! This is going to be good. So now you’re going to challenge me to end on something really fun like that because that would be awesome. Okay. A costume party, so this could be if the Halloween time is near, or a kickoff meeting, or something where people might have an occasion to dress up. So it would have to be an event, and you dress up representing one of your talents.

Murray Guest: [00:25:09] Love it. So what would you be dressed up as, Lisa?

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:12] Hmm, I think what just immediately comes to mind is probably like a big old giant full-body costume sunshine that would represent positivity talent. That’s kind of the give-me obvious one. So I might get a little more cerebral and think of something more clever. How about you?

Murray Guest: [00:25:29] Responsibility comes to mind, it’s like a foundation talent of who I am. How I dress up as Responsibility, I’m not too sure. Maybe goody-two-shoes school student or something doing the right thing, maybe something like that.

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:44] Goody-two-shoes. [laughs] So that would be so fun and you’d be trying to look at the other person and go, “Okay, I’m sort of getting this vibe. I don’t know.” Yeah, that would be a lot of fun if you had to mix and mingle where you could talk about that.

[00:25:58] Well, this is pretty cool. Man, there are so many more ideas, and I know that you have a Strengths toolkit that actually takes people through way more than just these tools and tactics but the whole process for working at a company level, how you would walk someone through embedding Strengths into your culture. Tell them where they can find your Strengths toolkit and where they can connect with you when they want to see more of your content.

Murray Guest: [00:26:24] Thanks, Lisa, and I loved chatting with you today. So, yeah, I’ve created a toolkit because I, like you, am passionate about people getting the most from any training or intervention and definitely about Strengths. That’s been such a powerful thing in my life the last five years and continues to be every day. So if you go to StrengthsCultureToolkit.com there’s a toolkit of resources you can get there which includes guidelines, templates, facilitator guides, activities, there’s a conversation template, posters. And the idea is to have that toolkit of resources to help keep Strengths alive in those areas of culture we discussed earlier.

[00:27:03] If people want to connect with me, my business is InspireMyBusiness.com, and you can send me an email there or check me out on LinkedIn, and definitely I think that if we can all live an inspired life through our Strengths every day it’s a very good place we live in.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:18] Thanks, Murray. Man, you guys, Murray is the real deal. He’s born to be a guest on the show because his last name is Guest. I mean, how perfect is that? So check out his toolkit. He really knows this stuff inside and out, and is so great on the consultancy side, and has done it. Now, I even get the deeper layer, seeing that you did it for the safety consultancy as well, so wow. Yeah, with that, you guys, go check out the Strengths toolkit.

[00:27:43] Also, if you want some Strengths-focused tools to use with your team at work in addition, check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/Resources. There are some other tools there to sustain Strengths – this is the freebie version – to help you with some easy conversation starters, because you’re busy, and the big barriers are often like that, “I just don’t know what to say. I don’t know these one-on-one conversation starters.”

[00:28:05] So with that, thanks everyone for listening to Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your Strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. And if you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, and fixing your team members’ weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents and share them with the world

 

 

Direct download: 042-Murray-Guest.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths
This week Lisa chats with Dave Stachowiak. They focus on using your strengths to fuel your leadership journey. If you have ever compared yourself to someone else in the business world (which is probably most of us), or if you've had a career path that has zigged and zagged, then this podcast is for you.

Dave is a consultant who works with top-level managers to build their leadership capabilities and amplify their strengths. So, tune into his examples and tips to improve your personal leadership skills as you listen.

Dave's Top 5 CliftonStrengths StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Futuristic, Relator, Intellection, Learner, Responsibility

Lisa’s Top 5CliftonStrengths StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode
To find out more about Dave and listen to his Top 10 iTunes Careers Podcast, visit Coaching For Leaders.

Strengths Tools
You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

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.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview
Lisa Cummings: [00:00:09] You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you’ll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and I’ve gotta tell ya, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:27] Today, you’ll get an episode filled with an exploration of leadership as a journey. You know how on social media you compare your everyday life with everyone else’s highlight reel? Well, I believe the same thing happens with careers. People compare themselves to successful leaders, and they forget that those successful people they’re looking at went through a process to get there, and often a long process.

[00:00:52] Your guest today is a perfect picture that he has a windy career path from being in a junior police academy in high school, thinking he was going into law enforcement, all the way through working as an executive at Dale Carnegie. So, some very different twists and turns along the way, both in expectations and in achievements.

[00:01:14] For those of you who worry that you can’t make huge career shifts or that you have to pick right now what you’re going to be for the rest of your life, it’s proof right there from our guest that you surely can change your mind.

[00:01:26] Your guest has also failed along the way. He got passed over for some promotions. He ran his first business that he owned into the ground. Yet, if you learned about him today and you only compared yourself to his highlight reel, that he has a top 10 careers podcast called Coaching for Leaders that has 150,000 monthly listeners, including me, you’d think, “Man, what a thought leader.” Or, if you knew that he’s been highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes, and Inc. Magazine, and US News and World Report you might think, “Whoa, only the special and elite can ever get there so I’m not going to compare myself.”

[00:02:08] I’ll tell you your guest today is one of the most humble guys you’ll ever meet, and he makes leadership success attainable. Today you’ll hear how you too can have a career path that does some zigging and zagging, and that you can have plenty of bumps in the road. Yet if you focus on your personal leadership journey over the long haul, you can really live a successful life.

[00:02:33] So, Dave Stachowiak, welcome to the show.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:02:37] Lisa, I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for the wonderful introduction, and it got me thinking that I had seven majors officially in college, too, so we can just throw that in there as far as a windy road things I’ve done in my life.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:49] Oh, that is such a good one, too. I just did a speech the other day for a university group and I was asking them what’s stressing them out right now about their careers, and that was it. They were like, “We have to pick not only the major, but we feel like this is the biggest decision of our life, because if picked the wrong one we set forward this decision that will create a ripple forever. And it feels like this is it. And if I pick wrong, I’m screwed.” So I think it’s a beautiful picture that, yeah, you can change your major, and you can change your career, and it all works out just fine.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:03:18] Yeah, it seems so stressful at the time, and I remember just being so, I mean, it’s such a difficult time in my college years. I’m trying to figure out what I was going to do and what I was going to major in. And I look back now and I realize that because, ironically, I went through seven different majors and did all these different fields of study in school, I’m way better at my job than I would’ve been if I had focused in one area, because with my career in training and coaching, I work with all kinds of clients in all kinds of industries, and I know a little bit about a lot of different areas. And that’s turned out to be a huge benefit actually. So it’s kind of ironic.

[00:03:58] Well, and there is the mark too, and I tell this to clients all the time, is you create your story. You tell the story of your career. If you let someone else tell the story of your career, and define it for you, then they’re going to define it however they’re going to define it, and it may or may not be the story you want told. And so, on a serious note, I really do think that we all need to think about what is our career story going to be, and how does our journey align with that, and the things that happen along the way.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:26] I think that’s the perfect setup for this concept of personal brand and how, when you and I have talked in the past, you’ve talked about how you made a conscious decision that your strengths would support your success, and that you were going to brand yourself around those. So let’s start off, since we do so much with StrengthsFinder and strengths-based development, let’s start off by just getting the listeners your top five Talent Themes, and then how you see them showing up on you at work, and then we’ll use those to segue into the story part.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:04:58] Certainly. So my five themes are Futuristic, Relator, Intellection, Learner and Responsibility. And I’ve taken StrengthsFinder a few times over the years and they’ve always been fairly similar, maybe one difference, but as I look at those today they very much speak to me in the kinds of strengths that I feel like I’m better at than the others.

Lisa Cummings: [00:05:18] Which one do you think resonates with you the most right now, that you see showing up on you all the time at work?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:05:24] Relator is a big one right now because of the work that I’m doing both in my work at Dale Carnegie, and in my work running the Coaching for Leaders Academy, which is a membership organization that’s part of my listening community. It is really important and critical for me to develop really strong relationships with clients, and particularly clients who are part of our Academy, that I’m with for at least a year if not longer.

[00:05:50] Those relationships really come down to how well do I relate to my clients, but in addition to that, and perhaps even more importantly, how well do they relate to each other. So I need to not only be really good at doing that myself, and thankfully that’s a strength, and so it’s something that I feel like I’m pretty good at, but I also need this to set the bar and expectation for modeling that for the entire membership community, and to encourage the members to be doing that for each other. And that’s the part for me that’s really exciting when I see that happen in a pretty substantial way.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:30] Yeah, I love how you made the double duty out of it, using it for yourself and then using it to model so others can see how the interactions can look. That’s really cool. Now, you seem pretty ninja with your awareness of your strengths and being able to use them the way you just described, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t start like that fresh out of school.

[00:06:49] So take us back a little bit. Tell us about your career journey and how it has evolved, and how your strengths uncovered through that process.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:06:58] I really did struggle a lot in school and I felt like I didn’t know what my path was going to be, and I felt like I had talents in a few different areas. I actually hired a coach when I was a junior in college. I was working for someone at the time who had a colleague who was doing coaching on the side, and she was coaching students at the university. And the boss I had at the time said, “You know you may want to talk to her, and just kind of see if she would help out.”

[00:07:21] I was really stressed, I was overwhelmed with time management, I was over-committed like a lot of people go through when they’re going through school. I started working with her, so I’ve always been conscious of the importance of investing in one’s self and recent awareness of one’s self. I took things like the NBTI and StrengthsFinder at the time, and by the time I was done with school and in the first few years of my career I’d probably taken Myers-Briggs half a dozen times and I’d taken other assessments.

[00:07:49] One of the interesting things that happened to me that was, it’s a cautionary note for utilizing assessments, and you and I are big fan of assessments, Lisa, is that I took Myers-Briggs a bunch of times, and I always came out as an extrovert. And so I really thought of myself as an extrovert and I made career choices that an extrovert would make. I really tried to do the things that extroverted people I think should be doing.

[00:08:16] It wasn’t until I went through certification myself on how to administer NBTI assessments that I discovered, in a pretty jolting way, that I wasn’t really an extrovert at all, because they can just give the assessment and take you through a whole series of exercises over a course of days and really did a lot of self-reflection. And it became apparent that my core strengths weren’t really as an extrovert but they were really much more aligned, and my preferences were much more aligned as an introvert.

[00:08:41] And that was really surprising to me at the time because, one, I thought all this time I was more extroverted and, secondly, I had a belief at the time that in order to be successful in business that you have to be extroverted. I didn’t think an introvert could be successful in the career that I was in and the industry that I was in. So it was really a difficult thing for me to process once it became apparent that, yeah, I was probably more introverted. And, of course, as I told this to people, they’re like, “Well, of course you’re an introvert. We’ve all known that for years.” [laughs]

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:11] [laughs] There’s a lesson from the show right there. Just ask people around you. Sometimes they know a lot more than you do.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:09:17] Totally. Totally. In fact, I had a colleague for years who’d be like, “Oh, yeah, you’re such an extrovert. Ha, ha. Like how could that happen?” because they all knew but I didn’t know. I had to kind of reframe my identity of like, “Okay, I’m in this business in the training industry, and the people of this business, where I have to interact with people a lot where I’m an instructor or I’m a coach or I’m a salesperson. I’m required to, and need to, interact a lot with people in order to do my job well. How am I going to do this as an introvert? If truly I’m an introvert, what can I do?”

[00:09:47] And it also sort of made sense, too, because I always felt like I was kind of a square peg in a round hole in the industry, and in my position, because it seemed like the things that came naturally to everyone else, like cold calling, and going and making lots of sales connections every day, those are things I really struggled with early on in my career. And I couldn’t figure out, “Why am I not good at this? What am I missing?” And it turned one of the big things I was missing is I had an incorrect view of myself from an assessment that didn’t come out accurately. It took some time to unpack that and really to realize also that whatever strength you bring, you can leverage. It’s just I wasn’t leveraging them at the time.

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:32] Yeah, that’s really interesting. And now, looking back, thinking about the StrengthsFinder results, like some of your potential success factors, seeing a preference with your Intellection. People I meet with Intellection are usually totally fine being alone for long periods of time, and want to do the deep thinking, and so it doesn’t lend itself often to the kind of extroversion scale. It’s based on different things. It’s not personality typing – StrengthsFinder. But if I saw Relator and Intellection, I would not assume you were an extrovert. I would think you might like that smaller close circle of friends and some healthy dose of time by yourself.

[00:11:10] So, that all sounds good from an academic level. So you figured that out. Great. But now let’s get back to the real part. You had to make cold calls, you had to do sales, and you had to deliver training and coaching to people. So you know this now. What did you do?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:11:27] Well, I was so bad at my job the first year at Dale Carnegie that I went into our president’s office after the first year was complete, and I offered my resignation; that’s how bad it was. I mean, from a results standpoint, I got along well with everyone, people liked me. That wasn’t an issue, but it’s from a result standpoint I was not doing well.

[00:11:45] He, quite brilliantly, which was not what I was expecting, but he said, “How can we rework this job to honor your talents and your strengths?” And I was expecting him to say, “Okay. Thanks. I appreciate it. See you soon. Good luck with your future endeavors.” So like, “Wait a minute. You were supposed to let me off easy on this.” All of a sudden I had to think about, “Okay, what do I do differently?”

[00:12:14] And I started thinking about like what were the things I was already doing that I’d done successfully. So I had actually started writing an email newsletter a few years back even before I worked for Carnegie. And so I started thinking, “Well, what if I tapped into my talents more in writing? What if I did some more one-on-one coaching?” which we weren’t doing at the time, at least not in our office at Carnegie.

[00:12:41] I ended up putting together a coaching program and doing one-on-one coaching. I ended up starting to do a lot of writing and doing things like, over time evolving that into things like webinars and doing more things online. And it turned out, not only was I pretty good at that, but a lot of other people in the organization weren’t, because we didn’t tend to attract people who were as good as writers or doing things one-on-one. We tended to be more of an extroverted business, and still are today.

[00:13:06] In addition to that, being a really a fantastic listener. All of a sudden were things that people were connecting with, and I was doing it so differently than everyone else that it was very unusual. Within a year or so I’d really found a place where I was a lot more comfortable in my own skin, and I was doing it in a way that made sense to me, where I actually enjoyed putting things together versus when I tried to cold call on my first year was just kind of a disaster.

[00:13:34] I remember this one day, Lisa. I built up all this momentum and I was like, “Okay, I’m going to go to this one office building. I’m going to knock on people’s doors, knock on businesses’ doors. And I went. I drove all the way up there. I drove up to Los Angeles, parked the car, had all my brochures, everything, and I walked in the building and I couldn’t do it, and I walked out back to the office.

[00:13:59] I was like, “I’ve got to figure out a better way to do this, that is not so hard.” So that’s what I started doing. And today that has turned into so many wonderful talents and experience, now being able to leverage in so many different ways, and Coaching for Leaders in a lot of ways came out of that.

Lisa Cummings: [00:14:16] What a good example of job shaping. I’m talking about this with people all the time in training sessions about how you think your job description is fixed, but you just gave a perfect example of how a sales job, then got turned into a one-on-one coaching job, but you reframed it and thought about how you could apply the talents you have to be awesome at it, and you were doing something innovative for the company in bringing them new business at the same time, and basically letting your hidden talents out of the closet.

[00:14:44] Let’s say that a listener is experiencing what you were experiencing there where they know, “I’m not the typical model for this job,” and they’re not brave enough to go quit it yet. If somebody feels like they’re not the typical mold, what next step would you recommend to somebody who’s experiencing what you were?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:15:05] Well, I think a lot about leadership, of course, and so one of the things that really worked for me, I don’t know if I would’ve done that on my own, Lisa. My president at the time really challenged me on that, and he was the one who took the lead initially on that. I think it’s really cool when people do that for themselves, and I’m also conscious of the fact that not every organization, not every leader is supportive of that, so I’m a big believer in testing things, trying things out.

[00:15:27] So if you’re doing something one way, let’s just use sales as an example since that’s the world I grew up in and going to Carnegie. If you’re doing one sales activity and it’s not working, certainly if your organization has that as a requirement and that’s the way they need to do business, keep doing it. But test something else out. So take a half hour a day and try something out differently.

[00:15:50] If you want to write, take a half hour to write. And if your organization isn’t going to like you do that, put in an extra half hour of work off the clock, and try something that’s a little bit different that’s a little bit more innovative. I think anytime we’re trying to challenge the status quo or do something different in our careers, we’ve gotta be willing to put in a little extra effort.

[00:16:07] Worst case scenario, the organization is supportive of it. Spend a little extra time outside of work hours and try something a little bit different that you think could work. You’ll find out one of two things: either it doesn’t work then you don’t do it and try something else, or it does work. And I have yet to see a situation with a client or an organization I’ve worked with, where an employee has brought a new idea to the leadership team or to the customer, and said, “Oh, look, I tried this new thing and I’m getting really good results. Can I keep doing it?”

[00:16:40] Of course, every time, someone says, “Well, yeah. Oh, you’re getting good results? Good.” Now the challenge is a lot of times people don’t think to do that. What they do is they say, “Well, I’d like to do this differently,” but they don’t have any evidence to support it, so I think that it’s incumbent upon us, if we’re trying to do something different, if we’re trying to be creative, you go try it first. Get some results that show that what you’re doing is going to make sense for the company to invest time into doing. That is a strong case for being able to do it more, and then you present it, get approval from the people you need to. But I think we have to take that step first, if we want to do something different in our career.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:16] I love that. And on the other side of your example you mentioned the selling part and how you came about that with an innovative way. And in the other example you gave was coming up with the one-on-one model that didn’t even exist. And so the way I look at this through a job shaping is if you’re coming up with something the company has never even done, and you’re going to put in extra hours to do it, I’m totally with you, sometimes you have to put in the extra time.

[00:17:43] But you do it and you’re doing it thinking about, “What’s going to put me in my zone of genius?” then you’re going to be pretty energized by that thing you’re creating. So it’s not like it’s going to be the last slog of the day. You’re going to be pretty excited about that 30 minutes, and you’re not going to want to switch over to the other way because you’re so psyched about what you’re about to create, so I like the energizing part of it, too.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:18:04] Yeah, indeed. I remember I spent a lot of time on that at the time, and we actually don’t do it anymore which is sort of another interesting part of the story. I developed talents in doing other areas so well that I actually went back to doing more the traditional parts of our business eventually, but it wasn’t like work. It was, “How can I do this in such a way that’s going to really leverage my talents, help the organization be successful, get everyone else on board, because we got a team of people that didn’t know about coaching at the time.” And so it was really fun.

Lisa Cummings: [00:18:30] Well, you used that today. I know using your Relator talent, and you had these really deep relationships with your Leadership Academy members. Given that, if we switched gears and fast forward to today, I would love the listeners to learn from what you hear because you have these really deep one-on-one relationships with a bunch of senior leaders, and you get to have those interactions every day. So, just in general, what have you learned by marinating constantly in these interactions with senior leaders?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:18:59] How much we all want to be noticed. That’s one of the biggest things I see again and again. How much I want to be noticed, how much so many of us are alike as different as we looked, as different as our experiences are, as different industries that many leaders are in, the situations that we find ourselves in.

[00:19:19] We get in Academy sessions a couple of times a month with our members, and it’s so surprising, I mean, it’s not surprising to me anymore. But initially we’d have someone who was in Paris, who was telling us about a situation, and we’ve got someone else in Texas and someone else in Toronto who’s literally dealing with the same thing or had the same thing come up last week, or is about to run into this same thing. We’re so much alike.

[00:19:40] And also I keep getting hit smack in the face with the reality that leadership is a really lonely pursuit in a lot of ways. If you’re a leader in an organization, even if you’re not the top person, you’re responsible for making a lot of decisions, you have to navigate the internal politics of the organization. So it’s not like you can sit around and talk with a bunch of people internally in the organization, and talk through all the things you might do or might not do.

[00:20:02] You can do that with some people, sometimes, and I think it’s really helpful to have those relationships internally. But it is, it is a lonely pursuit in a lot of ways, especially the higher up you go in an organization. That’s something I hear again and again and again from our Academy members. That’s one of the reasons the Academy is there, is to create the space where leaders be able to develop relationships with each other, where they can support each other, give confidence and give encouragement, because it is really a difficult thing to be an effective leader.

Lisa Cummings: [00:20:29] I totally echo that experience when I do leadership development programs. I’m constantly hearing in training. And sometimes it’s just a virtual session, in chat, they’ve met each other three times, and someone drops a thing that they’re struggling with in a two-sentence description in the chat box. And you just see a stream of, “Oh, you’re dealing with that, too. Oh, I thought I was the only one. Oh, I’m glad I’m not alone.”

[00:20:54] And, wow, that really backs up what you’re saying because you’re not, as a leader, going to model that behavior and go bellyache about the things you’re struggling with in front of other people, so you keep it to yourself, and it can make it lonely.

[00:21:07] I feel two really strong angles here. So, one, I’m hearing it’s lonely, and the leader is going to want to be seen and needs that tribe or those relationships so that it’s not such a lonely endeavor because you don’t have to sow all this on your own. And then the very first part of the answer that people just want to be seen. Instantly my mind went to the almost desperation in people to be seen, be heard, be appreciated, be listened to, even if you don’t have the answer they want to hear, but just knowing that you care enough to hear them out, or listen deeply.

[00:21:42] So if you take that angle, I’m talking all the time to people about notice what works to get more of what works because if you can notice and recognize someone it’s a repeatable behavior, they know how to do that again. But I think you’re going beyond recognition and you’re talking about really helping people feel seen and heard. What do you find as one or two things that leaders end up doing to help people feel totally seen, heard, appreciated?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:22:09] It’s one of those things that they care about doing a really good job as a leader so they’re already thinking about those things. What they run into is, “How do I get it all done in a day, where I’ve not only need to do that but I have to answer to an organization that has very aggressive timelines and schedules, and metrics that I need to hit, and keep customers happy, keep suppliers happy, executive team and all those important stakeholders.

[00:22:35] The leaders that I think of in our Academy who are really, really talented at doing this, meet twice a month for an hour and a half, to give feedback and to coach each other within their teams. They are very diligent about making the space for that to happen. And those weekly one-on-ones happen, or maybe it’s a monthly one-on-one’s, or whatever is appropriate for them and their team. All of the sudden, some really great things start to come out of those conversations and relationships.

[00:23:01] And I think that’s something that I’ve seen again and again is often the difference-maker between leaders that are doing the things you’re talking about, which is making that time and giving recognition and understanding what’s happening with people. And those that maybe intend well to do those things, but in practice aren’t doing those things nearly as much as they’d like to be.

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:23] What a bookend, where you start off the show with your dual use of things, and now we’re ending with a dual use of openness, because it’s not just openness in your calendar for your team. It’s openness in your heart and mind as well, and I love that dual unraveling that happens for them where they realize, “Oh, gosh, it’s not just making openness in my own time so I can grow as a leader, but I have to open this up so the team can get the same from me.” That’s big stuff. That really does reflect the leadership journey so well. Just when you think, “Oh, yes, I hit the next step. I’m doing something great,” then you realize, “Oh, so much more reveals itself that I need to learn.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:24:03] You get to this point where it’s like, “Okay, I figured this out. I’ve arrived.” And then, of course, later that day you realize something like, “Oh, I haven’t even started to figure this out.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:24:16] That is so it. Okay, on that theme, that’s the perfect ending question which is the question I’m borrowing from you, because it was my all-time favorite one I’ve been asked in an interview, which is, “What do you know to be true about leadership today that you didn’t know personally five years ago?”

Dave Stachowiak: [00:24:34] The importance of starting. So let me say more about that. My natural tendency as a person is to have things really figured out. I tend to be very attention to detail oriented, I’m very much a planner, the Futuristic talent that I have works against me sometimes because I like to think about, “How should it work and how should it be?” and have it all planned out perfectly.

[00:24:58] I have found that the thing that often holds me back, or at least in the past have held me back from staring something new or trying something new. I have really learned the importance of starting. And I think about a quote, I actually pulled it up here, from Colin Powell. Colin Powell said, “Use the formula P= 40 to 70 in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information you’ve acquired. Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range go with your gut.”

[00:25:32] And that quote, for me, very much captures what I think is really important not only for leadership, but being successful in your career, is if you’d wait until you got things 80 or 90 or 100% figured out, which is what I used to do, I found that I never started anything. Or if I’d start things I get very quickly caught up in the, “Oh, this isn’t perfect. That isn’t perfect,” and I miss the big picture of things that I really should’ve been focused on.

[00:25:55] Today, I really work on letting go of some of that control. I find something that I think will be valuable or I test an idea and I go with it. And with our Academy, a lot of times we’ll test things, we’ll try something, we’ll go with it. If it works, great we’ll keep doing it, we’ll make it better. If it doesn’t work we set it aside and it’s a lesson learned.

[00:26:13] For me, it’s been very much a process of just getting used to starting a lot, continually starting, continually refining, continually making things better, but not getting hung up on getting it all figured out at the beginning, because you’ll never have it all figured out.

Lisa Cummings: [00:26:26] Oh so true. And what a good metaphor for how life works. You just start and then you adjust along the way, and I think people are going to want to start listening to your show. If you don’t already, you’ll want to, I’m telling you. It’s called Coaching for Leaders. So I know you’re a podcast listener because you’re hearing this, so go to your player and check out Coaching for Leaders. And where else should they go, Dave, to check out more of your content?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:26:50] Oh, that’s a great place to start. Probably the other place to start is to just go to CoachingforLeaders.com. There’s a free membership setup there that gives access to our whole library of episodes for the last six years now that the shows been going on. And, in addition, there’s a free membership there where you can setup access to a free course that I offer, that’s called Ten Ways to Empower the People You Lead. It’s a 10-minute a day audio course, and it’ll give you a lot of the tips and lessons that I’ve learned myself, and from the expert guests over the last six years on the show.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:23] And thanks for making it bite-sized, yes.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:27:27] I love bite size.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:28] Me too.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:27:29] Start it, right? Rather than four hours, 10 minutes. Makes it easy.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:33] Exactly. And a combination of both of us spending a lot of years in the learning and development field, if you make it too big and hairy, people are going to go do it.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:27:40] Indeed.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:41] So for all of you out there, if you want some more strengths-focused tools to use with your team at work, also check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources. So, between Coaching For Leaders and those resources, you’ll get so many ideas for helping your team feel seen, and helping you extend along your leadership journey.

[00:28:04] With that, thanks everyone for listening to Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your strengths, your personal natural talents, makes you a stronger performer at work. If you’ve been putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents and share them with the world.

Direct download: 041-Dave-Stachowiak.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa chats with Strother Gaines, where they talk about using your strengths to maximize the authentic "you" at work.  Strother works with a lot of clients who feel trapped in other people's expectations. This interview will help you look at your innate talents and focus on who you are at your natural best. By doing that, you'll make stronger connections in your career because you're not working so hard at showing up like you think you're supposed to at the office.

Strother and Lisa met a few years ago at a public speaking conference while talking about the “yes cat” Vine video that Lisa had not heard of. Since then, Strother keeps Lisa up on the latest viral videos like Yassss Cat, awesome texting abbreviations like TL;DR (too long didn’t read), and awesome made up words like Screlting.

Strother's Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Individualization, Strategic, Significance, Communication, Activator

Lisa’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode

Check out Strother’s get-to-know-him video and the full TEDx talk on Storytelling. Connect with him on his business site, But I’m A Unicorn Dammit, and his LinkedIn page.

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

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.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:09] You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you’ll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and I’ve gotta tell you, whether you’re leading your team or leading yourself, it's hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:26] And today, you’ll get to learn from my coach. He’s a TEDx speaker, he facilitates StrengthsFinder training, he specializes in authenticity, connection and storytelling. If you check out his coaching business at UnicornDammit.com – and, yes, you heard me right – he has this crazy name because he helps people make some giant integrations between different parts of their lives, like lawyers who just want to dance, programmers who wish they were potters, CFOs who are undercover yogis. So fun already, right?

This is a silly and playful photo of strother gaines. He is in a dessert with a vast open field. He's standing in dried grasses, wearing a nice suit, throwing a stuffed unicorn.
Strother out on his quest to find the unicorn qualities in people

[00:01:02] I also love that he brings a million and one perspectives to the workplace scene. He’s done everything from professional speaking to sales management to segue tour guiding. His favorite hobby is directing theater, and he even integrates these amazing theatrical experiences into corporate events. I could gush on and on, yet you’re totally waiting for us to get on with the interview section of the show.

[00:01:28] So, Strother Gaines, welcome.

Strother Gaines: [00:01:30] Thank you so much for having me, Lisa.

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:32] Let’s start with that by telling everyone your top five and which one you felt most authentically like you, when you first read your results.

Strother Gaines: [00:01:41] Sure, yeah. My top five StrengthsFinder talent themes are Individualization, Strategic, Significance, Communication and Activator. And as far as the – if you’d ask me – pick one before I took the test, I would’ve said Communication would’ve been at the top somewhere. And there it is; it’s number four. Communication has always been such a huge part of my world personally, and professionally I majored in theater so you get trained in how to be a communicator.

[00:02:06] I sang for a long time, both opera, musical theater, pop, things like that, so you get the diction and the different styles there. Communication’s always just been a huge part of my life and I would not be surprised to see it in the top five.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:19] So cool. I didn’t know about the opera part.

Strother Gaines: [00:02:22] You know what, I didn’t love it. My undergrad asked me to sing opera because I was awarded a music scholarship because I had kind of a rare-ish vocal part. I was a lyric Italian tenor and opera was not my favorite thing, but if you’re going to give me a scholarship to do it, I suppose I will try. So I would do it and I’d sing the solo, and then I’d jump back into musical theater-land right on afterwards.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:47] When you said musical theater, you made me get back to thinking of dancing lawyers, and that sounds really fun and appealing. One question for you is, if we’re so attracted to these kind of ideas – dancing lawyers and CFOs who want to be yogis and people probably identify with parts of them that feel like that – why do you think it’s so hard then to just be our authentic selves at work?

Strother Gaines: [00:03:10] In my experience there are lawyers who love what they do, and mazel tov to them, and I wish them all the happiness in the world. Oftentimes, though, when I interact with lawyers they often end up being English majors, who did it because it seemed like a good stable thing to do, but it wasn’t really the thing that they were super passionate about. However, you’re investing all of this time into cultivating a career in law that, once you make it into it, you go, “Well, I’m in it. Here we are and this is what we do now.”

[00:03:36] And so you’re in this place where you’ve invested so much time and it’s sort of the sunk-cost fallacy, “I’d made it this far. I can’t really turn around now and open my yogurt stand like I would really like to.” So lawyers or high-ranking CFO, CTO, that type of group, they’ve spend so much time getting where they are that they feel they can’t turn and pivot at all.

Lisa Cummings: [00:03:57] It makes me think about how even young in my career I used to show up at work with my librarian glasses on and put my hair back in a bun and make sure that I look like I should be taken seriously. And there was some disconnect about who I really was and who I thought I needed to show up as.

[00:04:15] And that reminds me of your concept of connection at work as well, because I think those kind of behaviors make some sort of disconnection or wall between you and people, where they go, “Oh, that’s my work environment, and that’s my home environment.” And I remember you saying something about like, “I don’t want to have coffee with you with your work voice on. I just don’t want you to have a work voice.”

Strother Gaines: [00:04:32] Totally.

Lisa Cummings: [0:04:34] Say something about how you could apply natural talents and the natural you to the concept of being connected at work.

Strother Gaines: [00:04:41] Yeah, so I think this is one of the reasons that I was so drawn to StrengthsFinder when you and I started; I’ve been guilty of it as well. I used to manage a spa, and when someone would call I had my normal, like, “Thank you for calling. This is Strother. How can I help you?” kind of voice that drops in that’s not really me, but is what you assume you’d like to hear when you hop on the phone with a spa. It needs to be a very specific style.

[00:05:05] As an actor, I’m able to throw that type of thing up into the world and it still seem authentic, but it’s not actually who I am. So we just get really good at playing these roles for what you expect a lawyer to be, a dog walker to be, “What is the type of voice or persona that I should adopt for that role?” And when you adopt those personas you ignore so

fitness-pizza-dog
This meme makes Strother belly laugh!

me of the unique things that make you you.

[00:05:33] When I look at my top five, there were elements in the spa world that I could utilize but there are others that I sort of hid or just didn’t accentuate. And so I find that StrengthsFinder is such an interesting lens to look at things through because rather than trying to conform to a certain role, or the expectations of a certain role, you take who you are at your core, and make the role conform to you.

[00:05:58] And if you have the flexibility of that, and you don’t have a boss who’s really concerned with making sure you fit that square peg into that round hole, then you actually end up being better and more engaging, and that connection with people is so much more genuine. I find that connection has been sort of the basis for me of all good professional things in my life, and I find that those are more impactful when that person is connecting with me as an actual person as opposed to a put-on version.

[00:06:27] You kind of mentioned when you first started, and this is oftentimes for people when they first start a new career, they put their hair up, they put on the suit in the right way, they try and make sure that they puff up their chest just big enough that they seem impressive. And at the end of the day, that actually makes us tougher to connect with and so people just sort of fall off the back and aren’t as engaged with you. It’s a challenge though because it is sort of a cultural thing for us to try and put on the role as opposed to be ourselves within it.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:57] I wonder, how do you know when you’re not allowing people to connect with you and you’re giving off some vibe to them that they probably shouldn’t want to get to know you more? So how do you know when this is happening? What if you’re doing this and you’re not noticing?

Strother Gaines: [00:07:14] Yeah, that’s a really good question. Sometimes we get so deep into the character. I’m going to diverge a little bit, and if I go too far off, just reel me back because it made me think of some backstory in theater that I’ve used a couple times.

[00:07:29] So in theater I am not the best actor. I’m okay. I’m a better director, I’m a better producer, but on stage I’m okay. I have a couple of ticks that I’m not great at, and I’m not super great at inhabiting a character so that it feels real. It’s very clear that, “That’s Strother being a character,” as opposed to, “Well, that’s just the character.”

