Lead Through Strengths

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: 2:30am CDT

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: 2:30am CDT

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: 2:30am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths


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.



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: 2:30am CDT

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.



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: 2:30am CDT

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.



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: 2:30am CDT

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




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: 2:30am CDT

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!



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: 2:37am CDT

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-rounded individuals. This is a great process for seeing who you need to lean on for different responsibilities and initiatives at work.
  • Manage Head Butting.
    Utilize the Team Grid as a conflict management tool. For example, if you have two team members who are in conflict, you can use this knowledge of the conflicting strengths without them realizing that’s what you’re doing.

    Tell the two people “ I understand, Bob, that you are adaptable and can go with the flow. And, Anna, I understand that you need structure. As you two interact on this project, please remember to take that into account.” Both people will feel understood and more open to compromise. Set up the potential conflict and ask them how this shows up at work for them.
  • Work Around Weaknesses.
    When it comes to projects, don’t spend time trying to improve your own weaknesses. Instead, spend time building partnerships by looking for someone who has strengths that are complementary to yours. Then, this is the big part: ASK. Ask the person to work with you on your project. If you don’t ask, the answer will be no. You’ll be surprised at how often people jump at the opportunity because you’re requesting help in areas they love working in. This will lead to a well rounded team. That’s so much better than trying to fight your way to a well rounded you.
  • Live Into Talents In Small Bites.
    If you oversee a team, Jim says not to undertake huge strengths initiatives out of the gate. It’s not because he doesn’t believe in them, it’s because they almost always fail. Instead, take little bites at a time. Little changes are not as noticeable, and are much easier to achieve. People don’t resist the small bites. They add up to a lot of momentum over time.
  • Align Responsibilities To Strengths.
    When it comes to specific assignments, pay attention to what your team members enjoy doing, and give them those tasks. When you give someone a job they want to do, the management part becomes a side thing. What you’re really doing is giving them opportunities to let them soar.
  • Get Out Of The Way.
    If you’re a manager and you give assignments, remember to stand back and let people do their jobs. You can help them with adjustments to keep them on course, yet that’s about all they’ll need when they’re in their strengths zoze. Stay focused on the outcomes. Let them approach the “how” through their unique talents. This even holds true for remote teams. Here at Lead Through Strengths, we’re based in Austin, Texas, yet we each work remote from each other. The outcome is the focus of the work, and way the work happens in between is based on each person’s talents.
  • Keep Growing. Jim’s last tip is to go to the Gallup Coaching website and check out all the free resources. You don’t have to be a certified strengths coach to access these helpful items that will help you grow as a leader.

Resources of the Episode

To get even more strengths tips, follow Jim on twitter @JimatGallup and the Gallup Organization @Gallup

Listen To Gallup podcasts that Jim hosts:

Theme Thursday – Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and YouTube

Called to Coach – Listen on Gallup.com and Spreaker


Jim mentions three books that he recommends about strengths:

-- StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath

-- First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

-- Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton



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.


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: 025_-_Jim_Collison.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:37am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

Ben Fanning shows you how to take the job you’re already in and shape it into something you’ll love. He says to think twice before quitting your job. He cautions you to look carefully before you fire a team member. Why? Well, it’s because both actions can cost as much as buying a new car. That’s a lot of money! And often, the role can be tweaked in a way that brings your talents (or theirs) to the forefront.

You’ll find this episode especially useful if you’re not in your “dream” job. Even if you are - things change - and you need to know how to steer those changes toward work you can truly enjoy and thrive in.

If you have team members who aren’t performing…well, look closer. Their low productivity might be caused by their job responsibilities not lining with their natural talents. In this episode, you’ll get three cool angles for lining them up:

  • Tool: the StrengthsFinder survey.
  • Books: both the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and The Quit Alternative.
  • Tips: Ben’s ideas and examples will help you make the best choices for your personal career and your company’s productivity.

Since we’re expanding our StrengthsFinder team in Austin, Texas and around the world, this interview was helpful for us too. It reminds us to match each team member to work they are energized by. I can say from personal experience that this feels like magic when it is done well. Seriously. I get giddy several times per week when I see how well matched we are for certain responsibilities.

My position as Director of Client Experience at Lead Through Strengths is a perfect partnership for Lisa and me. While she run the delivery side, I run the operations side. I get to curate articles using my Input talent. I combine my Achiever and Responsibility to be sure that every project step happens accurately and as promised. And we’re even re-matching talents as we speak as it relates to podcast duties. Ben’s tips were hitting home for both of us as we recapped the show.


What You’ll Learn

Ben starts this episode by telling his personal story. He was miserable at work. And it was literally making him sick. His advice:

  • Start journaling. Writing in a journal helps you notice how you really feel about your job. And look, Ben is not a touchy-feely woo-woo guy if you’re thinking that journaling is for the soft. He’s a practical guy who wants outcomes—and journaling gave him a huge shift.
  • Make the change. Advice he would give to his younger self – Dear Ben… “Your job is to create the job you love”
  • Make it yours. Continually molding yourself to the job erodes your personal mold and you forget who you are.

Ben’s steps to create the job you love:

  1. Ask - Why am I working in the first place? Knowing the answer to this question can help you during the tough times.
  2. Ask - What are the work activities I’m doing that I truly enjoy? Ben calls these items “soul-filling” work. He points out the more you fill your day with these things, the happier you will be. And as you might guess, the happier everyone else will be too (cough cough, ahem, I think Ben’s wife will agree based on the sticky note she left him). TIP: To figure out what you enjoy doing, pull out your calendar and circle the things you are really looking forward to doing.
  3. Plan – Assemble your personal game plan. TIPS:
    1. Look at the conversations you have, and think about what you’re saying. Look at the trends.
    2. Stop advertising the tasks you do well, but don’t enjoy. Why get type cast into a character you despise? Lets say you are great at cleaning toilets. You think it’s gross, and you hate every second of this duty. Would you put it on your resume? No. Surely you wouldn’t. Yet this happens every day because people are in the habit of listing a skill inventory.
    3. Start mentioning the things you really enjoy. Tell your manager. Put them on your resume. Add them on LinkedIn. And bring them up in conversations with teammates.
    4. Ask clients and teammates to send you comments about things you’ve done well (that you enjoy), and then show those to your boss.
    5. After showing these good reviews, ask for the task to be added to your job description. You’ll be surprised at how often you can change your “official” responsibilities if you take on projects that you love—especially when you figure out how to tie that to business outcomes.
    6. Listen for the business challenges your company is facing, and find ways to solve those issues. Solve these problems using the activities you love. This way, you’re helping the company while making yourself happier.

When you’re feeling stressed or you’re thinking about quitting your job, remember that you can improve your existing job. With some effort, you can shape it into what you want it to be. So go claim your talents, and share them with the world!


Resources of the Episode

Ben has made it easy for you to get even more tips to improve your current job. Click here to go to his website, benfanning.com, where you can also grab a free copy of his report, The Catastrophic Cost of Quitting: How Organizations and Employees Pay the Price. Click here to purchase The Quit Alternative on Amazon.com.

