Lead Through Strengths

Self Care Ideas That Most Corporate Professionals Haven't Considered

You can't go very far when you're running on empty, no matter how hard you push. And that's why we've come up with this fun episode for you — consider it a virtual "filling station." All you need to do for now is hit the brake, find clarity, and refill your tank with self care ideas that use your natural talents.

Just like operating from your unique strengths, practicing self care makes a world of difference. Self care is not self-ish, because it results in giving your world the best of you [very punny, right?].

No matter your role in your team, your strengths can guide you in choosing the tasks that replenish you so that you can contribute your best - and achieve goals with less effort.

Our host Lisa Cummings is joined once again by TyAnn Osborn, and together they will guide you towards the things that could re-energize you. As you'll find out, filling up on self care ideas doesn’t have to be limited to studying mindfulness, meditation, and massage.

Surprisingly, self care can feel really practical in the workplace, despite the typical connotation, which seems to live outside of the office. There are many self care ideas that come right out of your natural talents - ways you can approach your work to re-energize you while you simultaneously get things done.

Here’s their conversation:

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and you know, I'm always telling you, it's hard to find something more energizing than using your natural talents every day at work. 

Well, something that's just about as energizing is when I get to hang out with my other host here in the room, TyAnn Osborn. 

TyAnn: Hi!

Lisa: Today, we're talking about... We don't know yet what we're talking about, because we're doing a spin-the-wheel, where it tells us what we're talking about for the day. So let's spin. 

TyAnn: Okay. 

Lisa: Ooh, this one is talking about self care ideas... 

TyAnn: Self care. 

Lisa: When you run empty.

TyAnn: Well... 

Lisa: No, you should just start this Ty, because you've talked about when the cup is empty, you have nothing to give. We definitely need some self care ideas up in here.

How These Self Care Ideas Can Help You Avoid Burnout

TyAnn: That's it. So I think this is a really important topic right now. And, you know, we're all facing different struggles, no matter what it is. Depending on when you listen, there can be any number of things happening.

Maybe you've got a personal health struggle, maybe you're facing job troubles, potential job loss. Maybe you've got some family stuff going on, kids stuff going on. I don't know, maybe there was a global pandemic.

There's all kinds of things happening in the world right now, and something is probably happening in your life. 

And here's the deal. You know, we have a lot of demands and pulls on our time and our energy. And often, we're trying to give so much to other people. If you're a manager, a people manager, you know, you're really trying to show up and be the best for your team. If you've got kids you're trying to give. If you're a volunteer, you're trying to give.

But the truth is, you can't give from an empty cup. And so this is really where we've got to build self care ideas in our own life so that we can have our own replenishment - things that help us so that we can help give to other people. Because, believe me, if you're just gonna keep pouring, nothing's gonna come out. 

Lisa: That's a good point. It's kind of like, if you use your cup metaphor, I'm going to drink, there's nothing there. I'm trying to take a sip, there's nothing there. 

TyAnn: Yeah, you're still slurping on that straw, like (slurps)... Nothing happening. 

Lisa: And I, I see this with a lot of clients where we want to be it all. We want to give it all. We want to do it all. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: I have very high expectations of myself that I never meet. I see customers who have high expectations of themselves that they never meet, and they feel crushing expectations from other people around them, so that same family member, teammate, boss, all of those situations, and they are like, "Everyone wants a piece of me, and I've got nothing."

TyAnn: Yeah, "I've got nothing to give." And believe me, that is the number one recipe for burnout right there. Because, you know, we're people and a lot of us are strong in terms of achievement, and being able to really, you know, move forward. That's why we're successful in our careers. And we've kind of gotten to these points. But believe me, there's only so far you can push this before you will just hit a wall

And often, you and I've talked about this before, oftentimes your body will tell you you've hit a wall before your brain will intellectually let you believe it. And, you know, I heard this one time on Oprah, she said, the universe speaks to you. And first, it'll be a whisper. And if you don't listen, then it'll start tapping a little louder. And finally, you know, if you keep not listening, it'll smack you upside the head. So I think it's really important to generate  self care ideas, and create a practice. 

And we can talk about, "What does that look like from a strengths perspective?"

Lisa: Yeah. When I think about self care ideas, I think about fitness. I think about fuel in the body, like what you're eating and drinking. I think about, "Am I consciously trying to direct my work to allow energizing things?"

TyAnn: Yeah.

Lisa: I also think about hobbies. Am I doing things in life that fill my cup back up? 

TyAnn: Yeah.

Different Energizers For Different Folks — Scrap The Judgment

Lisa: There are a lot of things I think people can list if you ask, "What things energize you?"

TyAnn: Yes. 

Lisa: But then how many do you allow yourself to do, and how do you know the payoff, like, “Okay, if I allow myself to sleep 9 hours a night, which my body thinks it wants…” 

TyAnn: Yeah.

Lisa: We can have self care ideas, but we might not give ourselves permission to try them. It feels self-indulgent.

TyAnn: So true.

Lisa: ...I think, "I don't have time for that. I have too much to do." But I think I also would like to drive to a gym and go do yoga in the morning and then, start work around noon, and... 

TyAnn: Play with your dogs and the drums and take a nap. 

Lisa: Yeah, I have songs to write. I have drums to play. I have dogs to take care of. I have a husband to hang out with. I have a lot to do. And that takes up a whole workday all by itself. These are beautiful self care ideas, yet I need to bring home the bacon too.

TyAnn: Right?! Did you time for work?

Lisa: Who's got time for that? 

TyAnn: Yeah. So how do you fit these self care ideas into your day? And how does this feel like not just one more thing I have to do? And then where can I get the biggest bang for my buck? 

Lisa: Yeah. Good point. You can have self care ideas, but they can also feel burdensome because they take up time. So what's the first step? I mean, and we're doing this related to strengths. 

TyAnn: So what are all the answers to this mystery? 

So a few things. I will just offer a personal bias. I think this word "self care" is used a lot now. It's thrown around. And sometimes when I hear it, it feels a little soft. Or it's all about like taking long hot bubble baths or something. And I think that feels a little squishy to me.

So how about we just say, things that replenish you? Whatever that is for you. 

Lisa: The magic wand, we are now turning "self care ideas" into "things that replenish you." Very simple. That definitely makes it less squishy.

TyAnn: Yeah. And I also think we can take away judgment on that, because something that makes you feel good might not make me feel good. So it's very personal to you. 

Lisa: Well, I think that we have one of those because I think that you're making fun of bubble baths, but that you actually do like them. And you like to read in the bath. 

TyAnn: I do. 

Lisa: Meanwhile, when we built our house, we built a bathless house because we don't take baths. 

TyAnn: Hey, interesting trend in real estate, right?

Lisa: Is it?. I didn't realize that.

TyAnn: As someone who just went through that process, now you go in, it's kind of polarizing. Bath person. No bath person.

Some people have the big freestanding bathtub, it's a whole spa. Other people are like, "No, that's big waste." So it is a good metaphor for this topic. 

Lisa: It totally is.

TyAnn: Because one person's replenishment is another person’s waste of space. So that's something that I do for myself and actually recommend for my clients as well. It’s just...take out a white sheet of paper. I'm a big believer in like analog tools, or get a whiteboard, and then just list out stuff you like. 

And here's what's interesting. Sometimes that can be paralyzing to clients, like, “Oh, my God, where do I even start?” So just take away all of the judgment. It can be little things like, "I like chocolate ice cream." That can't be my entire self care regimen, by the way, or I'd gain 50 pounds. But, you know, just start listing without judging the list.

Creation and editing are two very different processes. Separate them so we can start listing out things. Start with the creation of a list. Write all of the things that replenish you. If that feels too limiting, just write things that you like - activities you enjoy.

Lisa: Don't judge it while it's landing on the page.

TyAnn: No judgment. As Planet Fitness says "this is a no judgement zone," (even though they misspelled judgment). So...

Lisa: They did?

TyAnn: Some judgment... 

Lisa: You’re judging the judgment spelling, that is. 

TyAnn: I know, judgment, right? Slightly judgy. So I would just say, try that, or I get clients stuck on... "I can only list work things that I'm excited about..."

Lisa: Ha ha. I hear your Maximizer talent coming out.

Maybe we can do categories for their self care ideas.

Tyann: Yeah. 

Lisa: Let's come up with some categories. You could list work things that you like, 

TyAnn: Could be... 

Lisa: Work people that you like.

TyAnn: (laughs) That's a big one. 

Lisa: Because people are like, “You replenish me. When I'm around you, my energy goes up.” 

TyAnn: But there are some people who don't replenish us. So they wouldn't go on the list. 

Lisa: Right? Ha ha. Okay. So we've got work...tasks or responsibilities. We've got people. 

TyAnn: Maybe workplaces. 

Lisa: Ooh, like physical places?

TyAnn: Yes. Or maybe if you get to travel somewhere that's fun. Or maybe traveling for you to some location you dread that maybe you have to go once a quarter. And that's really a de-energizer for you. So don't put that on your list. 

Lisa: And you might know, "Hey, I'll make another list of things I need to get my energy up because I know it's going to be drained more...when these things happen."

TyAnn: So this is the “things that bring me energy” list. So work stuff... and get as granular as you can in terms of work tasks. So I don't recommend putting things on there like, the XYZ project, because that's way too big.

So get very granular about what specifically about that project did you like? Did you like interacting with the project team members, because it was just that awesome team where you really felt like you clicked with everyone? Or was it because you got to be out front? That would be me. You know it to be out on stage or I get to be the one making the presentation. Or maybe you're that spreadsheet jockey and you came up with just a brilliant thing that you pushed a button and all these magic happened, and it was the coolest thing ever.

That would not be me. But for someone that could be. 

Lisa: You can also see trends after the list is complete...if you make yourself stick with the list-making when it gets tough for a minute. Then you can see bigger trends. Like one that I know for me I've figured out is, I like making things, but I like making a class. I like making an audio file. I like making a song up. I like making all sorts of different types of making. Some are very tech-focused. Some are super creative, but I couldn't see that trend until I listed a bunch of the details. 

That's when you get self care ideas that you never expected. They don't come out on the first pass.

TyAnn: That’s great! I love that. So then you can go back and say what is it about these things that are similar? It's a creative process. 

Embracing What’s 'Weird' And Improving On What’s 'Standard' Are Self Care Steps Too

TyAnn: Yeah. And this is for people who are like, "Oh, I can't list that, because that...that doesn't count. Or, I don't want anyone to know that I secretly like to….[insert whatever crazy hobby it is].

I was working with a group of chemical engineers. And this one gentleman, he stood up, and he said, “I like Dutch oven cooking.”

And I thought, what a brave thing to say in front of a room of other chemical engineers. And I'm like, “You go! Dutch oven cooking! What a specific niche thing to do.” It's a brilliant self care idea, but he never would have called it that.

Lisa: Yeah. It makes me think of "things you do to decompress" as another category for the list of self care ideas.

Tyann: I didn't even know that was a hobby. And I like to cook too.

And whatever it is, it doesn't matter. It's all about what rejuvenates you.

Lisa: Back to your analog self care idea list: I facilitate an activity like this. I'll put the timer on two minutes, and I'll say, “Don't let the pen stop... keep going as a stream of consciousness thing."

What did I like doing when I was 9?

What am I doing when I lose track of time?

What activities are fun?

Who is fun to be around?

What am I good at?

What comes easily to me?

What makes me feel alive?

What am I saying when I crack myself up?

What topics to I love to learn about?

What makes me different from the average person?

If you just can't think of an answer, keep the pen going and move to another angle." What you brought up for me is my follow-on, that I'll often have people do, which is: Keep this out for a week, because you need to grab the little moments that you didn't even know, “Oh, I got a little spark out of that idea and it reminded me of a whole new set of self care ideas.” 

And one of them that I think is really cool is: What makes you weird? And if I just ask you that, like, how many things could you list? Well, I might be able to add more than a normal person. But the little things like, what has anyone ever commented on? Because they'll come up. They'll pop in your head later. 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: Okay, a weird thing about me is I eat canned things, because I like to eat vegetables and I like to be efficient. And I don't like spending a lot of time on my food. But I do want quality food in me. So somewhere in the middle, I found a jar of beets that I eat for my snack or my lunch. That's weird. I just stick my fork in the jar of beets and I eat it. Isn't that bizarre? 

TyAnn: Lisa eats green beans out of the can as well. 

Lisa: I will. Green beans are doable... but.. some of them are too squishy, like canned asparagus and spinach. Those are a no-go… Green beans, corn, beets — all workable for moments of vegetable efficiency.

But that is very weird. But if you start looking at it like, what energizes me? The energizing part isn't the beets. It's finding new efficiencies. Finding ways to break a rule, like that rule makes me think about how I don't have to cook because other people do.

I remember a moment when I got feedback at my house that I was not running the dishwasher as often as it should be because we were running out of forks. And so my answer was *not* to wash dishes more frequently or run the dishwasher more frequently. It was to buy more forks. And I got a real kick out of that. It was my special way of being efficient and effective.

So these weird things about you can generate surprising self care ideas.

TyAnn: I love that. 

Lisa: When you see “Oh, I love coming up with something that is a solution to a problem that is not normal, that no one else would think of.” And I'll get a jazz out of that that will give me an hour-long high. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: So being able to write down those things, like the moments where you got a boost or you got a kick out of yourself. 

TyAnn: This is so great. So you've said a couple of things that I think are brilliant. 

Life is made up of all these little moments that are punctuated by the big thing.

But 99% of life is...just we go through life, right? So that's where we can look. And so much of what you said is like a Maximizer coming out, which by the way, I'm that as well.

But two examples for you in the food realm.

So we started getting those home boxes that come with the food and the recipe. The box comes in, you have the recipe and you put it all together. Usually it's my job to put the ingredients together.

Occasionally, my husband will put it together but he takes the recipe and goes exactly step by step and it comes out and, you know, it's fine.

I'm different. I take the recipe and use it as a launchpad. It's like a starting point because I'm often thinking, "Hmm, you know, what would make this better?Just a little bit of shallot, a little bit of garlic, you know, a dash of cinnamon..." 

And then I’ll present it to him, he's like, “This is not the recipe.” I'm like, “I know. It's better. It's better.” That's like a hallmark of Maximizers: "I’m gonna make this better!"

Lisa: And it makes you really excited.

TyAnn: Oh, huge, huge jazz out of it. 'Cause I sort of have this image of myself back at the test kitchen of whatever company being all like, “I made it better,” even though that's not my job and I would never do that. Anyway, in my head, it's pretty exciting.

So, and a long time ago, back when the interwebs were still very new, I had this website, and one of the things I did was reviews of restaurants and products. This is really crazy to think about now.

But do you remember flight — I know, we'll get back there one day — and in the in-flight magazine, how there were always those lists of like, top 10 steak houses in the United States.... Well, I took that as a challenge. And so I decided to go visit all of them, and then do reviews on them and see if I really thought they were the top 10 steak houses. 

So then I had a whole thing on.

Lisa: And you had this whole energy... 

TyAnn: I do! 

Lisa: ...about it. 

TyAnn: And I'm 100% sure no one ever read that. But it didn't matter. I wasn't doing it for the audience, I was doing it as, like, a quality kind of thing. 

Lisa: Hmmm. What's your take...you're making me think of...on the topic of self care ideas...how fulfilled we feel as humans and how alive we feel as humans, because I think there's a difference between being alive and feeling alive, like feeling alive for what you're doing. And that so much of it can come from striving and having a goal and that there's something around it even if it's something like, “I have this thing, I'm going to visit these 10…places."

TyAnn: Whatever…

Lisa: Whatever that thing is, so even making one of those lists...instead of it being an inventory of things you've found yourself get a charge out of it, could be like, “Oh, that sounds fun. I'm actually going to go do that.”

TyAnn: You know, there was research that was done about, and this was really done on couples and families. And something that was particularly bonding was something they came up with and called it a quest. But it works for individuals too, that whenever you have a quest, something that you're doing together, and it doesn't have to be like, “We're gonna go visit every continent,” even though that could be fun, but that might be a little unattainable for a lot of people, it could just be, “We're gonna go check out all of the state parks in a 30-mile radius from our house.” 

Lisa: Yes!

TyAnn: Or we're gonna find a public fishing hole near where we live. I mean, it doesn't, it literally doesn't matter what it is. It's just something that's a common goal for you. 

Bringing Strengths Into Self Care By Focusing On Things That Energize You

Lisa: I like that as a very actionable thing that you could do with this, where you're like,

"How can I do self care? Can I bring my strengths into it?"

And by the way, you can look at them and say,

"What would light these up?"

And that can be part of your list making. But also, if you do things that feel easy to you and energizing to you, they probably are in alignment with your strengths naturally.

TyAnn: That's a clue to strengths, too. 

Lisa: Yeah!

TyAnn: Usually your strengths are things that bring you energy and you feel naturally attracted to. So it doesn't matter if it's, "You know what, I'm going to try a seasonal fruit or vegetable this month. This is going to be the month of asparagus, and I'm going to go try that.” Whatever.

Or, "We're going to try a new place." You know, you often hear this, "We're going to try something new." Because if you put yourself out there a little bit, but it's a new adventure of some sort, it kind of satisfies a lot of this neat thing. And that's what really gets a lot of cool juices flowing for you. Doing the same thing over and over tends not to stroke that same area for you. 

Lisa: Yeah. And I like how you do the... If you're going to come up with a quest as one of the action items like, what could your quest be? And could you have a quest that would be a workplace quest or a family quest? And then could you do one that would feel really enlivening to one of your strengths? And then even if you wanted to have a work or family conversation around it, how could this quest be really fun for this family? 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: Or how could this quest, this big aspirational goal that the team is heading toward, which… How could you find a way that one of your strengths comes alive through it? It would be a really cool conversation. 

TyAnn: Absolutely.

Lisa: I don't know if this is the same video you were talking about with research? Jane McGonigal was a researcher and she was recovering from a concussion. She started a quest to get better. There's a TED talk where she describes what she did to power up. She called it Super Better. And it was how she gamified getting better. She was also a gamer and she figured out a way to get super better, but bits at a time. And this quest notion, whether or not she used those words.

TyAnn: I love that. 

Lisa: ...it was baked into it. And it gives you a way to get there. Instead of feeling like, I think when people are bad at self care, when we're doing ourselves wrong, it's because I'm like, “Well, I'm, I haven't worked out this week, so I'm going to eat tater tots for breakfast.” 

TyAnn: We like tater tots in our house as well. Gotta say. Tater tots loving family. And then someone might say, well, and if I had tater tots for breakfast, I might as well just go all in and have cake for lunch. And...

Lisa: Oh, and I put ice cream on my list of self care ideas. So we have that and then you're all downhill. 

TyAnn: But it's an interesting kind of this concept too. So you know, a lot of people have workout on their list because they think that's what should be on the list. So I would say stop shooting on yourself. What brings you energy is what brings you energy. No one's creating this, by the way. 

And so if you feel like a natural attraction to you would like to get more activity in your life, that doesn't have to mean I have to go to the gym for an hour and a half, and get on some torturous piece of equipment that I don't want to be on, that makes me feel icky... Or, I have to go to a Body Pump class where I'm embarrassed and don't know how to do it. That's not what that means. 

Lisa: Yeah, I think that thing, like remembering, there's a notion, maybe it's one that other people have put out there for you. Or maybe it's something you've made up about what that word means. Workout is a good example of one that's loaded.

TyAnn: Yeah, a lot of baggage,

Lisa: I think quick shout out to the book, Eat, Move, Sleep. That’s a really good one for self care ideas.

TyAnn: Absolutely. 

Lisa: …asking yourself, how are you on your eating and moving and sleeping? But okay, like if you said, “Okay, I want to move.” 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: What kind of moving is fun for me? Maybe for one person, it's taking a walk with a friend,  and you got to have the social connection while you were power walking. For the next person, it’s going to a group exercise class. 

Like I had... I went and hooked up my Xbox again, for the Kinect, to dance to Fergie. I mean, it's silly, but that's a fun workout for me. So why don’t I do it?

TyAnn: That counts. That counts. 

Lisa: And then you go, “Oh, well. Well, I do. Why don't I hook that back up?

TyAnn: Right! 

Lisa: Why do I have that unplugged?

TyAnn: So if you want to be Dance Dance Revolution, man, knock yourself out! 

Lisa: I love Dance Dance Revolution. 

TyAnn: Or if you just want to crank up the music, or take a walk, or if you want to try some, you know, whatever new class is out there...

Lisa: Take a whole new class! Whatever sounds fun for you.

TyAnn: ...there’s something. So I think it really is trying to get away again from, if you write something down because you feel you should, I would say take another look at that, because that's not bringing you energy. And this is supposed to be a self care list about things that are exciting to you and bring you energy. 

So if you feel like you should call your mom every day and spend an hour on the phone with her, but that doesn't bring you energy, don't put that on your list. Don’t put that on your list.

Or even working out. If that doesn't sound so great to you, think about, “What does sound great to me? Hanging out with my friend sounds great. So maybe, I get an accountability partner at the gym. Then, that can be where I go to see my friends, I've kind of paired something I'm a little more iffy at with something I'm excited about. So together, I'm sort of killing two birds with one stone in a way that still feels awesome." 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: So I think that's part of that self care. So I would just say, get back to that creative space. Think about those things which bring you energy. Try to get down to those micro-segments.

I like organizing, that brings me energy. And so if I'm feeling a little out of sorts, 

Lisa: Labeler. 

TyAnn: If I'm feeling a little out of sorts, I might just literally pull open my desk drawer and just get it sorted out. 

Lisa: Oh, this is the perfect closing to this. 

Self Care Need Not Be Hard Or Inconvenient — Grow On Micro Habits

Lisa: On the best self care ideas: My favorite TyAnn concept of the universe is “stop making things so hard.” 

I make life hard because I think of all of these things I should be doing or want to do or that would feel great. But then they feel too gratuitous. It just feels like too much time. I don't have that much time for these eight hours of things I would prefer to do during the day. 

TyAnn: It's too much. 

Lisa: So the opening one drawer, and organizing one little space... 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: The reading one page of a book, not even one chapter, but I like reading, I read one page. 

TyAnn: Yoohoo, ‘crushing it! I’m winning.

Lisa: If you’ve read Atomic Habits, have you checked out that? 

TyAnn: Yes. Yeah. 

Lisa: It's like, I will put my workout shoes next to my bed, and I will put my workout shoes on and then maybe...I will do 10 push-ups, and that's your only expectation for yourself — 10 push-ups, just something that is... 

TyAnn: ...that you can crush, you can win...

Lisa: ...very small and doable. 

TyAnn: Micro-habits. 

Lisa: ...and let it grow. 

TyAnn: And you're like, I want to eat more vegetables. Great, I ate one asparagus. Winning! (laughs) Right? As opposed to, “Well, now I have to become a vegan.” 

...which seems like a big thing. 

Lisa: That is so funny as a closing thought too because I have some like vegan experimenting things that…

TyAnn: Vegan-curious?