[00:07:51] When I was training as a performer, I was even worse, as you can imagine, because I had no training, and one of my professors told me that I had penguin arms. And, basically, what that means is you cannot lift your elbow away from the side of your body. You’re gesticulating with your hands, they’re all over the place, you feel like you’re being big and broad – too bad there’s no visual, maybe I’ll send a little clip of me doing that – but your elbows are basically…

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:18] Is it like your elbows are glued?

Strother Gaines: [00:08:20] Yeah, exactly. They’re locked down to the side, and to you it feels like you’re being big but to an audience it looks like you’re just totally cramped into this little space. I could not get rid of that habit no matter how big I thought I was being, no matter how much I tried to push further, I was always in penguin arms, until I took a mask class.

this is an image of a man wearing a commedia mask - it is brown, intricately carved wood that covers the face down to the nose and cheeks. It has holes for the eyes and little breathing holes for the nose.
Example of commedia mask you'd wear in the mask class that Strother took in college

[00:08:41] In mask class you get to put on – my favorite were Commedia masks which are Italian masks that are half of your face. So your mouth is still exposed but the top of your face is covered and stagnant in that one particular pose.

[00:08:53] As soon as the mask goes on, you have this ability, or I found I had this ability, to finally lift my arms out because suddenly it wasn’t me. I was playing a character and it was super obvious for everyone who was watching that I was being Arlecchino, it’s one of the stock characters names. That was who that was on stage, and Arlecchino moves with these really big arms, and I could finally do it.

[00:09:15] And then as I took that mask off, later, I had gained the ability to take my elbows away from my side. So through this mark work when I get to kind of play in this world where I am definitely putting something on, I developed the ability to finally step out of that box and be a little more authentic and a little bigger.

[00:09:37] And so I find that people – a lot of people always especially when we talk about authenticity or being your best self, or things that, that are a little buzz worthy right now, they’re like, “Take off all your masks and make sure they go away,” I see this as, “If you’re going to use a mask use it intentionally to forward yourself and get comfortable.”

[00:09:55] I think that one of the ways to start – here we are cycling back finally, we’ve made it back to your question originally – if you can notice that there’s a mask, even like a tiny disconnect that you have at work, and most of the time even if it’s embedded in yourself, you’ll start to catch it usually in a vocal pattern. You’ll find it in something that is just not what you do.

[00:10:15] And sometimes it’s actually really helpful to get somebody who does know you. If you do answer a phone, can you have somebody call you and see? Does it sound like you? Are you able to catch it? Can you get somebody in your life who does know you are more authentically, to be around, or to look at some of your writing or things like that?

[00:10:33] Most of the time, though, it will be just sort of a sudden revelation on your own part where you’re like, “Oh, God, I’ve got this mask on right now, and it’s my professional mask. It’s my let-me-be-really-important mask. It’s my here’s-this-thing-that-I-did mask. You judge that and not me.” You make a really good point because it can be really challenging to see when it’s happening.

[00:10:54] But I always look for little elements of things that are just off of who you normally would be, and it’s really as kind of on you to catch it. And it can be challenging sometimes that’s why you have a coach or that’s why you have a teacher, or an instructor, or a mentor. They’re often the ones who will be able to see things on us that we miss.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:14] Such a good one. And I love using the people who really do know you well. I’ve certainly had that kind of feedback from, I know my sister, in seeing some early speaking videos, it’s like, oh, my God, I just crack up when I see that because it’s you being the formal you, or my husband in the pool last year saying something like, “I’m right here. You don’t have to do your training projection voice.”

Strother Gaines: [00:11:35] Oh, God, I get that too, and they’re like, “We’re literally in the room with you.” And I’m like, “I’m so sorry.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:40] [laughs] I just blame it on drumming too much and having hearing problems.

Strother Gaines: [00:11:45] I think that’s fair. That’s fair, yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:47] Yeah, it’s a good one. Now, all of this is making me think of personal career branding kind of topic as well, and I know you do a lot of work on the concept of storytelling. And so if we put that in the context of personal career branding, I wonder how someone in the audience could use their Strengths to consciously tell a story about who they are at their best?

Strother Gaines: [00:12:08] I find that personal branding to be really fascinating. And there’s a personal and a professional benefit, I think, to knowing what your personal brand is, and being able to own it. When I look at mine, to pop out for me that helped me in my branding, Individualization and Significance. Having those pieces as context for the story, being able to say, “Okay, if these are my individual talents, these are the things that are easiest for me to call upon, how do I take that and accentuate them? How do I amplify these Strengths?”

[00:12:43] For clients of mine, that is really one of my bigger things is to, once we’ve got the concept of who you are, what your Strengths are, I do prefer to focus on the Strengths I know that you’re on board with that methodology. It’s good to be aware of your weaknesses or the opportunities you have to overcome certain things.

[00:12:59] But I feel like, especially when it comes to storytelling, you want to cater your story to those Strengths. So whether you are an entrepreneur, or an employee, or you’re working on a side hustle, it’s important to know, “These are the things that I want to lead with.” And if you can craft your story around the Strengths then it’s a more compelling story, and I’m more willing to come along with you on that story, than if you’re in the middle, or sort of muddling around, or, even worse, with some of the weaknesses or things you have to overcome.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:29] As you were talking about what you’re going to start with, I just couldn’t help but be sitting there with you at a networking event and how often people have to tell some story of who they are, “Who are you? What are you about?” Usually it’s, “What do you do?” I’m curious about these mini-storytelling moments that happen at work events or networking events.

[00:13:53] And I know you do your Networking Under 40 and you lead these big events. So, gosh, I think I remember you saying something about a terrible story about your first networking event. So tell us about how storytelling plays in there. Give us the storytelling personal branding mixed up with networking.

Strother Gaines: [00:14:11] It’s interesting because in networking we have this concept now, and, oh, if I could just kill it that would be wonderful, but everyone is like, “Well, what’s your elevator pitch? Or how do we squeeze you into 60 seconds?” And I just think that that’s such a terrible exercise. In a networking event, when you come up and you give me that pre-rehearsed little piece I am gone in the first three seconds because I know you’re not actually connecting with me: your story is boring, your story is contrived, and it has nothing to do with me, and it’s you pitching yourself to me.

[00:14:40] Maybe if we are a perfect match business-wise I’m engaged, but realistically as soon as I hear someone switch into the elevator pitch mode I’m gone. Networking for me it’s a bit like Improv in that you have to just be super present with the person. I’m always more concerned with them than myself, and trying to drag stories out of them, that might be a little bit of my just natural Strengths coming out too.

[00:15:06] I like to get people to tell me things about themselves and then I can take that and relate to something that I’ve had going on in my world, and then it’s an easier thing for them to connect with. If we can find places where the Venn diagram of our stories connect at a networking event, that’s when I actually care, and that’s when I’m going to continue to follow up with you.

[00:15:25] The thing that I learned is everyone is terrible at it. If you go to a networking event and you look around, I guarantee nine out of ten people are terrified, or doing a really terrible job at hiding that they’re terrified. And so if you go into it and you go, “Oh, my God, everyone is terrible at this because nobody knows what they’re doing,” and you kind of acknowledge the elephant in the room, then it’s way easier.

[00:15:47] If you go with no expectation and you’re just there to like connect and see and talk and experience, it’s so much easier than if you put all of this pressure on yourself to be the most impressive person in the room, or make sure you get 20 clients before you leave, or 10 business cards that you can follow up with.

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:03] It sounds like this is one of the magic tips, is to find interesting things about other people to ask them about, be curious about, talk to them about. Can you give us some examples of things that others who are listening might look for? Like, I’ll just give you the example of if I see you – and for those of you listening, Strother wears this wooden bowties and they’re so unique. I’ve never even heard of them before, seeing it on Strother.

Lisa wearing wooden bow tie
Lisa's ode to Strother's wooden bow tie. It was fun to find in a little San Diego shop, but it won't be her go-to "approachability doodad."

[00:16:34] So that is something where I think you just gave, I call it an approachability doodad. Now, so you wear this thing that makes it easy for other people to find you approachable and ask you about it, and those are the things I look out for in other people as well, because it just opens up and breaks the ice. So how about for you? What are a couple of things that you look for that you can be curious about and ask people about?

Strother Gaines: [00:16:57] Yeah, totally. It’s funny you mentioned the bowtie because anytime I speak about networking I have three things that I feel – what did you call it? What was the doodad? I love that.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:08] The approachability doodad.

Strother Gaines: [00:17:09] The approachability doodad. Love it. I’m going to take that. So my approachability doodads that I have, I always say it’s my beard, bowtie, and bracelet. And so I have my three Bs that I wear to any networking event, it’s a Miansai. It’s this beautiful little anchor. You have one, you’ve got a hook. I’ve got an anchor, you’ve got a hook.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:25] Right.

Strother Gaines: [00:17:26] And people seems to really like it, and they’re like, “Oh, I really like your bracelet,” and that’s such a super easy in. The bowtie is really great because I can dramatically yank. It’s by a guy, the artist is SwitchWood here in D.C. You can rip the bowtie weighing out because you switch them in and out, they’re on magnets, and people are like, “Oh, my God, that’s so interesting.” And then my beard is just a big one and people are like, “Oh, it’s a cool beard. How long did that take?” So anything to make yourself approachable.

[00:17:51] I think that there’s a fine line for people when do this, because sometimes it gets into the creepy territory of like, “Oh, your hair looks really pretty.” Like, “Hmm, now that’s not a good way to start this.” Start with something usually like the glasses, or an accessory, or shirt color, or the dress color, or something like that. Those are fine.

[00:18:11] But as far as everything else goes, I do the access-ability doodads are wonderful. If you want to wear something like that out, I think that’s a really easy way for you to get responsible for giving people an in. Other ways, take the low-hanging fruit. If there is the one person sitting off by themselves, like almost certainly that person is dying for someone to come talk to them because they’re at a networking event. They came to talk to people but they’re feeling awkward, they’re not sure how to approach, so if you approach them, they’re like, “Oh, thank God.” So find the singular person, and that one is an easy one.

[00:18:45] And then another tip that actually works, that people shake their heads when I say this, but it genuinely does, if you want to break into a group, stepping in and saying, “Mind if I join you?” It actually totally works because people are like, “Yeah, sure,” and they’ll step aside. It’s way better than doing that awkward hover where you’re standing like two feet behind the person to the side and trying to wiggle in.

Lisa Cummings: [00:19:04] And kind of creepy.

Strother Gaines: [00:19:05] Yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [00:19:06] Two things you mentioned that sounded creepy – the standing off to the side, and I was imagining like the elevator eyes looking up to them, “Is there anything interesting that they’re wearing?”

Strother Gaines: [00:19:16] Exactly. Where they’re like, “Let me see. Is this a thing? Oh, yeah, absolutely.” Networking, let’s own it, can feel creepy. It is a forced environment. We’re all thrown to this weird situation. The quicker you just knowledge that the better you are in it.

Lisa Cummings: [00:19:30] Such good stuff. Now, speaking of the power to have big habits as an adult, I want to go to the total other end of the continuum. Yeah, it’s like networking at the more surface-level, first intros. Now let’s get into the real deep kind of human interactions that you experience when you’re coaching people. So you guys heard me mentioned in the intro that Strother is my coach. And I’m curious overall what is your favorite question when you’re going deep with people, that you ask of your coachees? Like what conversation topics really seem to move people the most?

Strother Gaines: [00:20:06] I feel like if you took a cross section of all of my clients and anyone that I’ve ever done a facilitation with, the one thing that they sort of pair it back to me in almost like a mocking way but because I’d say it all the time and it works, is, “What’s that in service of?” And so if someone says, “Well, this is what I’m doing and this is what I think I’m going to do and here’s what my next plans.” And my follow-up question almost always is, “What’s that in service of?”

[00:20:31] And that could easily be, “Well, why are you doing that?” But as a coach, one of the things that I try and avoid is something that comes along with the need to explain or justify. And when I say, “Well, why?” that makes somebody go, “Well, I have to defend that choice. I’m going to defend it. Like here’s what I will because I think that it’s a really good idea and I’ve done all this research and we’re kind of off the topic anyway.” But when I say, “What’s that in service of?” they have to tell me what they hope to gain from choosing that choice.

[00:20:59] And so to make it very personal for you, you have a calendaring thing where you like to over-schedule quite a bit, and the question I ask is, “Well, what’s it in service of?” And you can answer right now, and I can say like most people would say something like, “Oh, to fit it all in because I know I have to get out there and always be a presence and always make sure that people know who I am and keep those relationships alive,” and whatever their reasoning is.

[00:21:24] And then we ask, “Well, if that’s what that’s in service of, is that in line with your larger goals that we’re working on?” And usually with clients we’ll sort of address anywhere from one on a short end, to up to five or so primary goals that we’re working on, and we can take that action and see if it’s actually in service of the larger pieces.

Lisa Cummings: [00:21:43] I love that you brought up calendaring because I hear it all the time from listeners as well, and because I’m totally happy to be transparent on the show because I’m always telling people to get as much time as possible in their Strengths zone. But even an overload of that, my calendar is overloaded with stuff in my Strength zone at times.

Strother Gaines: [00:22:03] [laughs] At times.

Lisa Cummings: [00:22:05] At times. [laughs] Many times. Not as much as last year though because I’ll tell you, you know, right, we know there are 24 maximum hours in a day, and Strother is not capable of giving you 36 or 38, but he did save me 266 hours of work in one calendar-related conversation last year. Because I remember you were challenging me in order to get some calendar time back, and when you asked me what it was in service of, I remember that I had said yes to too many things and one in particular was a gigantic contractual obligation.

[00:22:42] I felt like it was in service of my integrity to follow up with what I had agreed to do, but once I got in, I was like, “Ugh, what did I do to myself?” And you challenged me to use my Strengths to get some massive calendar time back by not assuming I had to go about that work in a specific way, and you gave me some things to try doing that required less preparation, because I’m kind of an over-preparer, for those listening, and it saved me sooo many hours.

[00:23:13] I think this is a great way to end on your concept of your Big C, Little C, and then I think they could apply it to themselves because you fill your calendar with things but you may not be fully aware of how you’re vetting those things. So let’s end with that.

Strother Gaines: [00:23:30] Yeah, sure. So Big C, Little C is basically your big commitments and your little commitments. And your big commitments are those things that you would feel those high-minded ideals that you would hope that people would look at you and be like, “Oh, I bet Lisa is committed to music and her husband and the growth of the universe,” and all of these things that you would hope someone would look at and say, “Yes, that’s their big things.”

[00:23:53] And your Little C is what you would actually see if we followed you around and you didn’t know for about 48 hours what would I, as an impartial observer, think your commitments were? And so is that Netflix? Is that the dog? Is that iPhone games? That used to be mine. I have since overcome some of those addictions, but nobody tell me any good games, because I will immediately jump right back in to them.

[00:24:15] But when you’re being trailed anonymously for 48 hours, and this is an exercise you can do on your own, like look back at the past 48 hours, look at your calendar, look at the things you did, look at how you spent the time in between, big projects as well, and see, “Is this something that I seem committed to that’s actually taking up most of my time? Or am I actually living into my big commitments that I have?”

[00:24:36] And so one of my commitments is the growth of my business. Did the things that I did today actually reflect that? And that’s your call to make. You get to decide if yes or no. But I find that that Big C, Little C is a nice way to sort of contextualize all of the things you’re doing and to tie it back to calendar time or fitting it all in why do we spend all of this time doing things that don’t actually move forward our larger goals. Sometimes it’s just we aren’t aware that we’re doing them.

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:01] Some of the conversations, I think, that when we’re not looking in the mirror and it just feels like, “Well, this is an outside force, versus an inside force,” it makes it feel like the Big C is impossible. So the to-be-continued is follow up with the coach and go deep on this kind of stuff.

Strother Gaines: [00:25:17] Yeah. Well, hello there.

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:19] [laughs] Well, Strother, this has been so fun. So if they do want to reply to your, “Hello, there,” then where should they go find you?

Strother Gaines: [00:25:28] Perfect. You can find me at UnicornDammit.com, you can email me at Strother, which you probably can’t say. It’ll be on your show notes, I’m sure. But it’s S-T-R-other, Strother@UnicornDammit.com. I’m happy to chat over there. Yeah, those are my primary spots. Also, if you happen to be in the D.C. area, I’m not an aegis here. We’re just a young professionals group under 40. We don’t check your ID, so come wherever I could be but we’d love to see you at one of our monthly events. It’s every third Thursday and you can check that out at NetworkUnder40.com.

Lisa Cummings: [00:26:04] All right. If you can’t connect in D.C. then come on over to LeadThroughStrengths.com and we have some resources at LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources so you can connect with your team at work, and bring out your authentic best, and their authentic best. There are a bunch of tools there related to StrengthsFinder, strengths-focused leadership and on noticing what works about you and others so you can get more of what works in the workplace.

[00:26:30] Thanks, everyone, for listening to Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your strengths at work makes you a stronger performer at work. And if you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your authentic talents and share them with the world.

Direct download: 040-Strother-Gaines.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa speaks with Bruce Ge and Neil Davis, who join us to talk about what it's like to create an amazing culture at your company. They both give specific examples of ideas you can implement.

Bruce Ge, the CEO at Jobs2Careers, gives insight into the most important functions of executives. Neil Davis, the Director of HR, offers ways to integrate company culture into the hiring process. Unlike our usual audio-only interviews, this one was onsite at the Jobs2Careers headquarters in Austin, Texas. If you prefer to watch the full video versions of the interview, they are embedded below.

Neil’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Responsibility, Competition, Adaptability, Learner, Strategic

Lisa’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode

If you go to the J2C homepage for job seekers you'll see roles in tons of industries, locations, and companies. Check out their careers page to explore their open positions inside of Jobs2Careers in Austin, TX. Keep in mind, even though they're a software company, their workforce is onsite in Central Texas. Working together in the same location is actually part of their secret-culture-sauce. Finally, if you're a hiring manager, you might be interested in the J2C For Employers page to check out their unique Pay Per Application model.

Here's the live interview with Bruce and Neil on camera.

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Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

 

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths

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.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:09] You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you’ll learn to apply your greatest strengths, at work. I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and I gotta tell you, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:28] And today you’ll get one of several episodes I’ve recorded that gives you specific examples straight from leaders who have built awesome company cultures, and there are so many direct ties between strengths and employee engagement on your team. So this peek behind the curtain at workplace culture will be a neat way to inspire ideas you can use at your company.

[00:00:51] Most of today’s episode was recorded on site at a company in Austin, Texas, called Jobs2Careers, which you’ll hear us refer to as J2C. of course, we’ll link to them in the show notes so that you can check them out all the way.

[00:01:05] Now, this show features Neil Davis, their head of HR, and Bruce Ge, their CEO, who also joins us in the second half. In this episode, you’ll hear specific strategies that you can put your own spin on. One of my favorites is an example of how they live out their company values. So one of their top values is providing phenomenal experiences.

Bruce Ge (Left) and Neil Davis (Right) at Jobs2Careers Headquarters in Austin, TX [image at front desk]Bruce Ge (Left) and Neil Davis (Right) at Jobs2Careers Headquarters in Austin, TX
[00:01:32] So one way they live this out is by literally rolling out the red carpet to welcome new hires and make them feel like superstars. Can you imagine how that would make you feel as a new teammate? Wow, I love that one, and there are several nuggets like that as you listen through.[00:01:50] If you would like to see the full impact of this interview with video, you can watch the interview portion of the show on the show notes page at LeadThroughStrengths.com/listen. And one note for this episode is that you’ll hear the tone of the audio change a bit as we move over to the on-site recording because we’re not in a regular studio environment.[00:02:13] So, with that, let’s jump over to the interview where I start with Neil, asking him, from the HR perspective, to tell us about their hiring process and how they use that to build their company culture.

Neil Davis: [00:02:28] Our selection process, as you may have guessed already, is very different. We look for more than just technical skill or functional capacity; we look for how someone will be able to interact and work on a team on a daily basis. So we look for those interpersonal traits and skills like teamwork, communication, collaboration, and how people generally interact with people on the team. That has equal weight to the technical skill.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:56] Hmm, I love it. So I’m always talking about, anybody who’s a regular listener knows that I talk about the “what” and “how” all the time. So the “what” being the knowledge and the skills and the experiences, and the “how” being all the stuff that you just talked about. Now, how do you do it? Because you have to figure out really quickly how this is going to show up. How do you even get to that?

Neil Davis: [00:03:17] It literally starts from the very first interaction with the candidate. We look at how they communicate with us, how they respond, even, sometimes, how quickly they respond, because it gives you an indicator of how they might be able to interact with folks, or communicate with folks, if they came on board here.

[00:03:35] And then, when they come in face-to-face for an on-campus interview, we get feedback from every point of contact that that candidate had while they were there, and we take that feedback, we combine it with what we learned of their technical skill. If they’re a cultural fit and they have the technical aptitude, then they’re a great candidate for us to consider moving forward.

[00:03:54] I, myself, take each candidate through a pretty extensive and, I’ve been told, pretty fun and unique value alignment assessment where we really assess situational attitude, reactionary communication, behavioral traits, and skills that are really important to preserving our culture here.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:12] I just want to talk about behavioral interviews for one second. I would give people the shortcut of, “Tell me about a time when this…” when you get them to give you examples. How would you shortcut what behavioral interviewing is?

Neil Davis: [00:04:23] Very similar to that. We want to know how someone has demonstrated these skills or how their interpersonal traits manifest themselves in the workplace. So we ask about recent situations that they’ve gone through, and some of the questions are very unique, some of them are dead on straight to the point, and they all are very strategic in their format, and that’s to help us gain a better idea of the candidate. One of the ancillary benefits is the candidate gets to know a lot more about our culture and our value system by going through this process with us.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:54] So let’s talk values. Okay, when I first met you guys and we did a little bit of Strengths work, you told me that one of the ways you bring these things alive is every person – get this if you’re listening – every person gets asked the same question every day for one month. So ours would’ve been, “How did you use your Strengths yesterday, or today on the job?” Something to that effect?

Neil Davis: [00:05:18] Something to that effect, right. Every time we have management training or professional development classes or training courses, all staff are invited not just people managers. And at the end of the training we institute a post-training question related to the concepts or the techniques that were taught in that course, and we add those to our daily status report, or our weekly status report templates, that managers actually give to each of their staff, the manager gets to direct feedback and it stays in that status report template for about a month, depending on when the next training class is.

[00:05:53] The reason we do that is because: a) we know it takes longer than just a day or two for a concept to transform itself into a habit; b) we know that as that employee is focused on this post-training question every day or every week, you could see how their answers go from short to targeted and specific, and that’s when we know it works because it’s now a newly-developed habit, and then, of course, it supports one of our core company values.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:20] And we’re onto values, right.

Neil Davis: [00:06:21] And that is the crux of why we do this. It’s “always grow” is the core value that it directly supports. We believe, whether it’s at an individual contributor level or as an organization, one of our core values has been, and will continue to be, to always grow. Push our boundaries, encourage ourselves to learn, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and become better.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:45] And it’s such a practical tip for anybody listening, that you can just take a deep question like that, ask it every day, and you start to see the depth. What are the other values at Jobs2Careers?

Neil Davis: [00:06:57] Sure. We have five company values, and they truly all start with “do the right thing.” That, of course, reflects on the integrity piece. And then, of course, creating phenomenal experiences not just for our clients and our partners but also for our internal customers and teammates. That starts truly with new hires on board day one. We roll out this long orange carpet, they’re literally walking across this carpet, we have their favorite drink in hand waiting for them.

Lisa Cummings: [00:07:27] And how do you know their favorite drink?

Neil Davis: [00:07:29] We ask that in the interview process, and it’s shocking to see their response when they realize we’ve paid attention and they forgot that they’ve told us what their favorite drink was, and then we had it for them on their first day. So that’s a way that we create phenomenal experiences even for our new hires. And, of course, I mentioned “always grow” and how that is one of our core company values.

[00:07:50] We also go the extra mile. Go the extra mile is important for us because it is truly a part of teamwork, which is our fifth core company value. So those are our five core company values, and we live them every day.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:04] Yeah, I really see people living them out. And for anybody who’s listening and thought, “Orange carpet?” If you haven’t seen the video on Jobs2Careers, or you haven’t looked at their website, it’s one of their two company colors. It’s the primary color, right?

Neil Davis: [00:08:19] Correct. Orange and teal blue. Right.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:22] Right. And then, something I thought was cool that, as I got to know the team, I kept hearing more and more examples of small things that might represent a phenomenal experience that someone else would need. So someone in the customer-facing customer service kind of team said something about how when they saw that their energy was waning, and they needed a little boost on the phone, they would do planks together as a team and it’s one of those ways to support teamwork.

[00:08:49] So it seems like, wow, that’s a really deep way of looking at it. It looks just like fun or someone taking an energy break but it was a really cool way to take the values and say, “These things get demonstrated in the smallest ways.”

Neil Davis: [00:09:02] Absolutely. Another way we do that, and it might seem small but it really is impactful, we have created values cards. And on these values cards it list each of our five core values individually, but it also list a section where you can fill in what this employee did, and who it’s from, and you check what value you saw them represent, or you saw them personified, and you give them that values card as a way to individually recognize their effort, and also a way to inspire them to continue living our values.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:31] They mean something to them. They receive something that said, “Hey, you meant something to me as a teammate. You did something for me.”

Neil Davis: [00:09:38] Right. Right. It’s a point of pride here for sure.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:41] Well, Neil, thank you for giving us a peek of what it’s like here.

Neil Davis: [00:09:45] Thank you for talking to me. Appreciate it.

Glimpse of Fun Culture at Jobs2Careers [image of people in costumes, having fun, and moving on hover board]Glimpse of Fun Culture at Jobs2Careers
Lisa Cummings: [00:09:47] It was a good time.[00:09:50] So, are you filled up with ideas yet? I know I am. My favorite top five from Neil were: one, rolling out the red or orange carpet for new hires; two, surprising a new hire by greeting them with their favorite drink; three, having pre-printed values cards to make it easy to give recognition to each other; four, doing planks together as a team as a quick energizer; and, five, deepening the application of a training class by asking a question from that month’s training in their daily status report documents.[00:10:22] This one, after getting inspired by J2C’s follow-up questions to our Strengths training with their company, my team decided to experiment with this as well, and we started with the question, “How did you use your Strengths at work today?” It was really interesting to me to see the difference in responses. I got everything from detailed and thoughtful answers, all the way through a rushed, “I used my Learner talent today.”

[00:10:48] So play around with it to complement your work styles. And the biggest learning for me was to properly introduce the question and what’s behind it rather than just writing it and not explaining because when I did that the answers were way more generic.

[00:11:04] So, okay, in the next section of the on-site interview you get to learn from Bruce Ge, the CEO of Jobs2Careers. I thought you’d enjoy hearing about leadership from a founder perspective as well.

[00:11:17] Now, he has led this company through extreme growth and he gives you a viewpoint on the most important functions of executives. And some of his opinions might even surprise you, like the fact that he offers management training to every employee, regardless of their current role, because he wants to prepare each person for leadership positions, even if that means they need to leave the company to live into their potential.

Lisa Cummings facilitating management training on using your strengths and natural talents at Jobs2Careers [image of class interaction]Lisa Cummings facilitating management training on using your strengths and natural talents at Jobs2Careers
[00:11:44] So here’s my interview with Bruce where we pick up a conversation about their company value called “always grow,” and how one way they execute it is this monthly training.

Bruce Ge: [00:11:58] Oftentimes we’ll ask employees, “What is your ambition?” They would say, “I want to become a manager. I want to become an executive.” And a lot of them are never presented an opportunity. They don’t even know what are the expectations from them, and how they’re judged. So, in order to be fair, I want to provide an opportunity at least for them to know what a high-level manager should be like.[00:12:24] So the main point is to grow the employees, which is adding value to what Jobs2Careers can provide to their career growth. I also get a side benefit of getting jobs done more efficiently. Ultimately, the education I give to the employees will go with the employees. Well, to be honest, I don’t need all of my people to become managers. But that’s fine, I will be proud if one day my employees become managers or executives of other companies.

[00:12:53] So I set a high bar for most of my people and I push them to grow. Eventually, a lot of them will make to the management or executive level in other companies, I’ll be proud of it. So the point is, I’m trying to make a good deal with my employees.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:08] It’s a very mature way of looking at leadership. A lot of times people feel like they want to be talent hoarders.

Bruce Ge: [00:13:14] I think you have a very good point. Trying to stop talent from growing is going to hurt both sides. Eventually, if I grow my people to a very high level, they will leave me because there are some opportunities outside of Jobs2Careers and I should be happy for them. It’s a win-win deal.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:32] It is win-win. One thing that I think of when I think of a company like yours is I have a lot of clients who are tech companies or they’re in the Bay Area or they’re fast-growth, and the founder has had a major impact on the culture. What are you doing? Because I can tell you’re doing something to ensure that there’s a culture that’s on purpose and it’s not just your personal personality. How are you doing this?

Bruce Ge: [00:13:59] I think the most important value a CEO needs to keep in mind is integrity, especially accountability. Let me take an example of what we do differently from other companies. Jobs2Careers do not impose regular overtime. We require efficient eight hours work, but we do not expect people to work unless there’s an emergency or something really important.

[00:14:21] So people can find a good balance of life and work. And this is very well-received because you do see companies who try to push people to work 10, 12 hours a day. I think it tarnishes the image of the employer. It makes your people trust your employer less. So that’s the things I’m trying to avoid. I want to behave with a high integrity, and I also hold other people accountable for high integrity. So those are the small things we do that make a difference. But it’s important that we hold ourselves, employers hold ourselves to a very high level of integrity, and that sets a very good example for the employees.

Lisa Cummings: [00:15:01] I think modeling what you expect of people is critical. If you said one thing and then you didn’t hold yourself to it, it would not become part of the culture.

Bruce Ge: [00:15:10] It damages credibility and everything will go south from there.

Lisa Cummings: [00:15:16] I went back out and peeked at your LinkedIn profile again the other day, and I noticed that you mentioned how important recruiting is in your role as CEO, and I think that’s a rare thing to say, “As CEO, recruiting is one of my top job responsibilities,” and it certainly tells me a lot about why the culture here is what it is. Can you talk about what led you to make that one of your most important job responsibilities?

Bruce Ge: [00:15:46] Acquiring and retaining talent is probably the most important function of my job. We have been very selective in who we will bring on board. Not only executives, also we have a very high bar for entry-level people. Why develop so much attention for me? Because one is very hard. It takes so much time to know people and it requires patience.

[00:16:13] We have like less than 1% hiring rate from resumes to employees. It also requires a lot of people knowledge. We need good sense to identify the talent. So, ultimately, what matters to an organization is your people. That’s probably the most important element that requires me to invest my time on.

Lisa Cummings at J2C management training with the 1% that got hired [image: group photo]Lisa Cummings at J2C management training with the 1% that got hired
Lisa Cummings: [00:16:35] It’s a key thing when I talk to listeners, when I talk to my clients, and their leaders are struggling. A lot of times it’s because they’re focusing on the work, but not the people doing the work, so you’re really onto something that is a differentiator I see in the marketplace also.

Bruce Ge: [00:16:54] Thank you. Yes, I am very clear on what a CEO should focus on. I’m not focused on any detail-level work. I only focus on people. So once I have the talent, I put them in charge of product, sales, marketing, they handle everything. I need to make sure they’re happy, and I need to make sure they are doing the right management job. My job becomes easy and my organization becomes efficient at the same time.Lisa Cummings: [00:17:19] Gives you some time to play ping pong?

Bruce Ge: [00:17:21] I have enough time to spend with my family. I golf every week, play ping pong sometimes. It’s a good life.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:30] Love it. Bruce Ge, thank you.

Bruce Ge: [00:17:32] Thank you, Lisa.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:33:] We appreciate it. I know the listeners will love so much hearing all these angles, being able to see a marketing leader, a CEO, an HR person at such a fast-growing company with such a fun culture.

[00:17:47] Boy, what a treat to hear from a leader who is growing a thriving company. All his team members are thriving too.

[00:17:54] My top five ideas from Bruce were: one, offer leadership training to everyone because it’s a win for everyone; number two, model the behaviors you want to see because you can only be credible as a manager if you’re leading through the accountability and the integrity that you expect from everyone else; number three, the number one role of a leader is finding the right people for the team and developing them; number four, if you make a culture of accountability, you don’t have to create a culture of working 12 hour days, even at a software company; and number five – that’s my favorite one – and that is to never hoard talent, to help everyone grow even if that means some people have to leave the company to live into their highest potential.

[00:18:43] And that, my friends, is a wrap.

[00:18:46] Neil and Bruce, thank you for the backstage pass. What a cool set of ideas to get the outcomes of the work by focusing on the people doing the work. I feel like that’s such an important statement. They gave us such a cool set of ideas to get the outcomes of the work by focusing on the people doing the work. So big. And now you have at least 10 more inspirations you can use to ramp up your culture, so just pick one. Do one thing this week.

[00:19:16] If you’re using our RAMP model to build your culture, remember R is to nurture relationships, A is to create an environment where people can experience regular accomplishment, M is for meaning and purpose, and P is for positive interactions. And this is in perfect alignment with building a strengths-based culture.

[00:19:40] If you’re noticing what works at work, you’re going to get more of what works at work. So if you want to recognize people on your team, we made a resource for you. Go to LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources, and one of the documents there gives you 127 ways to offer recognition this week. And it really is possible to nurture all four of those areas of the RAMP model with one sincere recognition, so imagine what you can do if you put that on repeat.

[00:20:13] Like we always say, by nurturing Strengths, you’re nurturing performance at work. If you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your new work culture, and share the positive results with the world.