Other ways to connect with Ben are Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Ben mentions he was motivated by Simon Sinek’s work, The Golden Circle, which is available for free by clicking here.



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.


Here’s A Full Transcript of the 30 Minute Interview


Lisa Cummings: [00:00:04] I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and I’ve 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.

[00:00:15] Today, you’re going to love this guest. If you think your job is just, “Bleh,” or if you dread your commute, or if you beat your alarm clock a little too hard when you pound on the snooze button every morning, if you just feel bored and apathetic at work, today’s guest will help you change all of that.

[00:00:33] His advice about not quitting your job inspired today’s theme song. Do you remember that old one from Johnny Paycheck “Take This Job and Shove It?” There are also a couple of versions by the Dead Kennedys and David Allan Coe. Well, today’s guest will tweak those lyrics for you.

[00:00:49] Ben Fanning will forever change that song for you into “Take This Job and Love it.”

Ben Fanning: [00:00:57] Whoo. Thanks, Lisa. Heck of an introduction. I did not know that the Dead Kennedys had a version of that song. I’m making a note and I will check that out immediately following our interview.

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:07] Yeah, just make sure it’s not first thing in the morning because their version is pretty intense. It’s like, “Take this job and shove it!”

Ben Fanning: [00:01:14] Fantastic.

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:15] [laughs] So, Ben, I invited you to this show after reading your book The Quit Alternative and I just love how you help people create and reshape their work inside of their existing job without having to quit. Now, before the audience hears how to recreate their job, I want to know how this all came to be. What drove you to figure it out?

Ben Fanning: [00:01:38] Yeah, Lisa, I’ll be happy to share that here. I grew up with big dreams with a corner office. I really envisioned myself in a big city in this office surrounded by glass and having that moment where I’ve gotten on my personal jet as a CEO, I flew back to my hometown in Alexander City, Alabama, and they would actually name a road after me, right? I had this big vision of that.

[00:02:01] And so four different cities, four companies, four different jobs, I finally ended up in Manhattan and so I always was sort of taking the job for the next promotion opportunity. But once I had the job in Manhattan, in a corner office, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. The hours were longer than ever, there was more pressure and stress, and every night I would find myself coming home feeling totally exhausted, drained, burned out, and just unloading all these complaints about work and my boss and my clients on my wife. And she was just sort of my sounding board, and I think it was starting to drive her a little nuts.

[00:02:41] One day she was out of town and the stress was really mounting, in the middle of the night I woke up with a pressure of a bowling ball in my chest. I have a family history of heart attacks, I thought, “Oh, my God, I am having a heart attack. I’m in my 30s, how could I be having a heart attack?” But I ran in the hallway, gotten a cab, went to the hospital, and the doctor comes out and says, “Relax, Mr. Fanning, you’re not having a heart attack. You’re having a panic attack.” And I thought, “A panic attack? What in the world?”

[00:03:15] And he said, “Ben, you need to learn to relax a little bit, and take some time and learn to laugh a little bit too.” Now, I was like, “This does not qualify as medical advice,” and I just walked out, never return to that office. And, honestly, things didn’t get much better, Lisa, after that. But my wife, in her intuitiveness, one day I woke up and she had left a Post-It note on my bag that had the name of a therapist and a phone number, and an appointment time, proactively set an appointment with a therapist.

[00:03:48] Now, I don’t know how many of your listeners are from the southeast and are male, but if you’re a Southern male, the idea of a therapist is pretty close to the enjoyment of maybe being stung by a thousand bees. So it’s not a very fun experience. I was like, “Thank, God, it wasn’t a Dear John Post-It note,” you know. It’s like, “Okay, this is a little help that she’s just trying to reach out and give me here.” I actually went to that appointment, and I would trudge from our place on 86th Street in the Upper West Side uptown and I would go see this therapist once a week.

[00:04:21] And, Lisa, I would walk in there and the guy would just sit there, he barely said anything. He would just listen to me, and I would just rant and just complain at this guy about how bad work was, and I actually would walk out feeling pretty good. I would feel a little bit better when I walked in but as soon as I walked in the office I just felt sort of pulled back in to this mire and this dread and just really this resentment and anger, and then still feeling exhausted at the end of the day.

[00:04:50] And then one day, something really big happened, I walked in to see my therapist, sat down and I started just complaining about everything, and he stopped me mid-sentence, and he said, “Ben, you know what your problem is?” I just felt myself, just like my draw dropped, just in shock because this guy is finally going to earn what I’m paying him, he’s going to tell me what my problem is. And I’m just sitting there, and he says, “Ben, you hate your job. There’s no pill for it. It’s not a place for me to work with you anymore. You need to go off, and you need to figure this out for yourself.”

[00:05:27] And I looked at him square in the eye and I said, “Are you firing me?” And he said, “Yes.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:05:33] Wow.

Ben Fanning: [00:05:34] That was the wakeup call for me that day, and that day I didn’t go in to work. I just walked around Manhattan all afternoon. And sitting there in reflection of what he’d said, what I really discovered was that I went and thought about all the different jobs I had, all the different companies I worked for, and the common element was me. For some reason, that was a real shock. I was the common element. And the quote came to me, and it’s something I’d read somewhere along the lines, was, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:09] Oh, yeah.

Ben Fanning: [00:06:11] That the problem, ultimately, started with me and so I had to make some personal changes and start thinking through this. So I started journaling, and one of the things that came out of that when I was working through The Quit Alternative, I was going back to my notes, and I discovered this note that I had written to myself back in college. Like, if I was to talk to Ben before he got his career started, what would that tidbit of advice have been? And it’s this, “Dear Ben, your job is to create the job you love.” That’s the whole thing.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:46] Interesting.

Ben Fanning: [00:06:47] When I left college it was all about finding a job. And this mindset of finding is actually a really big distraction because you’re fitting yourself into the job out there. So you’re sort of molding yourself to the job. Once you mold yourself enough, you start to lose yourself in your career and your job, and so it’s a really important thing to, just as this podcast says, really understand what your strengths are, understand the work that doesn’t feel like work for you. If your listeners doesn’t know what that is we can talk more about that and maybe get more into that.

[00:07:25] But it’s important to know that everyone has work that doesn’t feel like work. And whatever that is for you is a direction that you want to start steering your career, and using that is really the backbone of creating the job you love right where you are. Otherwise, you’re just going to be playing the lottery as to what work ends up getting on your plate.

[00:07:47] And another question that comes up about this a lot, Lisa, is this whole idea of, “Well, I took a job that I really like and they sold me on it,” or, “It was like this when I started, and now it kind of stinks. Now, I don’t like it anymore.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:01] Right.

Ben Fanning: [00:08:02] “And things have changed.” And the usefulness of this creating perspective is you expect that, right? You expect the environment to change, you will get a new boss, but if you’re always in this mindset of creating the job you love, you’re always going to be fine tuning your work activities, negotiating on your own behalf, campaigning for the work you love, just start to bringing it back to sort of net neutral in a positive-career direction for yourself that feels authentic.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:32] I really love the personal accountability in it because no matter the business situations that change around you, if you’re always shaping your career toward your strengths you’re going to feel more energized and engaged with your work. So let’s say someone’s listening to the show, Ben, and they’re digging this idea you have, yet it feels like a farfetched idea to them. Say it seems like too big of a ship to turn the way their career is going today. How do you break this down? How do you start taking action?