Lisa: Yeah! Say I’m plant-curious. If you're listening, hey, Becky Hammond from Isogo Strong

TyAnn: We love Becky! 

Lisa: Becky's a vegetarian. I was talking about well, you know, if I were to do it, I would just go vegan because I don't eat dairy so I would just like, that's the big battle with going vegan to me anyway, is I can't eat dairy anyhow. So I got past the vegetarian vegan thing. But I don't know about that.

And I started giving all of these reasons: "This gets in my way...this makes it a precarious approach...and this makes it inconvenient. And she's like, “Just have one more plant-based meal per day."

I said, “Oh, hello!” I hadn't thought of that.

TyAnn: Something doable.

Lisa: Stop making everything all or none. Stop making everything have a mutually exclusive this or that. 

TyAnn: Stop making it so hard. Stop making it so hard.

Lisa: And with that, I think it is…the perfect ending.

So you've been listening to Lead Through Strength. As you think about not making it so hard and bringing your strengths into your self care practice, walk away with your list. Log those moments over the next month, maybe just a week or a few days. But catch the moments that were fun to you. Come let us know on social what they were for you because it is fun to hear the energizing moments for other people. 

TyAnn: Absolutely. We'll talk about all of the self care ideas.

Lisa: We will. Because the variety is so much fun when you learn one person's trash is another person's treasure - in hobbies and in tasks at work. So with that, let us know which ones you're starting to implement.

We would love to hear how you took five more minutes for your self care so that you can fill your cup because we don't want you out of water. With that, we'll see you next time. Bye for now.

Resources: Self Care Ideas To Help You Fuel Up Your Strengths And Fire Up Your Life

Vital to self care is staying at your top form and performing better at work by knowing what keeps your strengths honored and insulted. Visit Lisa’s insightful episode about finding energizing tasks at work to discover what situations (or cultures) can either drain or motivate you based on your strengths.

But simply knowing what honors and insults your strengths or talents cannot complete a self care process. Lisa’s Strengths Blind Spots episode serves as a great reminder to “feed our talents the same way we feed our body." Spend time developing and nurturing them instead of squashing them down so they can best serve your performance and, ultimately, that of the team.

Finally, check out this episode on Wellbeing: Bravely Build a Fit Body and Mind Through Strengths with Lisa and Matt Swenson. You’ll learn to create healthy strengths habits around the 5 essential elements of wellbeing: career, social, financial, physical, and community. Life-changing self care ideas!

Direct download: 131-Self-Care-Ideas.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

How Can I Turn Conflicts Around When My Manager Hates Me?

Certain situations can highlight the stark differences within a team, especially when your strengths seem opposite of others' strengths. For example, you might think “my manager hates me” when they seem to value other team members' ideas and blow off yours. To conform or to stay true to your natural talents becomes a tough choice to make. 

When you’re the manager, it takes some skill to build a balance between honoring your team members' strengths and honoring yours, especially where you think the business priorities and values are at stake. And when you manage a team with a very different set of top 5 or top 10 strengths, how exactly do you do it?

Welcome to this episode, the first in a series with TyAnn Osborn, who role-plays and reflects with our host Lisa Cummings on the difficult scenarios where team members may have conflicting strengths. How do they handle the situation and turn conflicts around?

Here’s the transcript of the episode.

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and you know, I'm always telling you, it's hard to find something more energizing than using your natural talents every day at work.

Well, something that's just about as energizing is when I get to hang out with the other host here in the room, TyAnn Osborn.

TyAnn: Hi!

Lisa: Today, we're going to talk about a topic that we haven't decided yet, because I am going to use this spin-the-wheel thingy thingy, to tell us.

*Spins the wheel*

TyAnn: I like the sounds.

Lisa: Oh, it says: ‘You don't like a teammate.’

When Someone On The Team Drives You Crazy

My Manager Hates Me - The *Not* Savage Strengths ApproachLisa: So today, we're going to talk about what you could do with your strengths when you don't like one of your teammates. Has this ever happened to you, Ty? 

TyAnn: No, I've always loved everyone that I worked with... No...[hint of sarcasm]

Lisa: But I bet one of your clients has had this situation since you've never had it, 'wink-wink...' 

TyAnn: Of course, there's always someone that - for some reason - rubs you the wrong way. You just, you know, they're not your love language. And I work with clients all the time who have... there's always seems to be someone on the team who they just can't seem to get along with. Has this ever happened to you too? 

Lisa: Definitely. I mean, it's funny because I feel like a big thing about me is that I love people. And I love most people. 

TyAnn: Right. Me too!

Lisa: But there are people that I don't jive with as well. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: And it takes some extra effort to understand where they're coming from, or really feel like, ‘Oh, I fully get them,’ or something like that.

TyAnn: Which, you know, that's interesting when you're an individual contributor, when you feel that way, because you're like, ‘yeah, maybe that's just him’, you know. But when you're a manager, and you think, ‘Oh, I'm supposed to like everybody on the team’, or, ‘I need to not show favoritism but, eh, I kind of don't like that person. What do I do?’ It's kind of like being a parent; you're not supposed to not like one of your kids. So... 

Lisa: Or not have a favorite. 

TyAnn: Or not have a favorite. So, what do you do?

Lisa: Okay, so let’s do a scenario? Let's do it like, you’re a manager. It will allow us to see the perspective of the manager thinking, "Ugh, that person is high maintenance on the team." And it will allow us to explore the flip side where a team member is thinking, "Ugh, my manager hates me. What should I do?"

TyAnn: Yep. 

Lisa: You happen to have done CliftonStrengths as a team. 

TyAnn: Because you're a great manager.

Lisa: 'Cause you're awesome. And there is a person on your team that you appreciate as a human, but as a performer, they feel very high-maintenance to you, they drive you kind of crazy. Let's pick some talent themes that might be seemingly opposite each other so we can make it a real scenario. 

TyAnn: Okay.

Lisa: Does one pop up for you as one that is least likely to be paired with another? 

TyAnn: I see Deliberative being perceived as a problem child, especially when a lot of other people on the team might be more, say Activator, or something that's very forward in motion. Either Achiever, Activator, something like that. So maybe you've got a team that's like, ‘Oh, we're always ready to go!’ And there's one person who seems like they never can just get on the bus. And they're always the one dragging their heels.

Lisa: Yeah. Oh, we should do this on both directions. 

TyAnn: Okay.

Lisa: Let's take Achiever-Activator. 

TyAnn: Okay. 

Lisa: And then let's take Deliberative. Say these are the two different people. And we can start with the manager, having Achiever-Activator, wanting stuff to get done quickly, and wanting to make decisions quickly. And the person who wants to take a little more time is the team member who reports to you, and then we’re gonna swap it. 

TyAnn: Okay. Okay, I've got a real life example on that. 

Lisa: Awesome. Okay.

TyAnn: Absolutely. 

Lisa: So you're my manager. 

TyAnn: Okay. 

Lisa: You're Achiever-Activator [role play begins you can also watch the video version to get the subtleties].

TyAnn: Woohoo! Let's get going, man, come on!

Lisa: And I'm saying, "Well, bad news. I'm going to miss that deadline that you gave me."

TyAnn: Lisa, what's going on? I gave you the deadline. Come on! Chop, chop! 

Lisa: Well, the thing is, I *could* get it done, but I can't get it done *properly* right now, because we don't have all of the information. I've been trying to work with this other department. They've been dragging their heels. I’m waiting for them.

If I do it now, I might just be giving you completely incorrect information because I'm seeing three or four ways this could all go wrong if I blaze ahead today, and it feels like I'm just gonna be wasting time….

TyAnn: Lisa, all I hear is excuses. I have stuff to get done too. We owe the marketing department this information. They're waiting on us to get this stuff into print. We're behind already and you know what, you're never going to have 100% confidence in what you do. So just give me something. 

Lisa: Uhum...[hangs head]. Okay, now that we've come out of our characters from our roleplay, I would say, you were kind of playing like the in-between our manager where you were trying to give the people listening to the podcast, like a little bit of a glimpse of inside your head, but also be somewhat mature, like, in how you... 

TyAnn: Right, right. 

Lisa: ...because you're balancing the two - and that the inside voice and the outside voice are really different. 

TyAnn: That’s true.

My Team Member Frustrates Me: How Can I Moderate My Message To The Person?

Lisa: Can you explain what was going on fully inside voice? Unfiltered.

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: ...and then how, if you wanted to maturely talk to me, and still keep me engaged...how that might look? 

Tyann: I think that's a good point because hopefully, as you progress in your career, you just don't say the first thing that pops into your head. I always say, there's the reason why there's a little space between your head and your mouth. Yeah, have a little filter in there. But inside your head, it's very normal be like,

"Oh, my God, you are so frustrating! I gave you the deadline. Arrgh, why didn't you say something sooner? You, you always do this. And all I'm hearing is excuses. Now you're throwing this other department under the bus. I cannot count on you. The rest of the team - we're getting it done. And we have to deal with the same things."

So typically, what I see when I see this combination of strengths is a lot of frustration. That is usually the emotion that I see a lot, it’s frustration. Whoever has the action, it's like, "Oh, I'm just really angry with you." And whoever's on the receiving side, well, we can debrief how you feel. But usually it's a lot of frustration on that side, too. So that's kind of what's happening inside. 

And then on the outside, but I'm trying to be a good manager, and I'm trying not to just say, "Oh my God, you're such an idiot, and I hate you." 'Cause I would never say that to someone. But I'm trying to say, "You know, of course, we're never going to have 100% confidence in what we do, because that's not real life. So we have to get to a point where we may feel 80% confident, and how do we do that? And too, you can't always have an excuse for why things aren't happening. You have to take ownership of something, too."

So that's what I was trying to moderate in the message. So you could feel some of that? 

Lisa: For sure. And I put you on the spot and I know this person is thinking, "I know my manager hates me, but I still don't want to deliver shoddy work."

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: It's easier when you have time to think out the words for the feedback. It's simpler to give the vibe that, "I've been thinking about how I'm going to coach you and how we can improve this over time." What we've been doing is the in-the-moment heated feeling, "Oh, we just missed a really important deadline. You didn’t tell me. I am so upset."

Tyann: Right. And now my butt's in the sling because of you. 

Lisa: Yeah. And I hear things from managers, like, "Everybody else can do it. You're the only one…" And then you don't want to give that as feedback...

My Manager Hates Me - The *Not* Savage Strengths ApproachTyAnn: Right. Or you start hearing that relationship language like "always," and "never," which we say, you know, anytime you start hearing, "always," "never," that should be a clue. But when you definitely start feeling... 

Lisa: Alarm bells.

TyAnn: Yeah, alarm bells should go off. But when you start feeling inside, like, "Oh, my God, you're always the problem. You're the problem employee. Everyone else can get it done on time, how come you can't?"

And that's when you start hearing things like, you know, "Lisa's got to go."

Lisa: Right. The employee also feels the My Manager Hates Me alarm bells.

TyAnn: Absolutely. From the manager, perspective they're already thinking of firing the person. I always call it "my employee’s broken, I want a new one" syndrome. And, you know, that might be an answer. But I don't want that to be the first answer. To me, I want that to be the last answer. And I would like to try and see, "Can this marriage be saved before we go to it's broken?"

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: Because it takes a lot of effort to get another employee. 

Lisa: Oh, yeah. And I have something valuable to offer you with the Deliberative talents when they're dialed in well. 

TyAnn: Right. Yes. Absolutely.

Lisa: I might sit in the seat... Okay, here's what I would say, like, what would be in my head if I were this team member? I would be thinking, "Yeah, other people get it done on time. And all of my teammates, ‘always’, ‘never’... all, all my teammates, give crappy work. I'm on a team where no one cares about quality, all they care about is speed.

We do so many things three or four or five times because we were refused to do it right the first time because we won't take an extra minute to get the information from the other department, or fix that relationship that's creating the block that won't let us get the information. My manager hates me and hates my style.

"And anytime I bring up the ‘what ifs’ or ‘this might go wrong’, people treat me like I’m the negative Nellie so I just shut down and don't say anything. But it doesn't mean I want to give you bad work."

TyAnn: Mm hmm. So yeah, so you're surrounded by people that you think are...yeah...

Lisa: Half-assing it. 

TyAnn: Half-assing it. And I like to say why half-ass when you can whole-ass? [smiles] Because you're right - then you're pretty probably seeing a bunch of rework that has to happen. When if we just put in the correct effort to begin with, you know, that wouldn't happen. But meanwhile, you've shut down. 

Lisa: I've shut down. 

TyAnn: ...because you've been shut down. 

Lisa: Yes. And I might be thinking, leading through Deliberative, seeing all of the activity that is resulting in, in my opinion, bad quality work out there, now I'm thinking, "Oh, look, the whole team is running around like chickens with their head cut off. Looks totally foolish.

I'm the only one actually putting reasoning behind what we're doing. I'm the only one who's thinking I'm the only one who is bringing some rigor to this process. How is it that my manager hates me when I'm the voice of quality and avoiding a crisis that we're bound to experience if we don't pump the brakes?"

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: And no one's valuing it. And then I'm thinking, "Well, clearly, I'm not a good fit for the job, or the company or the team, or maybe my manager. But if the whole team I perceive it like that…"

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: And maybe they are like that. Or maybe they've just conformed to your behavior, because as a manager, you've been so strong in your speed.

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: At least you're clear. So that I'm grateful for. You know, opposites. 

My Manager Hates Me: Do I Conform And Please, Or Do I Look For Another Team?

TyAnn: So you said two things that were really interesting. In this scenario, you talked about this, you were waiting on something from another team, so you were the only person who brought up even an interaction with another team. So to me that says you were thinking a little more systematically and holistically. So maybe these other guys should have been interacting with this other team, and they haven't been, so there's something going on there that should be paid attention to. 

But you also said something about maybe the rest of the team, they actually know things should be being done differently too, but here's what you find in a team. People want to please the manager. Because why? Because we are self-serving creatures. We do self-preservation activities, because that's what help... helps keep us alive. And at work, that's what helps keep us employed and... 

Lisa: You’re writing my performance review! 

TyAnn: You’re writing my review, you're helping me keep this job, you're helping me get paid more. And so it's not that there's a diabolical plot, it's just we are human beings, and we are doing these behaviors because if that's what you want for me, that's what I'm going to deliver. Even if I know there's something else that's possibly better. 

Lisa: Oh, it could even be especially if. What if I think I need you to think I'm a good performer? Because if I want to change roles, because this one isn't a good fit for me, I need you to... 

TyAnn: ...to support me. 

Lisa: Yeah, I need your support to move into another team. And when the next manager asks how I am as a performer... 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: ...I want you to just say how amazing I am, not that I was your highest maintenance team member, right?

TyAnn: So even if I thought you would be good for another role, they're going to say, what was Lisa's performance on your team? And I'm going to have to say Lisa was the worst performer. Who's going to want to take my lowest performer? That's going to be a much harder sell. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: And so you end up with kind of these, I always call them like aberrant behaviors. And again, not because people are diabolical, or someone sitting around trying to figure out, you know, the worst way to do things. It's just...it's self-preservation in action. And so if we don't make a conscious effort to really stop and think about things, this is what happens unintentionally.

So at the end of the day, you have good ideas, probably that aren't being heard. People are running off half-cocked. And you know, there's a bunch of rework - probably not very high quality. You know, ultimately, it's just not the best product and not the best environment, or certainly not as good as it could be something. That's what we tend to see. 

Lisa: Now even though this could be a perfectly good place to end this example, let's make sure that we've flipped the scenario. Because I think it's a good example for people to experience when the same situation exists, but the themes are flipped around, because it can just change the whole scene of how the team culture looks.

You actually said you have a real example of this. So... 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: Is that, is that a shareable example if it's anonymized? 

Leverage Communication To Resolve StrengthsFinder Talent Theme Conflicts

My Manager Hates Me - The *Not* Savage Strengths ApproachTyAnn: Absolutely. So I had this happen. And it doesn't often happen this way. But it did. And I thought it was a good story. I was working with a news crew, so the people you see on TV to put out the news. And the manager was very high Deliberative. 

Lisa: Okay. Nice.

TyAnn: And the news people as you can imagine, very high action-oriented. I mean, and it was a newsroom. It was very much "we have to get this on the air right now." I mean, it was very high-pressured. And so Deliberative, you know, doesn't like high pressure, needs time to think, really wants to make sure that all the facts are correct, I would hate to put something out and have it be wrong.

So the manager was feeling like,

"I am working with a bunch of people who don't care about quality, are willing to be excessively risky with the reputation of our brand, because we might have to put a retraction out on the air. And that we're just going to be putting stuff out there that's half-baked, and I work with a bunch of people who I can't trust."

Meanwhile, the reporters are saying,

“Our manager is a wet blanket. Every time we take him a really cool idea, his first reaction is ‘no’, or he asks me 17,000 questions that I haven't fully thought through, I don't have the answers to. So he makes me feel stupid, or he makes me feel like, by the time I get through all of his questions, you know what, the moments passed, like, it doesn't even matter anymore. Or he'll never get back to me at all.” 

And so there was this just huge conflict between them with none of them feeling valued on the team. But you know, the funny thing is, I wasn't called in because there…to do a remediation or a problem. I was called in, because they were all high performers.

That was a really interesting one to step into. 

Lisa: Wow. What you're bringing up for me is this idea that it really doesn't matter what the themes are, or what the job is, because you can take any of your top CliftonStrengths talent themes, and they could be applied to serve any role. Because it's easy to get caught up in this thing, where we're like, "On this team, this group of them feels bad and this group of them feels right, or for this manager, this, this serves me, and these are not serving me.

But the reality is that our natural talents are (if we allow them to be) our easy buttons to performance."

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: It's this concept of, well, maybe it's gone wild. You know, strengths gone wild. So if they could be honed in a little bit, both things that you were just bringing up in that scenario, are valuable to the organization.

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: It's just all of them can't be on blast... 

TyAnn: ...All the time.

Right. So, Lisa, you often talk about keys on a keyboard, and when we play them together, and they're harmonious, we've got some good chords going. It sounds awesome, right? And so you're right, it's not that there's good strengths and bad strengths, or that, you know, these things are naturally in conflict. It's just kind of finding that right level, because I don't think anyone would say, "Yeah, we're just gonna slap junk on the TV. And if it's not, right, well, who cares?"

I mean, no one's gonna say that, right? And no one's gonna say, "Well, we're going to chase down every possible lead until we get a 100%, you know, confidence in this. And meanwhile, it's just gonna be black on TV until we feel like we're 100% confident." Because that's not realistic, either.

So ideally, it would be great to feel like, we can work with the pace that we need to and put out really quality content that I feel good about. And in the event of an escape, you know, or a quality issue, we have a good process in place to catch that and to do whatever we need to to make a quick correction. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: And so what I got him to do was, actually, to codify his thinking process. I said, "What are the top three questions you usually ask when someone comes to you with a new idea?’ And he said, ‘Well, I just wish people had thought through things a little bit better. So I wish they would think about this, this and this." And I said, "Great, let's capture that. Let's get that out to the team so that they can do that thinking and you don't have to."

And that's it. That's easy. And I said, "How long would it take you to get back to the team then when they come to you with ideas? What...what would feel good and realistic?" And he said, "I could get back to people within 24 hours."

So okay, so we went back to the team said, "Is that a commitment that's workable for you?" So we had both sides in a satisfied position.

I wouldn't even say it's a compromise because it didn't feel like anyone was giving something up. It just felt more like communication. And so that together, we're better. And it was like a light bulb went on in terms of, now It didn't feel like I was just doing things the hard way, like it didn't feel like a struggle every day. It felt like people were almost looking for that next opportunity so that they can test the stuff out.

Find Out Where One Is Coming From And Assume Positive Intent

Lisa: Love it. So when you think about action items to give listeners, lets see what they can do with this. Maybe a person is thinking, "my manager hates me, so what are my next steps?" Or a manager is thinking, "Jim wears me out, so how can I give him a chance to show up at peak performance?"

It's too bad that this becomes a recurring theme at the office. It's the same frustration over and over again, it's just that they haven't figured out how to talk about it yet. Often they'll bring in Ty to say,

“Can you help us communicate better because we haven't been facing the tough conversation with each other - now it's messing things up."

Tyann: Right.

My Manager Hates Me - The *Not* Savage Strengths ApproachLisa: I love that there's the facilitated process that could happen. And by the way, you can bring Ty into your organization to do this, if you need help. Sometimes it just still feels awkward for you to do it because you can't be neutral like a 3rd party.

TyAnn: I'm always happy to come in and facilitate awkward conversation [all smiles]. 

Lisa: You are the number one awkward conversation facilitator. 

TyAnn: I could totally do that. But you can start this on your own as well. 

Lisa: Yeah. I think if I were to leave any parting words for the person who's trying to do it on their own first before they blow up to the team, or before they verbalize the feedback to someone else, it would be, really get clear.

“Is it because my personal preferences are different from the business priority?”

It's personal preference, business priority, which is which? Are they not the same? And if they're not, that can be okay. You just have to get clear with yourself to go, “Ah. I get it - this is why it wraps my gut up in a knot.”

This is what I would rather it be like, but it's not like that, because it's real life.

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: So I need to proceed like this. And then as I proceed like this with the business preference, because it's my job, it's what they're paying me for, then can I see some positive intent coming from that other person? Like, what are they actually aiming for here? Even though it's making me upset or making me feel frustrated, what are they trying to do that has good intent? Because nearly always, (sure, not always, there are nefarious characters out there somewhere), but nearly always people have good intent. 

TyAnn: Yep, absolutely. That's one of my favorite things, is assume positive intent.

Because believe me, your life will be much better when you do. It's amazing how many people that I run into don't or do think someone's out there trying to get them. Believe me, the vast majority of people go to work, and they want to do a good job. So let's assume positive intent. And I think that's just when you feel yourself getting... getting anxious, or you see that team member and you can just feel yourself getting triggered, or that thing happens again, and you feel it in yourself, that's a really good moment to think, "What is it specifically that is triggering me about this?"

And again, it doesn't have to be they are an awful human being, it's just something in them is different than how you would react in that situation. So I think, stop. Think about what it is. Think about the good thing that they bring. And then again, what problem are we trying to solve? What's our ultimate goal? And how can we both get there together? 

Lisa: What a perfect way to end this one. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: So next time that comes up for you, be thinking of the other person, what's the positive intent? Where are they coming from that is good and how could that, if you know CliftonStrengths talent theme language, then what are they trying to accomplish? And since you already have the talent themes in a list (or the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book), you might get some ideas about where they're coming from. 

Tyann: Right.

Lisa: Because sometimes you do feel a little baffled... 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: ...at the beginning, like why do they act like this, or why do they think like this, or why do they approach work like this? Or why does my manager hate me like this?

Just going to someone else's CliftonStrengths report and going, ‘Oh, they think this way, aha. This makes sense now.’ 