 

Direct download: 039-Bruce-Neil-J2C.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa speaks with Samantha Smith, who joins us to talk about what it's like to create an amazing culture at your company. She gives very specific examples of ideas you can implement, no matter what your current title is. Unlike our usual audio-only interviews, this one was onsite at the Jobs2Careers headquarters in Austin, Texas.

You also get a bonus interview with Suong Luu. She gives the cultural overview from the employee perspective. Her first job out of college was with Jobs2Careers. She has already progressed through several roles from intern to marketing coordinator. And she has been able to experiment in functions from IT to marketing.

Resources of the Episode

If you go to the J2C homepage for job seekers you'll see roles in tons of industries, locations, and companies. Check out their careers page to explore their open positions inside of Jobs2Careers in Austin, TX. Keep in mind, even though they're a software company, their workforce is onsite in Central Texas. Working together in the same location is actually part of their secret-culture-sauce. Finally, if you're a hiring manager, you might be interested in the J2C For Employers page to check out their unique Pay Per Application model.

Here's the live interview with Sam and Suong on camera.

 

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths

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.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:08] You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you’ll apply your greatest strengths at work. I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and I gotta tell you, whether you’re leading your team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:27] And, just the other day I got a new idea for the show. I got in the mail this magazine that had the best places to work. And even though it’s an Austin, Texas publication, I’m thinking, “Oh, cool. Strengths and great company cultures and employee engagement, they’re all so intertwined so it’d be really cool to get some great ideas to share with listeners.”

[00:00:50] And, you know, I was so disappointed. I opened this thing up and, as it describes each of these award-winning companies, it gives some bullet points on what they do to make their culture great. And do you know what the answers are? Oh, gosh, let me give you a sampling. Number one: generous retirement plan. Number two: charity involvement. Number three: rewards program. And number four of your sample: a health and wellness program.

[00:01:19] Oh, my gosh, I was so bummed out when I read those, because I thought it would be full of inspiration and ideas, and although those bullet points are fine enough words, it’s just like when you see on a resume when someone says they’re a motivated team player. It’s like, “Well, yeah, that’s the same thing everyone else is saying. Give me something different. Give me something specific and inspirational.” It was lacking all of the telling details. And that led me to the idea of what the next couple of interviews are going to be about.

[00:01:48] Today you’ll get one of several episodes I’ve recorded that gives you specific examples straight from leaders who have built an awesome company culture. There are so many direct ties between strengths and employee engagement on your team, so you’ll get this peak behind the curtain at workplace cultures that can give you an inspiration to come up with your own ideas that are riffing off of the one you’ll hear here.

[00:02:14] The bulk of today’s interview was recorded on site at a company in Austin, Texas called Jobs2Careers. So you’ll hear us also refer to this company as J2C. Of course we’ll link J2C in the show notes so you can check them out all the way.

[00:02:32] Now this show highlights Samantha Smith who runs their marketing team. And then in the next episode you’ll hear from their CEO and from their Head of HR. That way you’ll get specific examples that are unique from each angle inside of the business. And at the end of this episode, you’ll hear a recap about how Sam’s examples fit right into our RAMP model for nurturing team culture.

[00:03:00] So as a quick teaser, the four RAMP factors to always be nurturing on your team are R relationship building, A accomplishment, M meaning and purpose, and P positive interactions. So RAMP makes it an easy acronym to think about your culture.

[00:03:19] You’ll hear the tone of the audio change a bit as we move over because it was an onsite recording, so if you do want to see the full impact, with video, you can also watch this interview portion on the show notes page. Just go to LeadThroughStrengths/SamanthaSmith and it has everything except for that recap at the end.

[00:03:38] So, with that, let’s jump over to the onsite interview.

[00:03:43] We have Samantha Smith, you’ll hear me refer to her as Sam, and she runs their marketing team. And I thought it’d be fun to give you all of these different angles of people and different roles around the company because people start to say, “Oh, yeah. Culture, that’s an HR initiative,” or, “Culture has nothing to do with HR. That’s only what happens out in the business.”

[00:04:07] So, no matter what side of that fence you’re on, you get to see lots of different angles at J2C. And I’ve been Jobs2Careers but J2C. Is that internally your name?

Samantha Smith: [00:04:18] Internally that’s the slang.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:19] Yeah, that’s your slang. And you have to have team slang to have a team culture.

Samantha Smith: [00:04:23] Yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:24] So what’s your favorite thing about culture here?

Samantha Smith: [00:04:26] I would say that we try and do things differently. We’re very opposed to, “Oh, we’ve always done it that way.” And one of the things I like is that Bruce (Ge), our CEO, and management team really want to hear what the employees have to say. I believe that Bruce’s philosophy would be that you hired good people and that the success of your company is mostly dependent on your team.

[00:04:48] And one of the things that I like is Bruce does a CEO Circle program. And what that is, is every quarter he will give us a business challenge that he’s facing. It could be what to name a new product, or it could be how to brand us in a creative way, and it has to be easy to implement and inexpensive and solve a problem.

[00:05:08] And every quarter somebody wins it. Three people, actually. And when you win it, you get to go to a family event with Bruce and his wife and two kids, you get a $1,000 bonus, and you get a chance to implement your program. And one of my favorite examples is our social ambassador program, and that was the answer to a question of, “How do we maintain our culture as we grow?” because we’ve just about doubled employee headcount year-over-year for the past four years. So how do you keep the culture of a small company when you get big?

[00:05:41] And so the social ambassador program is run by one of our client success analysts, and basically when there’s a new person that starts, it’s you get a schedule to have lunch with a new person. So they get to have lunch with somebody from a different department every day so it’s not you’re just going to a lunch. Here’s there’s 80 people like that you don’t know exactly.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:01] It’s like high school again with a tray where you’re walking around going, “Where do I sit?”

Samantha Smith: [00:06:06] Yeah, exactly. And so we don’t want anyone to feel that way, and we want them to know us, and we want engineers and marketing and sales and HR to all eat lunch together and not get too cliquey.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:16] Oh, I like. And when you first said it, I’m thinking, “Marketing,” I’m thinking, “Social,” as in social media, so I expected your answer to be about something to the external world. I love hearing that this is an internal, how you get to know each other and work with each other.

Samantha Smith: [00:06:31] Definitely. One thing I thing is cool is that when I started with Jobs2Careers we had 40-some people, and now I think we’re 90 plus. And I think I still pretty much know everybody’s name, which I’ve worked with companies much smaller I can’t say that about.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:48] It says something about people really caring about each other and you can’t make somebody care about each other. What are the things that happen here that allow that environment to happen? Because I could certainly see that in a room of essentially every employee, there are really deep relationships that you can tell it’s different from those who, “Oh, that’s that guy in accounting who I don’t know.” Now how does that happen here?

Samantha Smith: [00:07:14] It does feel different than other places, and I’ve thought about why. And I think a big factor is that we all eat together every day, and every afternoon at 3:30 we have tea time which is a 20-minute break to not let your blood sugar dip too much, and you have to mingle outside if it’s nice with people in other departments.

[00:07:33] And so we really all do know a lot about each other and that helps when you need to ask for someone’s assistance with something, or somebody comes to you. And it also helps that we know what everybody does because sometimes we’ll talk about work at lunch and people know what everyone’s role is. It’s never like, “Oh, I don’t know who you are. What do you do?” That doesn’t really happen.

Lisa Cummings: [00:07:54] “That’s just that lady with brown hair over there. I’ve seen her around but I have no idea.”

Samantha Smith: [00:07:57] Right.

Lisa Cummings: [00:07:58] Right. So when you were talking about the CEO Circle – did I get the terminology right?

Samantha Smith: [00:08:02] Yes.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:03] Okay. You mentioned the brand as one of the examples of maybe how you bring the brand to life. I looked that there were constraints in it too. It’s cheap to implement those sorts of things, that’s cool. That made me think about branding and how many companies I work with are trying – I’m sure listeners are feeling this way – “Oh, we want to have an employment brand. We want to be known for something to candidates. We want to be an employer of choice. We want to be a place that people want to come work.”

[00:08:31] Then there’s the other side of branding that the typical marketing person would be focused on – your company brand and the brand personality traits. They seem very aligned here. So how does that all come together from your perspective?

Samantha Smith: [00:08:42] Well, our mission statement is, “Innovating the way employers effectively find talent, and the talent effectively find employers.” So, we’re helping both sides of the coin there. And there’s the key word of innovating, which is that we want to do employee branding differently and we also want to do searching for a job and hiring differently.

[00:09:03] This company is only five years old, so it’s not a legacy brand that you have to give a facelift to. We could start something new and it wouldn’t affect any existing business. And even, for a simple example, expense reports, they’re really easy to do. We’ve got software to do them. It’s not a lot of cutting and pasting and it works quickly, and that’s just an example of something that doesn’t get bogged down in red tape.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:30] And if you’re going to make simplicity a key part of your mission statement you want to live it out and model in everything you do, and you really do it.

Samantha Smith: [00:09:38] There is efficiency all the time. Even as simple as dishes are piling up next to the sink. Let’s put a basket there if the dishwasher is full. And it sounds silly but in a big office little things like that help.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:53] And I would imagine they would start to be the small things that create a culture because just like when you walk into a public restroom and you see trash all over the place, similarly if you start to see dishes all over the place then people don’t care about the space as much. And so coming up with solutions for things and being efficient and being simple, it does feel like it’s really built into what you do here.

Samantha Smith: [00:10:16] It does.

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:17] Another thing we’ve talked about outside of the interview is perks. Let’s actually talk about some of the perks you actually have, because this is a typical go-to for culture. People go, “Okay, it’s a tech company. Let’s make some cool company perks. Those do attract people, and it has to go beyond that.” So talk a little bit about what perks you do have. You’ve mentioned lunch every day.

Samantha Smith: [00:10:40] Yeah, that’s pretty good.

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:41] And tea time is pretty cool. What else, and then how do you go beyond that?

Samantha Smith: [00:10:46] Well, we have everything we need here. We have lunch, we have tea time, we have coffee. Its purpose is to make us work more efficiently. So we have everything we need, and we don’t want for anything here. But I would say that beyond the perks, there’s the cultural perks too, like to always learn and to try new ideas and to communicate.

[00:11:08] And one of my favorite things that Bruce says is to allow for interruptions. And so what that means to me is like a C-level officer, you can just go in her office and ask them something. And if somebody comes to you, it’s sort of the same expectation. So really being transparent, I think that says a lot about our culture beyond, you know, we have a ping pong table and we have a beautiful office space in the hill country, and we see rainbows out there.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:37] That’s a great view.

Samantha Smith: [00:11:38] Yeah, and we grill steaks out there sometimes. And there’s these moments like, “Well, this is…”

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:43] Like every Friday?

Samantha Smith: [00:11:44] Yeah, mainly. And so there’s these moments, like, “Well, we’re really well taken care of.” But I think the part that I feel luckiest about, is that I work with such a smart group of people. I mean, the process is rigorous to be hired here, but it’s worth it because there are no weak links, and it’s really amazing to work that way.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:05] That makes a big difference in culture. Let’s end there with a little more specific look at people and how they come into the role that they’re doing, and even how work is assigned? So something I noticed, for example, working with Callie that she’s just so energetic. It seems like everybody I interact with, they love what they do.

[00:12:28] And it’s not just I want to make the cliché comment about passion because I feel like there’s a lot of explanation that needs to happen beyond that, but the energy that people bring. What happens from you being a people manager when you’re trying to imagine, “How do I take this person, know their skills and interests, and align them to what puts them at their best so that kind of energy connection show up at work?” Because it’s showing up all over the building.

Samantha Smith: [00:12:54] Well, one thing that’s neat about how fast we’re growing is it gives you room to change your job. For instance, we had an account executive who became a sales manager, who then became a sales operations manager; we’ve had people transfer departments. And so because we’re growing so quickly, these new avenues open up, and if you really jump on them and own them, then you can have that and then somebody else will do the other part.

[00:13:20] So everyone is passionate because you’ve kind of get to choose your job to a certain extent. There’s always support from management, but there’s not necessarily, “Okay, this is what you need to do every day.” So when I started my job nobody told me, “Okay, so for marketing materials, we’re going to focus on doing case studies, and doing content marketing, and get our blog redesigned.” No one told me that. It’s just you see a need and you go for it and then you see that there’s value to it. If you go into your manager’s office and have an idea that’s going to bring value, they’ll let you do it.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:52] Yeah, I love it. We have a lot of listeners who are at tech companies and that’s an environment they’ll be able to really touch and feel. And then, I also have a lot of listeners who work for big companies and add maybe a couple or a few zeroes to the headcount. If, for that person, just to go out on an idea of what could they do so it’s going to feel more bureaucratic, a little less able to just say, “Oh, my gosh, I can craft my job”? What advice would you give for somebody who’s a manager at a company where they’re a little more mature in the business so things don’t change as fast and they’re trying to blaze a trail as a manager and create their own team culture?

Samantha Smith: [00:14:34] I would say don’t underestimate the power of going out once a quarter for a department event. We just did that recently with marketing. We did a “Build your own terrarium,” which is a thing in Austin, and there were about 12 of us, and we built our own little plants in this jar. And we thought, “What an interesting idea, what’s that going to be like.” And it was so fun.

[00:14:55] But that something that simple which just shows you care about getting people outside the office, and I think that really says it all, it’s just that you value somebody more than what they’re producing. One of, I think, the best benefits at Jobs2Careers is management training. It started with our CEO Bruce doing a management training session every two weeks and, of course, that’s how we met you. We have guest speakers once a month.

[00:15:20] And there’s something about being in a room with all of your colleagues, during company time, where that’s an hour and a half or two hours where you’re not producing work for the company. There’s something about feeling that value that’s very flattering and very motivating.

Lisa Cummings: [00:15:35] It really intrigued me. It’s the only company that I worked for where they call it management training. You use that terminology because you hear that, and any other company that means people managers only, and it gets referenced a lot by employees, by managers, and it really is like the personal leadership development that everybody here wants for everybody else. I love the tone that it sets, and it says, “This is an exclusive way of thinking. This is how we can all grow the company together.”

Samantha Smith: [00:16:08] I think Bruce sees everybody as future managers.

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:11] That’s a beautiful way of seeing people’s capabilities and then letting those programs start to bring that on people.

Samantha Smith: [00:16:19] Definitely.

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:20] Sam Smith, thank you for the backstage pass. Yes. So to all of you listeners, gosh, wasn’t it great for inspiring ideas that you can use at your company? I promised you a recap to align the interview to the RAMP model, so you can apply Sam’s examples to your company. So let’s jump into that.

[00:16:43] First, the R in RAMP is for relationships. So her first example under the relationship category is her social ambassador program. So when you’re onboarding new employees, formally link them up with someone else from the company, so that there’s a comfortable lunch buddy, some built-in networking right from the very first day. So get inspired from her idea, and think about what your version of the company welcome wagon can be.

[00:17:09] Now in another example, Sam mentioned hiring great people through a rigorous process so there are no weak links in the cultural fit. So find people who will love working at your company. So to apply this in your workplace specifically, be sure you spend as much time on cultural fit, and values fit, as you do on matching their past experiences and their past skills with the role. So usually people obsess over a candidate’s background during the hiring process, yet you can actually make a huge impact on your team culture if you’ll also obsess about the interpersonal fit.

[00:17:50] All right. Next in the RAMP model we have A for accomplishment. So Sam told us about their CEO Circle Awards. That was a great example you could apply at your company by creating a competition for people to come up with an idea that solves a specific business challenge. I love the business relevance of this idea. So J2C gives a monetary award, and a social event out with the CEO, and the ability to actually implement their idea. So, of course, you can come up with your own awards, make them big or small, make them work for you, but that notion of the CEO Circle award is a great one.

[00:18:27] Another example she gave under accomplishment is their monthly management training. So, for them, it’s open to every single employee. I had a great time being part of a delivery team offering this training to their employees and it was highly attended. They want to show that everybody can be a leader, and there’s a dedication there to nurturing that potential and helping people accomplish their big career goals.

[00:18:50] So if you think about your company, you might already have an existing leadership development program that you can just open up to a wider audience as a way to show team members that they have the opportunity to make a big impact, regardless of what their current job title is. If you don’t have the budget or an existing program, you could even setup some sort of panel interviews where you take internal executives and team members who have success stories and case studies so that you can offer some level of inspiration around that future that they might have at your company.

[00:19:28] So we’ve covered R for relationships, A for accomplishment, and now we’re at M for meaning and purpose. Sam’s first example was about simplicity and innovation being part of their company mission. So they live it out in the smallest daily actions and I thought that was great, how connected the big picture and the small picture were. She even mentioned things down to the detail of the basket that would contain messy dishes, or the streamlining of expense report processes so they could live it out.

[00:20:01] So to implement this at your company, think about your mission statement or your vision statement. Then, challenge each person on the team to find one small process; I’m talking tiny. One small process or workflow that seems out of alignment with your mission or vision. Keep it super small so the changes isn’t daunting, it doesn’t require approvals and it doesn’t get all bogged down. And then get it aligned so that you’re modeling your mission through just the tiniest daily actions.

[00:20:31] In her other example on meaning and purpose, I’m thinking she made everyone listening drool. Maybe you feel a little jealous about the fact that at J2C the job that you’re hired to do isn’t necessarily your job for long because if you have an idea, and it’s really using your strengths, you can contribute that to the company, then you can shape your job to make the most of your talents.

[00:20:51] Well, I know not every corporate culture is that flexible, yet apply her idea at work by thinking of a task, or a responsibility, that you’ve really been drawn to, you’ve really been interested in or you thought, “Oh, I would like to try that out. I’d love to spend time doing that.” And then apply that interest by spotting a need in your actual business and filling that need.

[00:21:13] So if you can solve a business problem while you’re also in your zone of genius, I’m talking your personal zone of genius, then you’ll become known for the thing you love working on. So even if it’s an act of voluntarism and it’s an extra duty you’re taking on, what a great thing to build a personal brand around the things you love doing because then they’ll become the core of your job. Even in the most rigid of workplaces I’ve found that people can shape their jobs this way over the long term.

[00:21:44] Finally, in the RAMP model, we have P for positive interactions. You know, Sam said it so beautifully, that notion that if you value people more than the work product, value people more than the product, it will make the work product shine while people are also feeling valued for their contribution, so you actually get both by focusing through the people.

[00:22:09] In her first example she talked about the value of communication. Now they live out their version of communication by just being so transparent and open that you can even interrupt a senior officer at the company just like you do to your buddy in the cube next to you. So, to apply these concepts to your company, think about behaviors or traditions that highlight the hierarchy in your organization, the things that build walls between people. Yes, I know this sounds like opposite world, and it is, because you’re going to do something that tears down those walls.

[00:22:39] So, for example, if you’re a VP with a reserved parking spot, give it to the winner of your new CEO Circle Award for a month. Or if you usually only have one-on-ones with your direct reports, go on a listening tour by holding one-on-ones with every person in your department. It doesn’t cost money, it’s just time and interest and what makes them great. Just go out of your way to connect at a human level. You don’t even have to be a manager to do this.

[00:23:05] So, for example, if you’re a marketing coordinator and you have a new intern on the team, offer your mentorship. Do something that makes the line of communication seem very open and natural regardless of level.

[00:23:17] Now, other examples of positive interactions were just plain sprinkled all over the interview. You heard her talk about the “build your own terrarium day” in Austin. I’m sure those are around, lots of interesting ways to do team building. You heard how they eat lunch together every day. You heard about how they break at 3:00 p.m. for tea time. And this consistent interaction with different people around the company helps them know a lot about what makes the other person tick. That gets them business results because it makes it easier to collaborate when they actually need things from each other.

[00:23:54] So, now, think about your team. Can you add a Taco Monday like Jobs2Careers? Will your team take plank breaks? Yeah, like workout planks. This is something else I learned about J2C later, that their customer support team does planks together so to get an energizer. So pick something that’s small and easy to start with, just something that does break the typical pattern of interaction even if it’s three minutes a day, just something that feels like it really jives with the groove of your team.

[00:24:24] Okay, so with that, you’re off to the races. Now you have at least 10 inspirations for how you can use the idea of RAMP, relationship, accomplishment, meaning or positive interaction on your team. Just pick one. Do one thing this week to nurture your culture. And this is in perfect alignment with building a strengths-based culture or a strengths-focused team. If you’re noticing what works, you’re going to get more of what works.

[00:24:56] So, like what we always say, using your strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. If you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your new work culture and share that positive result with the world.

Direct download: 038-Samantha-Smith.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa speaks with Pete Mockaitis, who joins us in a live example of what it’s like to explore your StrengthsFinder results for the first time.

Pete's Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:  Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Activator, Input, Connectedness, Woo, Communication, Positivity, Individualization

Lisa’s Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo, Futuristic, Focus, Learner, Communication, Significance

Resources of the Episode

You can reach Pete through the Awesome at Your Job website. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn. And you should because he's awesome!

Here's the link to Pete's podcast, and to his interview of Lisa Cummings.

Books, terms, and other websites mentioned in this podcast:

Book: Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Dr. Robert Cialdini

Study: 80/20 Rule, which is also called the Pareto Principle

Term: Leadership Domains as explained by my friends at Leadership Vision Consulting. They're another firm who offers Strengths based leadership training.

And our favorite resource of the episode: evidence of Pete's wicked-awesome talent of one-handed clapping:

 

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our "https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://leadthroughstrengths.com/resources&source=gmail&ust=1487264698482000&usg=AFQjCNHUtPcayNXycHfGq_r2Crj5sPIU7w">Strengths Resources page.

 

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths

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.

 
Here's The Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:08] You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you’ll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and I’ve got to tell you, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

And today you’re going to get a really unique episode on StrengthsFinder. It’s different from our usual guest interview. Today, your guest joins us in a live example of what it’s like to explore your StrengthsFinder results for the first time. So I think a lot of guests are going to identify with his love of learning and his corporate experiences.

He’s actually a former consultant for Bain so he has that pedigree company thing on his list that many of you. And today he’s the trainer and chief at Awesome At Your Job, so you’ll hear more about that and his show as we dig in.

So, you know, if you’re a regular listener of this show that we’re going to talk about how his differences are his differentiators. So you’ll enjoy hearing a fun fact about him. So, here it goes. This guy has a unique talent of being able to clap with one hand. So, Pete Mockaitis, welcome to the show. Please give yourself a one-handed welcome and demonstrate for us.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:01:34] Oh, Lisa, thank you. That’s such a unique welcome and it’s fun to do, and here we go. [one-handed claps]

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:40] I can’t believe that is really happening with one hand. It is blowing my mind. You’re going to have to make us a video so we can see what that actually looks like. I can’t believe that’s possible.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:01:51] I can do that, yes, and that’s probably my number one strength is one-handed clapping. It opens a lot of doors.

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:58] [laughs] Your hand can open a door in a traditional way...but his hand...watch out.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:02:01] Oh, well-played.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:05] Watch out. Oh, my gosh. We’re going to totally have this video on the show notes, so if you’re listening click on over to that because that’s a serious talent. I love it. [laughs] Okay, let’s get into the serious side of super powers. That’s one, I tell you, parlor tricks though they could fuel the Woo that you have up in there. I think there’s something tied here. Maybe that’s how you discovered it. Maybe we’ll uncover that today.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:02:30] Oh, are folks being won over as we speak, or are they turned off? We’ll see with your emails that come flowing in.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:35] That’s right. Okay. So, you know in this episode, we’re going to do this like a sample of exploring your StrengthsFinder talents for the first time. Well, we’re going to have to start by telling them what your Talent Themes here. So give them your top five.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:02:50] Okay, can do. With just the words or the descriptions as well?

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:54] Let’s get a little “Meet Pete” moment. So do the word and also the one sentence what this looks like on you.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:03:03] Okay. So, first, I’ll give a quick preview – one, Ideation; two, Strategic; three, Learner; four, Activator; and five, Input.

In terms of the one sentence:

1) Ideation, it’s true I am fascinated by ideas and how they connect together on my podcast with guests. I eat it up when I see “Oh, wait, there’s one thing someone said” can combine with that other thing they said, so I’m going to focus on prioritizing with the one thing but also building some tiny habits and, boom, there’s this combination synergy goodness, and so that resonates.

2) Strategic. I buy that in terms of if I’m always thinking about sort of what’s the optimal path forward, that’s the name of my company – Optimality, LLC – getting the band for the buck and sort of that 80/20 Rule and action, I’m really after that.

3) For Learner, it’s true. Ever since I was a youngster that’s kind of where my trainer and chief story starts. I was always going to the library reading books about goal-setting, success, teamwork, collaboration, influence. I was just into that stuff, and I remain to this day.

4) Activator, it’s true. I am often impatient. I’m excited to put things into action. Just this week I was thinking it’s just too much trying to manage the guests with merely emails and spreadsheets. I need a CRM, customer relationship management piece of software, and five hours later I had tried nine of them and made my decision. So, yeah, I got after it right away. That’s kind of my nature. I’ll wake up and I’ll have an idea and I just want to like run to the computer and implement it.

5) And then, finally, Input. I do, I love to get perspective from wise folks and learn all that they have to offer and collect multiple opinions to really prove or disprove the sort of key facts or assertions that are going to make or break a given decision.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:59] These are so good. Thanks for adding the Pete color because even for people who don’t understand the basic definition of it and Gallup’s terminology you explained it and then added your individual color. Just seeing as a kid in the library, I’m imagining you going back and training them so it’ll be fun to hear the depth on that. And then Activator, one that just happened the other day. It’s just a really great specific example so we can see what these are like in real life.

So, let’s talk about if we really relate this to career, and you think back on one of your proudest accomplishments, tell us about that snapshot in time.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:05:40] You know, I’m thinking, the first thing that leaps to mind is just getting the job at Bain & Company itself. I’d say it was very meaningful to me because I had been interested in it for some years before it came about, and it was just a vivid moment. I can recall when I was emceeing a date auction event as a fundraiser in college for a student organization, and when I got the call I just handed the microphone to someone, walked off stage, received the call.

It was great news. I was excited. I hugged my friend, Emily, who was wearing a red puffy coat. It’s forever enshrined in my brain as like the moment that this thing I had been after for some years was now mine.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:31] I love how vivid your imagery is and all of these. Take us through the preparation, what it was like for you getting ready for applying for this job, making it a thing. It sounds like it was a long time coming. So how was that playing out in your life, leading up to that phone call?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:06:49] Oh, sure thing. Well, I was sort of an odd kid in my sort of freshman year of college. I was sort of determined like, “By golly, I want to work in a top strategy consulting firm when I graduate, and so that’s just what I’m going to do.” And so I began exploring different avenues very early on in terms of student organizations and what were the linkages and how I could have sort of a distinctive profile that I would be intriguing to them.

I went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign which is not a hotbed for recruiting into those firms, but there are a few each year who get in, and I wanted to be one. So, I remember I would sort of try to find the right people, and the right organizations, and learn from them and see what I could do. And I remember, talk about vivid experiences, I was chatting guy named Bo who was wearing a Harry Potter wizard hat at a Halloween party.

And he said, “Oh, you should join the student organization.” And I was like, “Oh, I was thinking about that, but isn’t that kind of more technology stuff?” And he’s like, “Oh, no. It’s much broader than that. Yeah, and they’re always chatting with so-and-so and they do case interviews,” which is a key step to get a job in these firms, “to get in and, yeah, I think you’d like it.”

And so I was excited to discover that opportunity and then go after it. Then once I met a real person named Jeff who had the position, I was just having a real lot of fun chatting with him and seeing, “Hey, what’s it like on the inside? Is it really what I’ve built it up to be?” and sort of receiving that reinforcement that it was good.

And then, ultimately, I think the biggest hurdle to get the job is the case interview where you have to sort of solve business problems live before the interviewer’s eyes. And so I did a lot of prep. I got the books, I even recorded myself doing case interviews. I’d listen to them back to see how I was doing and to see how I might tweak it to seem more engaging or succinct and insightful.

I remember I was listening to myself doing case interviews while driving up to the interview the day before. So those are things that leap to mind there.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:06] Those are so good. Now, if you look at your talents, and then you try to make some linkages, now I’ve made a bunch of linkages and I’ve even, although the listeners can’t see your list beyond your top five, as you would not be surprised if you know a Learner and Input. Pete immediately goes out and wants more input and grabs the full 34 premium version of assessment so he can see the whole lineup.

So I see a bigger lineup and I have some things popping into my head about your number 6, Connectedness, and your number 7, Woo. But when you look at your list and you think back on that experience, what links do you see where you’re using those talents as you’re preparing?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:09:47] Oh, sure thing. Well, it’s interesting, in terms of Activator it’s like, “This is the thing I want and so I’m going to start now.” I was a freshman and I was evaluating opportunities. Not only whether they were fun and I would get to meet people, but if they would take me to where I wanted to go, and then jumping in full force for those things I thought could really do it. So, I guess that’s Activator. I’m getting right to it yet Strategic is that I was kind of being selective, and saying, “You know, while that club sounds kind of interesting, I don’t think it’s going to have as much sort of bang for my buck, in terms of taking me where I want to be.”

And so the interestingness is not quite enough to offset this. And then with Ideation, I think I did take some novel approaches to having distinctive profile, like I authored a book in college about leadership and student organizations, and I saw the opportunity to be the Secretary General of our model United Nations, which I thought, “Well, that’s a really cool leadership opportunity in terms of managing dozens of people and thousands of dollars to put together an event for hundreds of folks. Ooh, that’ll be a real nice concept to make an impression, as well as having a ton of fun.” So I was a pure career-seeking robot along the lines.

But I do see those in learning, yeah, talking to folks, learning what the firms want, how they operate, getting the books. And Input, certainly, talking to numerous people along the way to confirm, “Is this really what I think it is?” and learn, “Well, what needs to be done in order to get there?”

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:30] You’re bringing up what happens for a lot of people where if they heard the descriptors in the StrengthsFinder Talent Themes, and they listen to the thing that you just described, they would probably think, “Achiever” because it seems like the easy way to describe what you accomplished. And although Achiever is middle of the road for you, 13, it’s not extraordinarily high but you found extreme achievement at that age.

So, you’re demonstrating something that’s really cool which is I always tell people. StrengthsFinder doesn’t tell you what you go do in your career. It’s more about how you can go do it, leaning through the talents you have. So you found achievement through totally different talents and it’s dangerous to try to look at the words on the surface.

And I think if I listened to your show, which I do.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:12:21] Oh, thank you.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:22] Which is called Awesome At Your Job. So, for those of you listening and you want to check it out, we’ll put the link in the show notes. It’s a great show about being awesome at your job overall. I think if listened to that show I may hypothesize that you have an Analytical talent, for example, because I know that you mention research studies very often, you mention proof points, your favorite hobby is Monopoly. So you have some of these things, right, that some people might think, “Oh, that sounds like an Analytical guy.”

And Talent Themes show up more in how you approach what you do not necessarily what those interests are. So, kind of fascinating thing you’re bringing up. So, tell us about yearnings and interests, like Monopoly and research studies and proof points, and things that you talk about in your show and how your Talent Themes speak to those.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:13:14] Oh, that is interesting in terms of just what’s fun. So, on my honeymoon, just a few months ago – Yay.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:23] Yay.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:13:24] I was reading this book Pre-Suasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini on the beach. And so it’s funny, it’s non-fiction but that was just fascinating and fun for me, I was like, “Oh, wow. Well, here’s an interesting fact. They did study and here’s what happened.” And so I’ll find that all the more thrilling than most works of fiction because I guess Ideation is fuelling that fascination in terms of I’m thinking, “Oh, look at all these implications for how I could go put that to work and make things happen.”

And for Monopoly, it’s so funny. I remember one time I was meeting this guy for the first time, his name is Peter; fine name, fine guy.

Lisa Cummings: [00:14:09] Fine name.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:14:11] [laughs] And so as we were playing Monopoly he kept asking me some questions about my career journey and how I went into Bain and why I left Bain and started my own business and these things. And I’ll tell you what, I was so focused on the strategic options and decisions I had to make in that game Monopoly to win I actually had in my head the idea that this guy is trying to distract me in order to win at Monopoly.

Lisa Cummings: [00:14:40] [laughs]

Pete Mockaitis: [00:14:41] I thought, “Pete, that’s crazy. Most people don’t care. They play games to socialize in fun ways.” [laughs] I was being a little rude in retrospect. I kind of apologized to him. I gave him very short answers, I was like, “Well, ultimately, that’s just something I’ve always loved to do.” You know, just one- or two-sentence responses.

Lisa Cummings: [00:15:01] Let’s get back to the seriousness of Park Place, buddy. [laughs] Okay. So, now what you’re helping me see and raise is this concept of domains. I don’t know if you know this about StrengthsFinder, but they’ve done some studies on leadership, and these four domains of leadership actually came from quite a large study on followers.

So, if I look at your talent lineup, not to get too nerdy and distract from the story of you, I’ll give you the quick version. There are four different domains of leadership that people often find their strength in, and yours, to give you the tell as I lean into it, you come in really hot on the Strategic Thinking Talents, and then second highest your Influencing.

So, there are four categories. You have the Relationship Talents. You have the Influencing Talents. You have the Strategic Thinking talents, the thinker guy that you probably are, and then you have Executing Talents. And so, as I listened to your reaction to the Monopoly thing, I could see you being really in your head about what was going on in the situation.

The way I look at these four domains is that they’re all valuable, and they’re all useful ways that you can demonstrate leadership, but this is kind of, when you have one that comes in heavy in your top five, it’s often the color of glasses you’re wearing. Like yours would be, if you looked at your StrengthsFinder report, the Strategic Thinking Talents are actually colored red. And you could see, “Okay, look, my first view on things, the lens I’m going to see the world through will, first, likely be thinking about it.”