Ben Fanning: [00:09:03] I like to think about sort of the Simon Sinek approach starting with why in the first place. So I usually just try to ask the question, “Well, why are you working in the first place?” That can really reveal a lot of powerful insights for people. Probably the most important thing that I find is when you’re burning the candle on both ends, or you’re really stressed out, it is so helpful to have a reminder to yourself of why you’re working in the first place.

[00:09:34] Are you working because you’re in a position where you’re developing yourself in skills and you’re planning for this to lead to something bigger and better for yourself down the road? Are you working to pay the bills for your family? Have you been working in the same job for a long time and you really love your co-workers, and you know maybe one of them is sick and out, and you’re pulling the load on behalf of the team? Now, you remind yourself of why you’re working, and that can help you get through some really hard times. And so I think in a very fundamental level, understanding why you work in the first place is really important to explore.

[00:10:12] When I was talking about Simon Sinek, just sort of like the CliffNotes version is Simon Sinek sort of thought through this thing called the golden circle, and his idea is, “Well, hey, maybe you know what you do, you may know how you do your job, but almost no one is thinking about why they’re doing their job in the first place.” And then I think, really, like a second helpful thing to think about, and it’s a little bit different than why, is, “What are the work activities you’re doing?” One thing on their calendar during the day that they actually really enjoy doing. And I like to talk about that as soul-filling work.

[00:10:46] So that’s the work that you invest yourself in, and after you invest your energy and focus on that, you actually receive that back, so it’s sort of like a positive or return on investment. The more that your day is full of those kinds of activities, the better you’re going to feel after work, the more energy you’re going to have to work out, to cook, to be with your friends and family, to not conk out in front of the TV, to actually feel like you want to do something after work. And this sort of compounds and leads to positive results in your career, as well as for the organization, the boss, and the team that you work with every day.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:23] What a great visual. It makes me think of soul food. I’m thinking of okra right now.

Ben Fanning: [00:11:30] Oh, yeah. Well, I live in Charleston so we really like the soul food concept.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:34] Yeah, and I like how you could take your career okra in small bites. Your approach really makes it digestible and realistic for people. I joke around with my clients all the time and tell them that they look like they’re waiting around at a passion lost and found counter, like one day someone will magically recover this thing in them and say, “Oh, here it is. Here’s that passion you’ve been longing to find all this time. It was here all along.”

[00:12:02] And what I tell them is, “Look, stop that madness. You are a complex human being, and you’re good at a lot of things, and you would enjoy a lot of things.” And instead, to use your soul-filling idea, Ben, “Your soul can be filled by lots of things, so stop beating yourself up because you weren’t born with the clarity that you’re a prodigy who knew from the age of three.”

Ben Fanning: [00:12:22] You know, I’m totally with you on that, because I used to believe that. I’m like, “Man, I want to find my passion.” I know once I find out that I’m passionate about walking around in a Mickey Mouse suit around Disney World everything will be right.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:38] Are you going to dress up like a princess?

Ben Fanning: [00:12:40] Umm, you know you never know. I mean, maybe. That might be a way to be passionate, too

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:45] You have to stand correct through the whole time.

Ben Fanning: [00:12:47] At Disney World recently, those people as princesses seem to be very passionate about their work standing around. If you don’t even want to go through that, pull out your calendar for the next two days, and just put a red circle around the ones you’re looking forward to, as simple as that. Just put it on the ones that you’re looking forward to, because that’s a clue of something that maybe you could be passionate about. Maybe if you have more of that work in your job to look forward to you’d be more excited to get to work.

[00:13:15] So that sort of clueing you into that important self-awareness, and then once you thought about why you got these motivating work activities identified, then you can start to assemble your personal game plan, or playbook, from moving more in that direction and taking action.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:32] What a great technique for paying attention to the things you’re looking forward to on your calendar, and rather than just doing them, like you usually would, actually thinking about how you can shape your job with those responsibilities. I talk a lot about this in my StrengthsFinder training, as well. It’s part of paying attention to what fuels you so you can get more of it.

Ben Fanning: [00:13:53] I like it. I like it. It is the best investment of time. Most research, self-assessments, I try to be a little bit careful because sometimes people can sort of over-rely on them, just like looking at their work activities, that’s just sort of practical. But I think you can be such a great kick-start for like where to look. And if you’ve already put some of these pieces together, it can be a real validating thing.

[00:14:17] One of the things I like about StrengthsFinder is that quick assessment that’s printed out at the end, it gives you ideas for who you might be great collaborators with, that have different strengths. That, for me, is Disney magic. It’s like, “Hey, Pooh Bear, you need to work with Pinocchio, or you need to work with Tigger, because Tigger can bounce up high and get honey out of a honey tree.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:14:44] Ben, you are cracking me up. Okay, guys, you’re probably listening, thinking, “Wow, this guy really likes his Disney metaphors.” So now I’ll let you in on our inside joke, and tell you why he’s using Pooh Bear to demonstrate who you should partner up with at work to tap into your complementary talents. See, Ben recently went on vacation at Disney and I challenged him to work a Disney character into the interview without it feeling too off the wall, so that’s why he found his passion in dressing up as a Disney princess and teaming up with Tigger because their talents were complementary.

[00:15:20] So even though you heard our silliness here, this is an important place where everything comes together. Ben started with that Simon Sinek concept where you identify your “why,” then you do things like his super practical calendar exercise to consider “what” activities energize you at work, then you use StrengthsFinder to dig into the “how.” It shows you how you think, how you execute, how you relate to people. So combine all of those and you’re tapping into a seriously powerful start to creating, or reshaping, the job you’re already in today.

Ben Fanning: [00:15:51] Yes, I love that. That’s a cool combination.

Lisa Cummings: 00:15:54] Now, what if you’ve been locking yourself into other people’s molds for a lot of years, and you don’t even know what it feels like to design your career for yourself? What if you’re executing on old belief patterns that will take you back into a rut and you don’t even know it?

Ben Fanning: [00:16:12] Yeah, a really simple way to do that is stop advertising your accomplishments, doing the work that you don’t like to do, or the draining work.

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:20] Yeah.

Ben Fanning: [00:16:22] It’s funny, I have a friend that’s an accountant and he was bragging that he got notified by LinkedIn, he’s like, “I’m in the top 5% of viewed profiles on LinkedIn.” “Okay, well, cool. Well, congratulations on that.” But I knew he doesn’t really like being an accountant.

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:42] Uh-oh.

Ben Fanning: [00:16:43] And so I’m like, “You realize all these people are coming to your LinkedIn profile because they’re searching for accounting people.” And I’m like, “You don’t sound like you’re really happy doing traditional accounting work.” He’s since made some changes, but I think we all can fall into this trap so easily. People are sharing at staff meetings, or wherever, all these accomplishments on stuff they don’t enjoy doing. And what ends up happening is it’s like you’re a burnout work magnet, and I was like this for a long time.