TyAnn: Reading the reports is a really good place to start. 

Lisa: It's great for helping you understand the other person. 

Alright, with that, you've been listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you've been learning to apply your greatest strengths, to make your work stronger, and now also looking at other people's strengths and trying to notice those so that the whole team can get better together.

Thanks, Ty.

TyAnn: Thanks, Lisa.

Hate Is Unproductive — Understand More With These Additional Resources

Whether you’re a manager or a team member, you can stop any tendency to hold a theme bias against others’ so-called “bad strengths." Listen to our conversation on that for more. Of course, most teams don't have true hate, but when a team member thinks that a leader dislikes them, their engagement and performance can take a quick nose dive.

With the premise that conflicts arise in any widely diverse work environment, Lisa and Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines exchange views and tips in another episode on how to Ignite Better Team Collaboration Through Strengths.

All this highlights the importance of energizing tasks at work. What can fuel or discourage best performance lies in how much CliftonStrengths talent themes are allowed and supported within the team — a challenge for some teams but highly doable.

Direct download: 130-My-Manager-Hates-Me.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Using Hobbies To Make Money And To Uncover Strengths Outside Of The Office

Your personal hobbies — those things you do outside of work for fun and creative expression — are most likely a mirror of your talent themes. That's why discovering your top strengths through StrengthsFinder often leads to that aha moment where it becomes crystal clear why you do those things you are so passionate about. Many even get to maximize and thrive with their natural talents by using hobbies to make money, and you could be one of them.

Often you're good at what you like, and you like what you're naturally good at. Sara Regan talks to our host Lisa Cummings in this fun conversation, where Sara shares what arts or passion she’s most drawn into, as well as her reflection on the link between those hobbies and her talent themes.

What's cool is that using your hobbies to make money doesn't have to mean that you do something drastic. Often, people think that they should quit their current job and go chase their passion. But then they don't know what the passion is, so they live in this state of dis-ease. Or, they know their passion, but it's not going to earn much cash. For example, Lisa was obsessed with beach volleyball. She loved it. She'd be over the moon to get paid to do it. However, she's short, and doesn't have the best vertical jump in the world. So if she spent decades using hobbies to make money - in this case, she would have made none.

Lisa tells on herself with this example because so many people are all-or-none on this topic. In fact, your hobbies don't have to directly earn you a living. You're still using hobbies to make money if you learn from them and re-apply themes from them. For example, Lisa loves to be active, so being a corporate trainer is great because she can stand and deliver while moving around a lot. She also loves to pump people up. She could have done this as a volleyball coach, and she can also do it when she inspires people to see their greatness in corporate life.

See, the beauty in all of this is that there isn't one answer. It's rarely about one single passion. It's about watching your energy, and using your "energy makers" in any role. That's emotionally freeing. Imagine the difference in "I can use this in *any* role" (yay), versus "I am eternally hunting for *the* role" (disappointing).

Here’s the transcript of the show.

Your Hobbies Feed Your Strengths

Lisa: Hello, hello everyone! I'm Lisa Cummings from Lead Through Strengths. So excited today to be joined by Sara Regan, one of our facilitators from Lead Through Strengths. And I'm psyched to bring you some new fresh thinking and tips on applying your strengths at work. It's an interesting outcome you can get from strengths — it’s remembering the things that are really fun to you and how they are clues to your talent.

When you're remembering what's fun to you, and where you lose track of time, you might be simultaneously figuring out how using your hobbies to make money is possible in your existing job.

So Sara, will you, by way of being the model example, will you tell us about some of the things that you personally do for fun, a hobby or two...those kinds of things? And how, when you look back on them, you think, “No wonder I got involved in that thing, because it totally lines up with my strengths.”

Sara: Oh, that's a great question, and it's a question everybody should reflect on themselves. That’s great. One of my hobbies, one of the things that I've always been drawn to is music. So I enjoy music. I play piano at home. I play pretty often.

And what I have found that I need and I'm drawn to even more so is singing and singing with a choir. So, the idea of going to karaoke or going to sing in a wedding, you know, I've done those things, but I actually don't enjoy those. They give me panic. I can talk to 500 people but I don't really want to go to karaoke.

[Side note from the editors: isn't it interesting to see Sara's Relator (her #2) and Connectedness (her #4) talents at work. She likes to sing, but she doesn't want to be center stage as the front person. She wants to be embedded in the whole thing, and a choir is perfect for seeing and hearing the individual parts - and how they make the whole when they come together. If you contrast that with Lisa's Woo (her #5), it's no wonder that she's the lead singer in her rock band. It's all about preferences, and these preferences show up whether you're in your play time or work time. Although neither of them are using hobbies to make money as a career, they're both able to see these connections about how they naturally think and act - whether in a hobby or in the main career zone.]

But what I do want to do is I want to sing where I'm part of a larger group, and be part of the whole. I think it goes back to what I was talking about with mosaic tile. It's like many things coming together and being a part of that, but there are some things that can happen when you step back and look at something in its entirety. 

And so one of the things that I do regularly is that I sing in a choral group, and we do about four concerts a year. We do like hardcore heavy-duty choral music — Bach B Minor Mass, Handel’s Messiah, Verdi Requiem... So things that I didn't have much experience, even though I have a music background. But I love the challenge of learning really hard music. I think it feeds my Learner theme. And I’m not thinking about other things when I am up there. 

And Connectedness. I think that's part of what also gets fed there, it’s being part of something larger than myself. So that's been one of the things that I have still been able to keep as a hobby, even though life has gotten complicated and busy lately.

Lisa: Yeah. It makes total sense. I could see the Connectedness, how you're part of it. You know that you're contributing to it but you're not trying to pop out in the dazzly, “upstage someone else” kind of way. And when you said hardcore and being in a rock band I'm like, “Yeah, she's hardcore metal," and then, “No, we're talking Bach here.” Yes, it’s a whole different thing!

Sara: There will be stops, like flicks their lighter when we’re singing. 

Lisa: Well, if you listen to Rival Sons, one of my favorite rock bands, you'll have gospel choir mixed with lighters, so it can happen.

Sara: Yes. We appreciate all kinds of music. I love to listen to most...all kinds of genre — blues and jazz. But as a singer, maybe it's partly because of… I don’t know, I don’t have a rock band that I can be a part of. But the group that I'm a part of is about 80 people and it's often 8-part harmony, so it's something about the harmony. That really is, what I'm…. what I want to be part of, knowing that there's so many things happening at the same time. But...

Lisa: Yeah.

Sara: Masterplan...

Level Up With Insight From Your Hobbies

Lisa: It makes so much sense when you look at your talent themes. I mean, Strategic and Connectedness really pop out for me about how the pieces would fit together, but 8-part harmony is so complex in how you can get your head around it in a way that simplifies it to you but also having the presence and awareness of the others simultaneously. A cool hobby for that. Oh, and for people who are listening, your Carnegie Hall hasn't happened yet. It’s coming up, right? 

Sara: That's true. So this is a total bucket list kind of opportunity where our group is going to be traveling to Carnegie Hall in the fall to perform Verdi Requiem, a very powerful piece, and it would be hard not to be blown away and feel that experience of music. So I’m all signed up and ready to go.

Lisa: That is so amazing. So depending on when people are watching this or listening to it, we'll make sure that we put it in a blog post format so that if someone wants to search it and see that after the fact, maybe if you get a little video footage, we can upload that and people could come back. Or if they're listening after you've already been, they will see it right now inside of that. 

Sara: Yeah, fun!

Lisa: So cool! I like how you're modeling that you're using hobbies to make money. Even though you're not using Carnegie Hall to directly make money, you're showing how all of your top talent themes are embedded in your everyday thinking and doing. They're "written all over you." I think this will help a lot of people because it's easier to think of what you enjoy rather than to declare what your superpower is. Please let us know when we can see the video of your Carnegie Hall moment.

Sara: I'll make sure. I don't remember the date off the top of my head but I will certainly.

Lisa: So many useful ideas and examples about how to apply your strengths. Now if this made you say, “Oh my gosh, I totally need Sara at my event to kick-off strengths with my team” — if you're thinking about doing it, you want to request Sara, when you come to our contact page, be sure to request Sara for your event.

Using Hobbies To Make Money - Want More Ideas For Translating Them To Your Current Role?

Lisa previously interviewed the multi-talented Melissa Dinwiddie on how to spark creativity. Get a dose of useful insights and inspiration on how she discovered, understood and nurtured her strengths through playing the ukelele, dancing salsa and the Argentine tango, doing improv classes, calligraphy and a host of other hobbies, and actually earning money from many of those.

You could be feeding your Learner theme when you uncover your hobbies and interests through your strengths. And when you tap on Focus to fully develop these hobbies and share your creations with others, you'll find yourself enjoying your life through the exciting opportunities and experiences that come your way.

Direct download: 129-Using-Hobbies-To-Make-Money.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

What Is StrengthsFinder Training Like? Get A Glimpse Of The Lead Through Strengths Style.

So, what is StrengthsFinder training really all about? What will we talk about? What makes the training any different from other strengths courses around? Can we do this for a team building event? Is this like DiSC or MBTi? Does it even work in a virtual environment?

These may be some of the questions that you are contemplating before joining a strengths training. Well, this podcast episode is the preview you need if you're exploring your options, or if you're looking for the learning event that can truly help you (or your team) to harness your natural strengths.

Here’s Lisa’s interview with Sara Regan as they reveal how fun and career-changing it can be - even if it's only a one-time StrengthsFinder kickoff event.

Lisa: Hello, hello, everyone! I'm Lisa Cummings from Lead Through Strengths. I'm so excited today to be joined by Sara Regan, one of our facilitators from Lead Through Strengths, and I'm psyched to bring you some new fresh thinking and tips on applying your strengths at work. 

As you go into an event you might have this big picture, hope of: “What can we do as a team?” “What is possible for us to become?” And the world feels opened up to all these new possibilities.

And at the same time people say, “Okay, if you're going to do a half-day event (or 2-hour virtual training) to kickoff strengths, what can we really expect as takeaways? Because we're not going to change everything about every conversation we have in the future. It can't change the whole of how we act from a couple of hours together at an event.” 

So, Sara, give us the idea of: 

  • What's the big picture that people can aim for if they do this over the long-term? 
  • What's the practical takeaway they could expect after they've done a kickoff half-day event? What could they expect for takeaways? 

What Can I Expect From StrengthsFinder Training?

Sara: First thing that comes to my mind is that it's fun. There is a powerful learning that comes out of this, but it's like getting kids to eat their vegetables but putting them in brownies. It's just, there's a way that it's baked in to the experientials and the interactions that people are laughing.

There isn't a time that I'm working with a group where they aren’t just having a good time. At an in-person event, people are up and they're moving. Whether it's virtual or in-person, I really try to make sure that there's a little bit of something for every different kind of learning style. Some people want to it to be engaging, and some people want that one-on-one, deeper conversation. 

Other times, people just wish everybody would stop talking for a minute so they could put their thoughts together and do a little writing. So there's some variety in there, but I would say, people are going to find it to be engaging and fun. 

What Is StrengthsFinder Training Capable Of?

Sara: For the learning takeaways, I think, for the half-day, what I try to promise and deliver on is, you will walk out and that you will know and love your own themes. There occasionally be a time when somebody's still struggling and that's when I say, just be in touch with me, or listen to this podcast or talk to this person. 

But I want them to know their top 5 for sure, and to love them, and to also have a sense of knowing that there is value in the difference, and to be set up to have conversations that are even more so aligned with their work. Some of that within the context of the facilitated workshop, but that there's a plan for what comes next. 

And so, that helps people grow in their understanding. I think oftentimes at the end of the workshop, they’ll say, “That was great!” “I love this stuff!” But what are we actually supposed to do? What is StrengthsFinder training to us...after the event?

So I love our activation program that follows so that people have the tools to carry it forward, and that it makes me feel confident that we can deliver more than we can just get in that kickoff training. But the first session has to be about getting people excited, getting people brought in understanding their themes, and having an awareness of how to apply it at work

So one of the things that we'll also do is make sure that there's an application piece so it's not just an interesting get-to-know-you exercise. Even though it is, it was always meant to drive performance. So some of the activities and experiences that we'll do will be having people think very consciously about what's a challenge, what's an obstacle, what drives me crazy at work, and applying strengths to that so that they walk away with a tool, a new tool perhaps that they have thought about. 

Lisa: You gave us so many useful ideas and examples about how to apply your strengths. Now if this made you say, “Oh my gosh, I totally need Sara at my event to kick off strengths with my team, do this: when you come to our website at leadthroughstrengths.com/contact, fill out that form and simply request Sara for that event.

If you want to get to know Sara's style a bit more, you can see several interview-based episodes in this Sara-Playlist. The video of this article is in the episode: "What Is StrengthsFinder Training?"

Still Curious About StrengthsFinder Training? Here Are More Supporting Resources

Of course, this interview was a quick dip into the question: "What is StrengthsFinder training?" If you want more details, like course descriptions, and options for delivery, be sure to look at our training page. It will outline self-paced, live-virtual, and in-person options. We even have you covered if you're a single person (not with a team) who wants to develop individual career goals. Our Public Sessions are perfect for people who want to grab a single seat at a time.

So you may be convinced at this point to know your top strengths through a StrengthsFinder training, but if you would like to know how you can sustain its value, listen as Lisa chats with Murray Guest on How To Embed Strengths In Your Company After StrengthsFinder Training.

Or you may listen to Jason Treu’s pointers on how to Build Extraordinary Relationships Through Your Strengths. These are just some of the ways you can take practical action as you start to know your strengths through the CliftonStrengths Assessment.

Finally, one of the questions that might also come up is: Is StrengthsFinder A Personality Test? This earlier podcast by Lisa confirms Sara’s earlier statement that StrengthsFinder is a performance-based tool, not a personality test. Click on it to see how it's different from DiSC, Meyers-Briggs, and other assessments based on the 5-Factor Model.

Direct download: 128-What-Is-StrengthsFinder-Training.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

On "Bad" Strengths: The Perception Behind Annoying Coworkers

If you just got into StrengthsFinder, chances are you are all fired up knowing about your top strengths and, maybe, how they compare to others'. Many of us scroll through all the 34 talent themes and then mentally assign some of them to people or teams that we know. 

This tendency is generally okay because our experiences working with people or teams allow us to match up some positive perceptions of their dominant themes, albeit on a surface level. It comes naturally to us.

But when you skew this perception a little bit on the wayward side, what do you get?

Theme bias.

In this episode, host Lisa Cummings and Lead Through Strengths facilitator Sara Regan introduce the different forms and dangers of theme bias and how to reverse a perception of bad strengths or annoying coworkers.

Here’s the transcript of Lisa’s interview with Sara as they exchange views about theme bias and seemingly annoying coworkers.

Lisa: Hello, everyone, it's Lisa and Sara from Lead Through Strengths, and we're here today to give you some fresh ideas about how to apply your strengths at work.

Are Bad Strengths A Real Thing?

Lisa: So you talk about the demonizing of a strength or making a strength the bad guy, or even fearing that there's a bad one that maybe this isn't the good one to have in this organization.

How would you experience that in working with teams and what would you offer them as another way?

Sara: Sure. And I think anytime that I'm working with a team, I am going to bring up theme bias. And that's whether it's the first time I'm seeing them, or maybe the fifth time in a year, I'm going to return to this because I think it's just natural for us.

I can say to groups that if they look through that full list of 34 themes and kind of scan that, I will stop on one or two of them. And they will think, “Oh, I'm really glad I don't have that one.”

Or maybe, "That's good for the work that other people do in a different kind of organization, but for our team, we don't really need that here. That wouldn't fit.”

Or they point their finger to one and say, “Oh, I bet so and so had that theme and that's why I find it so hard to work with them.”

So I feel like all of those are examples of theme bias, and it's really important for people to be on the lookout for it because a little bit of StrengthsFinder language can sometimes be detrimental, where people start labeling each other and making assumptions. It takes a long time to develop the fluency of understanding all 34 themes. 

So for me, what I want people to do is to have that awareness of their own dominant themes. I wouldn't fully understand every other theme that folks have in the room, but that they have an understanding that none are better than others. And all of those themes are neutral. 

So I try to bring that conversation up regularly. If I'm working with a team over time, you know, how are we doing with that theme bias and check in with people. I just feel like it's very foundational to the whole principle. And that we are different people. We bring something different to the party, and we need to be honored and appreciated for that.

I see also some ties in with diversity and inclusion, about how we bring our whole selves to work. And it's really a very profound metaphor, I think, for thinking about diversity. We want to start with curiosity, not making assumptions. We want to ask questions, we want to assume that differences are an advantage, or to know that and to seek that out. 

And so I feel like that's an important message or for teams to take away with this work.

Dissolving Bias By Starting Conversations Through StrengthsFinder

Lisa: Totally. And I see a lot of eyes open when we talk. They'll bring up diversity and they'll say, “Oh, this is a big thing in the organization.” 

And then we can introduce the idea of cognitive diversity, and how you think differently because you lead through these different talent themes. For a second, forget all the other really obvious, surface things that people are talking about. Let's talk about how you think, how you act, and how these things drive you.

And I've noticed that over the years, when we bring up that "theme bias" stuff, you get them to the end of phase one where they're realizing, “Okay, I'm a little bit biased against this other one in other people. I think people who lead through xyz talent are my annoying coworkers."

Then they start to see, “Oh, I have this bias against this talent theme. I had something on my top 5 or top 10 and I like it, but I don't think that it's really going to be accepted well in this work culture, so I think I'm going to turn that one down to a volume-level-one or save that more for my home life.” 

Have you experienced that kind of example personally or with teams? And how do you get them through that bias when they're convinced that they have an annoying coworker who causes all of the toxicity on the team? 

Sara: Yes. Both within myself and with teams. And certainly, the bias can be directed towards other things, but it can be towards our own. And I think what people struggle with is, as you were talking about seeing the workplace and application of a particular thing, you might say, “Yeah, that shows up in my parenting role or as a volunteer or outside of work but I don't know that that is going. I don't know that that's what the team is looking for. Or I don't need to know that I use that.” 

And so I really want people to not dismiss and leave something in the door but to look, I think usually through some questioning and some deeper conversation. They might see the small ways that...and even big ways that they just haven't been tuned into, that something that's really serving them well. 

My personal example was being caught up or when somebody was asking me about Connectedness. I call Connectedness sometimes the "squishy" theme — it can take all different kinds of forms I feel like it's a bit of a shapeshifter. But it was early on when I was maybe like, first few months of doing StrengthsFinder trainings and somebody asked me about Connectedness like, “Yeah, well, how do you use that at work?” 

And I wasn't really sure. And I'm the facilitator, like I should know this stuff. And it prompted me to really do a lot more reflection. Connectedness is certainly a bit of my mindset in which we are all connected. We're all people sharing the same planet at the same time. It's about how we treat each other. It's about reciprocity. 

So it ties into my values. But since learning more, I’ve also seen very strong business applications and have met people in very high-powered jobs who are using things like Connectedness. One of the people that I will often tell a story about was a person who is a chief economist at a Wall Street firm that everybody would know the name of. He had Connectedness in his top 5, and had a lot of thinking themes. But for him, he was able to explain well.  

“Of course, I’m Connectedness. I'm thinking on a macro level. I'm taking things that are seemed disparate to other people, but I'm seeing a connection that other people don't.” 

So when there is bias about a particular theme, and I'll just ask people, you know, “Are you struggling with any of these things? Is there anything you want to learn more about?”

And in sharing that story, you can almost see the person who's been a little reticent just comes to life like that. 

“Yeah, you know what, I do have that one. And that's okay.” 

And so that's part of what I feel — a value that I bring to this — because I've been asked for a while that I've accumulated a lot of those stories so that if there's people who need a new perspective, I can usually draw upon somebody else's experience with it. And it just puts them to ease. 

Annoying Coworkers: 'Outliers' Who Bring An Important Contribution To The Table

Lisa: Yeah, that is so good. And those examples make all the difference. I mean, sometimes exploring examples of people you respect and admire can turn your stereotype-loving mind in a new direction. Instead of assuming they're going to be the annoying coworker, you instead show up with an open mind about how that talent can bring unexpected nuance.

In fact, often, the teammates who used to be frustrating will suddenly seem ultra-valuable to you because they live in a headspace that isn't fun for you. Isn't it great if someone else can do the work in that space if it sucks the life out of you. So, using Sara's example of Connectedness, I've seen several people get surprised when they learn nuances about this talent theme - how it shows up in different people.

  • This respected economist leads through Connectedness. It helps her see the economy as a complex system with many levers.

  • The software engineer was worried that he would be viewed as "soft" but quickly realized that Connectedness is exactly why he's so good in his coding language. He sees the ripple effect of every action. One character can change the whole app."

  • The business analyst who leads through Connectedness has an outstanding network of peers. She keeps in touch with people across verticals, industries, and past companies. It helps her get things done because she has relationships everywhere.

  • The account manager who leads through Connectedness sees how his answer to the customer impacts people in another department. He understands the downstream impact, and can simultaneously help the upset customer feel like the only person in the room.

Well, it's the same thing happening. It's just different words to describe the same thing. And you have so many rich examples to help people make it concrete. Sometimes you need these examples to allow yourself to see the value. Even if it's not an annoying coworker - sometimes you might think it's your personal talent that is frustrating.

Sara: I've also noticed people might have a harder time coming to appreciate certain talents inside of certain industries (whether inside of themselves or someone else). At this point, I'm kind of prepped that this perception might happen. It's helpful to look at their team charts ahead of time. And I do pay attention to who are those outliers. There is this group where there's a lot of Context, Analytical, Strategic, and some people who have different themes. 

I want to make sure that everybody will understand that they're bringing something different, but something that's equally valued and maybe even more important, because it's an outlier thing. And so I feel like it has helped people who might feel like they're a little bit of a fish out of water or they know they're different than a lot of their teammates. But know that that's bringing a value and helping other people to appreciate that as well. 

Given the language, it's really about the common language because often people have intuited this or they have a sense, but it's being able to put language to it. And because it's a validated instrument, and it's been around and done by Gallup, the polling people, I feel like it gets a little bit of that credibility as well. 

Lisa: And something that you've mentioned often is permission. Sometimes it just allows them to say, “Oh, there's this way I think and this thing that I do,” And instead of feeling like, “one of these things is not like the other, and I don't do this like everyone on my team, so therefore, I should squash it.” 

If it gives them the feeling, “Oh, here's this thing, they're gonna miss this. It’s a contribution I should offer because they're not thinking.” This suddenly gives them permission to use it as a contribution rather than that "annoying coworker" person who thinks of the other things. 

Sara: Oh I think that is so true. Those outline the strengths you know. And if we believe the definition of a strength's near-perfect performance every time, we want everybody on the team to bring that, and that's what's really exciting — it’s when you think about not only your own individual performance, and how that can impact striving for that near-perfect.

But what if you're surrounded by teammates who are also delivering the appropriate performance? What does that mean for what that team can accomplish? And what's possible because of that?