Now you have a lot of fast-thinking talents, so Ideation is fast and Strategic is fast, so it’s not like you’re going to go deep and sit around and ponder things deeply for months. You can boom, boom, boom, react to that guy and have your answer. And I noticed your Influencing Talents are also high on your list. You have Activator, Woo, Communication up in your top 10. It’s interesting to see those two. How does that play into how you’ve seen yourself and your career?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:17:12] Well, that is interesting. And what’s funny is I have a little bit of a hard time switching at times in that I really do like people and building relationships, and connecting and laughing and seeing how we’re similar and how we can help each other and collaborate and all those good things. That’s fun for me. But surprising, or I don’t know, just kind of part of how I go, is that when I get deep into the realm of this Ideation, Strategic, Input, Thinking and I’m trying to crack something, or figure it out, it’s just sort of like Peter in that game of Monopoly.

It’s like, “I’m not in people mode right now. I am in finding an optimal solution given all of my options and constraints mode right now.” And I feel a bit sort of like I’m being pulled away from that which I’m attached to and I’m into at the moment, or I’m just sort of like I’m not really present or there. I think that does show up in that they are different clusters and I feel them differently in terms of my whole headspace and emotional state. It’s like, “I’m not in people mode right now.”

And sometimes my wife will notice and she would like me to enter into people mode as we’re being together, or where she’ll just say, “Okay, you’re in your groove. Go ahead and finish that first.” So that’s the first thing that pops to mind there.

Lisa Cummings: [00:18:45] What a deep powerful insight. I love hearing how the thinking stuff is playing out in your head, and then also the relationship part. So, I apply StrengthsFinder to work all the time and find that sometimes the easiest ones to get how you perform relative to other people is through people you’re really close to. So your wife probably knows you about as well as anyone in the world so she’s going to be more comfortable saying it out loud or noticing it or mentioning it. Do you happen to know hers? Has she taken this yet?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:19:20] You know, I don’t think she has.

Lisa Cummings: [00:19:22] Okay. Would be fun. So this could be one where you say, “Okay, look, your first Relationship Talent is Connectedness. It’s your number six. I hear you relying on it relatively often.” So you could ask a question like how could you lean on your Connectedness talent when you’re trying to consciously switch into a mode that would complement the conversation you two are having?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:19:47] That is a great question. And, particularly Connectedness, that’s one of those words for the Strengths Finders that makes me think of, “Oh, like a super network.” But, no, no. Connectedness is more about having sort of like the faith in why things are the way they are or a higher power. And so, for me, that is big.

I’m a Catholic Christian. I think tapping into some of those, well, one, I guess is the headspace of worship or sort of loving people and serving them as folks made in the image and likeness of God can be pretty potent in terms of a reminder of, “Hey, what’s really important here?” “Well, how about we give that person the listening ear and respect and attention that they deserve?”

Lisa Cummings: [00:20:32] Oh, this is so good. I could take this in 20 directions because, one, I hear the interplay of Talents, how your Connectedness and Strategic gets so wound together because you do have so many Thinking Talents, the connection of ideas and not just people and meaning but pull all those things together – connecting meaning, connecting people, connecting ideas. Those are going to play out for you in a way that might even be difficult to separate, you know, “Which talent thing is talking here?”

And then your first Executing Theme is Belief and that, of course, I hear it in what you just said, and so it really helps me see when you say it. Oh, yeah, this would drive how you go about getting things done as well with the perspective of the meaning in your life and what is this all for and how does it play out. I also think this is the direction I’ll ultimately take it, because there are so many ways we could go from that conversation.

So a lot of people struggle with this. You look at your lineup, and I’ve told you about these leadership domains, and you see, “Oh, my gosh. My first Executing Talent is number 12. This sounds like a person. Oh, no, I might be doomed. Does it mean I never get anything done?” Well, clearly you get a lot done. You are a machine it seems. So, where do you get your ability to achieve and get the outcomes and results you want? Because you clearly do.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:22:00] How does it happen? Well, I think part of is just that I think about it in terms of I have a standard in mind in terms of how things should be or go. I think that’s kind of a vague broad thing to say. But, day after day, what mostly happens is I have kind of a picture in my head for what is done, good, complete, dream, nirvana state look like, and then I have all these ideas for what are the things that I could do that I couldn’t bring it there. And then I just become very excited about those ideas and I just sort of run after them.

In terms of the CRMs, I was thinking, “I have a dream” – so dramatic.

Lisa Cummings: [00:22:57] [laughs] Martin Luther Pete has a dream of CRM systems.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:23:03] In which every guest that comes on my show will be absolutely outstanding, like leaving me and listeners with, “Wow.” Well, what’s it take to get there? Well, probably a fuller pipeline so that I don’t ever have a scramble in terms of, “Oh, I’m a little light on interview appointments. I better get some right away.” That’s like an obstacle to that is like when you have the time to patiently vet candidates as opposed to, “Oh, I’ve got to grab somebody,” then the odds are in your favor in terms of getting great ones.

So then, I think, “Well, then what does that system look like? And how can I do that without spending my whole life stuck into analyzing their tweet history?” That’s how I often think about how it gets done, is I feel this tension inside me. It’s like, “I want that to be real and I’ve got these compelling, exciting ideas for what I could do to make that real so let’s go do it.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:24:01] It’s really pretty deep what you just said because I could see Strategic helping you sort quickly, “Here’s the outcome. What’s the best way to get there?” Boom, your Activator says, “Go!” and then you create these systems and the insight that listeners won’t have, is that you and I have had some other conversations outside of this.

Pete and I are pals. So we’ll talk podcast nerd-talk and he has all these great systems and team members who make things happen, and it actually is one of the great things you can do as Activator. You partner with people who see it through the finish line so that you can get the excitement at the starting line, and then other people can do the execution of the systems you’ve established and the vision you’ve created. So it’s actually a beautiful way you’ve worked through it.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:24:43] Oh, thank you. You know, it’s so funny, when you say it like that I think, “Well, of course, isn’t that how everyone does it?” And the answer is I guess clearly, “No, it’s not.” Because I think, “Well, isn’t executing the same thing hundreds of times kind of dull?” But, no, some people are into that.

Lisa Cummings: [00:24:59] A-ha. Okay. So, here’s the last topic we’ll bring up only because we’re running out of time because, geez, this would be so much fun to keep going and going and going. So that comment you just made made me think of the Talent Theme of Consistency, doing the same thing hundreds and hundreds of times. Well, it is Pete’s number 33 talent, so we call that a lesser talent, or maybe somebody else’s talent. Meaning somebody else, right? Yes, somebody else might get really excited about doing something the same way consistently over and over every day. But if Pete had to do that every day, what would work feel like for you?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:25:37] Oh, it would just be so dull. It’s like I would want sort of some spark of newness to make it come together.

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:48] This is a great way to end the show because living in your strengths makes you a stronger performer. Living in your strengths brings you energy and enjoyment about your job. If you’re pulling on your lesser talents, or someone else’s talents, all day every day, you feel drained, you feel burned out, and so many people feel like that and wonder, “You know, gosh, it’s not so hard and people are nice. So why do I feel like this?” And that’s often why, it’s because they’re calling on their weaknesses all day every day but they just don’t quite realize why.

So, thanks, in an unexpected way, for illustrating that point because that is so powerful for people to have that insight.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:26:25] Oh, thank you. It’s been a blast.

Lisa Cummings: [00:26:27] It has been a blast. I’m so excited to have you here to do this. I wish we could triple down on it. Let’s get listeners over to you because you have so many great shows to help people be awesome at their jobs. So, where should they go to dig into your content, your training, your podcasts?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:26:42] Oh, sure thing. Thank you. Well, I’d say if you’re already, well, you are a podcast listener, fire up your app and whatever you’re doing and search Awesome Job. That should be enough to pop up the show How To Be Awesome At Your Job. Lisa herself is a guest on an episode. You might check that out to get another flavor for her. Or just my website AwesomeAtYourJob.com.

And it’s been fun. I’ve had about 130, wow, conversations with tremendous folks and every one of them is about trying to sharpen the universal skills required to flourish at work. So, whether you’re an executive, or a manager, or an individual contributor in marketing, or finance, or anything, it should be applicable because that’s kind of the primary screen we’re using.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:26] I second that. It is a fantastic show. I met Pete last year, and ever since leaving our meet-up in Chicago, I just have been an avid listener, and it’s just full of great guests and great tips. If you want to go back and listen through the lens of the StrengthsFinder Talents it’ll be really fun to do that. Also, for listeners, if you want some Strengths focus tools to use with your team at work, also check out LeadThroughStrengths/resources and you’ll get a bunch of great free info there.

As we close episode, remember using your strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. If you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses you’re probably choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents and share them with the world.

 

Direct download: 037-pete-mockaitis.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa speaks with Alexsys (Lexy) Thompson. They discuss lots of ideas about how to apply strengths to both conflict on your team and gratitude on your team. If you interact with others in your daily life, then this is the episode for you!

Lexy’s Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:  Strategic, Connectedness, Futuristic, Intellection, Command, Input, Activator, Ideation, Self-Assurance, Relator

Lisa’s Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo, Futuristic, Focus, Learner, Communication, Significance

Resource of the Episode

You can reach Lexy through the Trybal Performance website. You can also connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

A great way to improve your communication skills is to take Lexy's communications course, Conversation Mechanics: How To Talk About It (Strengths-Based Communication)

Lexy's website has cool resources, including Gratitude Coupons, 34 Strengths Appreciation E-Cards, and more!

Books that are mentioned during this podcast:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz and Janet Mills

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths

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.

 
Here's a Full Transcript of the 30 Minute Interview

Lisa Cummings: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and I've gotta tell ya, whether you're leading a team or leading yourself, it's hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work. Today, in this episode, we are going to talk about how strengths apply to conflict at work, and how you can apply strengths to gratitude on your team, and why that's important.

Your guest today is the founder of a company, Tribal Performance. I left last week, doing several events in New York City, and at those events a bunch of participants said they wished they had more Self-Assurance and more Command, so those are two specific talent themes people were wanting for. Your guest has both of those in her top 10 talents.

Even though I always tell participants, "spend your energy working with what you've got instead of worrying about what other people have - you can always get your outcomes through the talents you have," I figure you would still find it very fascinating to know that your guest has both of those talents. Shhhh. Even though she has them she's still totally terrified of snakes. As a gardener, this can be a scary thing, so even if you lead through Command and Self-Assurance, it doesn't make you bulletproof.

Besides being super unique, and out there with these unique talents, she's also top notch in strengths-based development. She focuses on delivering StrengthsFinder coaching, performance coaching, and training like I do. She's also planning an epic Airstream RV adventure and has some really awesome communication course content that will dribble into our conversation today. All kinds of great stuff.

With that, Lexy Thompson, welcome to the show.

Lexy Thompson: Thanks Lisa. Happy to be here.

Lisa Cummings: Let's dive right in. I mentioned conflict, and this is one of those items that is tough for teams to master. I'd be curious what your number one thing is that you think creates unproductive conflict in the workplace.

Lexy Thompson: Number one I would say is the avoidance of it, the fear of it, the almost aversion to it. Once we can get past that, we can figure out how to actually lean into it. The funny part about this is at the executive level this seems to be the one competency that sets everybody apart. The best of the best at the senior levels are able to manage this day in and day out with some grace and kindness and high level of accountability.

You and I do our work at that mid-level management often times, and that's often a really good space for them to start trying to get comfortable with what's uncomfortable for them.

Lisa Cummings: I think that's really smart because a lot of people listening are people managers and they want to be in executive roles and I could absolutely agree that that does seem to be a distinguishing factor, someone able to go in and really work in those situations confidently. There are also a lot of listeners who are individual contributors trying to be promoted into manager roles and that is about the number one complaint when I am working with people managers, and they say people have these conflicts on the team and they come into their office like tattle tales saying, "Oh, I'm having this issue with so-and-so ..." and are not addressing it head-on.

If you want to be viewed as a high performer, as self-sufficient, as having high emotional intelligence, you start learning your ways of addressing that head-on in a mutually respectful way, in a way that builds trust, you're going to be looked upon as a great candidate, or at least that area of you will make you a much more viable candidate for a leadership position in general.

What is the why that finally makes people see that this is important?

Lexy Thompson: The self-awareness piece, the strengths journey for somebody, is really eye opening. Inside of that awareness, as much as they're willing to really enter in and do some work, the confidence just builds because you start to ... The wiring's there, you just haven't run down the road long enough to pave it. Once you've got that paved, your ability to run down and come back, you can do it within nanoseconds where it might have taken you minutes before. The more you do that the more confident you become, the stronger runner that you are and then you're willing to enter most races and give it a spin.

Conflict really isn't much different than that; it's just knowing that you can take what you've learned here and see how you can apply it in a new situation.

Lisa Cummings: If you're a manager, how do you know whether your team is functional or not? Let's start with how it looks. If you walk in a room and you see a functional team contrasted with a meeting with a dysfunctional team, what are the differences in how they appear?

Lexy Thompson: There are actual body language cues. There are, like the way people sit, the way people walk in a room, the eye contact that you'll see in the meeting. Whenever I see teams talking to a person in the room but they're looking somewhere else, that tells me there's an avoidance of some type going on, whether it's conflict or self-confidence or whatever, there's something that isn't working amongst at least that two-person group, much less the whole group.

Sometimes you walk in a meeting and you feel high-energy and you feel productivity and in other meetings, you'll walk in and you'll feel flat and kind of dull, and that's another cue too.

Lisa Cummings: What do you do next? Say you're a manager, you've walked into a team, you're new to the company, you get the vibe of the 'something is wrong here' and you have to figure out how to put your finger on it. What are the steps that you take to start to unravel it and understand what the root of it is?

Lexy Thompson: Firstly you check yourself. We all, every single one of us, bring our baggage with us when we go anywhere. What I found helpful when I was learning to be really proficient here was to see what was the story I brought into the scenario I was experiencing called conflict, or avoidance of conflict. Once I could check that, I could either say, "Okay, it is something that's outside of me that I'm going to need to engage with," or "It's a filter and a judgment that I just ran and I called it conflict but it really isn't, there's no data on the other side of this table or this room to help me validate that and I can check myself before I start diving in with someone else." That's the first part.

That's the hardest part sometimes because it's called fatal attribution when we think that our faults are about the other person or environment but if it's someone else's faults, it's their character, so we really have to do that homework first.

Lisa Cummings: I love that, when it's simplified down to the idea that you judge yourself by your intentions and you judge somebody else by their actions. It's easy to see the actions and say, "Oh, that's a character flaw," because you don't know the thing that's going in behind the scenes in the mind. I also think it's tough to know what you're assuming because you only know what's in your own head. How do you take people through that process? You've been checking yourself, how do you check in on assumptions and what's going on and probe into what's happening in a way that maintains the trust?

Lexy Thompson: Probably the next step would be really owning your part of that, and making sure that you use language that shows the other person that you own your part of that. If you and I are in a room and I'm concerned about something in relationship to you, I would say it just like that, "Lisa, this is my story. This is what I'm experiencing. I'm not sure if I'm checking myself or do you feel something, a different version of this or any version of this where you are?" At that point the conversation will evolve and it will go where it needs to go and there may be avoidance on your part, maybe you don't see it or you're not ready. There's going to be a dialog there but at least when I open up and say, "I have something going on over here and I'd really like your help to discover what that is."

You have to make sure your intention and your authenticity is just that because what I'll see new people when they're learning this do, is they'll use the language, but they really are just waiting to tell you what's wrong with you. That doesn't build trust because people sniff that out, right?

Lisa Cummings: That's funny because the surface reaction is always to go back to the Stephen Covey concept of seek first to understand, and then to be understood and to actually genuinely do that. There's a little deeper level around subtext. That concept about you saying people can sniff that out, I think that's surprising to a lot of managers and I know it's surprising to a lot of people, I see it in my workshop. This just happened last week where someone when I asked them about when you're getting triggered and when you're at your worst, what does that look like? This woman said, "Well, I get really quiet and I kind of shut down, so maybe people would realize I'm not talking as much but I don't think they would know anything is wrong."

Several teammates started laughing, and a guy said, "No, no, no you have this eyebrow thing," and he was just being really specific about, "I know exactly when something is wrong." She was totally surprised by all of this. I think people fool themselves into thinking that they can have a poker face, even the people who will beat their chests and say, "I don't bring my feelings into the workplace, it's just about the facts, ma'am." They're still going to show it.

This kind of reminds me of your whole concept of a safe place for souls to show up and that you really can't hide how your soul needs to show up because it's there and no matter what words come out of your mouth, people will be able to tell if it's incongruent, or if it doesn't really sound like you feel like you, act like you, at your core. They'll know something's off, even if they can't name it. How do you go through that process to really even understand how you're showing up to you and to other people?

Lexy Thompson: Yeah, so this is kind of where that beautiful 360 that everybody enjoys doing comes in. You actually do need mirrors in your life, whether it's a good friend who you trust with everything or it's a work mate that you've just met, really seeking feedback in a space where you're willing to take it in and then do something with it, process it, and that doesn't mean that everybody's feedback is equal and it doesn't mean everybody's feedback you have to wear like a shawl.

Inside all of it there's some level of truth, because if you're resonating with one person like that, the odds are that there are more. The biggest ... The funny part, or the odd part of this is most people will say to me, "This happened today in a team meeting." They're learning each other's strengths. One person said something they needed around a belief that they have, and then another person said, "Yeah, now that I know you need that I know you need that ..." and she's like, "Well, are you going to give it to me?" She goes, "Well, I don't know. Why should I have to change how I approach it to meet your need?" There it was, right?

There's that concern about having to change who I am, in order to be with you the way you need me to be. That's a really interesting paradigm for someone to venture into, and really have their own internal conversation around, "How can I hold my own authenticity, and still meet the need of someone else in a conversation so that they can hear what I'm saying, I can hear what they're saying, and we can receive each other as we need to in that space?"

I have not experienced it. I won't say it never exists because just because I haven't experienced doesn't make it so. I have not experienced in the many, many negotiations and conflict mediations I've done, where someone couldn't show up in an authentic way, and meets someone's need and lost in that scenario. It doesn't mean it wasn't scary, it doesn't mean that it didn't take a lot of guts in some situations, but I've never, ever seen anyone lose.

Lisa Cummings: Talk about authenticity at work, and what you see most often people being afraid to show.

Lexy Thompson: Most people are not willing to show what they need. When we talk about strengths, going back to that topic, that whole precedence is that we have a needs and contribution piece to strengths. That conversation, when we have that and people are discovering and I'm sure, Lisa, you've had the same fun, amazing transformative times with your clients. When they're able to actually look across the table and do it in a really safe way. My Responsibility needs these things so that I can contribute in this way. When people can communicate that cleanly to each other, people are actually willing to meet the needs so the contribution can be realized. I think it gives them a way to access that that didn't exist before.

Lisa Cummings: If one of the biggest obstacles in the way of people not showing up authentically, and they need to be able to express their needs, is one of the solutions for it, how do they really get to know their needs in the workplace?

Lexy Thompson: You're right, strengths is one, and it's a really nice, clean way to at least start to explore the possibilities. There are lots of other good assessments, I think, out there. They're as good as we want them to be and master them to be. The journey that I took to get myself there was really, and this is going to sound interesting I think, but it took me six years to get to the place where that was really true for me, and it started with a class we took as a company, and we were supposed to write a paragraph about our mission statement in the world, our purpose kind of thing.

Over time, I took another class and boiled it down to two sentences and then I got it down and down and down to the place where I can tell you that it's safe places for souls to show up. Every time that I choose to do anything in the world, personal or professional, if it can't meet that need, I don't do it. When I got that clear about my life, I was willing to show up and when you're willing to show up then you've got to take risks, right? You're not always going to be received in the way that you might like to, and certainly you won't be liked by everybody.

That also, I would tell you, would also help people with that Self-confidence piece because it goes through that filter of your main purpose on this planet and everything else just falls to the wayside.

Lisa Cummings: This is a great. I think a great pivot point to move into gratefulness as well, because we said we would talk about conflict and gratefulness at work. Some people I see receive this concept really open armed and I've worked with some companies that this has become just baked into their culture, and it's how they operate and they don't even have to think about it consciously. Other people have a reaction about, "Really? At work? This doesn't even sound like something that belongs in the office." Talk about that. Why gratitude?

Lexy Thompson: I wish I could remember whose quote it was but I think you'll know it when I refer to it, but there's that thing that someone who's appreciated will fight the last battle with you and that their performance is better and their health is better and all of those good things. There's a lot of science around it. I do a keynote about Tribal Gratitude. I do think there's the personal gratitude. Every morning I'm up in my journal, and I do my stuff there and then at the end of the day I wrap up my day in gratitude, every day for many years.

Then there was the, "Then what?" Beyond me, what do I do with that? We've been out exploring some of those things and reading some of the best stuff out there. The reality is when you start to extend it across to another human being, the emotional release in a really positive way is overwhelming. I think that might be the hesitation in the workplace, because for so long we didn't want to think feelings had a place. Even now, I'll hear hiring managers be like, "Oh, that's a feeling group. They cry at everything," or "They're upset at everything." The reality is we don't do much without an emotional jaunt to make us move one way or the other.

If you can be in a space where you're expressing gratitude in an appropriate way in your work environment on a pretty regular basis but very sincere and very specific, that's the other part, then that person, those behaviors that that person is sharing with you, are getting anchored over and over again so you're getting more of that good stuff and by default you'll get less of the stuff you don't desire. It also makes it, you know there's that old adage, "You need money in the bank to make a withdrawal."

Lisa Cummings: Yeah.

Lexy Thompson: We're really clear about that too that there's going to be times where it isn't going to be all happy and it isn't going to be easy. If you've done this other really good work on the front side it doesn't have to be really, really hard either.

Lisa Cummings: You're making me think back to a meeting when we were together a couple of months ago, and you suggested that we start off the meeting like that. I thought it was a really cool way that supports your point about understanding other people's needs, as well, and then getting more of, I call it, "Notice what works to get more of what works," because if you're noticing what's working about someone's contributions and then they see, "Oh, someone appreciated that. It's easy to deliver more of that,” because it's repeatable and then I noticed in the meeting where you asked us to kick off that way that the thing that resonated with each person was really different.

The thing that the person decided to comment on, they were all over the map and it told me about each person. It told me about what they value. It told me about what they want the meetings to be about. It told me a lot of information that without that conversation I wouldn't have understood their needs and their contributions in the same way. I can only imagine if you do that a daily practice as a team, you get some really deep insights into how the other people in the room are at their performance best.

Lexy Thompson: Yeah. It's pretty powerful and at Trybal we're virtual so we meet via the web, but at the end of every meeting we have Sunshine Shout-Outs where we, you know, they're not forced, not everybody has to say anything, it's just if it's showing up for you, we ask each other to share those things. We actually have gratitude coupons that are electronic that we give, they're free, and we just say, "Spread it." There's that, I don't know, it's some meme or something floating around saying that they're, you know, gratitude is one of those currencies you just never go bankrupt with, so why not?

Lisa Cummings: Oh, for sure. Yeah.

Lexy Thompson: Yeah.

Lisa Cummings: If you're talking to a team and whether it's an individual contributor or a manager, and they just want to start doing some of this at work and get a movement going, what are some of the practical tools and habits and things you can do? Give me some examples.

Lexy Thompson: There's actually just saying so, right? It doesn't even have to be a big to-do, it could just be at the end of a team meeting. You could just say, "Hey Lisa, I really appreciate that you had my back on that project, and if you hadn't been there it wouldn't have come out anywhere near as good as it, and thank you for that." Then you know, you know what your behavior was and you'll do more of that most likely next time. Too, you can be really formal. You can put pictures or memes or whatever into e-mails and just shoot them whenever someone's knocked it out of the park for whatever reason.

It doesn't have to be big stuff. I got a gratitude coupon once, and this is one of my favorite ones, and it was just a, "Hey thanks for saying 'hi' to me this morning. I needed that." We forget about those little things, about eye contact because we all have our heads down in or our phone or we're walking from here to there. In that vacuum people are just missing that human connection at some time or another. It helps us keep that stuff present.

Lisa Cummings: I agree. It doesn't have to be big and formal. I like that you leave people with a concept that no one has to ordain this. It doesn't have to be a company movement. It can be as simple as you deciding that when you walk by another human at work you're going to make eye contact and make them feel seen, and that can be a form of it. Just taking the time to give credit.

I had a leadership session recently where they were having some issues in the organization where employees were saying their managers were taking credit for the work they did. If you talked to the people managers, they have no idea that this is how that could even be perceived because they weren't intending to do that. People weren't feeling seen or appreciated, or that the credit was getting spread around, so essentially determined that they were all kind of being credit hoarders and takers instead of givers.

Once they started shifting that and saying, "Hey, the more generous I am with thanking people, and sharing that, "Oh, they made our team look really successful. They made our team act successful, and so we're going to give as much credit as possible." That it just spins up into more desire to be productive and more desire to do it, not just to say it but also to do more of it.

Lexy Thompson: Yeah, it does translate it into action. One of the most interesting phenomenons of it is the actual receiving of the gratitude. Most of us are willing and able to extend it. We may not have a practice of it and we may not be consistent, however when it's given back to us, sometimes it feels really awkward. There's also a learning about Self-awareness and even it could be a strengths conversation with yourself or your coach about what is that. What's going on with you when someone says, "Hey, thanks for a great job," and you feel awkward. Whatever that awkward looks like for you.

Lisa Cummings: I think this is a really important topic because it is a gift that you can receive and if you make someone feel like it's less than, "Oh, no, no, no, it's not a big deal. Oh, no, no, no ..." and you're dismissive of the gratitude, it could actually be like you're turning it down.

Lexy Thompson: Uh-huh.

Lisa Cummings: What does a gracious receiver do?

Lexy Thompson: They just smile and say, "Thank you." It's that simple. It's that simple, and it's that hard sometimes. I've had it happen to me. I'll do a keynote and I'm just as nervous every time I do it, and I could have done it a hundred times and someone will come up and say, "Thank you," and if it's more than that and they're trying to expand on that, I feel uncomfortable. I just stand there and I continue to say, "I really appreciate that." I actually let it into my heart. That's part of it, that I've gotten very deliberate with around heartful and mindful practice around receiving, and not just giving.

Lisa Cummings: I know you've been talking a lot lately, because I know you, about letting love in and you take a set of talents like Command or Self-assurance or Intellection or some of the talents in your line-up that people might stereotype as to saying your tendencies could be to not lead with a big loving heart. I don't know your full journey. I just know where you are today and really focusing on that. For somebody who is feeling more like, "Hey, I lead with the logic side and it's all just about the facts for me, and I just try to keep emotions out of work." Why would someone consider leading with a big old heart the way that you were just describing?

Lexy Thompson: Yeah. Thank you for that question. What comes up for me when you ask that question is my grandfather. He was a pretty savvy entrepreneur in a small town in Vermont, where I grew up, and when he was passing away, his cold, old hands were holding mine and I will never, ever forget this, and he said to me, "I won't ever wish I worked an extra day. I will have wished I loved a lot better." That stuck with me. I was young and I didn't really know what that meant at the time and I will tell you I'm just now starting to be able to manifest it in a way that I feel like I'm honoring that.

I will also tell you I work with a lot of people that come out of really bad places in their life, whether it's the death of a loved one, or their near death, or some tragedy. They don't wish that they could do more of the non-emotional work, it is always the relational work. When I look at my lineup of strengths I have Connectedness and Relator in my top ten. They're my only blue lines to humanity because I can spend days and weeks alone, and be quite content but at the end of all of that what matters is the impact that I left and that impact isn't on the bottom line, it's with people.

Lisa Cummings: Without them in your life what would your impact be on? It would just be on a thing.

Lexy Thompson: I think we're in interesting times, being where technology is leading us and there are so many exciting things to explore with technology. This podcast would be a good example of that, right? This conversation wouldn't have existed.

Lisa Cummings: What a great point. It would have only been able to be in a big network environment in a niche like people who are interested in strengths development. I don't think that's going to make it to primetime 20 years ago.

Lexy Thompson: Yeah, I agree. Yeah. It's exciting because I think that we also have an opportunity to find the things we need, when we need them, rather than just when they show up.

Lisa Cummings: Speaking of things that you need, when you need it, we can make some resources show up for people right now. We've referenced a couple of books and resources. We've mentioned Stephen Covey and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I have a feeling that you do a lot of reading and gathering and researching. I also know you have a class on communications that is darn good. I've flipped through a lot of your content. Maybe since you're going to officially move from Houston, Texas, to Austin, Texas, I can just sit myself down into one. Anyway, tell people about some of your very favorite resources on this concept of communication, on conflict, on gratitude, and be sure to share your course inside of that.

Lexy Thompson: Around the communications piece, difficult conversations, crucial conversations, and non-violent communication are my favorites. They're easy to get to. They're usually on the top reader lists. I think they're all on Audible as well, which is my preferred mode right now. Around conflict, interestingly enough, it's not a conflict direct book but it's The Speed of Trust, also a Covey book, that I think answers a lot of the 'why' around 'why bother' and the value of building trust and the void that's there in conflict that is not trust, and how to bridge that gap.

Another favorite of mine, a real simple read that made a huge impact when I was going through kind of my mission for my own life, was The Four Agreements. It's a very simple thing and yet so very hard to keep top of mind and in action, but it made a difference. Those would be some recommendations I have.

Lisa Cummings: Great ones. Thank you.

Lexy Thompson: Yeah, you're welcome. The one we've developed that's on our website, we'll have a link here, it's a communications course and it has some of the best of the ones I mentioned kind of woven in there. The thing that I think sets it apart, is that it has the assessment StrengthsFinders on the front so as you're moving through the model of communication, you actually bring yourself and all your glorious baggage with you. When you come out of the course, you are quite clear, or at least beginning to be clear, where some of your weak points are going to be, and then how to make corrective action when you need to.

Lisa Cummings: I love it. I can't way to attend. It has been really cool exploring all of our glorious baggage - yours, mine, the listeners' thinking of their own. We'll make sure that we link up to all the resources that Lexy just mentioned, so that you can get your hands on those books and I'm with you, The Four Agreements, you don't even have to go to Audible because it's just teeny, it's a teeny little thing.

Lexy Thompson: Yeah, it is.

Lisa Cummings: There you go. It's like a back pocket size.

Lexy Thompson: It is.

Lisa Cummings: We'll get them all the links to that and to your course. I want to thank you, everyone, for listening again to Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your strengths at work makes you a stronger performer at work.

Direct download: 036-Lexy-Thompson.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa speaks with Adam Seaman. They chat about the difference between strengths and talents, as well as practical applications for your top strengths. This interview is a great introduction to what you can do with Clifton StrengthsFinder.

Adam’s Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:  Strategic, Individualization, Ideation, Intellection, Input, Adaptability, Command, Activator, Empathy, Futuristic

Lisa’s Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo, Futuristic, Focus, Learner, Communication, Significance

Resource of the Episode

You can reach Adam through the Talent2Strength website. He also posts helpful thought leadership on Twitter. You'll definitely see his Intellection in action.

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths

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.

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Here's a Full Transcript of the 30 Minute Interview

Lisa Cummings: This episode is about stepping back and understanding: what the tool of StrengthsFinder is, and what is it like for a team. Let's start with your opinion on why it is so awesome.

Adam Seaman: Great. My goal is to get other people as excited about it as I am. I don't always reach that goal of course, but it's the striving for it, and sometimes I succeed, and I call it "green lit" when I get somebody as excited about it as I am. StrengthsFinder stands out to me; one of the reasons is that it really gives that language that people can describe themselves with. I hear this all the time. It's like, "oh I always knew I had that quality, but I didn't know there was a name for it." Then they'll say, "and I didn't know other people had it or didn't have it, I just assumed everybody was like me." Those are some of the reasons why I really like this tool. The other is that it really dials into the individual, so instead of it being "I'm one of four colors", or "I'm one of 16 letter combinations", you have one in 278,000 chance of somebody having the same top five themes as you have. Those are just some of the reasons I really, really like this tool.

Lisa Cummings: That's so crazy. Any time I cite that number or the chances that someone else will have the same top five talent themes in the same order as you is 1 in 33 million. That just blows people's minds, and they think, "Okay, so this isn't going to be a training where you come into my team and talk to people about the four boxes you can put them in." It makes people so receptive to StrengthsFinder compared to other tools.

Adam Seaman: Yeah, I think it really makes them go, "Alright, this is serious, serious, stuff here. It really does dial into the individual." But then, it does create a little bit of a barrier because there are 34 themes that it measures you on, and learning all 34 is more daunting than learning four colors or something like that. That's definitely one of the challenges for people - to really access this tool deeply. But once you do...and this gets into another thing I really love about this...is most assessments you read it and you're like, "Alright, I guess that's accurate, I guess that describes me, and then what do I do with it?" You file it away because you don't want to throw it away, but what do you do with it? So you just file it away, and that's the real shame that I try to correct with StrengthsFinder.

Lisa Cummings: [laughing] You give them strength shamings.

Adam Seaman: [playing along] I do. I just shame them. If I'm in a grocery store and somebody is like, "Hey, I just took the StrengthsFinder" you know, as people do when they're in the grocery store.

Lisa Cummings: [jokingly] Definitely. When you're picking out butter. That's when I do it.

Adam Seaman: Yes, it's in the butter aisle.

Lisa Cummings: So to get back to serious stuff for a second, you said something about a personality assessment kind of notion, and so for people less familiar with StrengthsFinder, they often assume this is a personality assessment. I know that you view it in a different way, that you look at StrengthsFinder as so much more than that, as do I. So tell us about how you get people beyond that basic view of it.

Adam Seaman: For me what this captures is this idea that we all live in our own self-world. Lisa, right now you're in your office in Austin, Texas, your side of the world. You have your experiences going on, the things that are happening inside of you. Then I'm over here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have my own concerns or issues or things I'm thinking of. So we're kind of in our own self-world. That's actually the term for this, it's a German word, and a German biologist came up with this word. It's called umwelt, which is kind of a cool word.