[00:17:15] One of my specialties early on in my career was managing this customs compliance team, and I was doing some logistics and supply chain work, and that group just sort of fell under the group I was managing. I was just amazed at the amount of work that that would attract. And the more results we had, the more work we had to do in that, and it wasn’t really helping my workday very much.

[00:17:39] So I really thought through again the work that I was advertising that I enjoyed, and started to share some of those wins. The first step is to start to minimize that, and the first is – for everybody listening to day – to think about these few work activities that you enjoy and then start highlighting them, whether it’s your resume, your LinkedIn profile, or whether that’s in your weekly staff meeting, start to share it.

[00:18:05] And, for me, years later, I discovered that one of the soul-filling activities for me was around presenting and training and mentoring other people, and that was not part of my job. It was a small facet but not a very big part, and certainly not mentorship. But what I did was, I started doing some mentoring of employees and then I would ask them to send a quick email to me and say, “Hey, that was helpful,” or, “Thank you for your insights on that.” And that teed up an excellent email that I would share with my boss.

Lisa Cummings: [00:18:38] Oh, very clever, Ben.

Ben Fanning: [00:18:40] Like, “Hey, here’s third-party validation that this other work that I’m doing that’s not really part of my every day job description is adding value.” And the next year I was able to get mentoring added on my annual review, so that was something I actually got evaluated for and so it became part of my job, and then I applied a very similar thing. And this is sort of expanding, but I’ll roll with it here.

[00:19:11] So there was a situation where I was presenting and enjoying this stuff, but I didn’t really know what to do with it other than just presenting at my weekly staff meeting. So what I did was I listened to the problems that our group was struggling with which was getting closure on projects. These projects our group was involved in, they were stretching out way past the deadline and costing everybody money and getting the boss really ticked off.

[00:19:36] And so I said, “Hey, what if I do a little lunch-and-learn training program around getting closure on big projects? Just like, how do you finish that project that has been hanging out there forever?” And I thought my boss was going to kiss me, he was so excited. He’s like, “That sounds great.” And so, suddenly, it’s my job to present ideas that I’ve been thinking about to our group. And the beautiful part was after that he shared those four modules that I did with somebody else, and so I got to go present it to a different team. And, literally, it started just to take off from there.

[00:20:15] The funny thing is I would say that was one of those big inflection points where it sort of steamrolled into, “Well, hey, I’m going to blog a little bit. I’m going to share that blog.” And fast-forward years later, I’ve got a number one bestselling book that involves a lot of these stories and strategies that all came out of that experience.

[00:20:37] That is the sort of thing, I think, that can happen if you start really small, acknowledge what’s motivating you, start to highlight those accomplishments, and then have that attract more of the work. And, really, that’s what happened for me and a lot of my clients, it’s the more you advertise the stuff you like, it is like a magnet. You start to get more of that work in your workday and you can sort of watch the evolution and build more momentum in that direction for your career.

Lisa Cummings: [00:21:06] Oh, yeah. This is so practical. And it’s going to be a huge insight for people because it’s not just about finding things that energize you, it’s also about tying them to a business problem. If you can solve something that’s causing someone’s pain and enjoy the work at the same time, you’re going to get that kind of work thrown at you. No wonder your boss wanted to kiss you, Ben.

[00:21:28] So, now, okay, flip it around. Here’s a dark side of that, I think, people might worry about when they’re listening. Do you think there’s a risk that you can get so much more work thrown at you, even if it’s good work, that you end up working an extra 10 hours a week, and kind of kill the upside of it all by piling on more and more?

Ben Fanning: [00:21:51] Yeah, and I think it’s so important, like you said, people could say, “Well, I don’t want to do more work,” or, “That’s too much.” If it feels like too much, I mean, in my opinion, is not to do it, because that’s going to come across to whoever you’re working with on this, and it’s going to come across as a have-to-do versus a get-to-do. So carve out a really small action or small lunch-and-learn, 30 minutes, on a topic that’s useful to the company, and the team, but that you actually want to do.

[00:22:20] Good grief, if you don’t want to do it they’re going to know. And it works in other ways too. I thought of the lunch-and-learn because that’s a really personal example but if that’s not your bag then let’s think of something else. Maybe you like doing financial analysis and you really are passionate about that. You can offer to show somebody how to do an analysis, or do it for someone. Or maybe you like to automate tasks in Excel. If that’s you then, first, please call me. I like that.

[00:22:51] But you can just start with what you like to do and what’s interest to you and start to sort of bring that into work in some capacity and just watch what happens. Watch the magic.

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:04] Ha-ha, watch the Disney magic. And, okay, as you’re creating these new responsibilities in your job, as long as you’re solving a business problem, you can negotiate it so that as you add two or three new responsibilities that solve a big business problem you’re also deleting other ones. That way people won’t feel like it’s becoming an out-of-control workload.

Ben Fanning: [00:23:29] Yeah, and you can go deep. I love thinking about how these things can help the organization, and because that’s really an important thing, I think a lot of employees when they think about this stuff, they’re thinking about “me,” right? They’re not thinking about the organization, and so the art and the real trick is to make sure it is impacting the organization, because that’s how you can even go further with your career and your job and the benefit to the company. There’s really always a way to tie it back in some positive form.

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:59] All right, everyone, you heard it here. Now it’s your turn to go solve a problem that lives in your strengths zone. So go find some soul-filling work like this Southern have been, who got fired from his therapist in Manhattan because his work was sucking his soul away, and he turned all that situation into something great. If he can do it, you can do it.

Ben Fanning: [00:24:21] [laughs]

Lisa Cummings: [00:24:23] So when they want more of you, obviously, they’ll read your book The Quit Alternative. Also, tell them how to get more Ben Fanning in their lives.

Ben Fanning: [00:24:33] You guys go on over to BenFanning.com, and right now you can go over there, I have a report, it’s called The Catastrophic Cost of Quitting. Don’t fire another employee or resign your job until you’ve reviewed this report. Basically, it’s a really quick review on the cost of quitting. If you’re thinking about quitting your job, it breaks down the cost, it actually shows you how the uncovered costs for them can equal more than the cost of a new car.

[00:25:02] So it’s not that you shouldn’t think about quitting ever but if you’re ever going to do it make sure you take the same calculated risk and go to this calculations like you would with a big financial investment, and from a company side, decreasing disengagement. Disengaged employees are two and half times more likely to quit, and you look at a 10,000-person organization, you could buy a couple of Super Bowl commercials if you could have other impacting engagements. So think about that. This reports walks you through that over at BenFanning.com, and I invite you to get it and enjoy.

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:38] Enjoy, you guys. Go grab it. You’ll love reading Ben’s work. It’s such good perspective. It’s not about quitting the job, it’s about taking accountability for your career and creating one you love. So get on out there, go claim your strengths, and share them with the world.


Direct download: 024-Ben-Fanning_copy.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

Jessica Rhodes joins us to show you how to apply your top strengths. She also shares some magical ideas for uncovering the natural talents of people on your team.