So to be able to tap into that, unleash it to set up the right type of conversations, related to "that is really exciting for me." 

Lisa: So many good ideas from Sara. Now, it's your turn to go apply these and think about how they could show up in your workplace and how you could make a bigger contribution with your strengths by taking these ideas and actually applying them to your real life. Make them real for you.

So let us know how it goes for you as you begin to claim these talents. Do something with them, apply them at work, and share that strengths contribution with the world. 

Bye for now.

More Insights On Theme Bias With These Additional Resources

In an earlier podcast, Lisa exchanged insights with another Lead Through Strengths facilitator Strother Gaines on What To Do When You Don’t Like Your Strengths or when you think you don’t like someone else’s strengths. Strother encourages viewers to bring out what they deem to be their “weird” or “rare” strength, leverage it fully and make it stand out instead of squashing it.

Then Lisa yet again tackles the dangers of strengths-related cognitive biases in another podcast, Do Your Strengths Come With Unconscious Biases? using mostly her own experiences, especially her accidental biases to highlight her points. She's not immune to thinking that there's an annoying coworker out there - it takes effort to show up with your most mature thinking.

Direct download: 127-annoying-coworker-strengths.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Once You Get Your CliftonStrengths Report, How Should You Take Action?

Your CliftonStrengths report reflects your greatest strengths. As you focus on applying them to work, you might also wonder how to handle situations that call for talent themes way below your top 5 or top 10.  

If you're like most people, you'll want to dial up your bottom talents. Unfortunately, this can be a very draining process with a low return on your effort. Instead, your high-leverage will come from studying the top talents in your CliftonStrengths report — then double down on your superpowers.

If you need to take action on your lesser talents at the bottom of the CliftonStrengths report, there are strategies for mitigating these potential weaknesses:

1. You can partner with others who have that as a top talent.

2. You can stop doing some of the activities that call on the low talent area.

3. You can even do a task-switcheroo with a peer so that you're both in your respective strengths zones.

In this interview, Lisa Cummings and StrengthsFinder facilitator Sara Regan reflect on the value of looking at the full CliftonStrengths report as you navigate through work using your strengths.

Here’s the transcript of the insightful conversation between Lisa and Sara:

Lisa: Hello everyone, I'm Lisa Cummings from Lead Through Strengths. So excited today to be joined by Sara Regan, one of our facilitators from Lead Through Strengths, and I'm psyched to bring you some new fresh thinking and tips on applying your CliftonStrengths report (results) at work.

Intentionally Applying Top Talents From Your CliftonStrengths Report

Lisa: So that makes me think of a question on situational fluency. So a lot of people in the workplace, are thinking about —

“How do I read a room?”

“How do I get comfortable?” 

“How do I hone my chops in a skill?” 

And usually, people think about putting in the hours, putting in the work — doing the hustle behind the thing they want to get good at.

What else could you layer on for them, related to using their results from the CliftonStrengths report?

Sara: Right, I guess a few things. 1) I wouldn't discount just putting the time in but putting the time in a very conscious way. To be reflective about what they're learning along the way, can really help people to build that ability to shift and pivot in a little bit more fluency so that level of consciousness strengths come into play. 

There will be people who have certain themes and profiles and talents that allow that to happen more naturally. One of the things I like about strengths is it can certainly help us zero in on what we're really gifted at and where our talent lies. 

2) When I'm doing coaching with people, or sometimes working with teams and we're looking at the whole 34, there are some lesser themes and it's sometimes they simply need the awareness. Let's take Adaptability, it is a strength that usually allows people to go with the flow and adjust in a very calm and seamless way when maybe other people are freaking out, or the house is on fire these people maintain that calm presence and can shift. 

If Adaptability is number 34 for you, sometimes just knowing that, and knowing there will be situations when I need to really dig deep and so it can bring that clarity of focus of…”this is hard for me, but it's possible.” I need to think and act like somebody with high Adaptability. Study them. Listen to a podcast. Learn as much as you can and emulate what you can to do that shift, and then leaning on your other strengths that can help fill in as well. 

Now let's say that same person has Learner at very high — will stay curious, keep asking questions, partnering with other people who have different things that you can lean on. That, I find, is what helps people to navigate the unknown. 

CliftonStrengths Report: Knowing What To Do With Your Bottom 5

Lisa: I love it. I think you just gave a really good case for getting the premium version of Clifton strengths to get the full 34. You can do it without, but you get that very quick look at what is at the bottom of the CliftonStrengths report. And then instead of thinking of them as weaknesses, you think of them as potential drains or challenge points

I experienced the exact one that you were describing, but I could only see it in the rearview mirror so I looked back at an old job and I realized, “Oh I was so...soul-sucked.” 

And I couldn't figure out why because I loved the people, I loved the job. It all looked great on paper but it wore me out and I couldn't figure out why. Adaptability was the explanation for it when I look back, because it's low on my list. I can do it and I would tap into the need to have urgent phone calls and get interrupted constantly. 

I did it, well, because I cared about the people that I worked with so that's what gave me the juice to keep going. But it wasn't fun because focus wanted to be like —

“Hey, I'm in my cave working, and I need to have an uninterrupted time to be at my best.” 

So have you ever found any like that in yourself?

Sara: Absolutely. The situation that came to my mind was thinking about a different leader that I worked with before. He had Positivity as number 34. He became more conscious of when he needed to dial that up. Sometimes, I'm talking about calibrating these things and when we dial them up and dial them back and he had gotten some feedback along the way that people didn't always feel like there was the opportunity to celebrate, or the pat on the back. 

Achiever number 1 so we're off to the next project. You don't want to be uncomfortable. They were in place for too long, we need to keep moving. And so for him that was that — that way to think of the specific times when he needed to bring more of that Positivity forward. 

Your example was really interesting to me too because I think it proves that point that we can do these as needed with a lot of thought, and some consciousness. We can put the items at the bottom of our CliftonStrengths report into action. But we can't really live in that zone. And if we do, we're gonna experience burnout. We'll be stressed or just not as engaged — and maybe in a way that we don't fully understand. So I think that that can be a really powerful takeaway, and then that seeing the full 34 helps us with that. 

Your question about my own personal experience. Consistency is pretty low on my CliftonStrengths report. Context is low. And I know this is interesting too that I have had people who have Context very high, reporting to me. I've also reported to someone who had Context number 1. 

So, it sets up really important conversations about how you can get your best work done and how to communicate most effectively. I love it when we can bypass what might be an interpersonal attention or a misunderstanding or just literally not seeing eye to eye. But with that awareness and stepping back, being able to have a much greater appreciation. 

The other thing that has happened to the Connectedness believes that the universe gives us things that we need and opportunities to learn. My daughter has Context number 1, and so I had to develop an appreciation for this theme. I can't have bias. I really wanted to understand and I see how beautifully it helps her do what she needs to do. 

So there's lessons to be learned I think by seeing that full report and paying attention to when we can dial them up and when we just need to maybe step away from work that really calls us to stay in that that we can assume too much.

Lisa: So many good angles there and more cases for getting the full 34 CliftonStrengths report — because you can identify, “Oh that wears me out to be in that headspace. Wouldn't it be convenient if I used partnerships with other people, rather than feeling like you're head-butting with them, and they drive me crazy. Instead it could be like, oh they like thinking like this. What a benefit we could bring to each other.”

So good! One person's trash is another person's treasure. 

All right, now that you've picked up some new ideas from Sara, think about this: How does it apply to you? How does this concept show up in you and what could you do with it, given your top five talent themes and how you could apply those at work? 

We wish you the best as you claim those talents, and share them with the world.

Learn More About Maximizing Your CliftonStrengths Report

In an earlier Lead Through Strengths podcasts, Pete Mockaitis, trainer and chief at Awesome At Your Job, gave some more interesting scenarios to this podcast’s topic when he provided insights on How To Use Your StrengthsFinder Report. Through the CliftonStrengths assessment, he recognized how he had been applying his strengths in his academic and professional life. 

But there are instances when a CliftonStrengths report reveals a strength or two that you think are irrelevant to your job, are not supported by the workplace culture or something that you simply don’t like. Listen as Strother Gaines talks about What To Do When You Don’t Like Your Strengths in this podcast episode with Lisa.

On whether Working On Your Weakness Zone Leads To Burnout?, Lisa presents 3 tell-tale signs you could be and what you can do about it, whether you’re an employee, a strengths-champion or a people-leader. 

Better yet, if you’re a manager looking to power up your team’s efficiency and wanting to contribute to overall business performance, Jessica Rhodes shares magical ideas in this podcast episode on How To Use Your Team’s Talents To Swap Tasks And Leverage Their Strengths.

Direct download: 126-CliftonStrengths-Report-Now-What.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Your Strengths Have Everything To Do With Achieving Engaging Presentations

Presenting can be a piece of cake for some, but can be a daunting task for others. But whether you are an introvert or someone who loves to be in front of an audience, how well you can capture your audience really depends on how you use your strengths.

Do you focus on “wow”-ing your listeners with your dazzling approach, or do you focus on establishing genuine connection with them?

Get insights from Lisa Cummings and Sara Regan as they champion strengths in presenting.

Lisa: Hi everyone, it’s Lisa from Lead Through Strengths. Today I am joined by Sara Regan, one of our facilitators at Lead Through Strengths. You've heard a lot from me over the years and it's about time you get some new angles, fresh ideas on strengths, from other people who bring great content to Lead Through Strengths. Sara does just that. If her perspective grabs you, feel free to request her when you book your training events with us.

Authenticity Through Strengths Makes Meaningful Interactions

Lisa: So speaking of work, something that comes up constantly is people who have to do formal presentations, or they just have to present a PowerPoint in a meeting, and they get really in their head about the idea that they're not a professional presenter. They'll say —

“I don't feel like I have charisma and I'm not that colorful, so how do I use my strengths?

"Is it even possible to use strengths in a way to take a skill that I don't think I would be good at - and come at it from a new angle?”

"Can you deliver engaging presentations if you're an introvert?"

What are your thoughts on that?

Sara: I think strengths can give us a lot of insight, certainly into how to do our best work no matter what kind of work that is, including presenting. And my own experience with this is, I had a lot of doubts initially you know given the work that I did which was more one-on-one, or working with small groups or being in meetings. But it's different than being a facilitator, and being the person who is at the front of the room for sometimes four hours, eight hours. 

There's a level of energy that's required there and I really did feel like, I thought a lot about personality and what is the presence that's needed, and I did entertain how can I try to do it more like other people who I admired. And at the end of the day, I really just came back to, I have to do it, how I would do it, which is based on my own strengths. 

And so for me, the facilitation style I think one of the ones that probably comes through the most is Relator. So Relator is a theme where I really want to be able to create conditions for people to have a meaningful conversation. I like to keep it real. 

And so, I have found that if I show up as my most genuine and authentic self and not to feel as though I have to dazzle or be flashy, but just be real and create an environment where people can let their guard down a little bit, that's what I find works for me. And I feel like teams respond to that as well. 

But I am aware that everybody in the room, this may be some Individualization theme as well, but everybody's walking in and they've had a different kind of day, they've got a different story, they have different background. There will be that apprehension or the skepticism, or someone's new in the role and they're wondering, “These are my colleagues, I'm not sure what to share about myself.” 

Or there's someone up for promotion and they're wondering, “Gosh, my boss is going to be hearing everything I say about my strengths. What if I'm not communicating this in a way that's going to help me land that job?” 

So I feel like I have a lot of sensitivity to that and I like to just get rid of, kind of help eliminate any of those worries, on the front end. So I feel like that's my facilitation style — is to help create the most conditions. And I've had to just embrace it, because I can't be anyone else and if I try, I just don't think it goes as well.

Anxious About An Upcoming Presentation? Consider Strengths-Based Approach And Content Over Dazzle

Lisa: It's true for everyone, isn’t it? I mean, I see so many people come in and they're like, 

“Oh, well I have to do presentations now and I, (you've mentioned the word dazzle it always makes me think of), I'm going to dazzle you with my jazz hands.” 

Of course, a few people have that style, but if you try to force it, it just looks weird. And then if I think of my experience with you, I mean, even thinking back to the times when I first met you...you make people feel seen. You make people feel like they're the only one in the room. It's a totally different way to give an engaging presentation.

You're a great listener. I bet your Learner and Individualization combine to make you really curious about people. You're genuine and so many people want that over the stereotypical version of charisma. 

But for some reason, that thing got out there like, “Oh, you need to be the best dazzler.” 

So I love that you live out a style that isn't the one that pops to people's minds, but you can really demonstrate for them, “Look you can present from so many different angles. If you use your strengths, you could have all thinking talent themes. You could lead through Analytical and be the best at taking data and bringing new insights to people through that and stop worrying about the dazzle part. Start thinking about how you could amaze people through the insights you were able to bring and it could be through the content itself.” 

So I just think you're a beautiful example of, not the first thing people think of, but they're moved when they're in the room with you and how many teams need a real experience or real genuine experience and how you just are the perfect model of delivering engaging presentations through your unique strengths. 

Sara: Well thank you, Lisa.

Lisa: All right, now that you have new ideas, it's your turn to go apply this in your life. Let us know as you begin to claim these talents and share them with the world — what it's like for you,  what is hard, what worked well, what you loved about the ideas, and we'll see you on the other side. 

Bye for now.

More Resources On How To Make Your Next Presentation Engaging

We've mentioned authenticity a few times here as an important component of a great presentation. We highly recommend you also check out Lisa's previous conversation with Strother Gaines, where he encourages using your strengths to maximize the authentic “you” at work. He's a great example of actually having those aforementioned jazz hands to make engaging presentations. He's doing it genuinely - it's not put on.

If you lead through Communication, you naturally have what it takes to thrive on genuinely interacting with other people, which often results in a highly impactful presentation. So harness it! Your audience will thank you for it.

Another gem of a podcast interview Lisa had was with Michael Port. In this episode, you'll discover how to be self-expressed yet also able to flow from situation to situation with fluency, how to connect with the audience before the presentation, and a host of other useful nuggets. Don't leave the episode without checking out his book Steal The Show: From Speeches To Job Interviews To Deal-Closing Pitches, How To Guarantee A Standing Ovation For All Of The Performances In Your Life. Great resources are also up for grabs if you visit the Steal The Show website.

Direct download: 125-Engaging-Presentations-Introvert.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

StrengthsFinder Legit? Valid? Accurate?

If you're wondering, you're actually just like Sara Regan, the Lead Through Strengths facilitator in this interview. Before being exposed to the tool, she was a bit skeptical about it.

Usually, before doing some strengths finding with the team, one or two among us are wondering if psychometric tools are accurate. Is StrengthsFinder legit? Is it valid? The CliftonStrengths Assessment has not escaped such skepticism from some of our participants.

You're not alone. Many of us come to these tools with a cautious eye. We want to know that it's more than parlor games. We hope for a tool that allows for more than a 4-hour kumbaya team building event at work.

Most of the time, skeptical people wonder, "Hmmmm, is StrengthsFinder legit, or is my boss making me go to a gimmicky feel-good-training today?" Other times, it's an industrial organizational psychologist from the HR department who wants to know about the peer-reviewed literature on the tool. Either way, people like having the confidence of knowing that the tool is tested and valid.

Here’s the transcript of this episode where Lisa interviews Sara about her journey from being a skeptic to someone who fully embraces StrengthsFinder.

Lisa: Hello everyone, you're listening to Lead Through Strengths, and today it's both me, Lisa and Sara Regan. You've heard a lot from me over the years and it's about time to get some new angles from some other facilitators here at Lead Through Strengths. 

So let's get right into some fresh angles on strengths, from Sara. 

From Skeptical Customer To StrengthsFinder Facilitator: What Prompted The Change?

So Sara, sometimes we walk into a StrengthsFinder event. We're doing CliftonStrengths kickoff, it's a big thing. And you know, there are a couple of people in the room who are really skeptics. They wonder, "is StrengthsFinder legit, and is this an accurate tool?"

Tell me, how did you come to CliftonStrengths, and have you ever experienced that either in your own skepticism or other people in the room and how has that gone for you? 

Sara: Absolutely. I think at this point, I almost expect that there will be a skeptic or two in the room. And I, myself, also had that skepticism, when I was first introduced to StrengthsFinder. I think for me it was the opportunity of “let's bring the team together.” 

I was leading a group of around maybe 25 people or so at that time, and I thought I know team building is a good thing. We do this from time to time. We'll have coffee, we'll have bagels. Maybe people will get to know each other a little bit more. But I didn't really expect there to be much of a profound takeaway. 

But for me, I was really struck by reading my own report and feeling like it really did help to highlight some things that I was aware of. So my skepticism really certainly changed after I got to look at my own results. And then in seeing the results of the team members too, I mean it just really dramatically changed the way I thought about my work, my career, the types of things I said “yes” to to the type of things I said “no” to, and how to position other people for success as well. 

So even though I was a skeptic, I think I was a quick convert, and really felt like even in my homegrown fashion, I was doing strengths at any chance that I could with new team members or other people that I worked with. 

So now as a facilitator, I expect that there will be the skeptics who wonder if StrengthsFinder is legit. I think one of the things that really helps is that people have some of the research underpinnings, and to be able to see that ahead of time there will be people who will want to understand how was this validated, what's the reliability, why did they choose these questions... 

So to make that available for people, whether it's before or after a session, that can help as well. 

Lisa: Yes, that's great. We always do that in the pre-work where it's like, “Are you one of the people who wants to validate whether StrengthsFinder is legit? Here's a deep meta analysis if you want to look into it. It's a 40 page technical report with all of the design elements and reliability data from Gallup's behavioral scientists. (and for those of you who will gloss over it, just come to the session - you don't have to read it).” 

So, speaking of legit...you have a master's degree in psychology, don't you? 

Sara: I do. 

Lisa: So I can imagine with that kind of point of view, you might have needed to dig in when you first got exposed to the book StrengthsFinder 2.0.

So when you saw your own results, let's say you're fast forwarded. You're good with the tool. Now you've looked at the validity and the reliability statistics and you're feeling good. You believe that StrengthsFinder is legit. Now you look at your own results. 

Unravel Your Hidden Strengths Through Your StrengthsFinder Results

Lisa: Did you have any that you were personally surprised by, or even not quite sure that they were "you"? 

Sara: I think the biggest surprise for me was Strategic. And as I read the description, I think it's one of the strengths that people have a lot of confusion about because our mind can go many different places about what that word means. But in understanding fully the definition in that Gallup definition of Strategic, I did find that it really clicked for me, and it was a style of thinking about systems and problem-solving. 

I think I've always, as I traced back to hobbies and things that I've enjoyed, it has to do with patterns and how things fit together, so it explained a lot. I think at that point of my career, I had been in this role, or in this organization for probably seven or eight years, and I had so many ideas about how to, things that needed to change, and some of my ideas were pretty radical, and about how to reconstruct something, we need to go back to the basics and tear something down and start over. 

And I think I was holding back on presenting these ideas partly because they were pretty outlandish, some of them. Some were beyond probably my pay grade or I wasn't, it didn't have a seat at the right table for that. But I began to trust that perhaps some of these ideas about how to solve systemic problems were right on and I think it gave me more permission to share what I was thinking. And then I have some opportunities to put things in practice. And what I found is, I was completely engaged in my work. I loved what I was doing. 

And these things were working like they were solving systemic problems. So that was for me I felt like it was so powerful like I think it helped me to lean into my strengths in a way that I don't know that I would have otherwise. 

Lisa: I think that's such a cool example of seeing things through a workplace lens where you looked for systemic problems and you gave yourself permission because so many people look at their results and go, 

“Oh, this is why I'm always the voice of that in meetings.” 

“This is why this is always running through my head.” 

And suddenly, now that they have the result in front of them, they knew this about themselves but they say, 

“Oh, that's why I ought to just leverage that.”

I also love that you read the results with an open mind. So often, when people are surprised by one of the items, they want to dismiss the tool and say, "hmmmmm, is StrengthsFinder legit? It doesn't seem to capture what I think of myself." Meanwhile the disconnect is usually as simple as a terminology issue. It can also be one of those situations where you believe what the report says, yet you haven't found it valuable at work, so you don't view that thing as a strength.

Sara: Absolutely.

Your Strengths Are Making An Impact In Your Life Outside Work

Lisa: So, I can't help it. You mentioned hobbies and you mentioned patterns, so now that we have one workplace angle on you, will you give us a way that you've seen Strategic show up in your life outside of work and how these patterns came to be? 

Sara: I can. It's a hobby that I've gotten away from a little bit just by having a busy life and three teenagers. But one of my hobbies, for quite a while, was mosaic tile work. And so, I love to be able to sketch out a design. And then, I would take my tile in the driveway with a hammer and be smashing pieces of tile, and looking for exactly the color and the texture and the right piece to fit into this larger whole of the design. 

And so I did some commission works for a while. I got some things that were being sold in shops, and I loved it. I love to do in this work. And so, it's partly I think goes back to that, “How can I make everything fit and very strategic?” 

I feel it's the way I approach my work too. It’s I always feel like…(muffled)...optimistic like there is a solution for every problem. There is a way that this will work. I just need time, I need access to the resources, I need to play around with it but I'll get there. 

And that was completely the process of doing the mosaic tile work too. 

Lisa: That is sooooooo cool. I love hearing about this hobby. Also, I love looking at mosaic tiles because I thought about putting them on a shower floor - making a dragon formation - but all the same color, where the pattern and the angles of the pattern is what makes the dragon pop out to you, except they're actually all the same color. It would be a monochromatic thing.

Someday, watch out, I’ll commission you. I'll get, “Come over from Boston. I need a dragon on the ground.” After your teenagers are off the payroll, right? 

Sara: 'Cause even as I talk about it, I remember how much fun I had. It is definitely one of the things I plan to return to. 

Lisa: It's a perfect way to end that question because this idea of strength and how you can reconnect to the things that energize you and how, when you tap into it, it's not just saying, 

“Oh yeah, this hobby or this skill energizes me."

“Oh, that's why I like that thing that I didn't expect to like that much, just because it uses this pattern in my mind.”

So cool.

This speaks to an unexpected angle of the question "is StrengthsFinder legit." It's a powerful angle because often the reports from the CliftonStrengths assessment will give you a spark. You then think, "hmmmm...that's totally true in my personal life, but I don't really use that one at work." If you have those thoughts, you might have a spark for some seriously untapped potential. Maybe you have a strength that you can unlock at work if you look for ways to apply it.


Okay, now it's your turn. You have some great new perspective from Sara to go apply in the workplace. We wish you the best as you take these ideas, and you learn to spot them in yourself, and then apply them to your life to make the workplace a better place.  Most of all, you may believe that StrengthsFinder is a legit tool, but there's something bigger: it's believing that your strengths are valid. It's believing that you have a contribution you can offer the world. You have untapped awesomeness inside of you, and we look forward to hearing how you offer it out to the world!