Lisa Cummings: Umwelt.

Adam Seaman: It's U-M-W-E-L-T. So it kind of roughly translates to this idea of self-world. For me what I love about StrengthsFinder is it helps describe what's happening in your own self-world. In my head, and in your head, we both share the Strategic Talent Theme, so we're always playing through if-then scenarios. We do it so fast, that we don't even know we're doing it. What would be really interesting if this were possible, is if somebody else who didn't have Strategic very high at all were to somehow transplant into our heads, kind of like a Freaky Friday kind of thing, then they were to have to get into our heads, or just take your head with Strategic and Maximizer. They're going to have this flurry of thoughts coming at them at such a high rate of speed; it's just going to be overwhelming for them. It's cool to realize that within each person, there's a whole lot more going on than what we ever could tell, or even just ask them about. It's like if I know your top five themes, and I know your number three is Positivity, which it is, I know that your knee-jerk reaction is going to be to look for the upside of things. It's what shows up when you show up.

Lisa Cummings: That's so true. I love the Freaky Friday thought where if you as a teammate...if you said, "Alright I'm going to do this at work, and I'm going to try to get into Freaky Friday mode as much as I can, where I'm imagining what is it like in that person's head and how can I relate to the world the way that they are so that I can understand what would be relevant for them, or what they care about, or how they make decisions, or how they think about the world."

So it's kind of cool as you were talking about the power StrengthsFinder brings, I was thinking man you could almost turn that into an application exercise where you're trying to do it as if you had Adam's invention. Now that you're telling us this with Futuristic number 10 and Ideation number 3, why don't we get you to share with the listeners what your top 10 talents are, or at least the ones that you resonate with most. Then they can get a feel for, if they're new to StrengthsFinder, what these words even sound like...and how do people resonate with them before they even know the definitions.

Adam Seaman: Before I do that, I just wanted to riff on a point that you made. I'm using musical terms, because I know you're a musician, and I have like two musical brain cells and they don't even talk to each other, so I'm not a musician but I speak your language because I have Individualization number two, just as you have.

Lisa Cummings: So you can riff with me; I like it.

Adam Seaman: Before moving onto that, I just wanted to delve a little deeper into this idea of knowing what's going on inside of somebody, that umwelt or that Freaky Friday thing is. I don't have Achiever very high at all; it's way, way down in the 20's or 30's even. So when I'm around somebody that has Achiever, I now am able to do something I wasn't able to do before StrengthsFinder. I am able to say, “Hey, I think I might be a speed bump in the middle of your day, trying to get things done, so you just feel free to tell me if you need to move on.”

I'm this ideas guy (Ideation), I like to talk and brainstorm and be philosophical. People with Achiever, unless it's balanced with some other themes... they don't really have time for that, and it's that awkward moment that I just now know to be able to say, "Hey, if this isn't of interest to you, I'm not going to try to slow you down,” because I know inside of their head is this need to get things done, to rack up points by crossing things off their to do list, and I don't take offense to that and I'm trying to tailor myself to their need. It amplifies that point you were making about when you work with people and you understand not only your themes, but you understand their themes, then you're able to really get the relationship to be optimized better.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, I totally agree and I think it's one of the most useful things. When you have that person at work who frustrates you, it's that moment where you can go, "Alright, I know their talents now. Their talent themes are this, this, this, and what are they likely thinking about right now?" You're making up a hypothesis but by knowing the talent themes and by knowing the definitions you can really start to make some good guesses about what they care about and how they process the world, and then instead of seeing them as annoying teammate, they can become the, "Well that person's bringing a perspective that is actually really useful to the team, and although it's not my favorite place to spend my head, and it would be painful for me to live there, that's where they live." I think it helps people. Sometimes it's just tolerating each other when they didn't before. Sometimes it's appreciating and partnering way more than they ever thought they would or could do. Then when you get really deep, you start to get an eye for what's working in the world. I always call it, notice what works to get more of what works, and you start to see, "Oh yeah, that must be what it's like for them, that really works in this situation." Then you can leverage it more and actually get more productivity out of it for the team.

Adam Seaman: All of that is great. If you get an appliance and it comes with a user's manual, and it describes here's how you use this appliance, and here's what you don't do with this appliance, and here's how you get the most life out of it. We as individuals have user's manuals, except they're not written. We have to work with somebody or marry them or live with them for years to just even get a glimpse of this is how their user's manual works. But if I know someone's top five StrengthsFinder themes, I'm going to have a really good sense of what's in that instruction manual. The idea is, understand your user's manual and understand the people around you's user's manual, and you can find ways to best work together.

Lisa Cummings: I love that you raise the idea that these are patterns of thoughts and behaviors and feelings that come naturally to us. Sometimes they're going to serve us, and sometimes they're not. I know my Maximizer gets me in trouble all the time, and when I over commit and I start to see my calendar get so overloaded, I realize there is a drive in me, and I feel that it comes from my Maximizer talent, because it wants to keep making everything better, so there's always something else I'm adding to the list or trying to tweak or trying to create this new thing or develop a new product or whatever it is, it's unending. Once you can name it and say, hey that's the one that's talking, you can narrow it down and strategize more easily than when you feel spazzy and out of control.

Adam Seaman: There's so much to talk about here, this is where I geek out on this stuff. I want to make sure at some point we talk about why your top five themes or why your StrengthsFinder results are not actually your strengths. You definitely touched on it there with what you just said, so I want to circle back. I'm also mindful that you asked me a question that I haven't answered yet, which are what are my top themes. I'm happy to skip it, but I don't want your audience to think that I was just ignoring you and I'm a rude guest.

Lisa Cummings: You're such a kind guest. What are yours?

Adam Seaman: My number one is Strategic, as you mentioned earlier. I already talked a little bit about that one. My second one is Individualization, now is that your number four? Do I have that right?

Lisa Cummings: Yup.

Adam Seaman: Okay. So Individualization is this quality of looking to tailor things to the person, so I don't like doing things en masse, and your Maximizer theme is more likes to do things in block operations and very efficient, whereas the Individualization theme is one-by-one, case-by-case, what's unique about this person. My number three is Ideation. This is a quality of always wanting to think outside the box, so sometimes in my mind ideas start flowing and I call it popcorning because when I get in this mode, when you're making popcorn that point where the kernels start popping really fast. That's kind of what it's like in my head, it's like an explosion of ideas, and I get really excited by it, things are really best for me when I can be creative and original, and I don't like doing things by the book. So that's my creativity theme there.

My number four is Intellection, and Intellection is about going deep, looking for insight. Several themes look for truth, Intellection looks for wisdom, whereas maybe Connectedness theme looks for spiritual truth. Or the Analytical theme looks for factual truth. So my Intellection is looking for wisdom and insight. Cool story about this one because when you learn your themes, you get the names of your themes and you don't quite know what they mean. When I was learning about Intellection, I read it, and it seemed like it fit, but when I went back and re-read it, something stood out to me that didn't before. What it was, was a description about how I can be in a social situation, but be checked out to the point where somebody would come up to me and say, "Adam, are you okay? Is something wrong?" I would say, "Yeah, everything's fine, and in fact more than fine." I'm in my lab, I call it, when I'm intellectualizing. I'm just thinking about something, but the thinking face doesn't really look like a happy face, so to somebody outside of my head, which is everybody, it doesn't look like I'm really having fun, but inside of my head there's a party going on. They just weren't invited. Then they might say "Hey what's wrong" and I might say "You just crashed my party. Everything was going good and now..."

Lisa Cummings: Womp womp.

Adam Seaman: Yeah, one of those.

Lisa Cummings: This is one of my favorite ones when teams are together and they talk about some of these things that their talent themes might lead them to do or think or say or look like, I love asking that question. Focus is a good one, that's my number six, where people talk about the mode they get into when they're in their Intellection mode or they're in their Focus mode, then I ask people, "What does that look like on you? How will your teammates know?" Just hearing the story you said, is exactly what it sounds like in the trainings, where people go "Oh, that's what he's doing. Now I get it, and now I know when he made the crash-your-party-face, that's what that means" and it's so insightful to know that about people that you actually need to be productive with every day. It's like having magic secrets to the universe.

 Adam Seaman: Right, it's kind of like that self-world concept I was talking about. To somebody looking at me it might look like, Adam's not having fun, maybe somebody has Includer, and they want to make sure that I feel part of the group. To them I don't look very engaged, but what they can't see is that I'm at my most engaged when I'm in that space. Now if somebody knows I have Intellection, they won't be as off-put by it or as concerned about it. I know time's ticking here, so I'll go onto my number five which is Input, and this was the hardest one for me to understand. We use the word Input like let me have my Input or let me give my Input, as something you put out into the world. This is one of the reasons why you really have to understand Gallup's standard definitions for the themes, because sometimes the label doesn't fully describe what the word is about. In fact, most of the time they don't. They don't give you enough context just looking at the word, you really have to understand the description. What Input is, is it's not about what I put out into the world and give my Input, it's what I Input into myself, it's what I collect.

One of the things I learned that was very useful from the master StrengthsFinder coach, Curt Liesveld, is he said, "What you collect are things you deem to be useful or that have utility." It was really cool because what I collect, and it varies person to person. I collect quotes and I collect theories and models and tools and concepts; I love that stuff. I've developed a really good sense for what's a useful quote or what's not, or what's a useful model or concept and what's not. I've learned how to use my Input theme a lot better, because I understand it a lot more. There's a lot more to say about each one of these themes, but those are my top five. That's all I stayed with for the longest time, but I'm starting to really appreciate the value of looking into your top 10, your number 6-10 themes, because it's kind of like a basketball team and your main players fall out, they're either injured or they're not the right player for the situation. You can go to your bench and bring in a specialist when you need it. You can start to see traces of someone's themes and how they communicate and that's when you really start to feel like you're getting to know this tool so well is when you can hear vespers of the different themes.

So Command is my number seven, Activate is my number eight, Empathy is my number nine, Futuristic is my number ten, and we just hit 30 minutes in six seconds.

Lisa Cummings: Look at that, you are so precise. I'm still standing back thinking, I've never heard the word vespers, it sounds like a funny pronunciation of a Vespa scooter, and that's a clue of Intellection right there, or my lack of. Let's end this show with your view on talent and strengths.

Adam Seaman: So good. Here's the big secret about StrengthsFinder, or one of them, because there are several secrets.

Lisa Cummings: [dramatically] Ooooh.

Adam Seaman: Did you just say "Ooh"?

Lisa Cummings: Yeah. The more you listen, the more you learn.

Adam Seaman: [laughing] That's great. When you take the StrengthsFinder, one of the most powerful insights is to realize that your top five, these 34 themes of talent that StrengthsFinder measures, are not strengths. It gets into the definition of a strength, and the definition of a talent. A strength is an activity in which you have consistent, near perfect performance. So you do an activity regularly with high quality. That's when you know you have a strength, and this is Gallup's definition for a strength. I'll come back to that, because we're going to break it down.

Lisa Cummings: Break it down.

Adam Seaman: [preparing to beatbox] We're going to break it down.

Lisa Cummings: I think you have some other talent themes in there. [referring to beatboxing]

Adam Seaman: Well, beatboxing would be, if I could do it consistently and near perfectly would be a strength, but it's not. It's less than a strength. So a talent, and these themes of talent, the definition for those is this: a recurring pattern of how you think, how you feel, and how you behave that “can” be productively applied. I put the can in quotes because it can be productively applied, this pattern of thinking and feeling and behaving, but it can also counter productively be applied. It's not always productive. Anybody listening could look at one of their themes and say, "Yeah that theme sometimes gets me into trouble." Sometimes it's not productive, it's counter productive.

Let's take a theme like Positivity, your number three. What could possibly not be great about Positivity? I'll just ask you Lisa, are there times where Positivity is not acting in your best interest?

Lisa Cummings: I'll tell you the most trouble I had with my Positivity talent theme was, early in my career as a manager, I realized that people started responding in a way that led me to believe that they thought I didn't think through issues, that I was giving the Pollyanna view of what we were going to do and that naively I was leading my team forward through some decision without any thinking behind it, the [rah rah voice] "Oh yay we're going to do it, let's go". I realized I needed to actually say the decision factors out loud, because maybe my excitement, maybe my energy level about a change, and I'm always thinking about messaging something and how to get people to a new future...so I see how that could all get really blurry and lead people to think that the substance is lacking behind it.

With my Strategic talent theme, I'm thinking so quickly through those things, I might need to catch people up to "Oh, okay, look here was my thought process, there were a lot of factors in the decision, I considered X Y and Z, I realize there are a couple of risks associated, and this is the decision and then back to the yay-part." Even though it doesn't really sound like that, I realized I needed to actually acknowledge either the thought process or the risks that had been considered, or the facts behind things so that people didn't assume I was trying to play team cheerleader with no substance.

Adam Seaman: Yeah, see it's that kind of insight that I think StrengthsFinder can help reveal, that you might not have ever had in any other way. You have this pattern called Positivity that allows you to take any situation and identify, almost like a reflex, whatever the situation is, your immediate reflex is to say, "Well what's the upside?" or "This is a good thing, because of this…" That pattern is going to play out, it's going to do what it's going to do, and then sometimes that pattern is going to be the perfect match for the situation. Positivity is my number 32. I know that for me, there are many occasions where I wish I had that ability to see the upside; it would have helped me persevere more. So there are times where that theme of Positivity is the perfect match for the situation.

The point is that, this is true for any of the 34 themes, that they are patterns that play out in us, they're patterns for how we think, how we feel and behave, but our situations that we're in are always changing. That pattern in one situation may be a huge benefit, but in another situation it would be the last thing you want to have happen. That's one reason why our themes of talent, our top five that we get from StrengthsFinder, they are not strengths yet. There's a lot more to say on this, but I want to pause and see if you have any thoughts on that.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, I love the way that you describe it. The part that you said that really got me there, that I thought was cool was, "Look it would be kind of sad, if you got your report and you had nowhere to go, because you've arrived. You have your strengths. Voila. You're done." But instead, if you realize, "Okay these are your talents, it's telling you about your natural patterns, there's an infinite amount of stuff to go do to nurture them, to feed them, to make them get applied in a work situation in a way that really serves you." That's the growth part that's really fun that allows them to turn into strengths so they can be productively applied.

What do you think a world would look like if everyone knew his or her talent themes?

Adam Seaman: If I'm in a place where I'm being fed, where I'm known for what I'm good at and my teammates are setting me up for success and I'm able to do as much as possible, even though you can't get it perfectly, but as much as possible I'm able to do the things I love doing, that I'm good at, that I produce good results, that when I'm doing them I feel that flow state where I don't notice time passing, that that's what a situation like that would look like.

Lisa Cummings: I love that you're talking about the food element, because when I do StrengthsFinder training, I'm always using the terms starved and fed, because I think the talent themes act different ways, they show up on you differently. If you are feeding them, and you're nurturing them and you're working on them, compared with when you're starving them out or you're squashing them down because you don't think they'd be valued in that environment, or it isn't valued in that environment, so it's not getting any attention and it's starved. I think that would be a cool way to end also, to talk about what that looks like on the job, when strengths, when someone's talent themes are consistently getting squashed or offended or not valued or not used, and how you've seen that show up.

Adam Seaman: The first thing is, you have to recognize in yourself what is your state of happiness or satisfaction? Then realize a couple things. One is something I heard called the law of two feet. The law of two feet says if you don't like something, if you're not in a good place, relocate. Walk away, go somewhere else. That's the promise that I see in StrengthsFinder, is that if people really embraced it as more than an assessment then they could really help each other find that better fit. Like as a manager, I could see that hey, this person is struggling here, what can I do to shape their job a little bit more so it plays more to what they're like. It's not like you totally have this complete makeover, but a little bit at a time, you could shift your environment so you can free yourself up from the things you hate a little bit at a time to spend more time doing those things that you really enjoy. As that happens, you increase your value.

Lisa Cummings: As a people manager, there's a lot you can do to shape and continually shape the job of people on the team by individualizing a little bit at a time. It's not to say that this is a custom job for everyone, and I can afford to make yours exactly what you'd like it to be. We know that the business world isn't like that; you have a corporate strategy, you have business objectives to meet, and inside of that there's a lot you can do to shape the rule to match the person on the team. As a person, I love that you are highly accountable with the law of two feet because it's up to you, this is your career, your life, and you get to shape it a little bit at a time until it is what you want it to be. People have a lot more leeway to do that than they often give credit for.

I love to quiz people when they push back on that, and I ask them about the job description when they got hired and say "Okay, remember back to the job description, now how many people in the room have the exact same tasks and responsibilities as when you were first hired into that role?" Even though many people have only been in that role for 18 months or some short time, they laugh and say "Oh, no, it's significantly different." There you go, proof positive. Rules shift and change all the time, so why not be actively shaping it towards the activities you enjoy, the way you want your personal brand to show up in the world and at work, and if you're consciously going after, and even sharing with your manager, "Hey, I'd love more opportunities in this area. If a project comes up, please consider me." It's making them aware, because managers aren't mind readers. They don't know that person's interested in it. So having StrengthsFinder as a language for describing an aspirational work place they'd like to live in, things they'd like to see more of, it can be hugely powerful in the way that tasks are assigned and projects are given out person to person.

Adam Seaman: [Emphatically] Truth. You want to find, what is the highest best use for the qualities that you possess.

Lisa Cummings: And if you help your teammates produce at their best, obviously you're going to meet your goals in a bigger way, your business is going to be more successful overall. Also day to day, you're around people for, if you're physically around each other, you're around them for eight hours a day or more, so wouldn't it be better if you helped people and supported them, if you knew their talents, if you did the Freaky Friday, to call back to that. Then you could support your teammates in becoming their best, and that would also help them, help the business, and help you not be around grumpy people all day at work.

Adam Seaman: That sounds like a great final note to end on. That's a drop-your-mic moment right there.

Lisa Cummings: It's a good thought for bringing it all around.

Adam Seaman: [rapping tone] So you need people to check themselves before they wreck themselves.

Lisa Cummings: Yes, back to a rap as well. That's where we're going to drop the mic. It's been such a blast rhyming with you Adam.

Adam Seaman: This flew by so fast, and it's because we're playing to our strengths. We're both talking about something we love and we're passionate about, and so I hope that as a result, some other people are getting green lit about StrengthsFinder.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, that's the ultimate call back as well. So getting green lit, I don't know what they're getting bit by, but they're getting green lit.

Adam Seaman: They're getting bit by the strengths bug.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, bit by the strengths bug. We'll link to Adam's company, Talent2Strength, so that you can look him up and see more. With that, remember, using your strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. If you're putting a lopsided focus on fixing weaknesses, you're probably choosing the path of most resistance. Instead, claim your talents and share them with the world.

Direct download: 035-adam-seaman.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

Today's episode features Marcus Sheridan, also known as The Sales Lion. Marcus is a marketing and sales guru. He's best known for his concept "They Ask, You Answer." He has definitely given us a kick in the pants when it comes to making helpful video content and making an "answers" page for our customers. As a professional speaker, he's also delving into area like: individual strengths, personal success, and true fulfillment.

He's such a likable guy, and you'll love him on his show The Balance if you dig the ideas they explore on fulfillment. If you're curious about how he's become so good at interacting with clients and prospects, listen in. This episode is especially perfect for marketing and sales people. Lisa and Marcus also get a kick out of their mutual love of the word "dang." Yes, it's a southern thang. Lisa is from Austin, Texas and Marcus is from Heathsville, Virginia, so they had a laugh about their vernacular. And don't worry, neither one will drop a "bless your heart" phrase on you when they're actually trying to tell you that your marketing or strengths based leadership efforts are terrible.

 

What You’ll Learn In This Episode

How to tap into your personal strengths. Marcus tells us that he has done this from a young age. He's accomplished this by being self-aware at all times, and by tuning into his audience's reactions (whether it be one person or a whole audience). Signs to look for: Is the person leaning forward because he is interested, or back because he's bored? Is he looking up because he's having a reflective moment (which should be your goal), or is he looking down because he's only listening and not thinking? If he is smiling at you, this is good, but if he's looking at you blankly, he may just be trying to stay awake!

 

The art of the question. Our job as communicators is to help our audience discover an insight, before we even say it. This can only occur if we ask the right questions. Listen for Marcus' mention of the mirror of life, and see how people are really reacting to you. If you present things in the correct way, your audience will feel like "it" (whatever that is), is their idea. They won't conclude that you forced them into compliance with your idea. Besides Marcus being a great listener in a human-to-human way, he's also excellent at tuning into customers. You'll see his living proof of "they ask you answer" in the way he adds value on his website and how he shows up in helpful video content.

 

Prioritization. It's important to prioritize everything in your life, based on what brings you the most energy. Using your strengths will often bring you energy. To find out what your strengths are, grab the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 and use your code in the back of the book. Peak states in life when you're (in the flow) are times when you are gaining energy, not spending it. Learn to love what you are, and know what you aren't. For example, Marcus put his family first and his business second. the helps him to know exactly what he should say NO to. You may have to walk away from opportunities, even when they are attractive, if they don't fit in with your priorities. There was a time when Marcus failed to say no to a great opportunity in San Francisco, California. It turned out to be four days of speaking all day, seeing no Silicon Valley sights, and missing his family. And, people were eating while he was speaking, instead of listening. This was an "ah ha" moment, when he decided to never let money or ambition supercede his priorities - family and self-care.

 

How To Chase Fulfillment

  • In order to feel true fulfillment, you must move toward something rather than running away from it.
  • Explore your career. It's very much like a hiking trail. You can't tell where it's going to go; you need to keep walking to see. If an idea seems seeded in you, explore it. See what it grows into, and play with it. Get in the sandbox. For example, even Marcus has given himself a  3-5 year on-ramp to play in a career transition. Keep an eye on Marcus. He's living proof of how this works as he authentically shares his exploration into the topic of life, family, and fulfillment - and how they intersect.

 

Resources of the Episode
You can reach Marcus through his website or Twitter. To listen to his amazing podcasts, click here. Lisa particularly loves The Mad Marketing show. He also does the Hubcast Podcast, One Last Tool on sales and marketing tools. And The Balance show we mentioned earlier. How does he keep up with all of this? The man is an animal (a very kind one).

Marcus' book is They Ask You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, and Today's Digital Consumer.

Books mentioned in this podcast include:

A selection of Jim Rohn's books - Leading an Inspired Life, My Philosophy For Successful Living, The Art of Exceptional Living (a cd). Jim Rohn was a huge inspiration to both Marcus and Lisa when they were first digging into personal development. In fact, Lisa used to drive around listening to Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar tapes (yeah, cassette tapes back in the day).

Edgar Schein's Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

Jim Collins' Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths
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.

 

Go Live Your Talents
Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. If you place a lopsided focused on fixing your team’s weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. Go claim your talents and share them with the world!

Direct download: 034-Marcus-Sheridan.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

Today's episode features Steven Beck, one of the top Gallup StrengthsFinder experts. In fact, he trained Lisa back in the day! This interview focuses on the concepts of peak experience, how to use your Top 5 to bring out the best in others, and great information on how to make a practical connection between your core strengths and the values that are most important to you. Listen in...you'll learn a lot today.

Steven's Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Communication, Woo, Maximizer, Strategic, Activator, Self-Assurance, Individualization, Ideation, Futuristic, Focus

Lisa's Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes (looks pretty similar, huh?):   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo, Futuristic, Focus, Learner, Communication, Significance

 

What You’ll Learn In This Episode

Learn what your peak experiences are. Steven talks about the yearning he had to really do something different, yet he wasn't sure what that was. And he didn't know where to start with a career change. After reading the book, Never Buy a Hat If Your Feet Are Cold: Taking Charge of Your Career and Your Life, by Ken Felderstein, Steven asked the author to meet for lunch so he could ask him questions. Ken asked Steven this key question: What are the peak moments you've had in your life? These moments will give you a glimpse of excellence, and should show you what you really yearn to do. Once Steven answered this question, and figured out what his peak experiences were (clues to natural talent), he knew he wanted to be a speaker. Over time, he kept pushing himself out of his comfort zone, until he became a strong speaker and trainer. This was the first step that led him to connect with the Gallup team and the Clifton StrengthsFinder tool.

Use your Top 5 to bring out the strengths in others. Steven uses himself as an example of how to use your own strengths to get projects done, while bringing out the best in others. He figured out that, for him, his Communication talent theme is really a story telling strength. His Woo strength is his ability to find common ground within a group, and his natural Maximizer talent is his ability to figure out how he can use a thing in many situations - an efficiency strength. This helps him to pull others' stories out. It also creates his unique version of Woo, which helps him shape how a group interacts with each other. Then, once the group has been strengthened, his Activator strength kicks in, and stuff gets done. You can apply the same method to your own strengths, by figuring out how one strength affects the other, thereby bringing out the strengths in others.

Make a connection between your strengths and your values. Pick the values that are most important to you, not the ones that you think are correct, or that others expect. For instance, the values most important to Steven are passion, family, health, autonomy, and emotional well-being. Once Steven understood what his core values were, he used this to guide him toward establishing Steven Beck Consulting, and still helps him determine which projects he wants to work on, and whom he wants to work with. As a reminder to always consider his values, Steven has a sheet of plexiglass over his desk, and underneath it are things that remind him of each value. One values reminder is a postcard his daughter sent him of a food trailer in Austin, TX (because he loves his daughter and Austin, even though he lives in Irvine, CA). Another values reminder is the phrase "Learn, Love, & Live Toward Strengths," which was mentioned by the late Gallup StrengthsFinder coach, Curt Liesveld. He includes other items they discuss in the audio, and each one reflects important elements from his life. During the interview, Steven mentions this quote by Curt, which sums up this idea, "You live out your strengths through the foundations of your values."

According to social scientist, Daniel Kahneman, there are 20,000 moments in every day - pay attention to particular ones, to know how you are influencing your team members. Each time you interact with a team member, ask yourself, "Was I fully present and mindful of the other person? Did I focus on that person and the value she brings?" Look back, and determine whether a particular moment engaged the person or not. Steven lists three outcomes:

  • Red: Was the person devalued, disengaged?
  • Neutral: Do I even remember what happened during the interaction?
  • Green: Was the person more engaged, and left feeling valued?

Lighten someone else's load for better teamwork and productivity. By this, we don't mean to take on that person's tasks, we mean to take away some of the emotional burden people feel toward their team members. When you listen to this interview, you'll hear a great example of how one team went from wanting to kill each other, to a place of acceptance of each other. The team learned to come from a place of fascination about each individual person, instead of from a place of frustration.

 

Resources of the Episode
You can reach Steven through his website, Steven Beck Consulting, or via LinkedIn.

Read this article on Gallup's website, about how the Peak Moment Question changed Steven's life.

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths
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.

 

StrengthsFinder Monthly Training For Managers
If you’re a people-manager and you want to sharpen your strengths based support, come join our monthly virtual training. We don’t charge for this because we want to help you keep the StrengthsFinder momentum going. Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability. Yowza! Sounds like a great reason to join. Source:  Asplund, J., & Blacksmith, N. “Strengthening Your Company’s Performance.” Gallup Business Journal.

 

Go Live Your Talents
Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. If you place a lopsided focused on fixing your team’s weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. Go claim your talents and share them with the world! 

Direct download: 033-Steven-Beck.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

Today's episode is a unique opportunity to hear from someone who has already been there, and done that - Lisa's Grandma Venetta. Lisa interviews her Grandma to get valuable insight into better ways to value your own life experiences, use your own strengths, and see the good in others. In my opinion, this is one of the best podcast interviews yet, because it includes real-life lessons that you can immediately apply to your own life.

 

What You’ll Learn In This Episode

There are five lessons you will learn in this episode, and they can be applied to both your home and work lives.

Lesson 1: Stop The Fussin' And A Fumin'

  • Show respect for everyone, regardless of their title or position.
  • Be a bridge builder between the various people at your company. Listen to what employees and managers are saying, and help bridge the gap between them.
  • Remember that relationships are important, even when you are busy. Treat people like they want to be treated. Treat people like they matter.
  • Stop taking yourself so seriously. One of our favorite companies here in Austin, Texas is Kasasa. They have some great examples in this video about humanizing the workplace. They have a good time, and it helps people get more done because they live out their values and respect each other. These are not pedestrian kumbaya games. They have a wooden spoon challenge and a hula hoop competition that I'd like to join, even though I don't work there.

Lesson 2: Your "Fastest Zipper Sewer" Skill

  • Be on the lookout for your unique skills and talents.
  • Notice what works for you and leverage the heck out of it. You'll have more moments of success and high energy. Help your team members do the same.
  • Recognize someone on your team for something. It could create that moment that they'll remember for the next 50 years, just as Grandma Venetta remembers the moment she was declared the "Fastest Zipper Sewer" in the Midwest.
  • Create fun, unique titles and awards for your team, such as "Fastest Zipper Sewer". It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. In another awesome Kasasa video, you can see how they give recognition for employees showing their badassitude and living out their other "Patch" values.

Lesson 3: Your "Cancer is Contagious" Kindness Factor

  • Grandma Venetta's family moved an uncle into their home. He had cancer, and they moved him in, even when they thought it was contagious, because that was the kind thing to do.
  • You should do anything you can for your friends and neighbors (and co-workers too).
  • Find what your "Cancer is Contagious" kindness factor is. Here are some ideas: smile first thing in the morning, even when you're tired; hold the door for others, even though it will delay you by a whole 14 seconds; volunteer to call the customer with difficult news because you are the one with the best relationship, even if it's not your job. These are moments when you can be proud of yourself.

Lesson 4: Actions, Not Words

  • Your values and expectations are all shown through your actions.
  • Remember that people are always watching you, so they will know who you are, what you value, and what you expect from others.
  • Everything you do shows them how to interact with you, and what you expect from the culture at work. Remember these things when you walk through the door in a bad mood.

Lesson 5: Feeling Lucky No Matter What

  • Grandma Venetta accidentally ran over herself with her own car, but that didn't stop her from driving. She only stopped when she was afraid of hurting others. Rather than feeling sorry for herself about the medical issues, she finds amusement in the absurdity. She quickly moved to the gratefulness for the lack of serious medical issues.
  • Even though Grandma Venetta is unable to drive now, and has to ask family to take her places, she still feels lucky to be alive, and to have family who loves her and is willing to care for her. Even though she still hates asking for help and feeling like a burden, she chooses to focus on feeling lucky for being loved.
  • Look for the good in things, even when you are stressed at work and feeling overwhelmed. Step back, get some perspective, and find some good in what you do. This will help you feel lucky and happy for what you do have.

Grandma Venetta says to live every day like it's your last. Your life is always going to have its ups and downs, but if you focus on the good parts, it makes it much easier to deal with the challenges.

Resources of the Episode

Here's a fascinating compilation of elder wisdom. It's actually one of the things that inspired Lisa to travel to St. Louis to interview her grandmother. It's called The Five Regrets Of The Dying. Of course, the lessons are different from this episode because most of the subjects knew they were dying. In the book, Bronnie Ware tells stories of caring for people in their last weeks or days on earth. Not surprisingly, one of the key lessons is, "I wish I hadn't worked so hard." My favorite is, "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."

 
That concept is in perfect alignment with what we teach in StrengthsFinder training events. It's about finding your personal yearnings and natural talents so you can build a life that feels rewarding and energizing. If you spend a lifetime taking jobs that impress other people, you might just look up in your 80's and realize that you didn't impress yourself at all.
 

 

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths

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.

 

StrengthsFinder Monthly Training For Managers

If you’re a people-manager and you want to sharpen your strengths based support, come join our monthly virtual training. We don’t charge for this because we want to help you keep the StrengthsFinder momentum going. Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability. Yowza! Sounds like a great reason to join. Source:  Asplund, J., & Blacksmith, N. “Strengthening Your Company’s Performance.” Gallup Business Journal.

 

Go Live Your Talents

Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. If you place a lopsided focused on fixing your team’s weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. Go claim your talents and share them with the world!

Read The Full Conversation

Grandma Venetta: [00:00:25] I’m Venetta Joedicke. I used to be a supervisor in garment factories; just getting old and creepy. I need to find something to do. [laughs]

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:38] So, you just heard my grandma’s voice. Is she cute or what? As you can tell, this will not be your usual Lead Through Strengths interview. So, when I do StrengthsFinder training events we often get on the topic of personal legacy. And so, I often ask people about their rocking chair moments, when they’re my grandmother’s age, what do they want to be proud of when they look back.

[00:01:03] So, I thought it would be fun to interview her and see what someone who’s really in the rocking chair phase does look back on, and what do they see as important in life and work from that perspective. So, you’ll find, as we open the conversation, just like many of us, she was attracted to promotions for the same reasons high achievers today are attracted to promotions, because she wanted more money.

[00:01:28] And one of my favorite viewpoints on this topic comes from Marcus Buckingham. He warns people to not just look at the adornments of a job, like titles and money, but to really be focused on the activities of a job, what it’s like really doing the work. So let’s fast-forward back into your insights from Grandma and what it was like being the breadwinner when that wasn’t a very common thing to see.

[00:01:58] Okay, since you brought up garment factories and being a supervisor, let’s talk about that first because I think it’s so fascinating that back then – when was back then when you actually were a supervisor of people?

Grandma Venetta: [00:02:11] Probably about 1965.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:13] What made you want to be in a role like that at work?

Grandma Venetta: [00:02:17] More money. [laughs] After I had been supervisor for a while and work was getting slower, I went up and worked with our designer on new things. I learned a lot from him. I was the only one, I think, that they ever had as an operator and supervisor that went into the designing with him.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:40] A special job?

Grandma Venetta: [00:02:41] Yeah, it was more of like one of them that you’d like even if you didn’t get paid any more.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:48] Did they pick you for that or how did you know that that was available?