You’ll find this episode especially useful if you’ve had your team take the StrengthsFinder survey, yet wondered how to actually apply strengths to real-world situations to improve and grow your business. Jessica is an inspiring guest, who encourages you to experiment. She helps you change things up, use your strengths to maximize potential, and to increase profitability.

As we’re expanding our StrengthsFinder team in Austin, Texas and around the world, this interview was helpful for us too. It was a great mix of strengths-based development, hiring tips, and awesome chats about growing as a leader.

What You’ll Learn

Jessica shares these tips:

  • Start with you. Understand both your strengths and weaknesses. Use your strengths to move you to where you want to go. And hire people who are strong in the areas where you’re weak. This leads to a well-rounded team (and keeps you from having to perform tasks you hate)!
  • Use your strengths to achieve your goal. Jessica shares the first major goal she achieved after completing the StrengthsFinder Assessment. Knowing that she was going to be on maternity leave in nine months, she set the goal to have her company not only be surviving, but experiencing a strong level of growth, even while she was taking care of her family.
  • Try Task Swapping. Find the right team members, and match their job responsibilities with their strengths.
  • Hire And Quickly Experiment With Your Team’s Talents. Be willing to test out new responsibilities. Jessica switched things up with her employees after reading the StrengthsFinder 2.0 It has improved business performance and has helped the team enjoy their roles. For example:

    • Sue did fine when she started, yet she really started exceling when she became the Director of Client Happiness. It was a perfect use of Sue’s Positivity, Woo, and Communication talent themes. Jessica also asked Sue to use those talents to create customer onboarding packets and to run their client gratitude program.
    • Cathy did fine when she started, yet she really took off when Jessica started tapping into her natural talents. Jessica used Cathy’s Input and Learner talent themes when she made Cathy the official hub for software training on the team. It allowed Cathy to get energy from being a curator. Jessica helped her invest in her Developer and Strategic talents to create new systems and trainings that would serve the business in the long term.
  • Make It Rain With Change. Realize that while some people enjoy doing the same task every day, others get easily bored. If an employee gets bored, change their responsibilities so that person has a high level of variety. Then watch to see how much that person’s productivity increases (and it will).
  • Remember This Is The Beginning, Not The End. It’s more than just knowing your strengths. Jessica says that the results of the assessment are like a little bitty drip in a giant ocean. Once you have the results, then it’s important to use
  • Show You Care. Value your employees and listen to them. Employees respond well when you’re investing in them. It makes them feel cared for and more loyal.
  • Tap Into Their Quirks. Match employee strengths with tasks. They’ll be stronger at their jobs. And they’ll be happier, which will make you happy too. Jessica stressed learning, thinking, and “keeping your ears and eyes open” to see how things play out.
  • Consider How Talents Impact Relationship Building. Match your team members with clients carefully. When teammates and clients are a good mix, you can create a positive bounce in your business.
  • Create a Culture of Trust. Encourage employees to speak up when they’re unhappy about tasks. They’ll feel trusted to apply their own strengths and to work around their weaknesses. This helps you to implement change to keep them happy. It will keep your clients happy as well.
  • Feel The Strengths Love. Use employee strengths to solve differences. Jessica shows how to use understanding of a fellow employee’s strengths and weakness to solve conflict in the office.
  • Why Strengths? According to Jessica, the benefit of understanding and utilizing strengths-based development is that you’ll be happier! If you are around people who enjoy what they’re doing, you’ll be happy and have more positive results.

Resource of the Episode

Check out Jessica’s weekly web TV show, Interview Connection TV and listen to her weekly Rhodes to Success podcast. You can also follow her ideas on Facebook and Twitter.

Remember, using your strengths and those of your employees will benefit everyone. Your company will grow. Your employees will be happy. You will be happy. And according to Gallup research, teams who focus on strengths improve their productivity as much as 21%.


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.

Direct download: 023-Jessica-Rhodes.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:00am CDT

Influencing Audiences Through Your Strengths - With Andy Sokolovich

This Episode's Focus On Strengths

Andy Sokolovich joins us to help you lead through your strengths at work. You'll find this episode especially useful if you need to influence others at work. He does it with his talent called WOO (Winning Others Over). He also shows the world how your natural talents are cooler than purple rain.


Listen Links
Give the full episode a listen on iTunes or Stream The Audio Right Here.


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. You can also stream any episode live on the website. Just click through the title you like and there will be a player waiting for you on each page. See you there!


Here's The Full Interview


Lisa Cummings: You mentioned Woo as one of your top talents, and it is one that interestingly, when I'm doing training events or speaking events, people probably more than any other, mention that one, and have a negative reaction to seeing it on their list, and they say, "I've been told that I talk too much in my career," or, "I've been told that I'm shaking hands and kissing babies, and that it doesn't look genuine," I've had a lot of people show a lot of concerns about that talent, and several others give a similar response. So Andy, talk to people about anything that you see in people where they've been trying to squash their talent and their career, because it's not really a virtue.

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah Woo is definitely one that often gets highlighted a lot. Either you hear people talk about Woo and say, "The first thing I think of is the smarmy salesman that gives you a nice firm handshake and brings you in for that half hug with the sole desire of getting to buy something from them."

That's not the case. I do see a lot of people suppress their Woo, because they do not want to come across as that.

Granted, I embrace my Woo. I give it the double hug, bear hug. Bring it in. I love having Woo. Why? It has really allowed me to build my social capital to a level that I would never be able to do if I don't think I had that. Here's the thing. I'm not very good at noticing emotions in people, so some of those emotionally driven strengths, or people will notice that, "Hey, you're coming across to strong," or, "Hey, this person is kind of freaked out by the fact that you're super positive and excited, and way outgoing."

Lisa Cummings: So when they stick out their hand out to shake your hand…and you give them a big bear hug instead they think, "Whoa buddy."

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah. What is that? That is just the type of person that I am. But what I'm finding now, more and more, is that people are receptive to that as opposed to get offended or feel like they need to go on the defense. I tell people, "If you have the strong desire to go out and meet others to shake hands, to foster relationships, to grow your social capital, use it," because that's an untapped talent that a lot of people are not willing, especially managers, are not willing to foster that growth within their organization.

This is my pet peeve on job descriptions. I feel we've created this way that we employ people: we give them a paragraph of what they're going to be paid to do. You have to have this degree, you have to have this amount of years experience, you have to have this, this, and this. Once all of those items are checked off here's a block of text that says what you're paid to do, yet we don't take enough initiative to unearth those untapped talents from those individuals and see what they're naturally good at.

Now just imagine if you had somebody who was just overflowing with Woo. Someone who wanted to go out and meet people, who wanted to grow new relationships, wanted to bring new people into the business. And instead they were stuck in a cubicle crunching numbers.

Is that the best use of their talents from a business perspective? My answer is probably not. Don't let them just sit there and wallow and own their own self defeat because they need to get out there and meet people, they need to go out there and shake hands.

You've seen people like this if you work in the corporate world. They are the people that walk around and start up little conversations with everybody, and never really seem to be focused on their work. Why? They need to go out and communicate in order to feel like they are contributing something to the overall goal of the organization.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, and it's likely that that actually helps them relate better, influence better, and get their work done. It just looks different.