Want To Explore More Of The "StrengthsFinder Legit" Question?

Some time ago, Lisa delivered a podcast episode that answers the question, Is StrengthsFinder A Personality Test? The podcast debunks any quick assumption that StrengthsFinder is just another one of those personality tests being used by managers. Instead, it asserts that it’s a performance-based tool that focuses not only on what is needed to do the job but on how to do it well.

So does StrengthsFinder work? In another episode, Is There Proof That Strengths-Based Development Works?, Lisa provides answers anchored on 1) proof points through some Gallup research and 2) a visual way to imagine why strengths make sense.

Lisa’s resource for this episode is the classic book Soar with Your Strengths: A Simple Yet Revolutionary Philosophy of Business and Management by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson, which uses a metaphor to bring us the powerful lesson of focusing on strengths rather than on fixing what’s missing or broken about us. It's a quick read. Warning: yes, the metaphor uses little animals like rabbits, which seems elementary at first blush. That's exactly why it works though - it's simple and totally understandable.

Want to know how else StrengthsFinder can provide practical value for you and your team? Listen to Lisa’s interview with Adam Seaman: Why Use StrengthsFinder For Your Team? or her conversation with Pete Mockaitis on How To Use Your StrengthsFinder Report. These are StrengthsFinder-focused conversations that can show you the practical side of living a strengths-focused life.

Direct download: Is-StrengthsFinder-Legit-Valid.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines Shares How CliftonStrengths Can Help With Productivity.

When it comes to work or personal goals, it is one thing to plan out all the things you intended to do and another to carry them out as committed. How we manage time, and how consistently or effectively we accomplish the tasks in our calendars, often determine the level of our productivity at work. 

Are we prioritizing the important and urgent issues when we need to make that decision?

Productivity is tough. Time management and calendars and overflowing to do lists create a lot of angst. Good news! You can use StrengthsFinder to help you do a gut check on your productivity and effectiveness at work.

Here’s the transcript of Lisa’s interview with Strother as they further explore this topic.

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings and I'm also joined again by Strother Gaines, one of our Lead Through Strengths facilitators, who is here for the last interview in his series.

Next up, we'll be introducing you to another one of our facilitators. In this last one with Strother gotta tell you, my favorite thing is how he's calling me on this topic, commitments and calendar, and Maximizer be damned. It's the one that gets me. It's productivity and his "C's" that he'll tell you about.

I have so many commitments in my head about what I want to get done, what I hope to get done or to fulfill these high expectations, or this giant amount of potential all around us that I know could be realized. 

And it leads me to turn these ideas into commitments in my head. And when I allow them to become commitments in my head, and then I don't prioritize them as things that get done on the calendar because one human can only accomplish so many things, and I start to feel like productivity is a mythical force that cannot be attained. I'm the example of the person who would come up with the work of 10 humans for each one human, for every one human. 

Strother does a really good job of taking you through this prioritization exercise. And it's not just like the day-to-day prioritization of how you choose how you're going to spend your time and be productive over a few hour block. But it's looking back over your life and asking yourself:

“Am I prioritizing the things that I say are important to me as a person?”

“Am I living the life I say I want to lead?”

“Am I showing up with the values that I say I hold dear? Am I showing that I hold them dear?” 

It's the deeper level stuff. It's not just, “Do I do what I say I'm going to do?”

And it's not just a matter of whether you can prioritize one activity over another in a given day, as urgencies come up. It's not just a matter of holding productive meetings.

This is not that tactical. This is a much more strategic view of your life. And it's a great way to do a bit of a self-audit and see —

Are you living a life that is true to the one that you say you're setting out to live?

The 'Big C' And The 'Little C' In Commitments And How Intention Makes You Productive

Lisa: I love how you talk about calendars, burnout, "Big C, Little C..." Talk a little bit about how, when it's tough to manage time, and you're doing an audit of yourself and you're trying to get real with why you're overbooked all the time. Tie that into strengths and how you can take a good honest look at yourself leading to what you really do when you're at your productive-best...or...not!

Strother: This is Lisa, ladies and gents, this is her own individual issue but... 

Lisa: I may or may not have this issue personally (wink, wink).

Strother: She's working on it. We're doing a lot of work on her big picture productivity. Big C, Little C is something that I use all the time. The Big C, the C is commitment and what are your larger commitments. The Big C is the big stuff that aligns with your values and how you want to live your life.

The Big C is what you'd like to put down when you're telling people, “What are you committed to?” Family, growth, strength...

Lisa: Dog rescue...

Strother: Yeah, these are the things that I am very committed to them. And so the Big C is usually the high-minded, and it's the thing that would get us the thing that actually we do want because we don't have these high-minded commitments if we don't value them. 

The Little C is what I would think were your commitments if I followed you around quietly for 48 hours. What would I think you were actually committed to.

I wasn't able to interact with you. I couldn't talk with you. I was judging exclusively on my webcam vision of you for 48 hours. What would I say you were committed to?

For a long time, one of my struggles is the phone addiction piece because you know, you're in the lift, you're on your way somewhere, you've got a little break. You don't have enough time to really do deep work. So you're just going to pull out your phone, check in, scroll, all those sorts of things. 

And that would have been... 

Lisa: People would say you're committed to Instagram. You're totally productive with your social media games.

Strother: You're committed to your phone. Yeah, you're on it all the time. Piddly little iPhone games. I used to play iPhone games all the time. And I had to delete them because I recognized so much of my time….if an external Alien Force was coming down to see what I was doing, and they'd be like, “You do that thing a lot. What's that thing?” 

That's not forwarding the high-minded ideals that actually matter at the end of the day. It's not productive in a life sense. So when you are calendaring and seeing... The question that I think is most powerful in coaching, that I resisted very much when I first started coaching, but now I really do like it is: 

“What's that in service of?” rather than asking “Why do you do something?” Because that puts us on the defensive to defend why we've made that choice, saying — “Well, what's that in service of?” “What do you hope to gain from doing this thing?”

And sometimes we can't help but be reactive.

You have an inbox that's full. It's just a crazy day. It's not to make you wrong for ever doing that. But when you can be intentional, and you can tie your actions to a Big C as opposed to a Little C or no C at all, which is probably even worse when you're just like, "Whatever, I'm totally reactionary all the time." 

But when you can put intention behind it and tie them in, then the things that you do take on, the things you allow into your calendar, and sometimes that is intentionally blocking the calendar, so that nothing may enter that space, giving yourself as you've called it the white space in the calendar where you're like, 

“No, this is a protected time.” And I recognize if I don't put in something that says “Block this” that I will fill it with everything. 

Keeping A Commitment To Yourself Means You Can Keep A Commitment Towards Others

Lisa: I literally had to call it "untouchable." And it's a message to self, not just to other people. Literally untouchable. This is where I'm forcing productivity on the non-tactical items.

Strother: Don't mess with it. 

Lisa: And if I break that commitment to myself, what kind of commitment could I ever keep if I touch the untouchable? That doesn't sound like productivity at all.

Strother: And I mean, I need to start to reveal a little bit of this. Like, I remember how hard that was for you at the beginning. We've had that technique for a while where you're like, 

“I'm gonna block out an hour here and now and I'm gonna make sure...” 

And then we'd get back on the phone and you'd be like, “I didn't do it.” 

And it's because I had this really good reason, and there always is a good reason. 

Lisa: "My favorite customer called..." 

Strother: "I couldn't say no..."

Lisa: "I love them... What am I supposed to do? My productivity on strategic projects should not trump a client's simple, urgent question." 

Strother: The thing is you always have the choice. You all, like you are in control of your decisions. And if something did come up, and it was like your appendix has to come out, obviously, touch the untouchable. 

But it is when you've set those commitments in place and you say, "This is how I want to live my life. This is what productivity is."

Again, it's almost like a stoicism piece pulling back from the emotion of the immediate emotion and planning things out in advance before you're there. 

So then when you get there, it's the whole idea of like, set up your running shoes before you go to bed so that when you wake up, they're there. And you don't have to make that decision. If your calendar is already booked, you don't have to make that decision. And if you do, you have to really own what that means and go in and saying —

“I'm touching the untouchable and this is what that's in service of. And I have deemed that that is more important for me right now.” 

When that pattern just continues and continues and continues then you might need to put something new in place. If that doesn't again...

Lisa: It’s not working. 

Strother: Right, it's not working.

Lisa: Because really what you're saying is, "I am breaking my commitment to myself. And if I can't keep a commitment to myself, who can I keep a commitment to?"

Ultimately, no one. You're trying to keep it for everyone and that's probably why you're doing it. 

But in the end, you're not keeping a commitment to anyone if you can't trust yourself. You can trust yourself to be productive with your 3-item to-do list, but you can't trust yourself to earnestly live out the life you say you want.

Strother: Put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you help the kids.

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, it's a difficult one to do.

Strother: It's so hard because you care about the kids. But if you passed out as you're putting along them, like, then they're dead too. So it’s not... What a dark way to it…. “And then the children are dead..”

Lisa: And the episode is over because the children are dead (reader note: that was sarcastic humor that works better in the video version).

Strother: There's nothing else, burn it to the ground.

Lisa: And this is it you've been listening to Lead Through Strengths where all of the children are dead, but your strengths are alive. 

But really, thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths where you can apply your greatest strengths at work. 

Hope you get at least one tip that you can take today in terms of keeping your commitment to yourself, keeping your commitment to your strengths. 

And if you want a little help with that, get Strother on the house. He's good at keeping you honest at doing this stuff. Bye for now. 

Have Deeper Conversations On Productivity And Other Strengths: Ask Strother To Facilitate Your CliftonStrengths Training

So what did you think about while you were listening? Did you have an oxygen mask moment? Did you think of a thing where you went —

“Yeah, yeah, yup. I have not been setting boundaries... I'm taking on this thing for Joe in this thing for Susie Q and this thing for Ahmet at work and the look, I have not taken on the things that I say I want... Why can't I let my own things be my urgencies right now? Why am I constantly busy, but struggling with productivity?”

This goes back to that urgent and important quadrant concept from Stephen Covey, it goes way back. 

And Strother has a way of making it really practical and real. If you want to have some important conversations like this, either one-on-one coaching or CliftonStrengths conversations with your team, about what your priorities are, but beyond the moment-to-moment priorities to reach the goals, your priorities as people so that you really understand each other and what drives each person on the team, consider bringing Strother in for one of your events. He facilitates both in-person and virtual events. 

At the time of this recording, virtual is hot. So, feel free to come on over and request Strother for one of your events so that you can make the most of the environment that we're in. 

With that, you've been listening to Lead Through Strengths and we look forward to hearing how you have begun to claim your talents and share them with the world.

Dig Deeper Into Productivity Through These Resources

In his book Smarter, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg defined productivity as a choice between being “merely busy” or being “genuinely productive.”

When you’re someone who leads through Discipline, Achiever or Responsibility, chances are you are committed to completing tasks and achieving your results at the deadline intended, but you might get in the trap of completing many projects without experiencing productivity in your bigger life goals (because you've let other people's priorities take on a disproportionate chunk of time).

If this sounds like you, learn about the circumstances that could lead to your talents being starved, fed, honored and insulted. Focus on letting your natural talents shine in order to live your best life. These pages on will be helpful to you whether or not you lead through Discipline, Achiever, and Responsibility.

Direct download: 123-Using-Your-Strengths-To-Get-Productive.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Your Superpowers At Work - New Ideas For Finding Them And Using Them From Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines 

In this episode, Lisa Cummings and co-host Strother Gaines discuss, through analogies and practical examples, the impact of knowing how to wield your superpowers at work.

If our previous episode suggested ways of striking a balance between making your strengths known and not sounding arrogant about it, this topic is all about using your superpowers at work with out overusing your power.

Listen as Lisa and Strother explore one of the important paths towards professional maturity, through which StrengthsFinder has been guiding so many. You can also watch the video version of the interview on our YouTube channel.

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and you know, I'm always telling you about how energizing it is to lead through your strengths every day at work.

But sometimes, the truth is, it feels like the work culture is not aligned to our strengths. And it's really soul-sucking.

And we don't know how to ask for what we need, because you don't want to look like you're throwing a temper tantrum. You feel like you have more potential yet you don't know how to let it out. Heck, you might even feel like you have some superpowers to unleash at work, but you don't know how to make them known or useful. So if you're in that situation where you're thinking —

"Yeah, the culture and what would put me at my best, they're not fully aligned. And I get by because I'm trying to be a good team player.

"But yeah, there are some things that really get me down whether that's too many distractions, or how many details someone goes into or won't go into."

There are many, many colors of this example. And I'm here in this interview with one of our facilitators, Strother Gaines. And we're chatting about this topic of superpowers at work - and how you might contribute with them without sounding like you're arrogant. We go through a few examples of people and how they have asked: “What?” “How?” 

We go through a few practical examples of where people are frustrated by this at work and how they have signaled to their team some of the needs that they have or how they've explicitly asked for them without sounding like a bratty jerk. 

So without making you wait any longer, we're just going to jump right into an example that I experienced in a workshop where someone was not liking her superpowers at work (AKA her list of talent themes) because she wasn't getting what she needed at work and she felt like she wasn't able to express them or figure out how to express them. 

So watch for this thing. You've heard me call it the volume knob, and you'll hear Strother talking about controlling your powers.

Finding Opportunities To Leverage Your Superpowers At Work

Lisa: I'm thinking of a person who looked at her list of strengths from CliftonStrengths, and she sees Communication in her Top 5 and she's like —

“Number 1, number 2, number 3, number 4 ….. yes, yes, yes, yes. Those are sooooooo me.” 

“And then Communication — whelp, I have been told in the last few performance reviews that that's actually one of my weaknesses. So I'm not going to claim that one as a strength. That's actually been my greatest weakness.” 

And if you think of it like the “This or That” situation, I feel like when I look back on the situation that she was describing to me, she was saying —

“I'm going to give you all my Communication all the time, turned all the way up...or down. Since they don't like it up, I’m shutting off my superpowers at work because they're not welcomed here.” 

Strother: Yeah. 

Lisa: "I'm not speaking. So..."

Strother: Which is great in the meeting, and people love that like…no. 

Lisa: Yeah, suddenly you went from, “Hey, you don't give anyone room to speak in a meeting,” to getting feedback that “Hey, you have a resting, grumpy face."

Yeah, just literally shut down.”

Strother: Yeah. The on or the off, I think it's...you're totally right, it's back into what is the appropriate level right now. 

And as you become more adept at your strengths and you give them the space, I think that we struggle with that because in order to learn, it's like your mutant powers. I was just watching the old X-Men cartoons...and they really apply to superpowers at work.

This is a weird deviation. You're like, "Yeah, where are you going with this?”

And the old X-Men cartoon starts with Jubilee just sort of coming to terms with being a mutant and she has this sort of fireworks powers. And she just doesn't know how to control them. So they kind of help sometimes and sometimes they just go off and destroy everything and she hates them, because she hasn't learned to wield them yet. And you can't learn to wield those powers if you're too protective of them. 

She has to swing the pendulum too far to see —

“Oh, that's….and now it's too much. I got to learn to pull back my fireworks because if I go that far, it hurts people.” 

And so in protection of ourselves and other people's, and not looking stupid and not feeling silly, and all those sort of things that we protect against, when you have it, in particular, strength that has a bias against it, like Competition or something like that, where it's like, “Well, you're just being a jerk,” we're nervous to swing for the fences, because we see really clearly what it's going to look like if it goes wrong.

But you have to allow yourself that grace and that flexibility to learn how to control your superpowers at work, or you're going to waste them. So swing for the fences, let the pendulum swing in both directions until you find that nice, juicy middle ground where you're actually leveraging them appropriately.

Lisa: Yeah, what a great way just to give yourself permission to experiment with it. And to not think that there's only one way to do it because Competition doesn't mean I'm shutting down or I'm challenging you to a gunfight. It doesn't have to mean this or this all the way. It can be simple things like —

“Hey, when I lead through Competition, I'm keenly aware of our standing compared with our competitors. And it means that I make really cool bubble charts that show how we stack up in the industry. And the fact that I'm driven and motivated by that makes me a better performer.”

And so I think when people go from the “This or That” pendulum, they shut off the ability to even play with the middle and say —

“What else could it mean? How else could I contribute through my superpowers at work" And what else? And what else? And what else?

Strother: Well, you and I do, both of us, when we facilitate, oftentimes will do that activity “This or That.” The thing is you ask people, “you do this, you do that,” and then they spread themselves out throughout the room. 

And it's very rare that you'll get people who are like, “I’m the full polar.” And sometimes it happens, and that's an identifier for people and they really care about that. 

But most people do fall somewhere in that mid-ground. And so in that respect, it's easy for people to see that it's shades of gray. But when it's intellectual, and you're not in like the actual physical practice of the strength, people are like, well, it's “I'm one of the poles,” and you're probably just not.

Show People How You Perform At Your Best And Solicit Support To Make It Long-Term

Lisa: Yeah. Well, let's end with an example like that. So I did that exercise. And I remember this event vividly. The woman led through Intellection. And it was a question in my “This or That” exercise, I was having them line up on a continuum, whether they do their best thinking when they're in the midst of a group conversation, or if they're able to be alone and do the deep thinking. 

And she literally slammed her body against the sidewall to show —

“I am so far on the... I need to be by myself.” 

But she was in an environment where she was not allowed to work from home. And she didn't have any physical space where she could be alone. At the same time, she felt that her superpowers at work came out when she had space to be alone and think. Yet she felt like she was always getting barraged with “Collaborate!” and “Group work!” and all of these things. But she's saying —

“I can't be at my best like that — and I need you to know it.” 

And so that was a moment where she could bring it out and say, 

“I need more alone time... I need to go in my cave to think.” 

But how do you do that where if you just decided "I'm gonna maturely bring that up at work. I feel like I don't have a physical space to do that," without sounding like you're having a temper tantrum and stamping your feet and saying, “I need my corner office where I can be alone.” 

You know, how do you raise it...? She's afraid that if she brings up her superpower at work she will actually seem like she's anti-teamwork, and that's not a message anyone would want to hear. In fact, it could be a ding on her personal brand rather than an unleashing of strengths.

We know StrengthsFinder can help a lot with these conversations about what we individually need to be at our best. But once you realize "I have this need, but I don't know how to bring this up with my peers or my leader without sounding selfish or like a child or absorbed in me and not thinking about the business needs or how the culture actually works." 

So how do you face that? 

Strother: I think the first piece that we, anytime we're asking for something like that, framing it in what's in it for you instead of for me. If I come to someone and I say —

“Well, I need a corner office because I really need time alone and I just need you to make this accommodation for me.”

Like, “Deal with it. You're not gonna get any good work for me until you do it.”

Like, "Even if I have that corner office. I'm already like I'm not.... No." 

Lisa: You just sound like a brat or a diva.

Strother: Yeah, I don't want to give that to you, because you're just complaining right now. 

But if you can frame that for me in, 

“Here's how I produce my best work.”

Especially if you've done like a team StrengthsFinder type thing where everybody kind of knows, and we're all sort of moving into that methodology, we get it. 

“Let's find a way to activate your CliftonStrengths and activate mine.” 

“How can we make space for everyone?” 

If you're lucky to have that culture, then frame it in that way.  Say —

“Hey, you want the best work from me? We've found that one of the things I found in my report is that I do my best work like this. And I don't feel like we have access to that. Is there any way? What could we do?”

Lisa: What could we do? 

Strother: Instead of “Do this,” say, “What can we do to make this work?” 

And then it's a co-creative process. Then you are collaborating and you're giving them the opportunity to throw something out there, which maybe you've not considered either. 

Apply Your Superpowers At Work *For Work*, Not Just For Yourself

Lisa: Yeah, maybe you don't have a corner office. So you get to go down to the park outside and instead of someone thinking that you're just messing around out there for an hour, you're actually at the park alone doing your thinking time and you come back and when you show that produce better work that way, then people will say, “Oh, okay, yeah, go to your thinking in the park. Because right, we want that brainpower that comes back when you do it.”

Strother: And don't let your anticipated thoughts of what you think people will think about you, stop you, because I think oftentimes we're trying to project ourselves into other people. And we usually get that wrong. So when you think, “If I went to the park, I bet they would think that I'm lazy, or I bet they would think I'm just slacking off—” 

Then tell us you're not. 

A lot of times we're very nervous to throw those things out there, especially if it feels like an accommodation, or something that not everybody gets. People feel like, 

“Well, I have to do things the way they've been done.” 

There's no rule that says we have to do things the way it's been done. And if you can frame it in “Look at what you get from me.” 

Even when sometimes you might have to have a little data to support it, like, “This week, I tried out this thing, and I found that I produced so much better or it was easier work with me or I had an easier time in this way... Here's the data from my experiment. Can we make this more long-term?” 

So there's lots of ways to make it less like jump your feet and being a brat and more like “How can we build this together?”

Lisa: Make it about the business, not about you. Make it a pilot. And use your superpowers at work in service of the team.

And I like what you brought up about:

“What else could we do? How could we accomplish it, given what we have available to us?” 

And then knowing things like, you may not get the whole thing that you want. Certainly getting a physical office space, that's a big request. That's probably not likely. But what if the concession is that the team understands, “Hey, I'm going to put these big ol headphones on, and it's my one hour tiger time, and I'm not going to answer Skype, no instant message, no text. I'm going to shut out the world just for one hour a day.” 

And that's not something you've ever been able to have before and suddenly you're super productive, then your team's gonna want to honor that one hour. That seems very reasonable compared with you just deciding that “Well, I can't be productive here so I'm going to pout.”

Be Inoffensively Transparent

Strother: I had a client who, on the door of their cubicle or like the entrance of their cubicle, had a traffic light magnetic piece and he would put the magnet on the line like —

“Could you come talk to me?” was on green. 

“Am I deep on something? Don't come in.” was on red. 

So he let people know, “I'm in a deep workspace. Don't interrupt.” 

Because I think that is a challenge at work, it’s that constant, like, 

“Wanna gonna go grab coffee?”

“Can I ask you a quick question (that will turn into a 20 minute chat)?” 

“Hey, can I grab you for just a second? Can I talk to you for a second?” 

And his solution was, “I'll just be very clear and very transparent. Right now, no, you can't.” 

And they loved it because they knew when it's green, cool, great. And when it was red, he's busy and I'm not offended because that's not, “I don't want to talk to you.”  It's “I'm not talking to anyone right now because I produce better work that way.”

Lisa: And even knowing the talent themes like having the conversation where this is a team event so that someone can see, for example, someone who leads through the superpower of Focus at work -  that they could be in an open work environment and have their back to the room and literally not be able to hear everything that's going off behind them because they are so focused on that one thing.

Other people are so distractible that they wouldn't understand that's possible. They may not even believe it to your point about, you know, putting your own behaviors or the thoughts in your head, your lens on other people. So that's a powerful one.

Strother: Yeah.

