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:
- Company Storyteller
- Business Unit Biographer
- Culture Keeper
- 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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
- Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
- Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
- 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.