Lead Through Strengths

Our seventh core concept in this STRENGTHS series, “Takes Time and Intention,” may sound like a lame title compared with our previous topics (“Troublemaker Talents,” “Easy Buttons,” “Gimme That Escalation,” etc.), but as we go along you’ll find that there’s a lot more nuance to it than that. You’ll get a deeper sense of why strengths take time, and hence calls for intention along with consistency. 

As in any process or situation, patience is a virtue. Something good always awaits, so stay with us!

Let’s break this core concept down to its two components.

1. Strengths Take Time

Between the two components, time is generally the easier one to commit to. It may mean a little bit of being patient, but the concept is more about asking:

“Now what?” 

“How do we keep this going?” 

After all the strengths blitz you go through with your team -- for example, going through the motion of reading “StrengthsFinder 2.0,” or preparing a budget for a team offsite and then getting together for some retreat or teambuilding activities -- ultimately, what do you do with all of that? How do you connect them to your natural strengths once you’re back to the grind?

While team activities like these open to a number of realizations, the questions remain: what’s next? How do we go about what we’ve learned? 

It all boils down to having the patience to take consistent effort towards building a strengths-based culture or thinking on the team. This includes breaking old thinking patterns in order to adopt new and better ones. For example, if many in your team are oriented lopsidedly towards weaknesses, it will take consistent effort in order to correct that. 

The best thing we can recommend is to have meaningful conversations with your team over time. And to achieve meaningful conversations, that takes a lot of trust between a manager and the team members.

Patience As A Way Of Thinking

Here at Lead Through Strengths, the way we help patience come into effect is by making it a way of thinking rather than just generic words of encouragement. Instead of telling teams to “just keep waiting, it will happen,” we prefer for them to think of strengths as the way they can get any results more easily. 

To illustrate this concept further, if you're using your natural talents and you've been developing them into strengths, you should be able to apply them to the work you're already doing. It shouldn't feel like strengths is so much of an initiative or an event or an extra thing on your plate that’s already full, but rather something like —

"I’m gonna lend my strengths to the work I already have to do."

When you are constantly busy and overworked, you would not want to view strengths as an extra task to have to manage. You would have less resistance when you are able to successfully lend your strengths to the work that’s currently on your plate.

When you see this from your own perspective, it opens things up and paves way for patience that will allow these meaningful conversations to happen over time. It is over time that you discover more about your team. Ultimately, when your understanding about each other deepens, trust is built and you collaborate better. That’s how you can honor their talents so that they can be effectively applied at work. 

Remember: Think of patience more like how you do the work you're already doing to easily achieve results versus seeing it as another item on your plate. That helps make patience more effective. 

2. Strengths Demand Intention

If time is the easier component in this concept, intention is the bigger one. As human beings, we have a number of cognitive biases, including negative cognitive biases. Let’s skip Google search and the psychology language by looking at this term this way -- if we are naturally oriented to spot what's negative, that is usually because we are trying to figure out what's gonna hurt us. 

“What weakness do I need to shore up with?” 

“What do I need to improve at so that I don't get fired for it?” 

“Where do I need to shut up in a meeting because otherwise, a) it might endanger my job, and b) I might disappoint my teammates who might think I’m not being a good collaborator.” 

These are just some of the reasons we are drawn towards this negative cognitive bias. The problem arises when we become too focused on it to the point of overdone or overblown. That’s where the idea of leading through strengths becomes powerful, because it gives you a totally different result when you’re working within your strengths zone. 

What Happens When We Lead Through Strengths Instead? 

When we think of strengths as a tool that we could use, like the "Easy Buttons" we talked about in Concept #4, that can unlock some real performance gains that people are missing out on. 

Have you ever tried to pull a nail out with the back of the hammer and you don't have the lever in the right place because you can't get it up in there all the way? Because you're not pulling against the strong lever, you exert more effort to get the nail out so it bends it all sideways and messes up the material you're pulling it out of. That's what it’s like when you're working in your weakness zone. 

But when you're working in your strengths zone, you get the full leverage and you exert less effort to get better results. You get that kind of satisfying feeling when it happens. 

Time And Intention As A Factor In Realizing Strengths

Setting time and intention means that you stay consistent as you go through the process of fully realizing your strengths, from spotting talent to developing it.

  • Spot the potential talent when it’s happening. You have to spot it when it's happening. If you’re an individual who is trying to spot your own talents, you may want to focus on your unique abilities, or those things that are easy for you to do but not for other people.


  • Experiment with the talent. This is the stage where you test the potential talent. Here, you must be able to realize that it can work well for you when you try it out and work on your potential. You have to give it credence and check what impact it can create for others. For example, see and check for yourself that the thing you thought was easy and that no one would care about, actually seemed to help the team out.


“Oh look, people actually care about that.”

"That actually helped the team out."

“Now that actually helped me get good results that people like.”


  • Apply the talent. Look for places and opportunities where you could offer your talents and be seen as a valued contribution.
  • Develop the talent.  When developing your talent, have the mindset that if you can achieve much with less effort, imagine how much more you can get if you will try harder. Then you would be inspired to double down on it and develop further so you can offer an even bigger contribution.

This whole process of seeing the talent, experimenting with it, applying it, and then developing it further may sound like an easy cycle to do, but it takes time, intention and thought. You’ll find that it’s not that easy to do when you don’t set aside time from your busy schedule, or if you're not stopping to give it some thought. It takes all that in order to succeed in this personal exercise for growth. As a personal exercise

Your Team Challenge: Create A Strengths-Based Subculture 

At the introduction of this series, we mentioned a 3-coin challenge that can help get you in the habit of noticing what works in each of your team members so that you get more of what works. 

The beauty about doing that as a team, especially if you do it consistently with time and intention and it works well, is that you get to start a culture in your company. That would be the culture where, 

  • You are oriented to each other in a way that favors strengths, you call it out and notice it in each other
  • You are mindful enough to recognize what the person is trying to contribute so that when they do and you see it, you're like, 

“Oh, yeah, that really was effective, but I wouldn't have noticed it otherwise because I would have been too busy in my computer and did not care to look up.” 

A tiny subculture of 10 people (or whatever size of direct reports you have) is powerful enough to start the snowball effect of what the whole team is doing. It is even more powerful than the company culture overall, as the different departments, founders and variations that come at play can get pretty complex. But if you are a team where you all work closely and learn about each other day in and day out, that is going to be a force in the company. 

So, Now What?

The concept of taking time and intention is a very important that we’re giving it its own term and airtime. It allows patience or some breathing room for the strengths to fully develop instead of cramming them all in at once. 

Have meaningful conversations with your team over time, and you’ll find that it is much more effective and less expensive than constantly going on offsites. 

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next, we're going to talk about a concept that you surely wouldn't want to miss: "Honored and Insulted." Stay tuned! 

Direct download: 115-Takes-Time-and-Intention.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CST