Want To Grow As A Professional And Wield Your Superpowers At Work? Do CliftonStrengths With Your Team

Lisa: That moment when Strother said the example of his friend who said, “Life is so dynamic right now,” this is what it feels like at work when you're trying to be really mature about it.

It's like, “Oh my god, there's so much chaos and I'm burnt out and I'm just overbooked on my calendar and everything has gone awry.”

And then you're like, “Alright, now I need to show up and be a pro. So okay. Things are so dynamic right now.” 

You find a way to say it, you find a way to frame it, so that you still feel professional, but you still have needs. Even though you show up as a mature pro, there are still things that would put you at your best at work. 

And I loved how we were able to just jump around different examples and chat through some simple ways that people have signaled those to their teammates, and how they've asked for those kinds of things from their manager without seeming high-maintenance, without seeming like a brat or a jerk. You may not feel that you can leap from today's current state to "superpowers at work." Maybe that seems to far right now. That's okay. Take the smallest action in that direction.

If you think this kind of conversations would be useful for your team to have with each other, and I'm just gonna go — hint, hint — they're really useful to have with each other, meaningful conversation about your talent themes.

Over time, they're going to open up so much understanding for you so that you know:

  • What another person's interest is
  • How they would naturally process information
  • How they would naturally relate to the world
  • How they make decisions
  • How you could be helpful to each other by honoring those talent themes
  • What their untapped potential might be (AKA hidden superpowers at work)

This would be a great time to do CliftonStrengths with your team, and then consider doing some team building conversations. Many people are doing virtual training today. And Strother definitely facilitates those. So if you're interested in having him in for one of your virtual events, feel free to request him for your event. 

It's these kinds of open conversations that you have with each other that ensure you understand what each person on the team needs. Many people will consider it too high-risk, they won't come forward with these kinds of requests or wishes or thoughts because of the brat factor. 

They don't want to be seen as a brat. But they also see it as high-risk. They see it as a conversation that if they raise this, and that makes them go down a notch or two in your view, it's not going to be great for them in the workplace. 

And if you contrast that with what happens when you're having these strengths-focused conversations at work around CliftonStrengths, it opens it up in a whole different way. It puts it in a new context and makes people feel open in a way that they wouldn't if they were just going to come up with this conversation and raise it to you like it were an issue.

With that, thank you for listening to Lead Through Strengths and for bringing your best strengths to the workplace, because you know our workplaces need that from you. 

Next up: It's the last interview in the series with Strother and in that one we are talking about whether your commitments match your calendar, whether the things you say you want match what you actually do with your time. It's a powerful self-audit, and we'll see you over there.

Charge Up Your Superpowers At Work With These Helpful Resources

You can supercharge your career when you can do your best work in a way that will work not just for you but also for those around you. If you lead through Focus and Achiever, consider engaging in some mature conversation with your team and being more sensitive towards the needs of others and the business while striving for your best.

In fact, why not conduct a fun experiment with your strengths? Remember the volume knob that Lisa talked about? It’s a metaphorical way of regulating your strengths — in the context of the situation and the people around you. You’ll discover whether you need to turn your strengths up or pull back a bit. And once you’ve found that sweet spot, you’ll find that your strengths are better received.

Finally, review Lisa’s episode on how you can offer your awesomeness without sounding arrogant, where she explores the idea of balancing your talent’s energy with outward focus, i.e. thinking about the business outcome your strengths and talent can serve.

Direct download: 122-How-To-Wield-Your-Powers-At-Work.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

To Live Your Best Life, Know Your Intention And Be Clear With What You Want 

Lisa: What about the conflicts you have in your head as well, so they're not just with others? You know, you fight your own things that you wish you would do, maybe when you're not aligned with the personal leadership you want to demonstrate, or the life you say you want to live, but then you think

I have big bills, or I have practical things, or I need to get this deliverable done. 

So I'm just going to work 14 hours a day, just as an interval, I'm just gonna do it for a couple of weeks. 

But then it becomes your life. 

So when you battle, that sort of thing, you're facing burnout, and really, you're battling you and the baggage that you bring with you roll after roll after roll, it's the same stuff. 

What do you do to get inside of your head and let your strengths out in those situations?

Strother: It's back to that planning piece. 

Again, knowing the intention and being super clear. I think a lot of the times we have these visions of what we want our job to be like or our life to be like, but we're not crystal clear. It's a hazy, blurry... something like that. And we hesitate to be very specific because life is dynamic and things change all the time. 

What if you suddenly have a kid? OR,

What if there's a giant divorce? OR,

What if there's something that changes? 

So we don't want to put something down. We don't want to plant a flag in the ground and say, that's where I'm going. Because it could change. 

It's actually really valuable to plant flags, even if you're going to uproot them later and move the goalposts because it gives you something to go towards. It gives you a filter. 

I love the metaphor of filters in our lives. And again, from a non-emotional place putting these filters in so anytime you have a choice to make, anytime you run into a problem where you keep doing the same thing, you pour it into the top and you let it run through all the filters. 

It has to meet this requirement. It'd be really nice if it met this requirement. This is the very specific thing that I definitely want to go towards. 

And once you let everything sort of filter through you go  

“Does this serve it or not?”

And hopefully those filters will be able to knock out any behaviors that aren't serving that longer goal or that larger goal. But if you're unclear in where you want to go, then every time you make a new decision has to be a completely new process. 

So being really clear what you want and where you're going helps you when those types of conflicts come up.

Got Goals That Are At Odds With Each Other? Renegotiate Rules And Discover New Options

Lisa: So now if I get really tough with it, here's a situation that this is the kind of thing that people come up to me after the event. And I'm sure they do this to you too.

Strother: Yeah, I love it. But...

Lisa: Like, “Yeah, okay, I have a clear vision of the ideal life. Here's that flag you told me about it. And I think I know what that flag is. I want to have this role. And in five years, I think I could have that role. I could get the promotion. I could go start that company. I could do that thing. 

Let's say it's a specific promotion, specific role they want. And they believe that in order to get it, it also requires a certain level of workaholism or some other things that would then go against maybe a family value that they say they have as well. And these two things seem at odds with each other and they're like,

I want this but I don't want to leave behind my family or these other things?” 

How do I figure out how to prioritize or what to do with that when my goals almost seem at odds with each other?

Strother: No, I feel like it's the real question because that's the hard piece. It's so wonderful in the sort of concept where we're like

“Oh, we'll just leverage your strengths and everything's just gonna shake out great.” 

But then you bought up against that. And I think that the first piece in unpacking that is, one of the phrases that I use all the time is  

“Have you set up an unwinnable game for yourself?” 

And I think that helps people see, like, if you're saying, 

“Well, this is the outcome that I desire, and also this, this and this are in place…”

Well, you've set up an unwinnable game, there's no-win scenario for you in this because you're already setting up. 

I will be unhappy in some areas, whether it's usually the workaholic side of things. I'll just spend tons and tons of time here and fall on that sword. 

And I think that when you've set up an unwinnable game, it's time to just renegotiate the rules of it. And I think when you have it, the challenge here is that . this is the thing I hate about personal development, I bet you've found this too personal development always kind of defaults back to that feeling of like, 

“Be big, but not too big, small, but not too small. Do this…” 

But it's never a clear “this is how this works every time.” 

And we all want that. We want that clarity. But when it comes to this type of piece, when you're in that unwinnable game, oftentimes you have that clear picture, you also have preordained the path, and you have a hard time letting go of what you see as the way to get there. 

And there may be all sorts of different offshoots. And if you do have these tension points, there's both the ability to triage like, 

“Is one slightly more important?”

“Is there a lean here that I can lean into so I won’t default to this most of the time”

“And if not, how can I restructure the entirety of the concept of what I'm doing to make it work? What would I need to do to do that?”

“Does that mean I have to change an hourly rate? Do I need to get a new skill? Do I need to pick up something, bring in some type of support structure, someone who takes care of the house while I'm doing this thing?”

There are always options. And a lot of times they feel like they're inaccessible for one reason or another. But it's usually because we're holding on too tightly to the first vision of how it should go. And anytime you, or I was….. the phrase I love is, “should-ing all over yourself.” 

Like if you feel like you should do something that's a red flag for me as a coach to look and be like, 

“So why should you do that? What's going on there?”

And there's usually a way that you haven't thought of that you can pivot and try something new.

The ‘This Or That’ Dilemma Vs. Embracing Life’s Gray Areas

Lisa: Yeah, there's another thing that you do as a coach that I think is so good, which is about making things mutually exclusive where if I've already decided that if I want this path, it has to be like this. And if I have this, I can't have that. 

And then you lock yourself into it's “this or that,” right? And there's I don't know why humans do this, but we're so drawn to “this or that” kind of thinking and you are so good at catching people on that. This is not mutually exclusive, of that. They could actually live...

Strother: ….exist together. Yeah,.

We live in that... we crave... let's back to that. Don't tell me “do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” 

We want a clear boundary. We live in a binary mindset. And it's really actually difficult for us to move into that shades of gray, because our brains naturally crave, 

“Well, pick one!”

“Which one?” 

“That one.” And then the tension ramps up and we get emotional about them. We're like -  

“That one!” 

It's like “you have to turn this off!”

And so I think that, the more you can just acknowledge the duality of the world, and that things are constantly, a friend of mine did say that he was talking to me, he said: 

“Life is just so dynamic.” 

And I'd never….. It was almost a sad… He was like, “He’s just so dynamic right now.” 

And I was like  

Lisa: “That should be good!” 

Strother: I was like, “that's a brilliant way to put that though.” Like when life is challenging and things are unclear and there is all of this gray area in your life. It's just your life is being really dynamic right now. 

And that's sometimes hard to be with, but it also usually has the highest payoff, is that you can live in that dynamic place for a little while. You usually create some type of result that's so much better than “this or that."

Which would you like?

You're going to get something that encompasses all of your wants and all of your desires and all of your intentions, as opposed to... 

“Well, I pick that one. That one is good.”

Your Best Life Starts Where You Align With The Best Version Of Yourself

Lisa: This is one of my favorite things that Strother brings to coaching to StrengthsFinder events. He is always catching people in a moment where they get into “this or that” mode, where, if this then not that, and we get into this mutually exclusive kind of thing in our head, and we do it around lots of scenarios. 

“Oh, if I pick this role, well, I'm not living that passion.” 

Or, “If I change course this way, that I'm not going to have that thing.” 

And we try to narrow it down and simplify it so much that we actually get stuck very often. And Strother is so good at helping people become unstuck and helping people see that you can take small steps in many directions, to really feel like you are aligned with the best version of you and those small actions over time add up and add up and add up. And one day you look up. If you're setting the intention to do this over time, and you notice a year later, “Wow, I feel really good. I'm living a good life.” 

Want To Further These Conversations? Consider Strother To Your Strengths Events 

So, just to give another shout out to Strother for doing this episode, I really appreciate you Strother if you're listening, that you bring this conversation to me, to our clients, and to the concept of StrengthsFinder, because it really is one where people wrap themselves around the axle about it.

So if you are a listener, who has been in that mode with yourself where you're like, “Oh, I don't really know what my passion is,” or “I made the wrong choice when I started my career,” give yourself some grace. Apply some of the things that Strother mentioned in this episode about stepping into who you are in those smaller ways. 

With that, thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths. If you've been adoring these concepts that Strother has been bringing to you, feel free to request him when you do your training events with us whether that's an in-person event or a virtual event, depending on the time that you're listening to this, Strother does them all.

And with that, we have two more episodes where he is my guest. And the next go-round, we're talking about how to figure out how to talk to your manager and the team around you when you need some things from them or from your environment so that you can show up at your best but you don't want to sound like a brat who is needy and entitled. 

So we will see you over there in the next episode. Bye for now.

More On Letting Your Natural Talents Lead You To Your Best Life

The next time you catch yourself in the “this or that” predicament, remember you can always dial up your strengths to get you unstuck. If you lead through Adaptability and Arranger, most likely you can easily adjust to detours and unexpected changes around you because you thrive in a dynamic environment. As simple as tuning in to your top 5 talents can direct you to meaningful life choices.

You’ll definitely pick up some gems from Lisa’s conversation with Scott Barlow, where he guides listeners who find themselves asking that familiar question: should I stay or go now? Learn why your best life is worth the risks, as long as they are aligned with your dreams. As a plus, you can get his eBook on What Career Fits You for free.

Direct download: 121-How-To-Start-Living-Your-Best-Life.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Conversations About Turning Conflicts Into Strengths Collaboration - With Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines

In any work environment, especially widely diverse ones where people with different backgrounds, cultures and management styles work together, conflicts between or among employees can arise. At the same time, every customer seems to come to us hoping for better teamwork and collaboration.

While conflicts are inevitable, they can actually be an opportunity to exercise strengths so that these conflicts turn into a collaboration.  

Listen to Lisa Cummings and Strother Gaines as they navigate this conversation about turning conflicts into strengths collaboration:

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings and actually today, I'm back with another episode where Strother Gaines is joining me for a conversation on strengths. And in this one, it is all about conflict and collaboration. 

Most people I talked to want to be known as having good emotional intelligence in the office. And when you feel those moments of conflict, that's when it gets most trying. And when we're doing our StrengthsFinder events or CliftonStrengths events with customers, one of the things we hear about often is opposites.

They'll say

“Oh well, I feel like I think totally different from all these other people on my team. I feel like we live on a different planet sometimes.” 

And if you have some of those moments where you really feel that you’ve come to things in a very different way from your teammates, it can definitely make you feel like you would be in conflict. 

The good news about strengths is having these strengths conversations, they allow you to see the positive intent from the other side, and not just the positive intent but actually the positive outcomes from being able to use your strengths and then their seemingly opposite way of coming at things and using that to be a more collaborative and effective team. 

So without making you wait any longer here's my conversation with Strother.

Planning Ahead Of The Moment Is Crucial To A Collaboration That Works

Lisa: How do you start to take these things where you might have opposites. So let's say you're a  

“Process it in the moment, talk it out, come up with the ideas right now.”

And somebody else is the opposite.  

“Hey, let me do my best thinking on it. Let me take a minute with it, give me a beat and then I'll come back and I'll give you much better work that way.”

So I think people can figure out, “Hey, we head-butt.” 

Or, “We don't think the same way.” 

But then what do you do with it? Because I love to tell people, 

“Hey, that's the perfect partnership, you can plan in advance to be the yin yang to each other. This can actually be great for your collaboration at work”

But then when you're in the moment, and it feels like conflict, what do you actually do or say, to ***invite the difference*** and not be defensive or not kind of push your way on to someone?

Strother: I think it's setting that conversation up before it gets emotional. This is something that I recommend across the board - partnerships, companies, coworkers, everything before we're in it, before it's  

“You need two weeks ***but I want to do it right now.”*** 

Having a conversation where we recognize when we get to that place, this is what we're both going to want. So what should we do? 

Let's plan now, before we're both emotional about it, before we're trapped in it and it's like, 

“You never do anything the way I want you to!” 

Sitting down and saying, 

“You need this. This is what you would like. I'm going to want this, what can we do?” 

And then we're not governed by that moment. And we get into that moment you sort of do that in emergency break glass, where you're just like, 

“Look, we're there. Activate protocol seven.” 

And then we've agreed, and we're going to run through with that instead of letting our emotions sort of drag us all around. We already know how we're going to collaborate and work together as a team - before the emotions get heightened.

Allowing Your Logical Mind Over Emotions Can Result In More Effective Collaborations

Lisa: That's so good. That's Marshall Goldsmith level.

Don't get hijacked by the emotion in the moment. Plan what you're going to do in advance. Yeah. Because then your intelligent thinking is there.

Strother: Let that logical mind come through and make a plan before you get there. Emotions are wonderful. I love emotions. But we oftentimes are like, 

“Well, when I get there, I'll be able to ***rein it in.” 

Usually not.***

Lisa: ***Makes me do a shut down.***

Strother: Yeah you're like, 

“Well, now ***just fine, whatever you want. We'll do whatever you want.”*** 

And not shutting down looks different for everybody. But if you use that logical, brilliant brain of yours beforehand and just put stuff in place, it's so much easier to deal with it when you are hijacked.

Lisa: Which is going to happen...

Strother: Oh yeah. When you try and avoid that emotional hijack, you're actually shutting yourself off to a lot of the things that are the red flags for you. These are important things. This is your body saying you need to pay attention to this. 

So you don't ever want to turn off the emotional response, but you don't want to be governed by it. *** Everyone thinks  

“Well, I don't want pain receptors.” 

But that's a horrible disease that people have when they can't feel pain because their body is just being… they broke their arm, they don't know.  If you translated it to work, you'd be wanting to opt out of collaborations altogether and simply work with someone else. Unfortunately, you don't get to pick who you need to collaborate with at every moment, so you need the pain receptors to tell you to work your stuff out.

You need those emotions to flare up and say, “Hey, pay attention.” 

But then if you can snap back into your logical brain, you're gonna have a better outcome.

Learn More Ways You Can Use Your Strengths, Invite Strother To Your Team Events

Lisa: I love how Strother framed that up as an emotional flare-up and how wise it is to think through your agreements you're going to have with each other before you're in the moment, before you're amped up, about a conflict. 

Being able to have those mature conversations when you're not in the moment, it is a total game-changer. Rather than avoid each other, you can use your opposite preferences to be a collaboration high point.

I've seen Strother work with customers where he has enabled people to open up a conversation that they have not been able to resolve on their own. They had these pent-up frustrations with each other, that annoying department or that annoying teammate. And strengths can create this vehicle for you to actually understand why someone thinks the way they do or why they relate to the team in the way they do or why they bring this totally different priority to bear. 

If you've been adoring Strother’s style in this interview series and you want to bring him into your event... If you do a team building or you're building a strengths-focused culture in your organization, feel free to request him when you contact us. He does both in-person and virtual events. 

Of course virtual as of the time of this recording are very hot and they could be very timely for bringing a team together when they're under lots of stresses, not just the butting head type of stresses that they're having with each other. 

With that, thank you for listening to Lead Through Strengths. We look forward to talking to you next time and helping you claim your talents and share them with the world. 

And boy, oh boy, next episode, we're gonna help you do that in spades because the conversation is around, genuinely trying to live your best life. It's a good self-audit to say, 

“Hey, am I going all-in in my life? Or am I dialing it in?” 

You'll get to find out next time. We'll see you there.

Other Resources To Help You Turn Conflict Into Meaningful Collaboration At Work

Preventing conflict: Lisa takes you into a deep-dive into the subject matter of conflict in this earlier episode. When you and your team understand the root of most conflict at work, you'll be able to win over moments of conflict together -- or even better, prevent them before they happen. Now that's collaboration!

Work relationship goals: Lisa's previous conversations with Jason Treu and Gary Ware will guide you toward building healthy team dynamics that result in meaningful relationships. If you're hearing a lot of "Yes, but" in your meetings, these resources will be worth your time.

Avoiding conflict? Meanwhile, this tends to be a hot button for people who lead through Command and Restorative. If you've ever felt yourself holding back, you have to honor your strengths again. Your team will surely be nourished by what you offer.

More from Strother: to see the full playlist of our interviews, check out these other five videos we recorded with Strother.

Direct download: 120-Turning-Conflict-Into-Strengths-Collaborations.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines Shares His Thoughts On How To Not Sound Arrogant When You Offer Out Your Strengths

In this episode, Lisa Cummings and co-host Strother Gaines talk about the different ways you can present or offer your strengths at work and how to not sound arrogant in doing so. 

How you can be received or appreciated for your contribution at work depends on how you are able to maintain that delicate balance between wanting to be known for your strengths and not coming off as full of yourself.

Customers come to us every day feeling excited about their StrengthsFinder results, yet simultaneously being afraid of turning everyone off. They want to know how to not sound arrogant or bratty or braggadocios when they try to get known for their top talents.

Here's the transcript of the interview with Lisa and Strother Gaines as they explore the topic:

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and I'm also back with my co-host Strother Gaines, where we are talking about that situation where you want to build a personal brand or a career brand around your strengths, but then you're worried because you don't want to sound like a jerk and you don't want to sound like you're walking around the office saying —

“I am really good at these things. So assign me these things.”

So it gets a little precarious because you want to be known for it, but you have to figure out how to talk about it without turning everyone off around you. Basically, you'll want to practice talking about your awesomeness while also balancing how to not sound arrogant when you bring them up. So I won't keep you waiting any longer. 

Here's my conversation with Strother, one of our Lead Through Strengths facilitators, talking about how to navigate this tough situation.

Wanting To Toot Your Own Horn? Learn How To Not Sound Arrogant With It

Lisa: Imagine the tall poppy syndrome that you've heard of, or "the nail that stands up gets hammered down." All of the things that say, “No, you need to be humble. You should keep it to yourself and make sure that you're a very humble person.” 

But then at the same time, how can you make your differences your differentiators if you're not willing to experiment with them and let them out?

So what does it look like to not be tooting your horn in a way that's obnoxious but you're actually offering them out as a contribution? How do you even begin to figure out what is what? 

Strother: So in the South, it's called “getting too big for your britches.” It’s what we would say. And I got a lot of that actually leaving Kentucky when I left because people are like —

“Well, you're abandoning everyone and you're leaving these things and you need to come back and do the thing that everybody does.” For some people, that's actually really rewarding to be a part of that. 

Consistency is my last strength in my report, and I don't like to repeatedly do the same thing. But for someone, if that's your strength, live in it. Someone needs to be able to do it. 

Tooting your own horn, when it comes from a place of, “This is my contribution. This is what I can give, and this is how I'm going to help the situation,” as opposed to, if I frame it in, “Look at me. Look at me. Look at me!” — it does come off like, “You're a jerk!” 

Definitely, no one wants to work with that guy. 

But when I frame it in, “If you'd like to leverage me appropriately, and you'd like to see me do my best work, putting me in this scenario, giving me an opportunity to do this specific thing, which is something that lots of people don't like to do...” 

It's when I think about public speaking. So many people are terrified of it. And I would so much... Excel Sheet versus Public Speaking? Throw me up on the stage! 

So it's finding where you have those natural fits and just making it accessible to the people that you collaborate with, giving them the option rather than demanding that they do your thing. If you've been fretting about how to not sound arrogant when you talk about your skills and talents at work, the solution is all about offering them as a contribution rather than framing it as a selfish need to let them out.

Direct download: 119-how-to-not-sound-arrogant.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines - Helping You Figure Out What To Do When You Don't Like Your Strengths

This episode is all about the situation when you don't like your strengths or you don't think you like someone else's strengths.

It's easy to stereotype one of the CliftonStrengths talent themes, good or bad, when you only take a cursory glance at it. It's also easy for your talent to masquerade as a weakness if you have the volume turned up too high for the situation.

Here's the transcript of the interview with Lisa Cummings and Strother Gaines as they explore the nuances:

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings. 

I'm always saying it's tough to find something more energizing than using your strengths every day at work. And today, the topic of the podcast episode is about those moments when you're asking yourself ⁠— 

“Oh, should I not use my strengths at work?” 