Grandma Venetta: [00:02:52] Oh, they came by the machine when I was working with a girl one day, and they said they wanted to see me in the office, and I thought that probably I was going to get laid off. But as it turned out, Jack Hefner was our plant manager and he’s the one that came and got me. He talked for a while and he said, “What do you think about being a supervisor for us?” So, I told him yes, and that was the beginning of it. I was basically just turned loose to learn how to talk to people.

Lisa Cummings: [00:03:25] That’s not so different from what happens today all the time. I talk to new managers and they were really good employees, and then they get promoted and they just have to figure it out.

Grandma Venetta: [00:03:34] Mm-hmm.

Lisa Cummings: [00:03:35] How did you learn how to figure out people and how to get their best out of them?

Grandma Venetta: [00:03:40] Getting along with people was more… I paid attention and listened to what the workers said, along with the supervisors, and tried to work as a bridge between them. It just seemed the right thing to do. I’m the go-between. [laughs]

Lisa Cummings: [00:03:56] You’re a bridge builder, family, work, everywhere in your life.

Grandma Venetta: [00:04:01] It didn’t hurt me. I’m going to be 85 right away and I guess it’s alright.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:07] I think you do that in life in general that you’re a really good listener and observer, and you figure out what other people care about.

Grandma Venetta: [00:04:16] I think maybe you’re right because I cared about all of them. It nearly killed me to lay somebody off. In fact, they used to tell me I was too big a softy, but it was always I treated people like I wanted to be treated. I think it really works out that as long as you do that, you may not have a perfect life, but who does? And yours’ can be a lot brighter if you’re not fussing and fuming with somebody.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:44] I like that. No fussing and fuming around.

Grandma Venetta: [00:04:46] Yeah. [laughs]

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:48] Oh, that’s making me think of another interesting piece of the story. I remember you telling me once that you were the breadwinner in the family. And that must’ve been a really weird dynamic for those times. What was that like?

Grandma Venetta: [00:05:02] It was kind of rough at times. It used to make Emil [Venetta’s husband] aggravated because I made more money than he did, and he thought the man was supposed to be the one that did all the work but he never refused me going to work.

Lisa Cummings: [00:05:17] How did he handle it?

Grandma Venetta: [00:05:19] I think the best thing that describes it was I worked days and he worked nights. We didn’t have to worry about a babysitter then. It was just something that we just automatically… we met in the hallway one morning, one going in and one going out.

Lisa Cummings: [00:05:33] Almost like a team to be able to figure out how to do what you had to do, huh?

Grandma Venetta: [00:05:38] Yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [00:05:40] Let’s talk about good work memories. Tell us about some recognition you received that you remember, or a work situation that you were most proud of.

Grandma Venetta: [00:05:49] I got the notice of being the fastest zipper sewer in the St. Louis area.

Lisa Cummings: [00:05:56] Oh, my gosh, I love that – the fastest zipper sewer.

Grandma Venetta: [00:05:59] Yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:00] I want to say fastest zipper sewer in the West but it wasn’t really in the West, in the Midwest.

Grandma Venetta: [00:06:04] Yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [0:06:05] What are you most proud of?

Grandma Venetta: [00:06:07] It means a lot to be able to look back at your family and think about things that they did. I remember when my Uncle Perry had cancer, a couple of weeks later mother and dad went up and they moved him in with us. And back then, mother was so sure that cancer was contagious.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:29] That’s the most wild thing to even imagine today knowing what we know.

Grandma Venetta: [00:06:36] Mm-hmm.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:37] So, when you look back, what lesson do you feel like you learned?

Grandma Venetta: [00:06:41] You want to do anything you can for your friends and neighbors.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:46] You’re kind of reminding me of a song lyric. It’s one of Jewel’s lyrics, and she says, “Only kindness matters.” It reminds me of that when you’re talking about being helpful, be a good neighbor, be a good friend and family member. How do you react to that song line?

Grandma Venetta: [00:07:05] I think it’s appropriate. You should be good to your friends and neighbors. It’s going to make you a better person because you put out the extra effort to take your batty and along with your own problem that you had.

Lisa Cummings: [00:07:19] This reminds me of what you told me about – tell me if I get this wrong but I’m paraphrasing how I understand grandma philosophy – that you have good stuff and bad stuff, and you’ve always focused on what’s good. How did you come to that philosophy?

Grandma Venetta: [00:07:36] Oh, I think a lot of it had to do with my mother and dad. When I got out of school she took me over and talked to the boss and he hired me then as just a worker.

Lisa Cummings: [00:07:48] Was that your first job?

Grandma Venetta: [00:07:49] That was my first job.

Lisa Cummings: [00:07:51] And how old were you?

Grandma Venetta: [00:07:52] Thirteen. You know, it was right after the end of the war. I always figured that if people thought enough of me to hire me then I should do as best I could.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:01] I can tell in you that you’ve always put your best effort. So, you’re a little bit of a rule breaker or at least a little stubborn and you don’t want help from anybody. I know that you’ve passed down this gene to me because I have a real independent streak as well, and I feel proud that I can take care of myself, some of those things that came from you. Where do you think you got it from?

Grandma Venetta: [00:08:22] I think from my mother. Mother was so persistent that I think she kind of drilled that into me, and not by saying anything but just by doing, because she would work at the factory, she’d take in laundry, she would do ironing for people, she cleaned house for people. I know that she worked Saturdays all the time.

Lisa Cummings: [00:48] I love the lesson of instilling that in you through actions, not through trying to tell you but by showing you.

Grandma Venetta: [00:08:55] Yeah, she always thought she had a duty to us kids.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:59] It sounds a lot like you, that you keep those things to yourself and you’re very humble and you instill a lot of good lessons, and you probably look at your kids and say, “Hey, look, I have a nurse and a pharmacist, and people who owned construction companies, and they’ve all found their way to make their way in the world.” And you can be really proud of them, and you didn’t go tell them who to go be, right?

Grandma Venetta: [00:09:22] No, I never told them who I thought they should be. I thought that had to be their decision.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:28] How do you teach people about values?

Grandma Venetta: [00:09:32] Basically, just by showing them. Back to the same old basics, as long as you do right and do the best you can toward anybody, I think that you’re more satisfied, the people around you are more satisfied, and that’s what you really want. You want people that like you for you not because of what they can give you or something like that.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:54] It’s the same at work, it’s the same with friends, it’s the same with family, isn’t it?

Grandma Venetta: [00:09:58] Mm-hmm. In my opinion, it is.

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:01] So, one other last thing, you’ve said to me something about figuring out how to appreciate what you have right now because you never know when you’ll lose it all, whether that’s thinking about your job or your life and your happiness right now. Say more about that.

Grandma Venetta: [00:10:18] Well, I think that’s true. You should live everyday like it’s going to be your last because you don’t know it may be. You never know when the loved one that you have might pass away or might get sick. When I get to thinking back, I think about how lucky I am. I had cancer. It never flared back up. And I had a pacemaker put in, and it worked great. Now I’ve got a valve in my heart and I’m sure it’s okay. I hate having to ask the kids to take me places. I decided not to drive. I supposed I’d maybe hurt somebody else. I gave the keys to the kids.

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:59] What might be important? Because people listening to this might not realize that you only stopped driving when you were afraid of hurting someone else. But when you ran over yourself trying to get into your own car, that didn’t stop you from learning to drive. [laughs]

Grandma Venetta: [00:11:14] [laughs] Yeah. I still don’t understand how I did it.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:18] [laughs] Who else has a story where they ran over themselves? That takes talent.

Grandma Venetta: [00:11:23] Yeah. [laughs]

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:24] I bet anybody who’s hearing this, who doesn’t know how it all goes down, is thinking, “How is that even possible?” But I can just imagine you hanging off of the running board and trying to reach in and put it into gear, being half in and half out.

Grandma Venetta: [00:11:38] Yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:39] If that doesn’t make you feel like Wonder Woman.

Grandma Venetta: [00:11:40] That’s what I did.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:42] I like it. I thank you for the stubbornness you’ve given me and the independent spirit to be able to just figure things out. Well, I really appreciate getting to do this this way. It’s really fun to hear your stories and I know we don’t talk usually as much about work kind of stuff. Usually it’s more fun family, weaving that stuff in, or tales of your childhood, so it’s kind of cool to get a new angle this way.

[00:12:09] But I think it’ll be fun for people to hear what it’s like from the perspective of somebody who worked in a day that when we didn’t have all the technology to help us where we want to get. And you really stripped it back to the simple human interactions that matter.

Grandma Venetta: [00:12:24] That’s something that I’m proud of if it helped you.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:28] Well, I hope you think my grandma’s insights are useful as I do. There’s so much perspective to get from people who have been around the block already. And I want to offer you a recap of five key lessons that I think you’ll find useful from my grandmother.

[00:12:46] So, lesson one is stop the fussing and the fuming. That was so cute. So, rather than working in dysfunction, be a bridge builder. Show respect regardless of people’s levels and titles in your organization, and remember that relationships are important even when you feel too busy to give them attention.

[00:13:08] Lesson two is to find your fastest zipper sewer moments at work. Now, even if you don’t get an award that shows your best skills and talents, you can certainly be on the lookout for your skills and talents. And, hey, you can make up whatever award or rewards you want for people that you work with. I mean, come on, fastest zipper sewer in the West? You can make up something like that for your team.

[00:13:31] And this gets to the heart of strengths-based career development. If you all notice what works for you and you leverage the heck out of it, you’ll have more moments of success and high energy. And the same goes for you noticing those things in others. I mean, isn’t that cool? She remembers almost 50, 50, five-zero, years later some recognition that she got at work.

[00:13:53] So, especially for those of you in a people manager role, doesn’t that say something huge about the ripple effect you have on the world? Every person reading the notes to this episode has the power to recognize someone for something great they did at work. And who knows, maybe you’ll be part of their rocking chair moments 50 years later.

[00:14:13] So, lesson three, what’s your cancer-is-contagious kindness? I mean, I don’t know about you but, whoa, did you catch that story? I mean, just the notion that people thought cancer was contagious kind of blew my mind but then go beyond that. My great grandparents were convinced that it was contagious yet they still took in family members into their home to care for him.

[00:14:37] If you apply this on a work scale, think about simple acts of kindness. Are you taking time to smile and look people in the eye? Are you holding the door when someone is 10 steps away and you could’ve just walked in, but instead you wait 15 extra seconds, and you hold it open for them? Do you volunteer to call a customer with difficult news because you’re the one on the team with the best relationship even when that call is not going to be something you look forward to?

[00:15:03] Those are the moments when you look back that will make you proud of the actions you took, and make you proud of the person you were becoming. Speaking of actions, lesson four, it’s about actions not words. Just like grandma said, your values and your expectations are shown through your actions. Throughout the workday you’re constantly teaching people what your values are and what your expectations are and who you are. Those are all shown through your actions.

[00:15:30] When you’re a leader, people are always watching you. And because of that, everything you do is showing them how to interact. It’s showing them what you value. It’s showing them what you expect of that work culture. It’s great to say what you expect, and what’s more important is that your words and your behaviors actually match up.

[00:15:51] And the fifth lesson is feeling lucky. Can you believe that she singlehandedly ran over herself with her own car? I know this may just be completely crazy when you read about it. You can’t even imagine how that is possible, but she did do this. She got in the car and was halfway in it, put it in neutral and then it started rolling backward. She fell out and it ran over her. Crazy!

[00:16:16] But even more wild than that is that she has been through a lot, lot more, and she still feels lucky. She still looks for the bright spots every day to keep perspective and remember what’s going well. This reminds me a lot of the challenge that I set for people in my workshops to make it really practical: it’s to go catch someone doing something right.

[00:16:39] You know, there’s such a negativity bias that’s natural in people’s minds and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by stress and too many meetings, too many emails, too many requests for TPS reports. Yet, if you step back, make yourself get some perspective. You can always find some things that are going right and celebrate them. So, get out there and catch someone doing something right.

[00:17:00] Well, I think that’s the perfect transition out. When you lead through your natural talents you automatically keep your superpowers and your energizing work moments in front of you. It helps you remember why your colleagues are lucky to have you around and it helps you see the same in them.

[00:17:18] So, thanks for reading this episode of Lead Through Strengths, and if you want to get some more practical ideas for building a strengths-based culture join our virtual training series. It’s at LeadThroughStrengths.com/monthly training. It’s usually the second Tuesday of each month. No charge the first couple of hundred people because it’s our monthly pay-it-forward event, and I personally come on camera and meet you with your fellow managers and strengths champions, and we meet up live for 30 minutes, and I give you some tools to apply the strengths-based approach in your workplace.

[00:17:47] So, with that, remember, using your strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. If you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So, instead, claim your talents and share them with the world.

Direct download: 032-Grandma.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

Today's episode includes an interview with Kim Ades, president and founder of Frame of Mind Coaching. You'll get some insights about how your strengths come out (or get hidden) based on your mindset.  She also helps you see how your ability to thrive in your strengths is shaped by the way you're interpreting the world.

What You’ll Learn In This Episode 

You'll learn several different tools to help you move beyond your current way of looking at the world around you. These ideas move you toward a life that's not as limited by your internal biases and traditional thought patterns.

- Notice What Works To Get More Of What Works. Kim says that to find what you are really good at, you need to look at all the clues around you. Look at when you are actually in the zone. This is when you are at your highest peak, focused, putting forth your best effort, and highly productive. In other words, look at where you're enjoying yourself!

- Write It Down. She highly recommends journaling for several reasons: 1) it shows you how how your thinking impacts your results over time 2) it gives you a sense of how you react over a series of circumstances so you can spot your patterns of behavior that aren't obvious to you, 3) journaling helps you to separate you from your thoughts. Kim stresses that we are not our thoughts; thoughts are things that momentarily pass us by. Looking at things from a distance gives you a better perspective.

- Get Clear On Your Triggers. Understanding your patterns of behavior in certain circumstances will enable you to see things that trigger your default responses.

- Decide How To Respond. The behaviors of others that trigger strong responses in you can lead to judgments about things that may or may not be true. If you know your triggers in advance you can decide what you're letting them mean to you.

- Do Something With The Trends. It's important to look back at your journal entries to find your patterns and triggers so that you can limit your judgments that interfere with team success.

Kim has a surprise for those who listen to the show. She poses three questions during the interview. If you submit the answers to Kim, she'll assign one of her coaches to review insights about your answers by phone. How cool is that? Answering these questions will help you explore what's getting in the way of you reaching your goals.

The last thing Lisa and Kim address in this interview is values, both the values you live and the values you'd like to incorporate. They are two different categories. Kim believes that your highest values always come with contradictory consequences. For example, take an employee who sees a teammate not finishing his part of a project. She jumps in to finish it because she makes the assumption that no one else will. She also assumes her customers would otherwise suffer because the product wouldn't go to market. Her value of taking care of customers is important, yet adding these tasks to her already packed workload will hinder her overall performance (and therefore customer satisfaction).

Can you see an example like this in your life? Do you have a belief that no one else will jump in when a ball is dropped? If yes, are you showing a lack of faith in your team? This is an example we see in our StrengthsFinder training as well. Often someone who leads with the Responsibility talent theme will take on extra work to save a project, only to find himself drowning and struggling to meet deadlines because of the extra workload. This vicious cycle leads to burnout, or it makes you feel like your values are getting nurtured and insulted at the same time.

To understand what your values and beliefs really are, ask yourself two questions: 1) What do I believe to be true about myself? 2) Is it the absolute truth? The answer to the second question will help you create a little wiggle room. That way you can question some of the assumptions you're making and spot patterns in your thinking that you want to change. 

Go Live Your Talents

Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. If you’re always focused on fixing your team’s weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. Go claim your talents and share them with the world!

Read The Full Conversation:

Lisa Cummings: Today you're going to get some insights about how your strengths come out or even get hidden based on your mindset and how you're interpreting the world. Your guest owns a business called frame of mind coaching. She works with leaders internationally to help them improve performance by managing and even reacting better to their thoughts, reacting differently, and hey, for those of you who think that it's a time-luxury to get to your strengths by working on your thinking, Hey, she lives a busy life as a company president and a mother of five kids at the same time. So busy is not an excuse this time to skip this stuff and maybe we'll get to chat about some of the fun of working with leaders internationally because that global element is one of my very favorite things about business. So Kim Ades, welcome to the show.

Kim Ades: Thank you very much. I'm very much looking forward to this conversation.

Lisa Cummings: I've heard you talking about “seeing what you can't see” and I often find that people have trouble seeing their own strengths and I kind of find it that usually they know they're good at that thing, but they don't think that it's anything special. They assume everyone can do it, so it must not be valuable and actually everyone can't do that thing easily. So how do you suggest people find what they're great at?

Kim Ades: I think that people leave clues, right? And, if we look back at where they succeeded or what people tell them, or more importantly than that, were they enjoying themselves and just in a flow and a state of flow and you've ever heard of the term just kind of “I'm in the zone.” There are clues to be found when you're in the zone, when you're in the zone, you're working at your highest peak, you are focused or concentrated. You're enjoying yourself and you're probably putting out your best productivity or effort. And so if you look at moments when you're in the zone or strengths will most probably lie there.

Lisa Cummings: I love that. Okay. So this makes me think of journaling because I know you're big on that. Give us a little bit on your perspective on journaling. Why do it and how could you use that to spot your strengths?

Kim Ades: Well, I use journaling heavily with my clients, so I coach high end executives and what I do is I look at how their thinking impacts the results and so we have phone calls and we record our phone calls and we asked people to listen to them, to their themselves, to hear how they show up the language they use, the stories they tell, etc. But then in between every call we ask them to (journal) every single day. And so what we do is we give them a question and they answer the question. The question goes back to their coach. I have a team of coaches and the coach reads and responds. So there's this back and forth dialogue going on every single day. And so the purpose of journaling in this case is to really get a sense of how a person thinks across a different series of circumstances. And our job as coaches is to start to pick up the patterns, the patterns of thought, the patterns of belief, the patterns of perspective values, the triggers that people have.

Kim Ades: And so what is journaling for? The journaling is to capture the stories that allow you to go back and pick up the patterns. It's a process where you can unload and so a lot of times people can't sleep at night because they have all these thoughts turning around in their brain. And journaling allows you to put it down and then pick it up later and review it. The other thing that journaling does is it allows you to separate yourself from your thoughts. We often believe that we are our thoughts, but we're not. Thoughts are kind of like things-are clouds floating by and we are actually separate from us. they don't have to inhabit us. And if we can put them down and look at them from a little bit of a distance, we gain massive perspective. And so for executives who are interested in strategic advantage, there's no greater strategic advantage then to understand how your thinking is affecting your results or your outcomes. And journaling is a venue for making that happen.

Lisa Cummings: There are so many good pieces to plug into.One, I love the consistency of it because if people want to grow the fact that you're interacting with them consistently over time, that's beautiful. And then your concept of triggers and the story you're telling yourself, you made me think of this situation. Alright, I'm looking back and I'm totally going to fib on myself. But about 10 years ago, I remember having a direct report on my team. She was a manager and I had concluded that she didn't like salespeople based on her behaviors. That's the interpretation I made. And what would happen was when they didn't get her the data she needed to serve customers fully, she would use this phrase and she would say, garbage in, garbage out, garbage in, garbage out, and that's all she would say. So over and over again, this thing drove me nuts.

Lisa Cummings: It became a real trigger for me. Super hot button and it's funny, even this day today saying the story, I can feel it in my body of frustration by telling the story and I felt like she was telling the salespeople that they weren't being accountable to gathering the right data, but she was doing it effectively, but ironically she wasn't being accountable to the client because she wasn't solving the problem. She just kept repeating the same phrase to kind of throw it in their face. It drove me nuts, but looking back, I realize it was a trigger for me and my mindset about her approach was getting in the way of me being a good manager and a good supporter for her. So talk about situations like that where think you're dealing with a difficult person. I thought I was dealing with her as a difficult person. Yet really your mindset and your interpretation needs its own spring cleaning of those triggers.

Kim Ades: Well, what happens is we do interpret other people's behavior and their words and their language all the time and that affects how we respond and how we react. And part of the issue is that we forget what we want, and so if we think about a game of basketball, for example, and your defending your or you're trying to block the opposition and you grabbed the ball, usually you're facing the wrong direction in what you need to do is you got to turn around and make sure you're facing the right net but we forget about that. We forget about the game and we forget about the goal when we're interacting with someone like a direct report or someone like that, or even a colleague in an organization. When we interpret what they say, we decide that they're wrong. We get defensive, we use it as a trigger. We grabbed the ball and we forget to turn around. And so and so. What does that mean? That means that in your case, what is it that you really wanted from her?

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, I wanted her to find a way to show the sales team what it would look like when, you know, maybe provide a model, hey, this person always brings really great data. And, to go to that person and say, how did you decide it was important to go get it? I wanted her to solve the problem and find some people who were doing it right and use them as a model. I wanted her to dig in and understand why those who weren't doing it, why they didn't think it was important and I felt like instead of trying to solve the problem, she just came up with this catchphrase and used it as a block.

Kim Ades: And so what you wanted to do was help her achieve her goal. And what interfered was that one phrase that had you not even wanting to help her achieve her goal. Right? Because your opinion of her, your experience of her was taped it, you know, you said you had a physical reaction even just now. And so that's what happens: is that we get in our own way. You got in your way of helping her. She got in her way of helping the salespeople get what she needed them to get. And so there's this big, huge, massive trickle-down effect. Now, in the case of a lot of senior professionals, executives, managers, if they can apply this concept, assume positive intent, what does she want? She wants to succeed, and she wants her team to succeed so you know, here's how you help them succeed. Let me show you.

Lisa Cummings: I love the concept of assume positive intent as well because I admit that over time, I started to let that color the assumptions about where she was coming from on things and I've seen it a lot in work places too. You just get down to the most basic watercooler talk situations. I remember having a team member who was concerned that people were talking about her in the office and when I asked her more about what made her think that it all came back to a situation where she was at her desk and she looked up and people were looking at her direction and giggling and in her mind it was that they were looking at her, making fun of her and she looked up and then she started avoiding them because she thought, oh, they were making fun of me behind my back. And in reality, once we unraveled all of what was going on, the people who were looking in her direction and making the face that she was interpreting, they weren't looking at her at all, they were looking past her at another situation and it's all about the meaning she made of it and then it colored her interactions with them after and then it affected their relationships. And over the course of a couple of weeks productivity's going downhill or not getting along. They're not collaborating and it's all over this one bad assumption.

Kim Ades: And so what you're really saying is we tell stories, we invent stories about what's going on around us and what it means. And we're doing that all the time. That's how we make sense of the world. You know, we need to have judgment. You know, if something bad is happening, if something dangerous is happening, we need to use our judgment. Unfortunately, often times we use our judgment, maybe at all times, we use our judgment as a protective mechanism. And that protective mechanisms sometimes has us interpreting things in a way that isn't true, isn't real. We make up stories.

Lisa Cummings: I'd like to talk about the stories that people make up about their careers, even in a bigger picture, like the frame of mind that they take on. I get story after story from people who they are looking up and they're far enough along in their career and it happens to people at all different times. I hear them in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties. They look up and they feel a little bit trapped and they say, this is not what I expected of me. I thought I would be somewhere else and now I have big kid bills or have responsibilities or I can't make a rash decision because kids are relying on me or whatever thing they're putting in the way and once you get there, obviously they know there's a block, but often they don't know that their mind is getting in the way, but how do you help people get that realization? How do you know that your mindset is holding you back in your career? What are some of the signs?

Kim Ades: Well, the only thing ever holding you back from anything is your mindset. How do you know your mindset is holding you back? It's always holding you back, is the only thing that holds you back. So now the question is what is my mindset doing? And so, you know, sometimes it's, I don't feel strong enough, I don't feel capable enough, I don't feel like I have the education or the experience and so, you know, we're talking about all the self-doubt that's there and really that fuels a lot of the feeling of being unable to make a decision about whether to move on or how to move on or how to move up. And sometimes a lot of people feel like they're victims. I was overlooked for a position, you know, they keep hiring someone else for these major higher-level positions, etc. And so what we want to do is help people understand what they believe to be true about themselves and how the world operates. Because the way you see the world is the way you live the world, is the way you experience the world.

Lisa Cummings: I think there's a lot to that and we've all had examples of so many times when you're living in what feels like a parallel universe with someone else, they're in the same room hearing the same conversation and they took away something totally different about it. So if we apply that concept to personal leadership, I know you focus a lot on self-awareness because it's all. Getting back to the mindset thing, what is one thing people can do to get a little bit more self-aware about how they show up at work? Finding the good, finding the bad, finding where their minds are on target and where it is not.

Kim Ades: Again, I'm a big believer in journaling, so if you're okay, I'm going to give your listeners an assignment. Is that cool?

Lisa Cummings: I think they love assignments.

Kim Ades: Okay, so here's the assignment. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write these three questions down, their journaling questions and what I'm going to do is say to you that you fill this out and send it to me, I will assign a coach To you will read and review your questions with you over the phone in a coaching role. So why am I offering this? Because I know that your listeners will say that's cool and then they won't execute it, so those that do, it's a very small portion of the population, walk away with huge value. So here are your three questions: Question number one, what do I really, really want and why are there two reallys? Because it's not what somebody else really wants for you. It's not what you think you should have, but what did you authentically, genuinely want for yourself? What do you want? And it could be related to your career or not and why not? Because sometimes what you want is a little more time in your day and then you look at your career and say, hey, does this accommodate that? What do you really want? And it could be anything. It could be something tangible, it could be something intangible, it could be an emotion, it could be a state, it could be a relationship, it could be anything. So what do you really, really want?

Kim Ades: Question number two is: why do I want that thing? In other words, what would it mean to me if I had that and would I be okay if I never had that? Would I be happy with my life if I never had what I really, really want? And then question number three is so: why don't I have what I really, really want right now? What are all the reasons? What I will suggest to you is that number three question starts the journey of exploring your thinking and your beliefs about what's really getting in the way of you living, the kind of life you want to live, achieving the goals you want to achieve, getting the job you want to get, moving up in your career, having the relationships you want, being the type of parent you want. That one question is the beginning of your journey to really exploring what's getting in your way.

Lisa Cummings: That's deep. I like it. I can tell just from the things that were going through my mind while you were saying the questions that even if they did nothing with the homework, if they just consider those questions, they're going to get some real insight into what's driving them and what they should focus on and really just making that pivot like you were talking about, to actually face the basket and figure out what they're aiming toward.

Kim Ades: Let me give you my email address so if you can send it's: kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.

Lisa Cummings: Perfect. I have to admit also, the other thing that kept going through my mind while I was listening to them was the Spice Girls song from way back when, “so tell me what you want, what you really, really want.”

Lisa Cummings: so there'll be sending you these emails, Spice Girl questions. Yeah. I think that's a cool lead and actually not the Spice Girls, but hey, Sporty Spice might be proud with these basketball references. You have a book, what you focus on grows and that is what I was thinking of while you were talking about facing the outcomes you're actually trying to get. I love the concept so much and one thing I do with people is try to help them focus just in the day to day work responsibilities, the smaller stuff, the situations that they want more of the tasks and responsibilities they want more of because if they can spend even three more minutes a day getting more in their strength zone and getting in the things that bring them energy, what you focus on grows, they're going to get known for that. They're going to get more of those opportunities. They're going to be able to attract more of that kind of work in their life. So when you're working with someone to help them focus on their talents like that and help those grow in their career, what are one or two actions you like to help them take to do that?

Kim Ades: So I'm a little bit backwards. Most coaching is around helping people take actions. for me, I want them not to take action for a bit. I want them to save their action for later because what I find is that when you take action that is not really aligned with your thinking, it doesn't really turn out well for you. That's what I find, so what I want to do with people before, or let's call this the action, I want them to really, really start to pay attention to the moments that create peaceful peace for them or ease versus the moments that created stress or tension. I want them to start to just track it so that would be the action for me, is paying attention to where you're feeling great and where you're not feeling right and then start to pay attention to the dialogue that runs through your mind in both scenarios. For some people that's extended meetings. For some people at certain meetings really with certain people really lift them up and once you start to collect that data, you start to learn what you want more of and what you want less of. I feel that a lot of people just don't know because they're not paying attention.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, I think that's a really great idea. Just the idea that you're paying attention, it could be at a task or responsibility level, it could be at the people you're around level. I kind of like to go with the who, what, when, why. It's all that you know, who are you around, what kind of work are you doing? Where are you? I mean, for some it's even fueled or drained by being outdoors or indoors. Being around a lot of people are being alone. It's all of those kinds of scenarios where you just start paying attention and asking yourself what's the situation and then why does that make me feel excited or drained? The more they're willing to dig into it and watch the patterns, the more they're going to, the more insight they're going to pull.

Kim Ades: and if for some people it's something as simple as, I love my job, I hate the commute it’s killing me.

Lisa Cummings: Yes, and then figuring out is there a solution in that environment? So one last thing I'd like to talk about a little bit, his values, because as you were talking about some of the drains and life being in or out of alignment way early on in the conversation today, you mentioned something about values and my hypothesis is that some people are out of values alignment with something going on at work, whether it's overall a company culture or whether it's a manager and they just feel like it's not keeping them true to themselves, but I don't think it's always obvious and in your face. It's not necessarily some requests for them to have unethical behavior. That's really obvious. It's just something that grabs at them here and there and something's off, but they can't place it. So, what do you do to help people get in touch with the value side?

Kim Ades: It's an interesting thing right there. I think that there are two buckets of values, the values you live and the values you'd like to incorporate, the values you'd like to raise in a matter of importance. And so what I always want to do is look at the values people live. So for example, I was talking to a woman today and she was describing her marriage and she described how her husband is a very successful, business owner and that essentially, and she said, you know, I wake up early in the morning with him at five in the morning. I said, why? And she got quiet and said “be with him, to help him in whatever you know, she does it so that she can help him make breakfast or whatever that she does. But so her key value is to be of service to the people in her world.

Kim Ades: And that's the life she lives. However, in almost every case, our highest values, while we feel great when we're living them, they also have a counter effect. And in her case, it's self-sacrifice which ends up hurting her. So what we want to do always as look at how people are currently living their values, we always live our values and it could be that someone confronts you and what you do is you just stay quiet. Why? Because your value is not to be in conflict. You'd rather have a polite, nice exchange. And so when someone's attacking you, your decision is to withdraw and that's a reflection of your values, but that doesn't always serve you. And so what I find is that our highest value always comes with a contradictory effect. Always. So, I like to first just look at how do people actually express their values. You always do, and you always are.

Lisa Cummings: I've had at least several events lately where people on the team had this deep sense of responsibility for the team, for each other, and they'll pick up a ball that they think is dropping because it looks like no one else is going to and they feel really responsible to the outcome that has been promised and keeping commitments is, you know, my honor is my word is one of those core values for them. But then the dark side is they're over committed. They start giving up their own life or taking care of themselves in order to meet these commitments. And then they're not meeting their commitments to themselves and then they, they're in the doom spiral on that. So then let's say you've noticed that. So, okay, they spotted that about themselves and they've done the reflection and they see that pattern in them and then what do you do to spot the queue and when it's happening. What do you do to break the pattern and get out of the habit? Because your values are going to drive your habits too.

Kim Ades: What I look at is the beliefs attached to that. So in your situation, the belief was someone's dropping the ball, it's my job to pick it up or you know, there's another belief that goes with it. I don't believe the others have the capacity or the capability to pick up the ball even though they've dropped it. I don't have faith in lighting. And so we try to address and identify the beliefs that are really getting them in trouble and trapping them and we try to challenge those beliefs so that they can say it's true. I am seeing the world through that lens and that lens isn't serving me or them. I'm not building leaders. I'm actually keeping us set this low level because I keep jumping in.

Lisa Cummings: That's great. And then do you find that people are able to go through their own belief systems to kind of figure out that thing alone? I mean, obviously I could say yes, fine, find a coach like Kim and she's going to be able to get to it really quickly. So that's the obvious one, but say they're, you know, maybe it's a peer accountability partner or they're trying to do it for themselves. How do you get to it when you're trying to get through your own belief system and know that you're going to muck up your own thinking,

Kim Ades: ask yourself the question, what do I believe to be true about this situation? And once you write all your beliefs, there they are. Is this true? I'll give you another example. I'm coaching a lawyer and so one of the things she wrote about her beliefs is that things work out better for other people, whether they do for me. And so the. So the question is, is that always true? Is that true? Is that an absolute truth? And that's the question you want ask, is that an absolute truth? No, it’s not the absolute truth, right? And so when we can start to just even create a little wiggle room in a belief, then what we're doing is we're creating another possibility of stepping in, right? We're creating another possibility. So in your case, the example of the gentleman who stepped in because someone was dropping the ball, well, if I don't step in and pick up the ball, nobody else will. What was that at an absolute truth? Is that true?

Lisa Cummings: And then he says, no, somebody else would. Or maybe they want to, but they don't know how. Or maybe they don't think it's their role…

Kim Ades: yep. Right. So what can you do to enable other people to set that? Right? So now the conversation changes

Lisa Cummings: and it changes from that one trapping to a lot of possibilities.

Kim Ades: Right? And so the question that you want to ask is, so list your beliefs, what do I believe to be true? And then is it the absolute truth

Lisa Cummings: I have a hunch that the answer is normally no.

Kim Ades: Often times it is no. And often times it is, they believe it's absolutely true. They still hold onto it for dear life. Right? Well, it is true. You know, sometimes they need to like when somebody holds onto something tightly, we need to kind of wedge their hands away from that idea.

Lisa Cummings: Good visual Kim. This is so deep and insightful. I love it. I know listeners will want to dig in a little bit more to your work. So what would be the best way to do that?