Andy Sokolovich: Absolutely.

Lisa Cummings: I always talk about it like a Jack-in-the-box where you have this talent (pick Woo or any others that you've been trying to squash down), and on the inside what's going on is that thing is getting cranked up, and do do do do dooodledo, do do do do dee do [singing] ... It's just getting tighter and tighter, and sometime when you're not expecting it, or when you don't want it, Bam, it's going to pop out and scare people.

If you actually invest in it instead, and watch the effect that it has on people and use it to your advantage--double down on it, while you're maturing it and investing in it--it has a great effect for you. But if you're just trying to squash it, it comes out eventually. It's a part of you, so if it's your natural way of thinking or feeling, it's going to pop out at you. Trying to squash it isn't going to do you a lot of good in your career.

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah, no, I reflect back onto the small part-time jobs I had before I joined the military, and I always think of reasons why I was either 1) fired, or 2) counseled for my bad behavior, and they all relate to me over communicating. I was always talking (first job when I worked at the grocery store) instead of stocking the shelves. I was always talking to somebody—to the customers that were walking up and down--sparking up conversations because of the jersey they were wearing for my favorite football team.

Or if I was working at a grocery store up at the cashier station, I would get chastised for the fact that I'm spending more time talking to the customer than actually ringing them out and getting them out the door so the person behind them can come check out. All of the things that I ever got in trouble for were because I like to talk, and it wasn't just I like to talk because I wanted to kill time. It's because I needed to communicate with others in order to feel good about myself.

Lisa Cummings: I can see with communication being such a strong talent for you also that you talk to think, and talk to figure stuff out, whereas other people might just go back to their cube and be able to do that stuff alone. There's such a different need from each unique person. How did you find the roles that would shine the light on those in a good way, instead of, early in your career thinking, "Oh my gosh, those are getting me in trouble all the time, getting me fired." Obviously you did the right thing. You didn't say, "Well, I guess I suck as a human." Instead you found how to make those work for you. How did you figure all that out?

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah, it was a long maturing process. When I left the military, I had this overwhelming desire to be an entrepreneur. I can't really say where it came from. I knew nothing about business. I knew nothing about marketing. I knew nothing about any of that stuff. But when I moved to Clinton Iowa, I was looking for a void in the marketplace that I could fill.

It's a small blue-collar town with a population around 26,000. There's a lot of small business growth, but there is the larger businesses in industry. We have large corporations in this community that really support most of our qualified workforce. So when I got here I was looking around at the small businesses—at what they were doing to market themselves. Really nobody at that point was leveraging the power of the Internet, and I started doing some research on marketing.

Really what I found out was that marketing is being able to tell a story in order to draw in new business. Whether that story would be told via platforms like social media, websites, press releases, whatever it was, I needed to get out there and tell the story of these local businesses in order to draw in more business. I thought, "Man, would I be good at that?" I remember sitting there one day and I was talking to a friend on the phone and he said, "Well you like to talk, and you tell a pretty good story, actually half the time we don't know if you're telling the truth, or if you're stretching the truth," because I'm a storyteller, and actually, professionally, that's what I call myself: a professional storyteller.

I tried it, and I got my first client. I realized that the client-relationship part of it--the sitting down, trying to create a narrative and tell a story--was a little difficult because they already had a story in their mind. My expertise was really to highlight those areas of their business that nobody knew about. Those little hidden gems that nobody really knew existed, but man if only they did, it would bring up a whole new level to that business, and there would be a huge attraction factor, and we just need to get it out there.

It was slow growth at the time, because I had a lot of maturing to do. Believe it or not, I was that type of person who thought they were never wrong for a long time. I was so confident in my own abilities that I thought, "I'm never wrong," so once I got involved in client work, I really had to understand that, "Listen, we have to work as a team in order to make this effective."

I started to grow the marketing business, and there was a time about 11 months after I actually started that where my business started to plateau. I wasn't losing clients, but I was having a hard time getting new ones. I went to a friend of mine, a mentor of mine, here in the Clinton area Chamber of Commerce, and he handed me a book called Strengths Finder 2.0. "Take this assessment." I thought, "An assessment? Dude I don't need something to tell me what I'm good at. I know what I'm good at."

Lisa Cummings: I'm good at everything, huh?

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah. He said, "Do me a favor and just take it. See what happens." Once my Top 5 were revealed, I did the Andy way of doing things at that time. I basically stuffed the report in my desk drawer for about another year. Now we're two years into my business development, and things are continuing to plateau. Again, not losing clients, but just not getting any new ones.

What was even worse was that I was no longer in love with the fact that I was an entrepreneur. I was no longer in love with the fact that I was building my own business. I hated it. I went back to the same guy and I said, "What am I doing wrong?" He said, "What are your Top 5?" I said, "Dude I respect you, but I could not tell you because they're in my desk drawer collecting dust." Needless to say he was not surprised by that, because he just assumed that was going to be my course of action moving forward, but he said, "Go get them, bring them back in, and let's review them."

Strategic, Futuristic, Woo, Ideation, Communication. What we quickly realized as we reflected back on my business growth and what I was actively doing, is I was spending an awful amount of time on the logistics of running a business. Tweaking the business plan, applying for financing, sending out invoices. All the little nitpicky numbers things that I hated, hated, but it had to be done, and I was the only one doing it at the time.

He said, "What are you good at?" I said, "Man all I want to do is go out and talk to people about my business. I want to talk about their business. I want to go out and I want to share their passion for why they do what they do." He said, "Why aren't you doing it?" I said, "Who's going to do all the rest of this stuff?" He said, "Outsource it, find somebody else." And that was probably the single most important turning point of my career, when I started to realize, "I don't have to be good at everything, and there are people out there who like crunching numbers, and just because I'm not one of them doesn't mean I have to take that action on. I don't have to take on that responsibility."

I started outsourcing whatever I could, whenever I could, and focus 80% of my time on just getting out there and speaking, doing what I naturally loved. From that moment on, things began to skyrocket. Not necessarily in result to my bank account, but in the way that I feel towards my business, and the social gains that I've been able to make over the last almost a year now.

Lisa Cummings: There's so much good stuff in there…with identifying your talents and doing something with it. The career slump that was sneaking up on you, I mean you were at a point saying, "What's going on here? What am I doing wrong?" That stuff just happens over time, and people feel that in their careers all the time. For a lot of people listening that are in the corporate world--they may manage people, or they may not--a lot of them have had this experience of the career slump sneaking up.

Let’s say they're digging the Clifton StrengthsFinder report out of the drawer…and if you are Andy talking to them now…and you want to give them a couple of ideas for what to do with this. Okay, they know their Top 5 talents now. How can they handle this at work in a corporate setting? What could they do next, just action taking?

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah, the first step is always to be able to identify where your talents lie, and I think you and I probably have had similar success in the fact that when we get people in the room, and we show them their Top 5. When you have managers, supervisors, even C suite employees reviewing their Top 5, it sparks a conversation where people start to talk about, "Hey, what other skills do you have? Why are you so good at this? How have we been ignoring this the whole time?"