“Are these not good ones to have for a given job?” 

Or, “I don't know that this talent theme is going to be well appreciated in the work culture that I'm in, so maybe I should just bring it down a little bit because I don't think people at work are going to appreciate it.” This will help you figure out whether it should go into hiding when you don't like your strengths.

The format is going to be a little bit different in the following series coming up for the podcast here. I actually have Strother Gaines joining as a co-host, he's one of our facilitators here at Lead Through Strengths.

So many times now people are experiencing facilitators other than me when they do training classes on CliftonStrengths, StrengthsFinder, strengths leadership development, etc. And so I thought, wow, our customers and our podcast listeners need to get to know these amazing facilitators. So, coming up over the next weeks and months, you will be getting to meet many of them. 

In the next six episodes, you'll meet Strother, where I'm having a conversation with him.

Having A Case of ‘Bad’ Talents? Don’t Like Your Strengths? We Get You

Lisa: We're talking about that thing today, where you get your list, and you're loving a few of them, but one of them is leading you to think ⁠— 

“I don't know about that one... I don't think I would call it a strength... I think I want to get that one back.” 

“Can I see my #6, 7, 8, 9, 10? Can I choose from some other ones?” 

So when I jump into this interview with Strother, you'll see that we are cracking up a little bit because I had just been a klutz in the office and caught my pocket on the table in the office.

And so we're busting a gut a few times in these episodes. I'm going to do an intro for each one, I'll do a closing for each one. And if you hear us jump right into some laughter, well, yes, some shenanigans are probably going on me being a klutz, or us goofing around.

If you want to see some of the shenanigans and silliness - things we were doing where we're playing around in the office - then make sure that you go to YouTube and look at the video version. At the end, I'll include some of the outtakes so that you can see them there. 

So let's jump right in to talk about what to do when you don't like your strengths.

Shifting Perspective When You Don’t Like Your Talent Themes

Lisa: Let's say you take the CliftonStrengths assessment, and four of the five of them you're like ⁠— 

“Oh, yeah, these are so me... I love that, but that one -- well, I mean, it's kind of me, but I don't really like one of my strengths…” 

Or, “I don't really think that in this workplace they're gonna love it. I don't want to be seen like that... I don’t know if that would be valuable here or even accepted here if I let that one out.” 

So what's your opinion on that? What do you do with it?

Strother: Well, I totally had that happen in mine. I have Significance in my Top 5, and to me when I read Significance, it came across as like, “Tell me I’m pretty… Tell me I did a good job..."

I need everyone else to tell me, like, “This is a good thing.” And one of my greatest fears in my work is that I required external validation. Everyone tells you to find that joy, find all of that inside of you. And then my StrengthsFinder came back and it's like, “No, you actually need people to tell you what’s good. And I was like, NO. 

But then, after I sat with it for a long time ⁠— you encouraged me to, like, “Stay with it for a little bit...”⁠ — I started to find that it influences so much of the types of projects that I take on, and it helps me actually delineate what I would be good at, what I would be excited about, and what I'm not. 

I'm not great at something that I'm not passionate about, and I don't like creating something that doesn't have that feedback loop where I get someone else's opinion or other people are collaborating with it. It's re-visualizing how you conceptualize that strength. Find a way that you can tilt that so that it is still you...

Your ‘Bad’ Strengths Are Good Enough To Make You Stand Out

We've talked a lot about “basements and balconies.” Do you have a strength that's in the basement, and that's where you're viewing it from? What does it look like when it's fully actualized, when you're actually taking control and being intentional about it, instead of letting it run the show underneath all of the things, that when you look at it, you go, “That's the thing I want.”

Then it's a lot easier to bring it out, even in a culture that might not support it, because that's your unique offer. This is a tricky situation - training participants will often say that you save a talent for your home life because you don't like your strengths for work purposes.

If it's something that doesn't show up a lot, if you have a rare strength, you're going to stand out. And standing out can be challenging sometimes, but it's also the thing that's going to get you noticed. Most of the time, anytime you want to move forward, first you have to get noticed. So use it, like leverage that weird thing and make it your strength.

From ‘Irrelevant’ Strengths To Workplace Impact

Lisa: I love how Strother framed this one out for you, as a way to bring your unique offering to the workplace. We always talk about your differences being your differentiators. So, instead of thinking of a strength as something that you need to squash down and say, “Oh, maybe I have a bad strength...” ⁠— which is an oxymoron ⁠— use your strength fully, figure out how to mature it, and get the most out of it. 

Now sometimes people feel like they have skills that aren't relevant on the job. This is definitely a case where you might wonder what to do when you don't like your strengths because they don't feel helpful in your current role.

For talents, we're talking about something different. We're talking about how you naturally think, or feel, or act when you are at your natural best, and you wouldn't want to squash those out ⁠— because it would be squashing down the best of you. 

With that, thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths. You've been getting to meet Strother Gaines, one of our facilitators from DC. In the next episode, you will hear us talking about how to not feel arrogant when you're talking to other people about your strengths. We'll see you there.

Want More Ideas For What To Do When You Don't Like Your Strengths?

A while back, Lisa interviewed Ben Fanning on what to do when you think your job isn't a good fit for your talents. Ben was funny and insightful. He gave lots of ways to reconnect with what you like about work, build a personal brand around strengths, and to mold your job in that direction.

Ben wrote a whole book on the topic called The Quit Alternative. The book is excellent, and it hits on a common situation where people think they might need to quit their job to be content again. If you read Ben's book, you'll almost certainly think that the grass isn't greener on the other side it's greener around the corner of the same company.

Another episode you might like to explore is the one where Lisa answers the question of what to do when you only have 2 of the colors in the CliftonStrengths lineup. This is another situation that makes a typical training attendee say that you don't like your strengths.

Direct download: 118-dont-like-your-strengths.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

We have now reached the ninth and final core concept in our STRENGTHS series, where we’ve been discussing the importance of engaging in strengths-focused conversations with your team over time. If you’ve been following this conversation, congratulations on getting this far! And if you’ve been applying even just some of our tips and taking on our tiny but impactful challenges, then you’re well on your way to becoming experts at finding CliftonStrengths blind spots in your team and building on everyone’s natural strengths!

Before we dive into the final topic of this series, here’s a quick recap of the core concepts that we have already gone through. Notice the magic word that the initials of these topics spell (STRENGTH). 

  • S.E.T. (Skills. Experiences. Talents)
  • Troublemaker talents
  • Regulate by Situation
  • Easy Buttons
  • Not an Excuse
  • Gimme That Escalation
  • Takes Time and Intention
  • Honored and Insulted

And now, in this episode, we explore the breadth of what we call the Starved and Fed Continuum -- turning our magic word into STRENGTHS. It’s just one letter added, but it makes all the difference, especially in the context of teams. The more strengths-focused you and your colleagues are, the stronger your team will be.

In any team or group, your differences are your differentiators — and this is the foundation of this core concept. And when you think of your differentiators, these come to life and look like your strengths when you've been feeding, nurturing, and developing them over time. 

Feed Your Talent The Same Way You Feed Your Body

What would it be like if you were starved for food as a human? Physically and even mentally, you would feel weak, which would most likely impact how you feel or think. You're not at your best. Being hungry can cause you to be grumpy and to ill-treat others, which can negatively affect how you relate to other people. In short, you wouldn't be able to show up in your full force. 

But on to the other end of the continuum, you're well-fed. On this side, you've been nurturing your body right -- not overfed or stuffed to the max that you need to loosen up a button on your pants. Just well-nourished and well-taken care of. 

Let’s use that as an analogy for your strengths, particularly your CliftonStrengths blind spots. You can ignore your strengths or starve them out because you don't think they would be valuable in your workplace or you didn't know it was one of your strengths. What happens next? They just shrivel up -- it's not going to look like when it's at its best. 

On the other hand, if you've been developing yourself by feeding and nurturing your talents, what you look like at your best keeps getting better and better. When you feel well-fed, well-nurtured, you feel strong, and your STRENGTHS strengthen your performance. That's why this all matters in a workplace context. 

Jack-In-The-Box: What Happens When Your Natural Strengths Are Squashed Down

You may remember having or seeing a Jack-in-the-box toy as a kid. It's this little box which has a handle on the side that you can twist. As you keep twisting it, Jack surprisingly jumps from inside of the box. That’s half the fun of it all when Jack jumps out suddenly and scares you. 

It’s the same thing with your strengths. If they have been squashed down, like in that box, you don't know when they're going to come out. They can jump out when you least expect it and scare people who may not find it cool, like when you scare them with your unmatured, talent themes. When that happens, collaboration becomes a challenge and it can lower down the equity of your career brand. 

Your CliftonStrengths Blind Spots Want Your Attention And Nourishment

Sometimes, we are driven to hide our strengths because we feel they are not suited in the kind of work environment that we have. 

Here are real-life examples from a person who leads through Connectedness and another person who leads through Command.

Scenario 1: Letting Connectedness shine in a ‘tough’ culture

Someone from a previous Stronger Teams session came forward with a concern on the report about her talent theme, Connectedness. While she liked that the report said she’s kind, gentle, and that she can see the ripple effect of her action on people, she found that the descriptions sounded “soft and wimpy”. For her, being viewed that way might not sit well within the tough work culture she belongs to if ever she will let that part of her out. 

She had valid concerns; however, it may not be enough to starve her talent just to fit into a specific work culture. There's so much more dimension to Connectedness that she can explore, one of which is the fact that she was very well networked. 

What Can She Do?: It is common among many who lead through Connectedness to see all of the connections among departments and people and the effect of what they're doing. This person can see the ripple effect of each team’s work as though she is watching from a higher place. It will not be a surprise if she notices and says things such as:

“If we make this decision here, it might be a challenge to roll it out to this particular department. Given the potential effect on their work, they're going to put up as much resistance as they can during the implementation.” 

This ability to make these web-like connections is what you can highlight when you lead through Connectedness. As you’re able to really relate well with a vast network of people, you’re able to establish where there was going to be a challenge in project implementation. This is quite practical. 

So, rather than starving out a talent because it doesn't seem to fit the company culture, direct the development at the part of it that would be most valued by other people. 

Scenario 2: The newbie is a strong leader inside

Another real-life example is from another person who leads through Command. He expressed his concern on being conflicted, knowing that he’s a natural-born leader but at the same time he’s young and in an entry-level position. 

Some of the things he said:

“I feel like when I'm decisive here, it feels unwarranted, and people look at me weird.” 

“I feel like I don't need a bunch of the inputs from other people and expected to go get them.” 

“I'm not really sure how to wrangle this all in or make it valuable here.” 

This guy therefore felt that he needed to push down his talent until he’s gained a certain status in the organization. Also, he didn’t seem to want to show that he was too cool for his entry-level job and therefore needed to skip all other positions just to be in a leadership status.

What Can He Do?: There are other dimensions of the Command talent theme that he can explore. A sample case he was presented with was in the event of big changes happening in the organization where: a) he's behind it and b) other people are complaining about the effects of the change. In this scenario, he can easily leverage on his influence to convince others into embracing the more positive impact of the change. 

  1. Roll out short and powerful demos. He could be part of the peer group and is giving others a demo about how good and important it is on the other side. 
  2. Summarize to make it clear. He could also often be in the meeting and summarize into fewer words what someone else would take 10 minutes to get out. He, of course, has to do it in a well-honed and kind of not too overbearing manner, lest he embarrass them. Maybe he could say the following:

“Yeah, that makes me think of the team motto which is _______________,” or “This could be our headline. As we roll this out, I see this could be kind of our mantra as we get this going”.

How Conversations Can Help Feed Or Starve CliftonStrengths Blind Spots

It is a natural tendency for people to see something about their talent theme and think it may not be of value to others that they try to stuff it down. Natural talents refer to how you naturally think or feel or act when you're at your default. The thing about them is that they always come out anyway, no matter how much you suppress them. But when they do after so much squashing down, they come out unrefined, which may not look good on you. 

The most important thing, before you ever decide to squash down your talent for whatever reason, is you’re able to explore some of these nuances of what your talent themes look like when they're at your very best, versus what they look like on the full end of the continuum where you’re not at your best, where everything seems to go wrong and these talents have really been starved out. 

This kind of introspection can be effectively facilitated if you have consistent strengths-focused conversations within your team – quite another reason why meaningful conversations really, really matter.

I hope that you liked these nine core concepts that spelled out the word STRENGTHS, and that you pulled at least one thing that was an unconsidered angle, something that gave you a new way to apply strengths with your team that you hadn't before. Get in the habit of recognizing what works in other people because when you notice what works, you'll get more of what works. 

Direct download: 117-Starved-or-Fed.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Finding Energizing Tasks At Work

We’re almost at the end of our STRENGTHS series, where we discuss a total of nine concepts that will help you implement strengths with your team at work. In this episode, we'll explore one of the most interesting topics in this series: Honored and Insulted. 

This topic always generates the liveliest conversations. Why? Because people generally have this special keenness over what might honor or insult their talent themes. If you're a manager and you assign energizing tasks at work, imagine what it could do for productivity and employee engagement. Win-win!

Read on to learn how to keep your team motivated using the strengths perspective. If you know what honors their talent themes, then you likely know their personal values. When they work on a team where they can see the fit between the work and their values, they feel more motivated and energized.

Imagine a pyramid-like structure, where strengths are at the top, natural talents come next, and values form the base. Strengths are the talent that you've already developed well, while natural talent is how you think or feel or act in your default situation. 

At work, there are situations (or entire cultures) that either insult or honor your talent themes at a human level. We don't meet many teams that talk much about personal values.

The thing is, if your values are insulted, work can feel like soul-sucking drudgery. On the flip side, if your experience at work feels totally aligned with your values, you'll feel pumped. It actually acts like a fuel to keep you motivated and performing at your best. Energizing tasks at work - the concept might seem doable, yet it might seem far from your current situation. Hang in there because it is totally possible, regardless of your role.


How To Keep Your Team Motivated: Know What Might Insult And Honor Their Talent Themes

Within a team, there are lots of small moments that can suck the energy from you. You know them: draining tasks, things you procrastinate, or people who wear you out. Worse, these scenarios could make you want leave your job if you're not actively addressing them. These are sneaky de-motivators.

Let’s look at these examples. If you're a people manager, definitely look at these examples. Think about your team members and what energy takers might be foiling their plans to show up as a top performer. This is a super practical way to apply CliftonStrengths at the office. In fact, the energizing tasks at work might spill over into energizing responsibilities at home. The more you find these energy makers, the more you can bring them into your life.

1. Leading Through CliftonStrengths Responsibility. Imagine that you lead through Responsibility, and you’re working on a team where people are constantly showing up for meetings 5 or 10 minutes late. Because it's part of your DNA that you do what you say you're going to do, these people who disrespect other people’s time annoy you big-time. In general, no one likes it when someone misses a commitment, but it’s a different (deeper) level of insult to someone's talent of Responsibility.

While you learn to get over it after a while, and rationalize that it's just how the working world seems to be, you also might tag these moments as your “red line” or “red-faced” moments. They lead you to wonder why people can be downright flippant about it. That's an example of an energy taker for those who lead through Responsibility. These are the de-energizing tasks at work, or in this case, the de-energizing moments and interactions that can drain you and make work feel like the hardest of hard work.

2. Leading Through CliftonStrengths Analytical. Imagine leading through this strength and someone regularly pulls random anecdotes out of the air. You would, of course, wonder if this person ever fact-checks or uses reasoning skills. “Do they ever vet their comments to see if they're actually true?”

When you keep encountering moments like this, it can get to your nerves. When people seem to be making decisions that feel highly emotional, this would be insulting your talent theme of Analytical. When teams work on problems that come from things like, "this doesn't feel right" you will expect them to validate that gut feeling before investing gobs of money or time on something that might not be a an actual problem. Maybe it's just that one vocal customer's opinion - not an experience shared by others.

Imagine how helpful it would be to know that your talent theme of Analytical is getting insulted. You can say, "Aha - no wonder this meeting is always so frustrating for me. Maybe I can spin that around by offering to vet or validate the gut feelings that come up so often."

3. Leading Through CliftonStrengths Includer. Imagine you’re leading through this talent theme. You’re really good at identifying who among the team a) has given a voice, b) has not said anything, and c) might want to comment but hasn't been given the chance.

But when people talk over each other and ignore what one or two other people have to say,  it would be an insult to your talent theme. This could feel quite rude to you even if you’re not the person that’s not being included. Consequently, you develop this dislike and distrust of the people who are excluding those others and their ideas.

These are just some of those “red line” or “red-faced” moments that might happen when your talent (or values) are insulted. These may be small but they can add up over time and lead to feelings of disillusion, until you think, “Ah, I'm not valued here.”, or “This culture sucks. I don’t want to be a part of this team.”

These are the kinds of conversations that can put you in a dilemma of whether to deal with it or leave, as far as your talent theme is concerned.

That's exactly why it's so important to honor your talents, and also learn to honor the talents of teammates. When their strengths and values are honored, they can show up at their best. They can contribute something the team needs, and it may not be easy for others to do that thing. If you're a people manager, you can assign them as their most energizing tasks at work. They literally act like a fuel.

Your Team Challenge: Acknowledge Each Other's Talents

This is where strengths-focused conversations, done consistently, become very useful. It's a practical way to apply StrengthsFinder. Over time you build the trust that allows you to share with the team what honors your themes and what can make the workplace feel ideal or “the best.” Your team members will be able to avoid the difficult dilemma that can make them decide to leave their job. When values and strengths are in alignment, the team feels motivated and valued.

Even if this isn't part of your team culture today. You can be the person who helps the team begin to notice (and say aloud) what already works well. These small acknowledgements help every person understand what puts their teammates at their best. With some conscious effort, you can slowly shape your job description toward these energizing tasks at work.

Go Beyond 'Give And Take' When You Apply StrengthsFinder

Lisa, our founder, once shared that her troublemaker talent is Maximizer. At the same time, she also works closely with someone in her team who leads through Activator. So, while being a Maximizer, Lisa would pore over her work and polish things to make them better. Those are energizing tasks at work for her - making things better and better and better.

On one side, the Activator talent would wait on her and prod her to “just move on with it” or "just ship" the product. Lisa understood where the input was coming from. In some cases, where the quality output was high-stakes, she acknowledged the person by saying, “This is going to kill your Activator, but I need one more day on this.” In other cases, when good (and done) was better than great, she'd do the hand off. It all depends on the business outcome that the team agrees upon. This is where you can apply CliftonStrengths to get the best business results.

Of course, there are times when give and take is the reality. Although it feels good to live in your personal strengths panacea, you can't let your personal preferences trump the business priorities. You should constantly be looking for ways to get better results by using your strengths.

At the same time, be careful to not let them be an excuse. It would be unhealthy to be so obsessed with finding energizing tasks at work that you refused to do things that drain you. If you did that, you'd appera selfish and not results-oriented. Strengths get more powerful when you think beyond yourself. It makes total sense. Strengths work in relation to other people and other contributions being given on the team.

Practicing “give and take” comes handy within your team because when you become familiar with each other’s talent themes, you have a short code language to use. But you can also extend it to your stakeholders, your customers, and your colleagues outside of the team. You may not know what their talent themes are, given your much shorter engagements, but imagine how much stronger your working relationships would be if you start getting a feel for what honors them or what insults them.

Internally on our team, we find a regular flow of #goinput or #thatwasmyrelatortalking type of hashtags to keep it lighthearted and acknowledge the good sides and the dark sides that can come out from a talent.

3 Reasons To Apply CliftonStrengths Conversations Regularly and Informally

This whole concept of exploring what honors or insults talent themes is important for 3 key reasons:

1. To get a well-rounded team. In any given team, there’s a clash of perspectives that are not discovered until they are actually talked about. Suppose you brought your whole team of 10 direct reports together to apply StrengthsFinder in a virtual strengths discovery training.

Imagine watching their conversation in the chat box about the things that honor or insult their talent themes.

You’d probably realize that some of the things that drive them crazy, you yourself are doing sometimes. Is it an "Oops, I'm frustrating you and I'll stop" moment? Is it an "Uumph, that really drains you, yet it's a reality of our team's responsibility" moment where you try to mitigate the pain or impact? Regardless of the type of insight, the important part is that you're talking through them so you can address the situation with mutual respect. 

You have opposing views of things because, for example, what you would view as common sense may not come as common to how others think. What would come easy for you may not come as easily for others.

It’s also the reason why some people don’t bother letting their strengths out because they don't think those contributions are a big deal. If you can find those hidden gems and let them out, the whole team is better. With that strategy, you get a well-rounded team and you can stop obsessing over being a well-rounded person who is good at every possible thing under the sun.

2. To get your job matched to strengths. Conversations like these also allow you to discover what aspects of one’s job could lead to that person disengaging from that job.

If you apply StrengthsFinder to uncover what honors a person's talents, you'll uncover their easy buttons for performance. You'll find that a job matched to strengths feels easier to perform. A job matched up to talents also brings energy to the person doing it. In fact, if you're using your natural talents, the work can even feel easy. At a minimum, it's easier to get into flow.

Contrasting that, if your job is not matched to strengths, it will likely feel draining. You can usually do the work. You can get the results, yet it will feel effortful. You may procrastinate or feel drained and you can't figure out why. If you've been feeling that way, ask yourself if you've been working out of your weakness zone, or out of your non-talents. Often, it's an unexpected cause of burnout. As our colleague TyAnn often says, when your job is matched to your weaknesses rather than strengths, it can give you "a case of the Sunday nights."

3. To get more energizing tasks and get fewer draining tasks at work. Conversations like these become an opportunity to turn a “Man, this culture is awful” experience into a “So, if this is what other people value, which runs against my values, then here's how I'm going to cope.” So, think of what strategies you can come up with to convert a workplace experience into a positive and enriching one.

You can't always pick your responsibilities on the job. Of course, you want a job matched to your strengths. And you want energizing tasks at work, but sometimes the role is the role. Even if you can't to a lot to shape the job description, you can adjust the way you approach the work. At a minimum, you can adjust the meaning you make out of it. This might sound like a Jedi Mind Trick (and maybe it is), yet it's effective at bringing your energy and motivation back.

Key Things If You're A People Manager Applying CliftonStrengths

Here are key pointers to note before conducting a conversation with your team on what might honor or insult their talent themes.

  • Make sure the conversations are well-facilitated as you apply CliftonStrengths. Sometimes, these team chats can result in a venting session about all of the  "other annoying departments" or issues at your company. We're not saying you should squash or hide issues, yet it does take some skill to keep the conversations aimed at specific performance - and the things you can actually control or influence. Aim it right and lead the team to productive conversations.

    One useful tip is to ask them to list 3 energizing tasks at work and 3 draining tasks at work. We call it the "yucks and yays" list. That makes things specific, and it helps you cover both the Honored and Insulted. In this case, because you're trying to uncover their deeper values and reactions, focus the yucks and yays on situations rather than job duties. For example, someone might feel honored (or insulted) by the situation of an urgent interruption. But if they said "customer calls" you wouldn't understand why it's a yuck or a yay.