Kim Ades: Best way to do that is frameofmindcoaching.com on that website. I mean there's a lot of information, blogs, videos, all kinds of stuff, there, audios, but one of the most important things on that site is an assessment. And what that assessment does is it allows you to take a snapshot of what direction you're heading in. And I think before you think about making any change, you've got to understand where you're pointed is the single most important starting point for any personal development or leadership concept. Any change to take place, you got to know where you're starting. And so take the assessment and again, you'll be introduced to one of our coaches who will review the assessment with you. Very, very important and powerful first step.

Lisa Cummings: Thanks so much, Kim. I love the offer of that. So we'll link up to the site and the resources you mentioned and your book and I think everyone's going to appreciate that so much. And speaking of you guys, appreciating it, I also want to say I appreciate you the reader. Thanks for reading “Lead Through Strengths” and remember that using your strengths at work makes you a stronger performer at work. If you're always focused on fixing your weaknesses, you're probably choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents and share them with the world.

Direct download: 031-Kim_Ades.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

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Today’s episode features Michelle McQuaid, the author of “Your Strengths Blueprint: How to be Engaged, Energized, and Happy at Work.” During this engaging interview, Lisa Cummings chats with Michelle about her personal experience using her unique Strengths. Michelle shares practical examples about how she made huge changes not only at work, but also throughout every aspect of her life. Today, Michelle is flourishing and providing guidance to others via her books, coaching, training, and through her annual Strengths Challenge.  In 2016, the strengths challenge is September 6 – 12, and we hope you'll join the next one!

If you are interested in adding new tools to your Strengths toolbox, then this is the episode for you! Listen for several tips and tools to improve your work and home life, and perhaps learn a Dr. Seuss rhyme along the way.

 

Michelle and Lisa’s Strengths

Michelle’s VIA Character Strengths: Creativity, Hope, Love, Love of Learning, Perseverance

Lisa’s VIA Character Strengths: Creativity, Humor, Curiosity, Hope, and Zest

Michelle’s StrengthsFinder Talents: Strategic, Learner, Maximizer, Achiever, Activator

Lisa’s StrengthsFinder Talents: Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

 

What You’ll Learn In This Episode

Michelle was in an executive role. She had achieved her career goals, and everything looked great on paper. However, she had a nagging, unhappy feeling about work, and she found herself dragging her feet into work each day. One day, she was watching a popular tv show, and saw a segment on “positive psychology.” This segment would forever change her life. Michelle found one of Martin Seligman’s books. He’s the guru in the field of positive psychology. As she read (and later studied directly with Seligman), she realized that our goal should be to bring out the best in ourselves and others more consistently. The more we use our strengths in our jobs, the more engaging, energizing, and fulfilling our lives can be.

Michelle started with the free VIA Survey, and found that her #1 trait was Curiosity. That led to her Ah Ha moment – the reason she was unhappy was because she wasn’t learning anything at work any more. In an effort to fulfill he need to learn new things, she implemented this plan:

  • Read one new thing about positive psychology each day for 10 minutes. Michelle found that this exercise had a positive ripple effect throughout the rest of her day. It shifted how she felt at work.
  • Each Friday, she emailed her boss 3 things she had learned through her reading that week. Later, she found out that he had been forwarding her emails to other people. At her 9 month review, he noted that the company hadn’t been using her strengths as effectively as they could be, and asked if she’d like to teach these ideas to others. This gave her a chance to put her strengths to work every day.
  • The moments that people were able to actually see her strengths led to new career opportunities. In essence, Michelle ended up crafting her new career path.

VIA is a a system that “diagnoses" the best in people. It’s a list of 24 character strengths that are consistent across cultures and history. The goal is to focus on the top 5 character strengths that light you up the most.

Because we are affected by situations around us, Michelle recommends taking the survey every year. If there is a character strength you want to move up the list, there are methods to follow (but Michelle notes that it should only be because it’s something you value, not because society desires it). Here are 4 steps:

  • Determine which strength you want to build
  • Harness the natural part in your brain to create new habits (good or bad). Make sure you have some cue to work on that strength each day. For example, putting a book on your keyboard for the next day, or listen to a recording about this strength each day on your way to work.
  • Try and use that strength when you are in a state of flow (when you can focus)
  • Reward yourself each time you work on this new habit; it needs to be something you really want. For example, have a cup of coffee after your 10 minutes are up.

Check out the resources below, because Michelle offers a free e-book on her website to help you be in your zone of greatness. It’s an excellent aide to improving yourself and creating new habits.

Tool: Appreciative inquiry

It’s a strengths-based approach to change, where you build on things that are working well. There is a positive effect on the company and the team.

Spend 80% of your time on your strengths, and 20% on our weaknesses. You want commitment not compliance.

Be realistic about how to get the best return on investment.

 

Resources of the Episode

Here are ways to reach Michelle: Website Twitter Facebook LinkedIn YouTube

Your Strengths Blueprint: How to be Engaged, Energized, and Happy at Work by Michelle McQuaid and Erin Lawn

What Good is Positive Business? By Robert Dauman and Michelle McQuaid

Books of Interest by Martin E.P. Seligman:

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being

Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman)

Michelle's Article with Shane Lopez.

Take the free Character Survey from VIA Institute on Character.

Michelle’s eBook resource: Can You Do More of What You Do Best?

Learn more and register for the Annual Strengths Challenge, which is September 6 – 12, 2016.

 

Subscribe

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

 

StrengthsFinder Mini-Course For Managers

If you’re a people-manager and you want to sharpen your strengths based support, come join our monthly mini-course. We don’t charge for this because we want to help you keep the StrengthsFinder momentum going. Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability. Yowza! Sounds like a great reason to join. Source:  Asplund, J., & Blacksmith, N. “Strengthening Your Company’s Performance.” Gallup Business Journal.

 

Go Live Your Talents

Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. If you’re always focused on fixing your team’s weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. Go claim your talents and share them with the world!

 

Direct download: 030-Michelle-McQuaid.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode's Focus on Strengths

This month’s episode features Matt Swenson, who is another StrengthsFinder all-star. He helps his clients use their Strengths to improve the well being of the whole person. Lisa’s interview with Matt provides cool tools to help you apply your natural talents to your wellbeing.

If you are ready to create some healthy strengths habits, then this is the interview for you. Matt has a background in international business, sales, coaching, sales management, marketing, product development, and athletics. Those unique experiences roll up to offer you a unique perspective on wellbeing that you can apply to all areas of your life.

In fact, Matt brings strengths based development to five key areas of life. They are: career, social, physical, financial, and community. As you listen to the interview, you'll hear about how to apply these in his Wellbeing Wheel Activity. You'll also hear his ties to the concepts of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose from one of our favorite books, Drive by Daniel Pink.

Matt’s top 10 Strengths are: Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Responsibility, Deliberative, Relator, Activator, Individualization, Focus, Analytical

Fun facts: Matt busts out a Vanilla Ice rhyme in our interview. Despite how you might stereotype someone who leads with Deliberative and Analytical, Matt shows that you can't assume you know how people will act based on their external or assumed traits. It's worth a listen!

Also, Matt is the artist behind Djonk, an Americana art business. Lisa bought one of his pieces. This robot is made of upcycled "junk" and now lives in her guest bedroom to greet friends. You'll find more about his "Swedish for Junk" name in the interview.

 

What You’ll Learn In This Episode

  • How to deal with people who frustrate you. Matt used to think that the people who annoyed him at work were doing it on purpose (which didn’t help with his work relationships). With an understanding of each person’s unique strengths, he now knows that’s just who they were and how they operated. Once you understand that, you can then adjust your lens to see things from the other person’s point of view. Matt shares this great quote, “Always assume positive intent and when in doubt, ask.”
  • View others through the Strengths lens, rather than based on attitude, demeanor, or clothing. When dealing with people (whether at home or on the job) try to understand their strengths, and where they are coming from, rather than what is most obvious. You'll often be surprised when you look a little deeper. It's also a great exercise in listening to understand.
  • After you’ve taken the StrengthsFinder assessment, complete Matt’s practice guide, “Raw and Refined.” This book will help you activate your inherent talents and wellbeing. Here are a few ways you can use his guide to put your natural talents to work:
  1. Before you meet with someone, spend 60 seconds reviewing their talents so you can customize your conversation to resonate better with them.
  2. Look up one of your StrengthsFinder Talent Themes and consider how you can use it to full effect that day.
  3. Flip through your Top 5 strengths and come up with one new habit to implement.
  • Focus on the five essential elements of wellbeing. Matt recommends the book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, which takes your Strengths and helps you to apply them to you whole life. Their five essential elements of wellbeing are: career, social, financial, physical, and social. If things are out of alignment, it's likely one is zapping the life out of you because it is not getting positive attention in your life.
  • Use Matt's wellbeing wheel to identify when you are at your absolute best. Once you identify when you are at your best, make sure to do the most important things during that time. This provides the most efficient utilization of your energy, and takes pressure off of the rest of the day. Matt also gives a great example in the interview about a guy who was draining his own energy on the way home from work - all based on his habits. As he used the Wellbeing Wheel, he figured out where he was sucking his energy away and found a rejuvenating fix for his drive home from work.
  • Realize that habits are things that can help or hurt you. For example, if we meet a new person who seems similar to a good person in our lives, then our minds tend to compartmentalize them together (to make things simpler). However, if we meet a new person who seems similar to a person who has hurt us, it is very unfair to lump them together. This is not fair to the new person, and undermines their uniqueness.

 

Remember this quote from Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood): “Most of us, I believe, admire strength. It's something we tend to respect in others, desire for ourselves, and wish for our children. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we confuse strength with other words—like 'aggression' and even 'violence'. Real strength is neither male nor female; but it is, quite simply, one of the finest characteristics that a human being can possess.”

 

Resources of the Episode

Matt’s StrengthsFinder and wellness practice is called Metamorfos. His Americana art site (pronounced Yonk, which is Swedish for junk), is Djonk.

Matt’s StrengthsFinder practice guide is Raw & Refined. Check out the Wellbeing Wheel on pages 81-86 to see the tool we referenced in the interview.

Many of the concepts that Matt Swenson uses are found in the book Wellbeing: The five essential elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter.

 

Subscribe

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

 

StrengthsFinder Mini-Course For Managers

If you’re a people-manager and you want to sharpen your strengths based support, come join our monthly mini-course. We don’t charge for this because we want to help you keep the StrengthsFinder momentum going. Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability. Yowza! Sounds like a great reason to join. Source:  Asplund, J., & Blacksmith, N. “Strengthening Your Company’s Performance.” Gallup Business Journal.

 

Go Live Your Talents

Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. If you’re always focused on fixing your team’s weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. Go claim your talents and share them with the world!

Direct download: 029-Matt-Swenson.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This month’s episode features Gary Ware, whose mission is to help people “energize their work.” If you find that your job is sometimes humdrum, and that your team’s ability to create new, innovative ideas is stifled, then this is the episode for you. Gary provides practical tools (and cool examples) you can use to get creative juices flowing. And, there’s even a bonus – tips to improve your interviewing skills. You can use those tips on both sides of the proverbial interviewing table.

To give you a hint about Gary's essence, here’s his favorite quote by Plato. He lives his life by it:

“You learn more about a person in an hour of play, than a lifetime of conversation.”

 

What You’ll Learn

Practical tools to improve creativity and problem solving at work:

  • Use this lesson from Improv: be in the moment and be fully present. If you're not fully engaged, your ability to contribute to a proposed idea will be limited. Gary and Lisa both practice the concept of "soft focus" that comes from improvisation. In practicing soft focus, you're fully tuned into what's going on in the room. Rather than thinking about what you're going to say next, you're fully there with the intention to listen and soak in what's going on around you.
  • Use the words “Yes, and…” instead of cutting off someone’s idea with a "Yes, but." Make an effort to see where the idea takes you as a group, and don't deviate from a concept until it’s fully played out. Ideas are different from execution, yet often people squash ideas by thinking about impractical execution details as ideas get launched. This is why you hear "Yes, but" so often in meetings. The challenge is that ideas need space. When a team member thinks his idea will get slammed, he won't bother throwing it out. And his idea might just be the one that inspires his teammate's genius breakthrough that would have come 7 ideas down the line.
  • Notice what works. When you keep going, and when you get stuck, that’s where you get the amazing stuff! Spend time debriefing as a team. Talk about what brings out your biggest ideas. Talk about what makes you feel your best. Share moments of success because noticing what works will help you get more of what works. Accepting and considering ideas, no matter how crazy, will lead you to innovation and creative breakthrough moments. Allow yourselves to get stuck so that you can get to the breakthrough.
  • Don't disregard them.  Take the word “but…” out of your vocabulary entirely. That’s just another way of saying no. It's a way of disregarding a person’s contribution, which may inhibit them from speaking up when they have their next incredible idea. Many leaders and team members think they're being practical when they pick ideas apart. On the surface it feels like a way to quickly cull and make decisions. Yet actually, it creates a situation where people don't want to speak until they have a great idea.
  • Find your openness. Enter creative sessions with a sense of curiosity and possibility. If needed, tell everyone that this meeting isn't about making a decision. Tell them it's about coming up with ideas. If needed, create a silly mantra like "thank you for that idea" that everyone says in unison after every idea. Rather than commenting on an idea, you simply thank them, accept the submission and keep moving to the next idea. That way, you're not categorizing ideas as good and bad, you're simply generating the list of ideas.
  • Step into their shoes. Remember that we all see things through different lenses. Try to see ideas and concepts as others do. Consider that their perspectives, assumptions, and experiences are leading them to show up with a unique perspective. Using this mental practice is great for team building because it asks you to consider how someone else might view a project or problem.

 

Bonus tools to help you during an interview:

  • If you are thrown off during an interview, compose yourself and be real.
  • If you don’t know an answer, be honest. They’ll know when you're flustered, and making up an answer is not a good option.
  • Hiring managers want to know who you are. They want to know how you work. With all things being equal, people are going to hire those they like, so be your true self. Your resume tells them what you've done. That's easy enough to read, so use the interview to show the who and how.
  • Have some stories about yourself ready. Use these stories to highlight your strengths. Lisa recommends coming up with one example for each of your Top 5 StrengthsFinder talent themes. Since your natural talents are more about how you work than what you do, they make for great behavioral interview answers. For example, if you have a story about how you used your Includer talent to bring success to a high-stress project, you can use that example for many common behavioral interview questions, such as "tell me about a time when you overcame a challenging situation" or "tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult person."
  • If you're a hiring manager, try the Monkey Wrench Game that Gary and Lisa demonstrate during the episode. This is a tool you can use in an interview to see how someone thinks on the fly. And like the Plato quote above, you can tell a lot about a candidate through their play.

 

If you manage a team, try the activities that Gary and Lisa demonstrated in a team meeting.

These Improv exercises are a fun way to do a five minute team building exercise at the beginning of your next team meeting. They're a great way to set the tone for a creative, collaborative conversation.

 

Yes, And Interview (San Antonio Zoo Interview was the example in the episode)

  • Objective: Hold a 1x1 conversation between two people at a time with no pre-planned expertise or interview questions.
  • Time: 10 min. This could take 30 min or an hour if you have a large team. Be sure to set the stage so people know they should try to keep their answers to 1 minute or less. An average-size team will be finished in 10 minutes + instruction time.
  • Purpose: Get your team in the moment and fully present so that they "Yes, And" their way to a full conversation. The purpose is to generate collaboration, ideation, support, creativity, and of course...fun.
  • Preparation: Bring a pad of sticky notes. Get two volunteers. One person will be the interviewer, and one will be the first interviewee. The interviewer will be the same person during the entire game. This person should be a good communicator who will enjoy being part of the exercise the entire time. The interviewee will change after each question, so each team member will take a turn. Tell the team that you'll be building on a conversation (a mock expert interview) as you go person by person. Encourage them to call back to each other's references. Ask them to try to transition into their response seamlessly, as if it is one conversation. Do a quick demo so they get the idea before you get started.
  • How to do it with your team:
    • Ask each person to write one noun on one sticky note and one verb on a second sticky note. When people are finished, have them put those on a wall or in the middle of the table where everyone can see. This is your pile of inspiration words.
    • Get your interviewer to pick one of the words. That person starts the interview with, "thanks for coming in to share your expertise on [word]" - then the interviewer continues by asking a relevant question about that word. The interviewee answers and then says, "I think you should also talk to my friend [teammate's name] he/she is an expert when it comes to [word]."
    • Then the interviewer asks the new person a question about that word. The interview continues until all teammates have answered a question.
    • Key: this needs to feel like one conversation. That's where the Yes, And comes into play. Try to transition into their response seamlessly, as if it is one conversation.
    • On a flip chart or whiteboard, write, "I think you should also talk to my friend [teammate's name] he/she is an expert when it comes to [word]" - this will help them remember how to generate the handoff from one interviewee to the next.
  • Debrief the experience:
    • Ask how that exercise mimicked things that happen at work on a regular day.
    • Ask what it felt like when the transitions were natural and tied together.
    • Ask what it felt like when someone abruptly moved to the next topic in the interview.
    • Note: the lesson you're drawing out is what it feels like when you use "Yes, And" to collaborate and build on each other's ideas. It's to talk about what it feels like when you show up as a fully present participant who accepts what "is" and moves forward from there. If you have a team with a lot of emotional baggage or a habit of squashing infant ideas, this would be a great exercise.

 

Monkey Wrench Story (this was the ranch story from the episode)

  • Objective: Hold a conversation in pairs where the storyteller flexes the story based on random words inserted by the randomizer.
  • Time: 3 min + instruction time.
  • Purpose: Get your team out of an over-analyzing mode; practice full presence; have fun; practice adaptability and innovation; experience change with no luxury of planning.
  • Preparation: Get a timer. You can likely use the stopwatch feature on your phone. Have everyone pair up. One person will be the storyteller (this is the role Lisa played in the example in the episode). One person will be the randomizer (this is the role Gary played).  Ask them to decide who will play which role for their 3 minute story. Do a quick demo so they get the idea before you get started.
  • How to do it with your team:
    • Tell the storytellers that their job is to tell a story that begins with "once upon a time...", to try to create some excitement in the middle, and to bring it to a close in a relatively short period of time.
    • Tell the randomizers, in advance, to think of 5 unrelated words. Have them write them on a piece of paper that only they can see. Tell them that their job is to insert those words randomly in the middle of a sentence (not the end) while the storyteller is talking.
    • The storyteller's job is to accept the word and smoothly weave it into the story.
    • Tell them how you will call them back together. All pairs will be talking at once, so the room might get loud. Tell them how to know it's time to cut off their story if it hasn't finished when you call time.
    • Key: this needs to feel like one story. That's where the Yes, And comes into play. They're practicing the idea of changing direction quickly, and not being able to plan their responses.
  • Debrief the experience:
    • Start off by hearing a couple of the interesting story topics they covered. Ask who wants to do a 15 second story synopsis. It's fun hearing that one group talked about aliens inventing a revolutionary code that will forever change software development, whereas another group talked about hardcover books being distributed by orphaned dolphins who swam with the books on their fins.
    • Ask how that exercise mimicked things that happen at work.
    • Ask what it felt like to the storytellers when they had to shift the story into an unexpected direction.
    • Ask what it felt like to the randomizer to hear where the story goes versus where they expected.
    • Ask what was difficult; ask what was easy.
    • Note: the lesson you're drawing out is what it feels like when you're fully present--when you come without assumptions or expectations about what's next. And you get to experience what it's like being fully in the moment. It's not to show that future thinking or learning from past failures is bad. Of course, if you know us at Lead Through Strengths, you'll know we love the talents of Futuristic, Context, and Strategic. Instead, this is to get people to also experience what it feels like to be fully present in the moment and to support ideas in a different way. If you have a team with a lot of competing priorities and distractions, this would be a great one.

Using these tools and techniques helps teams create and innovate, while allowing all people to feel valued and appreciated.

 

Resources of the Episode

To connect with Gary, check out his website, and follow him on twitter.

 

Subscribe

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

 

StrengthsFinder Mini-Course For Managers

If you’re a people-manager and you want to sharpen your strengths based support, come join our mini-course. We don’t charge for this because we want to help you keep the StrengthsFinder momentum going. Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability. Yowza! Sounds like a great reason to join. Source:  Asplund, J., & Blacksmith, N. “Strengthening Your Company’s Performance.” Gallup Business Journal.

Read the full conversation:


Lisa Cummings: Today you'll get some serious depth on the concept of energizing your work. Your guest host a show called Breakthrough Cocktail. He helps teams get out of their funk, through improvisation and through play. Now, if that sounds just a little bit too much like a boondoggle of a work day for you, hey, listen through anyway, All right, because improv has helped me become such a better player at work and beyond the distressing and beyond the fun that it brings you, there are real productivity benefits to this stuff. It helps you think on your feet.

Lisa Cummings: It helps you innovate and you learn a ton about your teammates. By being in Improv games, you get to simulate your decision making responses. You simulate the default ways that you act in different situations. Yet you do it in a way that is accepting of each other's ideas and building instead of stripping down, basically you give huge support to each other. Yes, even to the people who annoy you and it shows you a whole new way to value them and what they bring to the team. So, Gary Ware, thank you for bringing us some productivity boosting fun and games today. So why don't you get us started by telling us your perspective on play at work.

Gary Ware: Yeah. I actually have a quote that summarizes that and it's from Plato and it says you learn more about a person in an hour of play than a lifetime of conversation. Like Lisa, I totally agreed. I got hooked on during Improv because it was something, there was something about it. Yeah, you can do these icebreaker games, but it was just something about Improv and just letting yourself go back and play and discovery that it was like I was transformed back to when I was five in kindergarten on the, on the playground, just doing silly things and there was no care in the world.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, I know that you've said you love being goofy and I love being goofy too, so it certainly feeds that part. Yeah, just the play and not planning what to say. I'm very much like that. I plan a few steps ahead. I want to be careful about what I say and it, it's the opposite of that and not being seven steps ahead. So really just being in the moment, being fully present. It's just so cool. I could go on, I could gush.

Gary Ware: Yeah, I know. Exactly. And it's just a new way of thinking. So Lisa, question for you. So you got into Improv and it sort of transformed your life. Can you talk about a few other areas of, of how just Improv this impacted you?

Lisa Cummings: The “yes, and” part has been huge for me. So anybody who's listening who's not familiar with “yes, and” it's, it's kind of a basic tenants that you're going to support what's going on in a scene or in a moment and build on it rather than cutting it off or saying no to what's happening. And so putting yourself in that mindset of you're in the scene or at work, you're at work and then going with what is happening and then making the best of it, building on it and making it better as a completely new way. It shifted me in many ways like down to the basics of trying to get “but” out of my vernacular, unless you're talking about a literal butt on a body, it's “the yes, and” or I'll say yet I won't say, but if I'm being conscious of it because it does, it changes the way you actually think and put things together and it, it just changes your frame of mind. So that's been a huge one for me in life. How about for you?

Gary Ware: It causes me to think of other possibilities. You're right when you are saying “yes, and" you are agreeing 120 percent with someone and you're building on that and everything's a possibility because I know we're so quick to say “no” for whatever reason. It could be that you're just scared or you really think that you have an idea that is stellar and you're not listened to and sometimes it's just all about; let’s support what's already out there

Lisa Cummings: And it teaches you about yourself in a way that you.
I understand more about your assumptions. So, I'm remembering back to a recent class and so I'm an Improv and you're in this scene. Work with a person and they're doing something and so as the recipient or you're, you're up there with them listening and trying to understand what they're doing through their actions. The guy who was up there with me he was being a cook in his mind and so he was chopping something with a knife and what I saw was a guy working in his wood shop and as a perfect example of “yes, and” because I started commenting on what he was making in his wood shop and it was after the scene we were debriefing when he said, I was actually starting as a chef. It turned in a completely different direction and just imagine if we weren't in front of an audience, it was in the class, but if we're in front of an audience and he's like, hey dummy, I'm not in a wood shop.

Lisa Cummings: I'm in a chef. Hello. Can you not see my knife? Would have ruined the whole thing. He just went with it and then there's something human and real that happens too because you see his face, he's shifting gears. He's recalibrating, okay, now I'm going to shop and what am I holding and what I was seeing him like with a rasp or something and it's just for me, that's very insightful when you think about it. Applied to work because you see the world through your eyes and you have no idea where they're coming from and you can assume yet getting in and saying yes and going with what's happening really helps you understand. You come from a place of curiosity, come from a place of openness and then you start to see, oh yeah, there are different people who see things differently. And my way is not the only way to go about the world.

Gary Ware: I totally agree. And myself coming from a very creative background and working in the agency world by saying, yes, it opens up in endless possibilities for innovation because I know far too often, if you're in a brainstorming session and again, everyone wants to get their ideas heard and like every time we deny someone's idea. And we throw someone else’s idea out. If you start over again and, but just by throwing all egos aside and just supporting what is out there and just agreeing 110 percent and just not, you know, exploring that until it's completely done. And then, before we move onto any new concepts, you will get awesome ideas. And another example of- this was something how we brought one of the tenants of Improv “yes, and” into the brainstorming scenario so when we would brainstorm, it would be uber focused, brainstorm, so it would be on one concept, but we could not explore outside of that concept until we explored everything about that concept. And so no one can throw any new ideas into the mix until everything from the very first idea has been explored and it makes you think… in the beginning, you get all the obvious things out. But then that's where the magic happens is we can't move on because that's typically what happens. You get all the obvious stuff and then you get stuck and then you move onto something else and then you have to start over. But You keep going and then that's where you get those breakthrough moments.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, those are great. It's kind of like, oh, for anybody reading, if you're really into this stuff, it's convergent and divergent thinking. And the typical brainstorm, people are always talking about, oh, blue sky, you know, think about anything wacky out there and you do come up with good ideas there and that's more of the divergent. But if you create the constraint and you say, all right, we're living inside of this limitation. What can we come with? Insight of the limitation, the ideas I see come up are better when you're limiting yourself, constraining yourself, because then you can get real wacky with how to make it unique and those are the most fun to me. But versus the wide-open universe of ideas you could come up with.

Gary Ware: Yeah, exactly. Sometimes we need limitations and constraints to come up with amazing ideas. And I know for my own improv experiences, sometimes those limitations are the format of the game. You know, this specific game has, has specific rules and specific limitations. But aside from that, you're free to completely explore and do whatever you want. And like what you mentioned earlier, you are not by yourself. You're with someone that is supporting you and we see things through different lenses and by just supporting whatever's out there and building on it, it's magic. It is magic. Yeah. And so I thought maybe we can kick things off by playing a little game. One of the simplest games is, ““yes, and””, and maybe we can just start with, since this is a career focused and, and whatnot, maybe we can do a yes and gain where maybe it's an interview focus game, but we're going to just keep saying “yes and” we're going to build on something and see where we go. Okay, cool. Lisa, would you like to be the interviewer and I will be the interviewee.

Lisa Cummings: Yes. I would love to. And I would love to know what job you would like to interview for.

Gary Ware: I would like to interview for a trainer at the zoo. Okay.

Lisa Cummings: Gary, it's great to have you in here. Tell me about the wackiest animal experience you've had at the zoo so far or in your animal life.

Gary Ware: I have to say the most wacky experience that I ever had was when I worked in Africa and I was tracking rhinos through the safari.

Lisa Cummings: You know, I've always wanted to do a safari in Africa, and I know it's a little off what you might expect an interview topic to be about, but can you tell me what you learned while you were tracking rhino and what, what the purpose was? What were you out there after?

Gary Ware: Yeah. What I learned is that rhinos, they travel in packs and that reminds me of family and the importance of having a good support system and I can bring those, you know, that experience here to this zoo, the San Antonio Zoo, and I can apply that to any aspect of our training facility.

Lisa Cummings: That's great. I love the lessons you can apply. I'm wondering, so rhinos, they seem kind of scary. Were there ever moments when you were just… Yeah, they scared the bejesus out of you or were you pretty confident the whole time? How did you handle fears being out like that in some risky environment?

Gary Ware: Yes, they did. Right? Those are scary beast and I'm not going to lie. I was quite scared; there was one time when we were trying to identify if this was a specific heard that we have tagged, and I had to go into the pack where a mother was nursing with some of her young and just like any mother, if you're going to approach her children, she's going to get defensive. I personally thought she was going to charge me, but I noticed the warning signs and I stayed very clear. And one thing that you have to know about rhinos is that if you, if you don't show fear and you show dominance, they will immediately back down.

Lisa Cummings: Wow. And how did you show dominance to a rhino?

Gary Ware: Well, I think the best way to show dominance to a rhino is to appear like you are a male rhino. So that requires you to get into this position and, start stomping your feet. It is quite the site. And I did that very successfully.

Lisa Cummings: Have you ever stomped your feet like that in a work environment?

Gary Ware: Actually, sometimes you have to show dominance in a work environment, and so yes, that I can relate to multiple times when, if I'm in a situation where I'm being bullied, sometimes you just have to stomp your feet and you know, show that you mean business, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to always do that.

Lisa Cummings: Well, tell me about a time when you had to show you meant business.

Gary Ware: Well, I'm a little ashamed about this, but there was a time when I worked for the San Diego Zoo and I thought I was up for a raise. I had to say, Hey, I, am and doing a super job and I felt like I am due for a raise. Would you please reevaluate me? And I was very firm yet not overbearing. And that was the last time I had to really show that I meant business.

Lisa Cummings: Now, if you had to show you meant business to end this interview and show me that you wanted the job, what would you do right here?

Gary Ware: Well, I would make sure that I have, a power stance and a power stance means that my feet are shoulder width apart. I am leaning in which is more of a position of power and I will make direct eye contact and I would have more of a deeper voice and I would say I am the best candidate for this position. You should hire me because no one else is going to bring their experience like myself

Lisa Cummings: "And, scene"

Lisa Cummings: So now if we go out of character and debriefed that some things that were really cool to me is for the listeners out there, it's kind of cool to show “yes, and” and Improv stuff doesn't have to be about being funny. It's about going with what's going on and having been a recruiter and hiring manager as I watched and listened to your answers and thinking about how you just rolled with it, it didn't matter what I threw out you, they were not typical interview questions. I don't know if there are typical zoo interview questions is a different environment, but it was interesting. You probably think you're going to get it. It told me about your strengths and weaknesses. Tell me about your background. We ended up talking about rhinos and power stances and I think that's a really cool thing. Sometimes when I interview people I see, oh, they're off script.

Lisa Cummings: What am I going to do? I used to ask a question of people about what, is the last thing you did that you found really fun? And people were like a fun. It surprised people so much and know people have fun. They just was not a work question. So it really threw people and that's something I looked for in interviews is, will they be able to roll with the punches and sometimes the punches are weird questions and sometimes it's, giving you the insight, especially the “Tell me about a time when”, I mean, that's a very technical, it's called behavioral interviewing and it's beautiful as a candidate because you get to tell stories and stories, bring emotion into the picture and make things memorable until they're so great for you as a candidate. But a lot of people resist them. So I thought that showed all sorts of cool things. How about you

Gary Ware: Agreed. And another thing to note, especially being on both sides of the table, being someone that is interviewing and being interviewed yourself, you're right, you do not know what's going to be out there. However, if someone throws you for a loop, all you have to do is just take a deep breath, pause, because you don't have to answer right away, compose yourself and just be yourself. Be Real at the end of the day, they're hiring a human. And if you don't know the answer, you know, feel free to, you know, just be honest and just be real. And, you're right stories are, that is the, in my opinion, the Trojan horse of an interview because if you can talk about story, you sometimes get off tangent and they stopped interviewing you and you're having a conversation and when you're having a conversation, now you're getting real and now you're getting to the heart of why we want to interview. So when we want to find out what they're about.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, and you're getting to the “what makes people pick people”. I mean if you think about, if you talked to people the way you talk to your friends, you're not formal and stiff. You think about what you do when you sit around and relax, you know, cocktails, right? Breakthrough cocktail. So when I sit around on the patio with my friends, what do we do? We sit around and tell each other stories. When you talk to people like you talk to people you like, you tell stories, so do that with your employer. Give them the chance to see the you behind the kind of robotic curtain that people put up in interviews and let them like you and people hire people. They like all things being equal. If your resume looks about the same, that's what got you in the door. The thing that gets you hired over the final couple of candidates, it's the interpersonal stuff and that the stories are such a great way to go with that. So embrace behavioral interviews; they are awesome.

Gary Ware: I totally agree. And as a way to prepare within Improv, you can't really prepare. We run through games, but as a way to prepare, I tell all of my people that I mentor have some stories like about yourself, whether it's, you know, what was the last time you felt yourself in a scary situation? You know, how do you have fun, you know, and anytime I come across a really good story that I could use in any situation I sort of just jot down and actually that reminds me of one other game that I would like to play the team, Lisa, if you would like to be so brave and it's called the Monkey Wrench game. I don't know if there's a technical term. So a Lisa, if you would be brave to be the person on this one. I asked them to tell me a story about anything. It's just telling your story, but I'm going to throw out random words and then you have to just take that word and immediately add it to your story.

Lisa Cummings: Okay. Love it.

Gary Ware: Cool. So to get you started, maybe just tell me a story about a time when someone had fun since we were talking about.

Lisa Cummings: Once upon a time there was a man who had no fun in his life and he went on a quest to have fun training.(Gary Ware suggests the word ‘tractor’) So he showed up at his friend's farm and said, you know, I've lived in the city my whole life and I want to learn to drive a tractor. In fact I want to operate the backhoe because I think it will be so much fun. So his friend got him out and he started tooling around with all of those knobs and sticks and he started thinking, wow, this is not as fun as I thought. Gary Ware suggests the word ‘plank’) I want to do something else on the farm I want to... So his friend said, I think you'd have more fun if you walk the plank. And the guy said, oh, what do you mean walk the plank? I thought you walk the plank when you were like getting off to buy haters or something.