My first little bit of advice is make it known. Okay? Don't keep your talents to yourself.

Now it doesn't mean that you come in with your favorite kazoo and play your kazoo down the hallway, and say, "I'm musically talented." That means have that conversation with your supervisor and let them know what you are naturally good at, because if you keep it a secret, nothing is ever going to happen.

The other thing I tell people is often when I give this conversation, or I give this speech in a large setting, people want to talk to me about the entrepreneurial side of things. "Well Andy I'm really good at this, and I've always wanted to do this as a business, but I'm scared to." Listen, the power of the World Wide Web has never, ever been stronger. I mean if you have it a desire to crochet for a living, and you think you can do it, and you're naturally gifted at crocheting, pursue doing that and try to draw in some extra residual passive income.

Whether it be through online courses, or maybe crocheting stuff and selling it on Etsy, just try it and see if you actually like it first, because sometimes when people think they actually really would do well at something, whether it be starting up a business, or selling a specific product, they quickly realize that they don't like it as much as they thought they would. So test out the waters, grab a hold of your talents, figure out a way to apply them. If you want to try something outside of your normal 9-to-5 grind, use the power of the Internet to maybe start a little online business for yourself.

Lisa Cummings: I've been wanting to start a kazoo band on the side [laughs].

Andy Sokolovich: It's really the only instrument that I play. I'm actually talented all across the board, but the kazoo… [laughs]

Lisa Cummings: I couldn't let that one drop, you know you mentioned the kazoo…

Andy Sokolovich: I have zero musical talent, I can't carry a note even on a kazoo [laughs].

Lisa Cummings: Oh Andy you were singing with me earlier, so that's pretty good.

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah we were, Purple Rain I think is what we were jamming out to.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, now that's going to be in everyone's head the rest of the day. Purple rain [singing]. Oh, so let's talk about managers. Those are really good tips for employees, and then the next layer that happens is managers will say, "Okay I get it, I need to pay more attention to what's going on with the team, and I want to do this to lead my team through their talents instead of trying to scale humans."

Let's say one of the listeners leads a team and they want to get better at just spotting Strengths on the job, even without StrengthsFinder, what do they look for, or how do they start this? What do they say? What are they watching for?

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah, I mean as you and I know, every manager is different. Not everybody manages the same. What I found to be most effective is I always ask the managers that I work with to start communicating with their employees. To just start talking about things, and once you become aware, once you mentally decide, "I'm going to start searching for talents, I'm going to start mining for abilities that maybe are untapped in the organization." You will find that you are more in tune in the conversation to pluck those things out.

It could be something as simple as, "Hey, what did you do this weekend?" Listen to what people are saying. Listen to their hobbies, look for when their eyes light up, when maybe they've spent the weekend with their son, and their granddaughter. Start to mine for those abilities that maybe you didn't realize existed, and ask them … You and I have talked about this in the past. There's an exercise that we do with some of our clients, and it's called “The Best Of Us.”

Really what the conversation is about is asking people, "What do you need from me in order to be successful?" It's not a bigger budget. It's not a front row parking space. It's not a bigger office. You've got to think of this emotionally. What do you need from me as your manager, in order for you to be successful? That conversation goes both ways. Managers can say, "This is what I need from you in order for me to be successful."

Again, it's not budget minded type of stuff, it's, "Hey, what I need from you in order to be more successful is five minutes of your time," or, "What I need from you to be more successful is maybe a little bit of information before moving forward." "What I need from you to be more successful is maybe that you understand that I'm a Deliberative person, and I'm not going to ever be late in getting you this report, but you've got to understand that I'm going to read over it 10, 15, 20 times and make sure that every I is dotted, and every T is crossed before it comes across your desk."

That conversation usually yields massive results, but you have to be open and willing to have it. I guess my advice would be as a manager, is start asking people what they need from you in order to be successful. Ask them deeply. What do you…you…not your department, not whatever office you serve…what do you, first name, last name, need from me in order to be at your very best?

Lisa Cummings: That's so good. To bring some examples like you did. And be ready. Give them context about why you’re asking this because if that question comes out of nowhere, and you haven't asked that kind of thing before, they might be looking at you with really blank eyes, like “what is up here? What's going on?”

You mentioned something way earlier in that answer that is so cool to tap into. You mentioned somebody's eyes lighting up when a person was talking about a hobby. It's just taking those moments and saying, "Oh, you really lit up on that one. Tell me more about that." It can be the simplest sentence, but just noticing that that thing got them really fired up, and asking one more follow-up question, that's where the deep part comes from.

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah, I'll use one example that I keep remembering, and it was early on when I started coaching, but we were sitting there and it was a group about 25 of us. I issued that same response, you know what I would do if I was manager, and I could see that there was this person to my left crying, I mean noticeably sobbing. I looked over and I said, "Are you okay?" She said, "Yeah, I'm okay." She said, "So and so is my manager," and he's sitting right there, and she's like, all I want to say to him is, "I need five minutes," and I think that's why I use that example all the time, "I need five minutes of your time in the morning."

He says, "What?" She's like, "When I come by your door first thing in the morning, you're doing the standard zipping through 250 emails, do I need to reply? Junk, trash, the standard thing that most of us do every single morning when we sit down at our computer." She said, "In order for me to be effective, and to serve the position that you hired me to do, it's important to me that I have five minutes of your time every morning so I can go over my action steps for that day."

She was like, "I don't need you to approve them, I don't need you to agree with them, it's important for me to verbally speak with you and tell you that." He was like, "Oh." She's crying, and he's like, "Well, I didn't realize it was that big of a deal," and she was like, "Yeah, because there's several times where I had my letter of resignation typed up and ready to send."

Lisa Cummings: Wow.

Andy Sokolovich: All because all she wanted was five minutes of his time, but she didn't know how to start that conversation, she never had permission to in her own mind. Now he would not have cared if she came up and said that. In her mind, she didn't give herself permission to share that, why? She thought that in doing so, she would be perceived as weak, or needy, or different from the others. The fact she was different, because she needed that five minutes, and then he started welling up a little bit and said, "Oh my gosh, I never knew it was that bad," and she said, "Well it is, and now we're talking about this, and I just want you to know that if you give me that five minutes every single morning," he said, "You got it. You have five minutes of my time between 8:00 and 8:05 is dedicated to you. I won't be at the coffee pot. I won't be putting my food in the refrigerator. I won't be checking emails. I'll be in my office waiting for you so we can have this five-minute sharing session of what you’re going to do that day," and as long as he was there ready to listen it changed everything for her.

Lisa Cummings: It's so big. Five minutes, and just that moment to have this conversation and what you were doing opened that up.

Andy Sokolovich: Yeah, and to think she was willing to pack up her office and leave in search of somewhere else that may have yielded less results financially who knows?

Lisa Cummings: Who knows?

Andy Sokolovich: The willingness to test the waters because of five minutes.

Lisa Cummings: This also makes me think of one more question, which is how sometimes people have trouble seeing the other person's virtues, or preferences, or talents. You know, to pick that thing, and get into a mental habit about how you think about your boss, or how you think about that employee. It can go either way, whether you're the manager, or you are the employee with the relationship.

Instead of viewing it like a lost cause going, "This person…we're just never going to click." How do you instead approach that when you're in a situation like this: you have an employee who you know has some goodness, because everybody has genius and talents, but they don't know how to uncover it. How do they even get started with the process of opening up to understand each other?

Andy Sokolovich: Well, we always say as strength coaches, and strength enthusiasts, be able to look through a lens of strength. I think that comes with maturity, and it actually comes with an increased feeling of responsibility and discipline, because for the longest time I never was seeking out talents in other people. I mean it wasn't something that I totally ignored, but it was not on my priority list.

I was focused on my own personal growth, but once I started to become really in tune to what other people brought to the table, no matter what level they are ... We've all seen the movies, you look at Goodwill hunting where the janitor solves the algorithm, but those people out there exist, but you've got to find them. I think the starting point is start with yourself, being able to identify the talents within yourself. First become aware of what talents look like. It’s one of the beauties of StrengthsFinder. I say this time and time again, I'm in love with the concept of strengths-based development.

The 34 Talent Themes are great verbiage to add to your arsenal of tools to help you identify talents with others. I love the fact that Gallup has taught us (and Dr. Donald Clifton has taught us) that there is this whole strengths movement where we're actually starting to identify what's right with people rather than what's wrong with people. Once you start to realize the terminology of strengths, the 34 Natural Talent Theme names, you can start to look at people and be able to not judge. Instead, pluck around, or pick different talents until you can zone in on what you think they definitely have, and you don't want to say, "Oh, you're a Woo," or, "Oh you're a Deliberative, that's why you're taking so long to get me this report," or, "You're this."

Be aware of it, and start asking questions to try to mine for that talent, and see if it actually exists, and then think of ways to apply it. Here's what I hear all the time. "That's great Andy, but that's not within..." and this is going back to my job description rant, but they say, "That's great Andy, I'm good at this, and yes I probably make a better salesperson then an accountant, but that's not within my job description, that's not what I've been hired to do."

To me, that retards business generation, and forward momentum because you're not allowing people to grow within the company, and fill those cracks or voids using their natural talents. For the life of me, I can't understand why businesses still expect that.

They just expect you to be happy in the position that you're hired in and never seek out more. If I went to my boss and said, "Hey, you know what? I know I'm an account, that's what you hired me to do right out of college. I'm an accountant today. I don't mind doing that, but I'm telling you what, I just have this deep itch to be in the sales floor and to go out there and talk people. Is there any way that I can maybe transition out of this office into that position?"

When managers, or supervisors, or CEOs or whoever say, "No." I think, "Man, why would you ever say no? Why would you ever deny somebody the chance to express themselves and go out there and try to do something amazing for your company?" I probably just derailed your whole question there.

Lisa Cummings: No I love that, because there are so many good conversations that come out of this. When I work with teams and people have that same feeling you just described--then I say, “all right, well, if you're doing something that's within your control, and you're the accountant…and you want to go be a salesperson…it's a serious change. So think about projects you can take on, teams you could be a part of, some extra stuff you could go build your network in that area. Test it out, and maybe build some chops as well. Be able to have that conversation with your manager so that you say, "Hey, this is what I'm interested in trying on."”

Take on something that's low stake. Try a project where you can get involved. Then people start seeing you in that light. Managers aren't mind readers. I mean they don't know this stuff about you unless you have the conversation. Now I hope they're having the conversation, and I think listeners are the types who try to pull this out, but if you're in the employee perspective here, you've got to go think about what you want in your life. What do you want more of? What talents, what yearnings do you have? Then go ask for it, and say, "Hey, I'd really like to try out X," because if you haven't asked for it, it's not going to be on their mind.

They have 4000 other things competing for that priority, but if you spark that thing that says, "Hey be on the lookout for projects that would let me test this out, I would love to do it," a lot of times, they come back and bring you the opportunity, and then those turn into roles, and they turn into relationships that 10 years later you're getting a job from somebody you worked with on a project because you expressed interest.

Andy Sokolovich: Right, absolutely, and every corporate boardroom has that buzzword called retention. People constantly try to think of how to solve for it: how do we keep people here for the long haul? How do we bring them into our family, our culture and make sure that they continue to grow and they become enthusiasts about what we're trying to do? How do we make them want to stick with us forever?

How do we do that? Well, the secret sauce is what we just said. You ask them what they want and what they need. You ask how you can foster their growth internally. Don't just expect them to live within your guidelines, i.e. that job description that they got hired under 11 or 12 years ago.

I mean really start to invest in people, and you'll see things just mature to a level that's mind blowing. I've done it personally, even with folks that I worked with online. I do stuff with virtual assistants, and I do stuff with graphic artists, graphic designers. I try to constantly tell them, "You are naturally gifted at design, keep doing what you're doing. I really really enjoy this," and even when I'm not working with them, I'll go back every once in a while and say, "Hey, I just want to check in with you and see how you're doing. Is there anything I can do to help your business grow? Can I direct you to anybody? Is there a certain niche, or is there a certain group that you're trying to target? How can I help you grow, because I really believe you have the talent and to do what it takes."

We've talked sometimes about low points. Just imagine being at a low point in your life, where maybe your career is not firing on all cylinders. Your family life is falling apart. Your health is going away--who knows--but when somebody comes and actually acknowledges or recognizes a talent that you have, something that you're able to do better than anybody else, how much of an uplift is that? How much of a boost in confidence is that? I think that little gesture makes all the difference.

Lisa Cummings: I so agree. You never know what's going on in people's lives, and taking that moment to appreciate a talent that you see, and like I had an experience so similar to what you're talking about recently. I was working with a client, they were going through a merger and acquisition process. I was working with somebody who was a really heavy part of the due diligence process, and I know she was working insane hours.

She was sleeping four hours a night. Otherwise working the other 20. I asked for something that just seemed trivial, and I knew it was going to be a pain. I didn't even want to send a request to the person, but it was something that I needed. So I made mention, "I appreciate you so much for taking the time to get this. It was so accurate and fast, and I know you must be so slammed right now."

Then she wrote back this very heartfelt note. It was just about noticing what she was going through, and acknowledging that she took that extra time, and it was really cutting into her few hours of sleep that night, and she appreciated so much the notice. I think that's such a big deal--taking 30 seconds to tell someone what you see in them--just like you do with the designer you work with, or whomever, and say, "I really see this spark in you," and it gives them the juice to go, "There really is something to that," and maybe the difference in pursuing a whole different career.

Andy Sokolovich: Absolutely, well said.

Lisa Cummings: Andy this has been such a blast. Now I know the listeners want all sorts of Andy now, so how can they find you?

Andy Sokolovich: My website is over at unleashstrengths.com

Lisa Cummings: Thanks Andy, for joining. And thanks to all of the followers of Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your strengths at work makes you a stronger performer. If you’re focused on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents. Then share them with the world. And help your team do the same!


Andy also has an excellent podcast focused on Strengths. It’s called Theme Addicts

Direct download: 022-Andy-Sokolovich-2.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:00am CDT