Lisa Cummings: And so Joe said, no, no, no, no, no. Walking the plank here is great. So we take them out to the pool and stands them out on the diving board, puts a blindfold on him and asks him to jump. So he jumps in the pool and (Gary Ware suggests the word ‘sunset’) so we jumped in the pool and started treading water and Joe said, you know, here's the thing, you've walked the plank, you've done the best cannon ball we've seen in like four years. The next part of fun is whether you can tread water until sunset and do some of that synchronized dancing to the beat of the music on the radio. So we started listening to the songs and moving his body to the sounds of the songs and he felt like a synchronized swimmer in the Olympics. (Gary Ware suggests the word ‘glasses’) So his friend said, you're brilliant. I mean if, if only you had that swimming cap that was pink, you would look great. So let's get out of the pool and finish up the night by having an old fashion and clinking our glasses because today was a breakthrough for fun.

Gary Ware: Yay. "And, scene". How it was that? Thank you for being a Guinea pig.

Lisa Cummings: That was a cool game. Yeah, I really liked it. I've done the game where you do story building where you do like once upon a time and you started off and then you just cut yourself, you edit yourself and the next person has to build on the story and let it roll. So I really, I really liked it, I'm pivoting because your mind's going in one direction and then you have to jump over to the side and make it something totally different. So I thought it was pretty fun.

Gary Ware: Great. Yeah. And I have to say the story became even more creative because with this and I do a lot of people that I mentor with is to get them out of their head and be ready for anything. And now you created a story that you never would've thought you would've went there and I had no idea. And yeah, sometimes again, in interviews and on the workplace, you think you know where things are going and then you get thrown a monkey wrench, you know, pivot and adjust.

Lisa Cummings: And sadly for this episode, things have to pivot to the close so we have to do more of this though, is so good. Thanks for the monkey wrench game and the interview game, Gary. I mean this has been quite the strengths jam, so I know a lot of readers can learn from this advice you gave on telling stories during interviews, whether the interviewer or the interview, my favorite action to out of this whole conversation is to practice at least one “yes, and” every day and then you'll notice how much you say but as well and just watch what it does for your influence, for your listening and for your trust on the team. That one tiny word, yes instead of but, can change the whole dynamic on your team. And then for that monkey wrench game, try that with your group at work.

Lisa Cummings: It's such a fun team builder and it's really good for getting in that creative mindset when you need to or for exercising your adaptability muscle if you have to deal with a lot of change and it's even a way to practice that. “yes, and” concept because it builds on other people's ideas, even if that's not where you were planning to take the conversation. Now I know all of you listeners want to check out more from Gary. You can find him at breakthroughplay.com.

Direct download: 028-Gary-Ware.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This episode will energize and encourage you to take a big leap toward living the life you truly want to live. Lisa speaks with David Ralph, a man who ditched the corporate life, took that leap, and is now living a life that he loves (and it meant he went from working a mandatory 8 hours every day to working for a few hours at tasks he loves). And, he tells us about how he used his strengths to make it all happen.

This is a great episode, especially for those of you who have always been searching for that elusive Passion Pot of Gold. David points out that it’s not something that’s just going to appear; you need to go out there and do something to reach the life you want.

David keeps in mind his Top 5 Talent Themes from the Clifton StrengthsFinder: Futuristic, Maximizer, Belief, Positivity, and Activator. You’ll hear how his Maximizer talent has impacted his life, and how he’s learned to use his Activator talent to get stuff done.

 

What You’ll Learn

David tells us his story, and how he got to where he is today. Along the way, he gives these sage pieces of advice:

Be where people give you kudos for the good things you do. When he was in the corporate world, David realized that no one told him when he did the good things, they only commented on the tasks that needed improvement, which most likely led to discouragement, and a negative view of his job. When he went out on his own, those same people started telling him how good he was at certain things. That’s empowering! When David was in the corporate world, his Maximizer talent told him that nothing was every good enough – he spent hours perfecting the little details that didn’t truly matter. Now, he believes that he can do a great job, and that the little details don’t matter to others, so he saves a lot of time by not sweating the small things. Prioritize!

You don’t have to work hard every day to succeed and be happy. Somewhere along the way, it’s become the norm that in order to succeed, we have to put in a hard day’s work and that life isn’t easy. That is NOT true! As David moved up the corporate ladder and become more successful and earned more money, he realized he was less and less happier. Working “hard” was not a pleasure.

Look around at what other people are doing. Watch to see what others around you are doing, especially those who’ve found a way to do what they truly love. It will give you ideas for other ways to earn a living, while at the same time enjoying your life. In David’s case, there was another podcaster who he heard, and thought it was something he would love to do.

Have your own goals. If you are working every day in the corporate world, you are fulfilling the goals, and earning money of someone else. David encourages you to have your own goals, using the example of the band Duran Duran. You’ve got to hear their story and how they achieved their own goals, as David tells it.

The status quo doesn’t have to be. Just because people expect you to go to work every day, dressed a certain way, being a high achiever, it doesn’t mean that you are required to be part of the status quo. Once David has this AH HA moment, he was ready to take that LEAP, and go for it. As he says, he “Broke Free”.

Connect the dots. Go back in time, and look at yourself before life got serious (around ages 5-9). What things did you want to do? What did you truly enjoy doing every day? Then, go through your attic and look for things from that time period. In David’s case, he found cassette tapes that included interviews he had done with people around town when he was 9. He had completely forgotten about that. Next, look at the paths of your career. In his case, he had a training background, and then moved into doing presentations. All these dots connected him to what he is doing now – interviewing people and presenting topics to the world. What are your dots?

Find a mentor (or at least a person who will encourage you). Having someone to encourage you to take a leap, can make all the difference. It feels great to know others believe you have what it takes to meet your own goals.

Use your strengths to help you make the leap. For example, David has an Activator talent, which enables him to start projects. He uses this to go out each day, doing what he loves, and actually “living” his life. Can you believe he sometimes goes a whole week without checking his email? That’s because he can.

Wait for the SUPER YESES. Once you are out on your own, if people approach you with deals that would bring in money, but not meet your own criteria for the new business you’ve started, then say no. David found that all the little no’s make room for the SUPER YESES, which are the ones that will really move you on.

Live the 20/80 Rule. Knowing that 20% of the things you do bring 80% of the reward, PRIORITIZE your tasks to focus on the 20%, and limit the amount of time you spend on the other 80% (they can be time suckers).

Remember, knowing your Strengths and understanding them can have a huge impact on your personal and professional lives. So go claim your talents and share them with the world.

 

Resources of the Episode

To “get more David in your life” check out these links: http://www.joinupdots.com and http://www.podcastersmastery.com. You can also connect with David on Twitter.

During the podcast, David mentions Michael O'Neal, who hosts the Solopreneur Hour Podcast. If you are interested, here's the link: https://solopreneurhour.com/podcasts

 

 

Subscribe

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

 

StrengthsFinder Mini-Course For Managers

If you’re a people-manager and you want to sharpen your strengths based support, come join our monthly mini-course. We don’t charge for this because we want to help you keep the StrengthsFinder momentum going. Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability. Yowza! Sounds like a great reason to join. Source:  Asplund, J., & Blacksmith, N. “Strengthening Your Company’s Performance.” Gallup Business Journal.

 

Go Live Your Talents

Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. Go claim your talents and share them with the world!

 

Direct download: 027-David-Ralph.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

In this episode, Lisa has a fun conversation with Melissa Dinwiddie. Melissa is a multi-talented, creative person who lights up your day with her voice and enthusiasm! She helps her clients to use their strengths to get their mojo back when they feel like their innovation gene has left the building.

You’ll find lots of ideas to spark your creative mojo in this episode. Plus, you’ll hear about her “Passion Pluralite” life, as she calls it, so listen in. You’ll walk away with a newly formed opinion of what’s possible for a multi-passionate person. It’s inspiring to see someone who wouldn’t settle for “one thing” or one activity driving her entire career path.

As she’s working with her clients, Melissa always keeps in mind her Top 5 Talent Themes from the Clifton StrengthsFinder: Connectedness, Achiever, Input, Futuristic, and Positivity. You’ll hear why this combination of Talents makes Melissa one of the most knowledgeable, multi-talented, creative people you will ever meet.

 

What You’ll Learn

Find your unique you. Melissa Dinwiddie is a multi-talented woman who has many different interests. She knows a lot about a lot of things. She always took for granted that she had so many interests, until she had a conversation with a client that led to a life-altering Ah Ha moment. In that moment, she realized that she had a unique gift, and that her Connectedness and Positivity Strengths made her a natural at consulting and collaborating with others. This led to her career working with clients to improve their creativity – which leads to innovation, increased profitability, and achievement.

Use your Strengths. Connectedness and Positivity also enable her to look for meaning and connection all around her. She is always using that information to figure out how she can help her clients.

Always say “Yes, and…” Improv class, which is one of Melissa’s newer hobbies, taught her to always say “Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…” because when you say it, you keep thing going and growing. This approach generates more new ideas, and allows for more creativity. Saying “but” is really just another way of saying no. It shuts down creativity. It leaves your team with more potential conflict and stifled creativity. Adding many ideas to the big mosh-pit brings forth more possibilities, and will empower your team members. When people are scared that they’re gonna be cut down, they become afraid to speak up (and you might be missing the best idea yet).

Understand your Strengths…to overcome them. This might sound counter-intuitive, yet Melissa gives a great example when speaking about her Achiever Talent Theme. In the past, her need to achieve kept her stuck in self-perfection. By understanding how the Achiever Strength has the possibility to (counter intuitively) limit her ability to finish projects, she has developed self-compassion. She now considers herself to be a “recovering perfectionist”. So, if you tend to be a perfectionist at work, remember, everything doesn’t always have to be perfect; sometimes it just needs to get done. Give yourself a break!

Lisa adds that the Achiever Talent Theme in its pure form is all about completing tasks and getting to the finish line. She hypothesizes that Melissa’s other StrengthsFinder Talents may be playing into her perfectionist tendencies too. While her Achiever wants to get things done, her Input will want to keep sponging up learning and insights that broaden her view of the project.

Speaking of opening up possibilities, her Futuristic Talent will keep her in constant “what-if” mode. The fascination and vision of what can be can also keep you in rework mode. And her Connectedness Talent could have event played into her perfectionist tendencies because she sees connections and wants to share them with other people. Imagine when she’s creating courses and wants to keep tinkering so that every person with every perspective can get what they need. Ahhh, feeding your talents can be so energizing. And, sometimes, they can derail your progress if you’re not keeping an eye on the outcomes you set out to achieve.

Schedule sandbox time every day. Our modern lives are super-busy, and often jam-packed with activities and projects every single day (even the weekends). Melissa suggests you spend 15 minutes every day relaxing, like you used to do as a kid. Play in the sandbox, doodle on paper, or go for a walk – whatever floats your boat. She’s proven that just that short amount of downtime can rejuvenate your creativity, and you will have a much easier time coming up with new ideas or finishing projects you’ve neglected. So schedule a short break time every day, and see what happens.

Finding your “true passion” takes practice. People often ask career coaches and StrengthsFinder consultants how they can find their “true passions”. Melissa has an answer for them: Go out and try different things. She cites the example of learning to dance, another recent hobby. It took her 3 – 4 years of different types of dancing to figure out that she loves salsa and Argentine tango. In the work environment, you may be in a role you don’t love. Maybe you even hate your job. Look at the tasks your perform, and pay attention to what you actually do enjoy. Then find ways to get more of them added to your job responsibilities. If you stick with it, you’ll end up happier, more successful, and your business will be more profitable.

Remember, knowing your Strengths and understanding them can have a huge impact on your personal and professional lives. So go out there and create.

 

Resources of the Episode

To connect with Melissa and grab some creativity resources, check out her website. You can also connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Ready to live a full-color life? Melissa’s Live Creative Now podcast is filled with practical tips and inspiration on creativity and creative productivity. Feeding your creative hungers is one of the fastest ways to happiness, joy, and self-fulfillment. Not only will you feel more alive, it’s how you will change the world!

 

Subscribe

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

 

StrengthsFinder Mini-Course For Managers

If you’re a people-manager and you want to sharpen your strengths based support, come join our monthly mini-course. We don’t charge for this because we want to help you keep the StrengthsFinder momentum going. Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability. Yowza! Sounds like a great reason to join. Source:  Asplund, J., & Blacksmith, N. “Strengthening Your Company’s Performance.” Gallup Business Journal.

 

Go Live Your Talents

Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. Go claim your talents and share them with the world!

Read the full conversation:

Lisa: Today, this show is all about using your natural talents to unleash your creative side at work. Your guest is so super interesting. She's actually dedicated her career to instigating creativity around the world. She works with teams to help them get their Mojo back when they feel like their innovation gene has left the building. She might even change your mind today about how very important play is at work. And speaking of play on the literal side, your guest plays the Ukulele and even brings that into her work world. So get ready. You're about to see how your creative expression can help you offer your value to the world. So Melissa Dinwiddie, welcome to the show.

Melissa: Wow. Thanks Lisa. That was like the greatest intro ever.

Lisa: It could have only been better if I had primed you for it so that you could have your Ukulele ready to play a little tune. Right. So, okay. You know, this show, it's all about exploring strengths from every angle. We're getting a unique angle of creativity today and we're bringing in strengths to that. So when you mentioned to me that when you first considered your top five StrengthsFinder talents that the one called Input was interesting to you because at first you didn't see that as something special and you. So tell us more about how that went down for you. In your mind, how did you open yourself up to the idea that it could actually be a superpower that you were overlooking?

Melissa: I was doing a trade with a woman who was, at the time, my yoga teacher and she's also a life coach and so she was trading coaching. She was giving me some coaching and I was creating a website for her. It was maybe the third time that she had asked me about how to do something inside of a WordPress website, upload an image or create a new page or something, and I was showing her. And then she said, well, what if I want to do, you know, x, Y, z? And I said, oh, well there's three different plugins that I know of for that. And she looked at me and she said, how do you know all this stuff? And I said, I don’t know, I just, I made my own website a number of times so I know this stuff. And she's like, I think you don't appreciate how that, you knowing all this stuff, like that's not normal, that's normal in a really cool, really cool way.

Melissa: Like you could, you could do consulting and you know, Blah Blah Blah. And it, it was that moment that made me realize, wow, this is something that's unusual about me in a good way. And it made me flash back to a moment, years earlier, this would have been back in the late 90’s, mid 90’s when I had started doing calligraphy, which became a huge passion of mine and that ultimately turned into a career. But at this point I was still a relatively new calligrapher and I was at a workshop and it was one of the first workshops I had been to with this calligraphy guild that I had joined. And somebody asked about a tool called an automatic pen. Well, what is an automatic pen and how is that different from, you know, this other kind of pen? Well, I, when I got into calligraphy, I had taken, like I'd ordered all the, there were two big stores that had, at the time, this was really before the Internet took off, so they had these paper catalogs. So of course I had ordered these paper catalogs and that was my bedtime reading. I would go to bed and pour through these catalogs and read all the details about every single tool and every single book. And so I just knew all this stuff. And so here I was, I'd been doing calligraphy for, you know, less than a year or something, and I was spouting off “well and automatic pen is its way and it works in this way and the way it's different from quick pan is blah blah”. And I remember the people looking at me like, are you an alien? Like they just didn't know you've been, I've been doing calligraphy for eight years and you just started, eight months ago, how do you know all this stuff?

Melissa: And I, didn't realize that that was, I didn't have a word for it. I was just who I was. So I didn't realize that it was unique or unusual or a particular strength. And it just was this quirky thing about me that I didn't even realize was quirky. So yeah, that, was probably of my StrengthsFinder strengths. That was probably the first one that I went, oh yeah, that I can totally see as a strength because the things that I'm passionate about, I dive in and I learn everything that I can about them because that's what I do and then it nothing makes me happier than sharing that knowledge with other people, so it's a natural for consulting.

Lisa: So cool. I love when I have clients with Input. It is so much fun to hear because they love going deep and gathering all the information and learning about a topic and then really directing it to what they're into, whether it's a hobby or work and then sharing it and it becomes such a collaboration strength too because you can add so much value because you realize, oh, not everyone does that.

I mean, if I know if I got into calligraphy, I would flip through and look at the pretty pens and that's about it. I didn't know anything about any specs.

Melissa: Right, right. Yeah, it, it definitely comes in really handy. The other one, I'm number five for me is Positivity and that one I recognized right away and people are always telling me, Oh my God, you have so much energy and you're such a cheerleader, you know, and that's just my personality. I hadn't really thought of that as a particular strength either, but I see it like I use that every day and the work that I do with clients and the groups that I lead that, that I am always essentially cheering people on. I mean not with like pompoms or something, but you know, I always have a positive spin on things and that it's not pollyannaish. It's just, it's just how I am. I think actually that's quite related to my top strength of Connectedness, which I mean I read that and when that's a strength, what?

Lisa: That one always surprises people. They go, Huh, I would never think of that one.

Melissa: Never would have thought of it. But I think that really ties in with my Positivity that this sort of outlook of always finding meaning and connection and you know, there's always this sense that everyone and everything is connected and I'm not like a religious person, but I'm it definitely infuses kind of everything I do

Lisa: Well, knowing a little bit more about you and how you bring play into your work and how you’re an improviser, that's a high Positivity. It just makes complete sense because there's a fun-loving elements of it. It's finding the good times and things like if you're going to be here on the planet, go have a good time while you're at it, why not? And that tends to be one of the outlooks of people with high Positivity. So when I saw that and then knew that you were into play and Improv, I thought, oh well, it's just so perfect.

Melissa: Yeah. And of course the sort of core piece of Improv is to say “yes, and”.

Lisa: Yes, please say more about that. How that has shown up at work for you? Because most of the corporate people I work with are completely unfamiliar with Improv. Maybe you can talk about how that looks for people in a meeting or how that looks for people in either supporting each other's ideas versus squashing it if they gave it a “yeah, but.”

Melissa: That got really clear for me when I think it was like my first Improv class, I've been doing improv for about three years now and although I've been improvising, interestingly enough, I've been drawn to improvisational creative forms for a really long time. For example, I got into salsa dancing and Argentine tango and those are purely improvisational dance forms. They are based on a vocabulary of movement and each social dance has its own vocabulary of movement, but within that vocabulary it is 100 percent improv and then when I got into music, the music that I was drawn to was jazz, which is an enormous umbrella that covers so many different styles of music within it, but the one thing that is a consistent among all of them is that there have improvisational elements, so it's really not that big of a surprise that I would end up doing improv.

Melissa: Now I can connect that all together. My very first improv class, there was an exercise where a group of us were sitting up on the little stage area. We were supposed to pretend that we were in a meeting creating, we're talking about creating some, I don't know, some random object that we made up on the spot and about how to market it, I think. And so the first part of the exercise was that whenever anybody says something, let's, you know, let's throw a big party with confetti and invite the whole town or you know, whatever it was we were supposed to respond with, “yes, but,” and then add something. Right. So we did that for a while and then we stopped, and we replayed the same scene essentially. But this time whenever somebody gave an idea, the response was to be “yes, and”, and what was so interesting was when we did the “yes but” or “well, but” it would turn into just squashing, squashing just that: No, no, no, no, no. And it stopped everything where when the exercise was “yes, and” it became this like crazy mashup and it just kept growing and growing and growing and growing. And when you bring that “yes, and” to say a meeting where you're generating ideas or something and if you can respond to somebody else from that space of “yes, and” it opens up so many possibilities, you know, there's time later where you can refine things and cut things out and look at the, you know, the reality of our budget is limited to x or whatever. But to generate ideas, you have to be in that space of “yes, and”, and people don't like to put an idea out there if they know that there's a chance that it's going to be cut down. Right. Nobody likes that. That feels terrible. So that's a really important place to bring that Improv scale of “Yes, and”.

Lisa: I love the example too, of how you used it and actually had the contrast of the “yes, but” or the “well, but” with the “yes, and in the same situation because right, it just stops all the momentum and turns everything. And it's kind of like the eeyore moment.

Melissa: Totally. Yeah. And “yes, but” is really another way of saying “no”

Lisa: it true. Another thing that you're getting me thinking about reflecting on a work day and how you can have these breakthroughs and also sparked me to think about something you mentioned about your Achiever talent, how when now when you look back on a work day, you can kind of see that when you're fueled up, it's because you've achieved something and felt productive and that you feel frustrated when you're not. What does that process look like for you? And just exploring them and seeing how they show up.

Melissa: That one for me, in some ways it feels like as a liability as much as a strength only because, my history is being way too much of a perfectionist. I mean, I am now a card carrying him perfectionist, which means a recovering perfectionist. It's the same thing, which means basically that I treat myself with self-compassion. I was so stuck in perfectionism. I mean my Achiever strength was, you know, so blown out of proportion, there was no balance to it. There was nothing, nothing connected with the Achiever that you know, just sort of say it's okay. You get to be a human being, you get to be human. What ended up happening was, I mean, I call myself an artist. I had a career, a business. I still have a business and our business primarily making Jewish marriage contract. It's basically a side business these days.

It used to be my main business and for about a decade while I was making my living from my art, I didn't create anything for myself purely for play, except once a year I would go on a retreat with my calligraphy guild and then I would do some things for myself, but the whole rest of the year, all the other 360 days of the year, the only art I ever created was to other people's specifications and partly or a big chunk of that was because I was so trapped in perfectionist paralysis that anything that I would create, I would think, well that's not good enough. That's crap. And so it became so painful to try to do anything that I just didn't do it. But I was in such denial about it that I told myself, you know, I bought into the story, I created this story that it was because I just didn't have time and it wasn't until February 1st 2011 when I was actually interviewing an artist for my first online course that I created called the thriving artists project and this particular artist mentors other artists who want to have fine art, you know, professional fine art gallery, exhibiting art careers.

Melissa: And they get stuck in resistance as anybody else on the planet. Surprisingly enough. And so this artist that I was interviewing would tell her mentees, if you can't put 15 minutes a day into your art, you're making an excuse. And she was just talking about what she told her mentees. But in that moment, I was so nailed. She was, she was talking to me. She didn't realize she was talking to me, but she was saying to me, and by the time I got off that phone call first I got very defensive inside. But then I realized, oh my God, she is right. For the past decade I have been making an excuse because of fear, and so that day, and it was February 1st 2011, I committed to putting 15 minutes a day into making time for the joy of creative sandbox time that you talk about.

Lisa: Is that your creative sandbox time?

Melissa: Absolutely. That is. I didn't have that terminology at that point, but yeah, that's, that's my creative sandbox time. That is my playtime where in fact, in order to get myself into that head space where I could put even just 15 minutes into making art, I had to set up a bunch of sorts of ground rules for myself and it started off with maybe four or five. You know, it's all about the process. It's not the product let go of the outcome. When you get to the place where, you know, it's not done yet, it needs something, but you're not sure what and you're afraid to try anything because you might ruin it. One of my rules was go ahead and ruin it. And over a period of a two or three years that expanded into 10 rules for the creative sandbox. It's now what I call my creative sandbox manifesto.

Melissa: And the sandbox image was because I realized at one point that I wasn't taking time to do art. I'd started making some art, but the art that I was making, I stopped after a while, a couple of weeks into it or something, I just wasn't getting to my art table anymore and I couldn't figure out why because I wanted so badly to get back to making art. And one day I was looking at the table and I realized, oh my God, the art that I'm making right now has nothing different from when I'm working for a client. So it feels like work to me. It was very meticulous. It was very design-y. There was nothing improvisational about, there was nothing playful about it. It was the opposite of play. And I realized it was like this light bulb went off over my head and that's when I thought I need to play.

Melissa: I need to be like my little four-year-old nephew playing in a sandbox, making messes, thinking, oh, what would happen if I poured water on this? What would happen if I did this? That's the headspace that I needed to be in. And so that's, what I develop those, those rules to help me get into that headspace.

Lisa: It's so cool. And the boy, I mean, you know that in the corporate world this is such a thing for people because you have this push-pull and your mind whether or not someone's specific talent is Achiever. People have a drive to get stuff done is push for the next thing, but then you know you need white space. You have to explicitly sometimes not manage yourself to a goal or you burn yourself out. And there's this internal fight thing and you even sparked for me a thought that takes it beyond the moment to moment push-pull, but even the overall career stress that people put themselves under when they think of finding their passion or finding their calling.

Lisa: And I, think I remember you talking about callings as an elusive thing and that it's normal to resist them and refuse the call, that sort of thing. And I'd love to hear… you just got me sparked on that idea to what's your take on work as a calling and what do you do for those people who are beating themselves up over the fact that they feel like they don't have one?

Melissa: Oh my God. So that makes me think about a conversation that I had a number of years ago with a woman in my synagogue and I was talking about this stuff was pretty new to me then I was like, wow, I'm discovering this new direction for my life or I'm helping people get connected to their creative side, which for most of us has been, you know, got quashed down pretty early, including me.

Melissa: I mean a lot of people get quashed down at age five or six or something was like age 13 when I stopped making art. But for most of us that that gets really squashed and you know, so I was finding my passion again and our passion number 17 or whatever. So I figured out that I have a lot of them and this woman said, well, what do you do if you don't, if you don't have a passion. And I was stumped. I did not know how to answer her question. And it was only later when I was reading an article by somebody who I think she calls herself like the passion mentor or something, I can't remember, but she was writing about how, you know, passions, we have this idea that you're going to have this Eureka moment. You're going to open a door and boom.

Melissa: Yeah, that's my passion, I found it. And the reality is, even though I spent, I can't tell you how many times I've told the story of various passions I've had in my life: dance, calligraphy, getting back to social dancing, writing, improv, music. So many different passions. And the story has always been, oh, you know, then I discovered this and that became my next passion. But that's not really what happened. Really, what happened was with dance, I was too scared to try dancing as a little kid. I had some movement classes when I was like four. And then I had friends who were in ballet, but I had this image of the mean ballet teacher with the big stick who would like hit you if you don't do things right or. So I never took any dance classes. And then in I think my freshman year in high school, some friends of mine, we got together, and we took a class at a community center.

Melissa: We thought it was going to be, you know, mtv kind of how to dance to Madonna's material girl or something, you know, like the music video kind of dance. And it was actually, it was a modern dance class, which I didn't realize was much more classical style. And we were like, wow, this is lame. So I didn't, you know, I ended that class and forgot about it. So finally, you know, years later after, you know, first thinking about dance, I took a class at this local dance school and that's the moment where I went, oh my God, I want to do this every day. But it was, you know, three or four years of, tipping my toe into different kinds of dance before I discovered that dance school and Bingo had my Eureka moment. Every passionate I've ever had has been like that.

Melissa: You have some kind of interest in something enough to try it. And you know, maybe the first time it doesn't do anything for you. But for some reason you go back to it at some point again and maybe the next time you find something new in that and eventually you know, you try it a little more and then it starts to develop a little more meaning for you. And then you dive in a little bit deeper and it's the sort of back and forth thing and it happens, you know, much more organically. It's much more like, you know, there are people out there in the world who feel like they had this instant, you know, love at first sight moment with their spouse or their partner. Right? But most people, it didn't actually happen that way with me, my husband, it took me two and a half years to see him as a contender and, he's like best match I could ever imagine for myself.

Melissa: And that's what it's like with, with our passions for activities or pursuits.

Lisa: What a good metaphor because it is like, I mean I can see the relationship metaphor so strongly that you meet somebody and then you think, hey, I actually enjoyed my time there, or I feel better when that person enters the room. Then when they leave the room and then you think, well, I'm going to hang out with that person some more, and it's the same with responsibilities and tasks in the work that you do. You can say, oh, that things kind of neat. I've never done it. I'm going to hang out with that thing a little bit more. And then you start exploring all the offshoots of it and it's so much like that at work and people for whatever reason, feel like there should be the Eureka moment you talked about and not the process of experimenting and going, okay, that thing's cool.

I'm going to follow that path and all of the arms and legs that it has, and then you find that one thing that's super awesome and really fuels you up and I don't know why it's like that, but it does make me sad because a lot of people beat themselves up because they haven't found “the calling” or “the passion” and I know you use that term passion, plural light and looking at the plural like we have. We love a lot of things. Yeah, you have a lot of hobbies. You have a lot of interests, so let yourself feel that way about your work as well and go explore them. Maybe we can end with that exploration combined with how you explore your creative energy through your doodles because I think that's so fascinating and people will dig finding their own version of what you do with your doodling. Will you share about that?

Melissa: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So what I know about myself is that if I don't get a little bit, at least a little bit of time in the creative sandbox every day, my day doesn't go as well. It just, it makes me happy. It feeds me, it nourishes me. I also know that, uh, the thing I do first is the thing that gets done. So if I want to make sure that I get something into my day, it works best if I get it in first thing. I was not making, not making time for my creative play and realized I have to do it like before I even get out of bed. So I figured out, well, you know, I can bring a sketchbook and a pen, have it on my bedside table and then I can draw first thing in the morning. And so I set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and I doodle first thing in the morning and I intentionally call it doodling because I want to be in that space of Improv.

Melissa: That space of being in the creative sandbox like a four-year-old playing in the sand so that it's all about exploration and following my curiosity and not about trying to make something perfect or even good. And so it's just been an incredible self-growth experience to do this for the past, well, it's really since the start of the year, so it's been three months that I've been doing this. Every day I spend, you know, 15 or 20 minutes usually with a pen and some paper and a sketchbook, just doodling. It's like a spiritual, a spiritual practice because you learn so much about yourself. You know? Just today, there was a page where I had started something and I got really frustrated with it weeks back because I could see that it was going to require all this meticulous work that I just didn't want to invest in. It was going to drive me straight into that perfectionist place, which I don't like. I don't want to be in. And I came back to it today and thought, oh well I don't have to look at it that way I could come at it from a creative sandbox mindset and not worry about if these lines are perfectly rounded or whatever. And I was able to come back to that piece that I had totally rejected and really enjoy it and learn something and kind of expand my ability to break down those perfectionist walls from this one little doodle. So I highly recommended it. And it doesn't have to be pen and paper. I mean, you could do it with sound, you could do it with movement. You can do it with, you know, they're just so many ways that you can express yourself in, the equivalent of a doodle.

Lisa: And I even do my white space. It's not quite my creative sandbox, but just my white space to clear my brain. My office is at home and in the woods and I take walks with the dogs and I just insert them in the middle of the day to give myself that moment. To not be distracted, to not be listening to shows. To not be learning, to not be in a meeting and it clears, it clears the space in a different way. And I'm the uber efficient. I mean I get so caught up that I'll listen to podcasts while I'm in the shower just because I want every moment to be so productive. And so it's that moment where I go, no, I'm just breathing, I'm listening to the wind listening to the birds and just let it rest for a minute. And then I get all these strokes of brilliance in that time and the sandbox time and the white space time.

Lisa: I hope for everyone reading that this gives you some inspiration to bring that creativity back into your work day. To try yes, and if that's not something that's been part of your vocabulary, that you give that, some, just give that some air go, try that. It's easy to implement at work. Just show up and say “yes, and”, and your next set of meetings and don't squash an idea even if the squash comes to your mind, let it ride, let it ride and do that later. And let the ideas and the big breakthroughs happen. So thank you everyone for reading this Lead Through Strengths today. Melissa, this has been great. The readers are going to want to check you out. You have a show to tell them about, tell us how they can find you and your doodle delicious life.

Melissa: Oh sure. Well, my website is Melissadinwitty.com.com, but that's hard to spell so you can also get to the exact same place livingacreativelife.com and my podcast is livecreativenow, which you can find there are. You can go to live creativenow.com, which will take you there as well.

Lisa: Thank you. And we'll put all of that in the show notes so you guys can find it super easily and we'll get you her twitter and Instagram and Facebook links as well. So guys, remember using your strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. If you're always focused on fixing your weaknesses, always stuck in that perfectionist zone she's been talking about today then you're choosing the path of most resistance and you can choose instead to claim your talents and share them with the world.

Direct download: 026-Melissa-Dinwiddie.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:37am EST

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

In this episode, Lisa speaks with Jim Collison. He manages a technology team at Gallup in Omaha, Nebraska. He also champions the community for Gallup Certified Strengths Coaches, so he’s the poster child of the movement for many strengths professionals.

You’ll find this podcast particularly interesting if you’re ready to implement strengths-based coaching with your team. Jim gives specific examples that will get your wheels turning. He offers ideas for building a stronger team. He shares stories from his strengths based parenting experiences. And he shares examples of how he applies natural talents on the fly. He does this every year as he manages large teams of interns and only has a few months with each person.

All the while he’s partnering with other people to maximize the productivity on the team. Jim’s Top 5 Talent Themes from the Clifton StrengthsFinder are Arranger, Woo, Maximizer, Communication, and Activator. He’s a great example of someone who doesn’t waste time wishing he had more of his “lesser” talents. Instead, he pairs up with those who bring the talents that are tough for him to call on.

 

Where It Started For Jim

Every person’s strengths journey begins in a different place. Jim’s started at home, which led him into a career where he gets to apply his top talents and encourage others’ every day.

He tells the story of how he took the StrengthsFinder Assessment, and was so excited, that as soon as he got home, he said to his wife, “You take this too! Let’s parent this way.” This had a profound influence on his life and the way they parent each of their unique children.

He confesses that he thought one of his sons was apathetic. He got an enlightened view and changed their whole relationship once he looked at it through a talent lens. By looking at their children, and understanding what their individual strengths were, Jim and his wife were able to support each one and encourage growth in a positive way.

 

Applying Strengths At Work

While finding his strengths had an immediate impact at home, it was much slower at work. He’s still evolving 10 years later. Jim says it’s a “long-haul” approach, and that you have to live it. Here are some of Jim’s TIPS

  • Live it.
    Dig into your own top 5 talents, and strive to understand them at a deep level. You need to “live that life and walk that walk” every day. You have to invest in each talent theme to turn them into strengths on the job.
  • Team View.
    Create a Team Grid that includes every team member’s top 5 StrengthsFinder talent themes. Use the grid to get a big picture view of the overall strengths of the team (and where your team lacks strengths). Remember, you want well-rounded teams, not well-