  • Be specific as you work toward the goal of getting their job matched to strengths. Get to the in-depth scenarios and situations that happen in an average work day. Apply StrengthsFinder using some of the tools and language behind them, as modeled by our examples involving the Responsibility, Analytical, and Includer talent themes. For example, the difference between, "I hate all of the emotion in our ops meeting" and "I'd love to help us pinpoint the depth of the problem we identified in the ops meeting" is night and day. The first one is venting. The second one is getting the job matched to strengths. It's action-taking for Analytical. It's volunteering and contributing the talent to a team who needs it. It's practical application of CliftonStrengths at work.

Ready For The Final Concept?

Now that you're loaded with energizing tasks at work, let's get to the next topic. Up next is the last in this series of nine core concepts: the Starved And Fed Continuum. See you there!

Direct download: 116-Honored-or-Insulted.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

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

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

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

1. Strengths Take Time

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

“Now what?” 

“How do we keep this going?” 

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

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

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

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

Patience As A Way Of Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Strengths Demand Intention

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens When We Lead Through Strengths Instead? 

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

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

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

Time And Intention As A Factor In Realizing Strengths

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

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


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


“Oh look, people actually care about that.”

"That actually helped the team out."

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


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

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

Your Team Challenge: Create A Strengths-Based Subculture 

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

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

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

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

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

So, Now What?

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

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

Ready For The Next Concept?

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

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

Our sixth core concept is a perfect build-on to the “Plus One, Minus One” activity mentioned in our previous episode, Concept #5: “Not an Excuse.” 

Plus one, in particular, is about mining your team of the things they want to have more of. Then, as you dig deeper into this challenge, it’s amazing what you’ll discover from each of the team member’s responses. 

The Story Behind ‘Gimme That Escalation’ 

In one of the recent training sessions, a guy came forward and expressed what he has written on his wish list. 

I would love to have more escalation calls.” 

This statement set off these confused looks and reactions among others in the room. 

Did he just say that right? ‘I want more escalation calls?”  

What is he talking about?” 

These people were shocked that the guy was wanting more escalation calls. So of course, they had to ask him for further explanation.

According to the guy, he’s the “deepest subject-matter expert in the whole organization on this matter. He’s quite confident that he can very well handle when a customer turns utterly irate.

“I know that they can be so frustrated and can give up any time, but I know I'm gonna resolve it. If anyone can, it's me.” 

His awareness and certainty that he has the resolution and knowledge to turn things around fires up his love for doing escalations. And for that, we have named this concept in his honor.

Open Up To Meaningful Conversations 

The guy’s gimme that escalation statement opened up a whole conversation with others in the room. If you guessed that his teammates instantly offered him their own escalation calls, that’s not far-fetched at all. But expecting him to accept all escalations may not be realistic since of course, he actually has to get some other stuff done

While the guy got more escalations after such conversation, he also freed up his plate with tasks that were on his “minus one” list. Obviously, he was able to achieve the “plus one, minus one” balance, thanks to some good thinking and meaningful conversation. 

Opening up about what you want more of — though oftentimes surprising many in the room — can create a shift in the tasks. This proves that indeed one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Expanding The Concept 

How can we expand this concept further so it’s easier to apply? Consider the following as fun exercises for you as an individual or as a manager. 

1. As an individual: Discover other people’s “trash” tasks

  •  Gather information. Consider walking around the office and listen for what people are kvetching, complaining or procrastinating about. This is not to suggest that you join in the watercooler talk or random office conversations. Your goal is to capture as much information as you can for this little internal research project. 
  • Look out for “magic” moments. Most likely as you listen, you’ll find some “aha” moments. You discover that certain things people complain about are not bad at all. They could be stuff you actually like doing. You’ll find that what others consider as an area of weakness or difficulty might be an area of expertise for you. As you look out for these moments, compare and take notes. 

2. As a manager: Discover your team’s “loathe” list and shift tasks when possible

Imagine if you knew what each of your team members’ trash tasks were, especially their top list. Just knowing this could be really important because you are able to spot whether the “loathe” list includes tasks they have to do every day. You get an insight into the team’s demotivation points.  

In reality, it might not be that outright and easy to shift things around, as tasks that people hate still need to get accomplished. But in a lot of workplaces, the assignments are not homogenous, so you might have some power to be able to switch things around. Perhaps you could take something off the plate of a top performer in your team who may be losing interest in their job as they have to do what they loathe on a daily basis. 

Time And Trust Are Key

Opening up a conversation with your team members about the tasks they hate require a lot of trust. That's why you can't do strengths just as a one-time offsite team building and expect it to create all the magic things in the world. It takes meaningful conversation over time, up to that point they are comfortable enough to say, “Sure, I'm gonna give it my number one best, but I actually hate this job duty.” 

The ‘Gimme That ________’ Exercise

On the flip side, this exercise can prove powerful for the whole team, as it opens some cool opportunities. When assigning projects to your team members, consider these:

  • Their strengths. For each team member, find and assign to them that thing that lives in their strengths zone, especially if it's not in the strengths zone of everyone else. What is it that they love and makes them come alive?
  • Their expertise. Think about the projects that tend to get assigned at work. Those who are good at certain skills or knowledge areas related to those projects can be the go-to persons. 
  • Their development plan. If you’re the type of manager who puts considerable thought on what a person wishes to develop, as expressed in their individual development plan, be on the lookout for a relevant opportunity or project for them.

Sometimes, however, it can be pretty difficult when you’re finding an opportunity for them based on expertise and career goals. Let’s say a team member wants a very specific project, and you happen to have just one project like that and it’s already assigned to another person. This leaves you with very little choice as a leader. 

As a team leader, what do you do? 

Gimme That Challenge 

Here’s your challenge: get cool with limiting or difficult situations like that and then approach the conversation in terms of talent themes. 

As we know, talent themes are about how they get things done. You can just imagine what strengths and talent themes can come up. So, here’s what you can do.

  1. Ask each person to think about their talent themes.
  2. Let them come to you with 3 examples of projects that call on how they think/feel/operate in the world. 

Check out these “gimme that ________” scenarios:

1)  Gimme that situation. (Includer talent):

Okay, next time you're assigning projects and it’s important for you to find someone who will thoroughly listen to all of the requirements of each stakeholder, really cares what each person has to say, and want every voice of every department to be represented -- call on me.”  

2)   Gimme that dilemma. (Deliberative talent):

“Hey, next time you're assigning a project and you need someone to look at the downstream risks of a decision, or someone who can think seven or eight steps ahead about all the things that could go wrong so that we don't step in the potholes -- I'd love it if you consider me.” 

3)   Gimme that complex problem. (Restorative talent):

“Next time you're assigning projects and you have one that just seems like a big, hairy problem, I hope you'd think of me. I love to roll up my sleeves and just really get into all of the ways to solve a complicated problem.” 

With this approach, what they provide could allow you more space and flexibility in assigning projects.

You’ll find that there are actually a lot more opportunities for each individual than if their “gimme that _____” was too specific and narrow. 

This becomes awesome to you as a manager, especially that some people in your team don’t want to deal with such kinds of problems. 

Key Takeaway

It’s important that you get your team to communicate their wish list of work and projects that align with their strengths. This will help you look for opportunities and assignments where they can apply those easy buttons every day on the job and give their best. 

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: “T” for "takes time and intention." Stay tuned!

Direct download: 114-Gimme-That-Escalation.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

If you've been following this series, you'll know we've been spelling the word STRENGTHS with nine core competencies that pop out as the most elusive, interesting, or unconsidered when implementing strengths at work. So far, we've had:

1. S.E.T. (Skills, Experience, and Talents)
2. Troublemaker Talents
3. Regulate by Situation
4. Easy Buttons

Now we are midway through as we explore our fifth core concept: “Not an Excuse.” 

Avoiding Responsibilities?

Once in a while, people want to use their strengths like an excuse. Here are a few examples:

“I’m an Activator and I don't like to wait. I only work on things where I don't have to wait.” 

I lead through a bunch of Executing talent themes and I like to get things done. And now you're asking me to do some deep thinking and research, and that sounds boring to me. So I don't want to do it.” 

“That just doesn't sound like fun to me. I lead through Positivity and I can't do anything that is just way too serious for too long.” 

But in the world of work, this is not how we can operate. We have to do certain responsibilities that we don't like. 

When those kinds of thoughts come up, make sure you're assessing that you can‘t use those as a reason to have bad performance or low accountability—just because of something you don’t like doing. 

Understanding The Strengths Spectrum

As it seems, there are two ends of the spectrum that people end up raising around this concept of excuse:

  1. Team members making up their own excuses in their minds 
  2. Team leaders having some resistance in implementing strengths. They think they’re giving people the wrong idea, that they're just going to turn lazy.

When it all comes down to it, revenue still has to keep coming in. As a team you still have to get results, or else none of you will have a job. 

Remember: if you're really living out strengths as tools, you believe in high accountability and in getting results.

We all know that it's better to get more time in our strengths zone and fewer minutes in our weakness zone over time. It's always a great idea to shape your job toward that, but it's not instant. It would be foolish to believe that you're going to live 100% of every moment in your strengths zone, and that all weakness moments will now be gone forever.

Your Team Challenge: Plus One, Minus One

Here’s a great exercise to do if you're leading a team. (You can also do this as an exercise for yourself.) 


Ask every member of your team to think of one thing that they would want to get -- either something they don't have or something they want to get more of. 

A few guide questions:

  • What would you like to add to your work? 
    • Is there something that you already do but you want to get more of it because you just love it? 
  • Is there a kind of work you’d like to experiment with?
  • What do you wish I would assign to you? 
    • Is there a project that somebody else has been assigned over the years and you’ve never been the go-to for this kind of work?
    • Is there something that you think is really in your strengths zone but which you’ve never been able to do or get a lot of? 
  • What would you love to add in your ideal world?


Ask them to think of what they would want to subtract. It could be:

  • Something they don't like
  • Something that drains them
  • Something they procrastinate with
  • Something they wish they could get rid of


Once all members are ready with their answers, you can do a round-robin as a team where you go around the room and every person shares one thing they want to add more of and one thing they would like to get less of.

Sometimes, however, the answers aren't as useful. For example, eight out of ten people might say, “I would like fewer emails.” As a manager, you want to get way more information than that. Prior to a round-robin, another approach could help.

Brainstorm First

Give the members of the team two to five minutes to write as many things as they can and as specific as possible under the + side and the - side of their list:

  • Encourage them to keep their pens moving. If they forget about what they could be adding to the list for their current work, they can start going into the personal zone and write things about their hobbies, for example, just to keep their pen moving. This keeps their mind focused on the stuff that they love.
  • Give them some extra prompts. Put prompts on a whiteboard or a flip chart. Examples:
    • + category prompts
      • At the beginning of a project, what do you love working on? 
      • When you're working with customers, what would you put in the + category? 
      • When you're doing hobbies on the weekend, what would be a + for you? 
    • - category prompts 
      • What are all of the things you wish you could have less of
      • Things you wish to get rid of entirely 
      • Things that drive you crazy 
      • Things that you procrastinate on

As this is a brainstorming activity, emphasize to them that the objective is just to get as many things written down as possible. 

Too Many Common Answers? 

Whenever this happens, as it typically does, immediately acknowledge it. For example, if a lot of the team members say “too many meetings” -- 

  • Encourage them to pick the one that's top for each of them. 
  • Or: Ask them to give one more that’s specific.

That way, they won’t feel like they're getting dismissed, but at the same time you’re getting some more unique and useful information. 

Still, if you hear the same answer many times, then take it as an opportunity to address it like it’s a team scenario. 

Then you can do the share-out in a much more insightful way. As the leader, you may throw these questions:

What would be useful for other people to know about you? Maybe you have something that others in the room could call on you for? 

This would be useful information to your team members. They (or you) would be able to recommend situations where each other’s pluses could be called on for. Opportunities to swap tasks or to be honoring each other's talents would surface. Ultimately, they would be tapping one another for something they want to be leaned on for.

Follow-Through On Your Team

As the leader, set a follow-up 1:1. As soon as your share-out is done, tell your members you’d like to keep their lists so you can dig into them. Doing this will also guide and prompt you to begin assigning them projects that align with their strengths as much as possible. 

Remember: not an excuse to shirk performance is not an excuse to get rid of accountabilities. It is an opportunity to start talking about the things that either feel like drudgery or really life-giving. If you can know these things about each of your team members, imagine how powerful that would be! As you help them align with their internal motivation, your team will also grow and do more wonders.

A lot of high performers are rarely whiners regardless of what’s assigned to them--even if it’s draining for them. The "plus one, minus one" practice can give them a vehicle for talking about what tends to be less fulfilling for them and what really lights them up.

Excitement and energy for the job are the internal drives that you want on your team. Those can be had over time if you've been having these meaningful conversations where you learn more about them and align with their natural values.

The more you do things with your team using the lens of strengths, the better their collaborative strengths will work toward your business results. 

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: “G” for "gimme that escalation." Don't miss it!

Direct download: 113-Not-An-Excuse.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

We notice it all the time: when we point out to people their natural talents through meaningful conversations, their success comes more easily. In this episode, we refer to this phenomenon as “easy buttons” — our fourth core concept in this series.

Here at Lead Through Strengths, we love seeing people’s potentials. It’s always an amazing experience to help others realize something special about them and saying it aloud to them. This is because people often find it difficult to notice their very own potential. And so the more we hear responses like “Really? That’s a special thing?” or “Oh, I’m good at that?” — the more we find fulfillment that we are into strengths development.

Embrace What Feels Easy

A lot of people still hold this default assumption that if something feels easy to them, it’s probably easy for anyone else. They think it’s nothing special. They dismiss it as they wouldn’t want to offer a bunch of work that’s ordinary or easy. In effect, they are actually depriving their team of their gifts or potentials.

“Why bother? Anybody could have done it anyway.”

If you’re a manager, you have to mine for these potentials and spot them. Make your particular team members aware that what they’ve got is something special until they themselves acknowledge it. 

Once they are convinced that what may be easy for them may actually be a challenge for others, they’ll cease to think that their talent is “unspecial.” They will be more inspired to do more of that.

The more you consistently notice your team members’ strengths, the more they will develop the eagerness to cultivate them. Eventually, they will let their easy buttons get pushed. Those little but meaningful conversations mean that much.

Pushing The Button

The CliftonStrengths talent themes show how you naturally think or feel or act at your default. Your reports provide you some words that may serve as clues to make it a little easier to spot your easy buttons for success. Again, while this is a very simple concept, it’s strangely way overlooked in the office.

How exactly do easy buttons work?

What comes easily and enjoyable to you puts you in the strengths zone. And if you’re in your strengths zone, your performance gets strengthened even more. 

When we talk about implementing strengths, we normally ask people what comes easily to them. What do they find most enjoyable? They would list them down for sure, but as previously mentioned, they also tend to think that they’re easy, that there’s nothing special about that. “Anybody could do that,” as they would add.

Nevertheless, as we listen to the conversations, we find that the things that are easy and enjoyable to a person tend to be in their strengths zone. But given their default assumptions, they tend to go for what’s challenging or difficult. In their effort to be top performers, they labor through their weaknesses rather than shine in their strengths.

But then again — as your strengths strengthen your performance, your weaknesses weaken your performance. 

Easy Buttons When Turned OFF

Most of the time, working on stuff that’s really hard for you is like banging your head against the wall. You keep working hard and fighting the struggle that comes with dealing with things that are:

  • not enjoyable
  • doesn’t come naturally
  • not intuitive

In other words, these are not the things you typically excel at. 

Easy Buttons When Turned ON

In order to stand out without draining yourself, you need to be aware of this lever of strengths which when pulled leads to: 

  • better performance
  • people acknowledging you like you’re a top performer
  • getting your desired outcomes at work

That is equivalent to simply pressing those easy buttons.

Your CliftonStrengths talent themes also represent how you get things done, not what you’re choosing to do. So regardless of the job you’re in, your easy buttons will tell you how you can approach any outcome to get better results. 

Easy Buttons in Teams

Easy buttons vary among people. In sales teams, for example, a benchmark personality type is usually set for the ideal salesperson. Desired types may include:


  • A challenger – one who challenges the current beliefs that are embedded in the organization today
  • Presentation-savvy – someone who is the best at presenting case studies


The truth is, all these will depend on the easy buttons for each person.

Maybe there’s Person 1 for whom it’s natural to challenge current thinking, so that’s what he is inclined to do. But the person who’s best at it is the one who’s developed that in a way to make it a palatable conversation for another person.

Maybe there’s Person 2 who’s really great at collecting data, case studies, and analytics. In a sales engineer capacity, he can brilliantly present data that support how the product has worked for other similar companies. This can lead a client to make a buying decision.

Maybe there’s Person 3 who’s highly effective at building relationships with people by breaking the ice and making them laugh and have a good time. He may say, “I’m a relational person, therefore that helps me sell because once the relationship is built, then we gain mutual trust that works out for us.”

These are very different easy buttons and you could take any of those three people and they could all learn the other model. They could memorize sales tactics, scripts, and whatnots.

But for them to achieve their best performance, as a manager you have to help them figure out their easy buttons. By pushing these buttons, you help them towards great outcomes.

Hearing Excuses?

As you explore this fun concept with your team, you still might feel some resistance or hear excuses like: 

“Nope, I’m not doing it your way because that’s in my weakness.” 

“Nope, not in my strengths zone.”

When you face this scenario, hang in there because that will be tackled in one of the upcoming core competencies. 

Key Takeaways

  1. What you need to accomplish at work is dictated by the job description, but how you do that will largely benefit from talent themes tools. Think of them like easy buttons to help you deliver your responsibility with much better results.
  2. Keep a list of your talent themes somewhere readily visible or accessible. Some ideas include:
    • A frame of your Top 5 talent themes on your desk 
    • As magnets
    • As your phone’s lock screen display 
  3. Examples of moments when the “easy buttons” concept comes in handy:
    • When you’re feeling a little bit stuck and you need something to help you maneuver the situation
    • When your default reaction hasn’t been working for you and you’re looking for a new way out

Your natural strengths are easy for you for a reason. Why choose another way?

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: “N” for “not an excuse.” See you in the next episode!

Direct download: 112-Easy-Buttons.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

If you want others to experience the best of your StrengthsFinder talent themes, you'll love our third core concept -- regulate by situation

A Simple Concept?

Imagine you’re in front of a mixing board wherein you’re looking at your Top 5 or Top 10 from your CliftonStrengths reports. Each of your talent themes is assigned a fader so that each of them could have its own volume. 

To regulate by situation is to adjust your talent theme’s “volume” based on the following:

  • the person you're interacting with 
  • the project and what it calls for

It’s much like setting the quantities of your musical instrument or tool based on the song you wrote or the genre you're in. 

From Simple To Complex

While that seems like a fairly simple concept, it gets a bit more interesting when we apply it to a team context.

Having to fiddle five to ten faders in order to manage your own talent themes can already be overwhelming. Imagine how much tougher that would be when aside from watching over your own set of five or ten, you will now have to consider that every person you interact with -- whether within or outside of the team -- could receive the varying quantities of your strengths in different ways! For example, in certain projects, they may call for a little bit more or a little bit less of that given strength. 

If you think about working on this for the rest of your life, it can get really complicated!

The Experiment Mindset

The most effective way to not get overwhelmed with regulating your strengths is to think about it as just an ongoing experiment. In particular:

  • Assess how much every situation calls for. 
  • Get a feel for what is received well by other people in your collaborations. 

Scenario 1: Communication as a troublemaker talent

In one StrengthsFinder event, a client had five cards representing her Top 5 CliftonStrengths talent themes spread on her desk. Out of the five, there was one card that was pushed off to the side. It read: “Communication.” 

Apparently, she could not view Communication as her talent or strength. She had just gone through a series of performance reviews with her manager who elaborated to her what she described as bad feedback on her communication, including: 

  • “I talk too much in meetings.” 
  • “I’m just too much to handle.”

She resisted when we offered the notion that Communication could be her greatest asset. But coming into the event might as well be her opportunity to apply the core concepts of both troublemaker talents (core concept #2) and regulate by situation (core concept #3), as follows:

Core Concept #2 (Troublemaker Talents) - She needs to recognize that her love for words -- how she values them as important -- are strong points to her communication theme. The reason Communication was coming out as a troublemaker talent for her was that she was talking to think instead of thinking before talking. 

Core Concept #3 (Regulate By Situation) - By turning her Communication volume high up all the time and not checking how it is being received by others, she’s clearly not regulating it. She has to start adjusting it accordingly.

In the end, it’s how she operates that can transform her troublemaker talent into a great asset.

Scenario 2: Volume wars

In a band, the drummer plays a loud instrument, which tends to make the guitar player, the keys player, and other members to start turning up so they can hear their part and not miss a note. This kicks off what is called volume wars. 

When this results in a big wall of sound, not every person in the audience will receive it well. Loud is not for everyone. 

The same thing happens at work if we think of our talent themes as a collection of variations, nuances, and colors and can be received differently by people. But many of us haven’t recognized those variations and the value of regulating that we turn our talents all the way up to all situations. 

Tip: Get a feel of each situation to determine whether you should turn up your strength or pull back a little bit. 

Let’s Regulate By Situation

Using the strengths volume dial in a team context, how can you regulate all your talent themes? 

As you play with your own Top 5 or 10 knobs, you also face an almost infinite number of rattling and twisting as you try to find the right mix based on all of the people on your team. That’s how complex and layered it is. But that's why we have our third core concept to remind us that it's all just a matter of adjusting according to the situation!

  • Regulate based on the person you interact with

If, for example, you lead through Individualization, you’re most likely interested in every person and what makes them unique. You’d like to learn everything you can about them so that you can customize your communication in a way that is palatable to them. 

If you don’t mind to regulate in your first meeting and turn your talent theme volume right up to a 10, it might catch others off-guard and they might perceive your probing questions as intrusive. 

  • Regulate based on the project or company

Similarly, if you get into a company that’s focused on standard operating procedures in a highly regulated environment, trying to customize everything might not be well-received. It’s not going to fly. You will have to take that tendency down a notch.

Bottom line: Think of regulating by situation as a general concept. Then, start playing with it like experiments. 

Your Team Challenge: Reflect On Your Dials

To make this core concept an even more conscious practice yet still a fun experiment to do for your team, encourage these guide questions: 

  • “How were my strengths? Were they dialed in?” 
  • “Were they all operating in the right place?” 
  • “Were there any that I should have pulled back a little bit?” 
  • “Were there some I could have pulled up more to add more to the results in that situation?”

Taking the time to "play it by ear" with your team will make all the difference and will bring out your unique harmony.

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: “E” for easy buttons. See you in the next episode!

Direct download: 111-Regulate-by-Situation.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

From the S.E.T and “Aspirational You” concepts in the previous episode, we now move towards a seemingly favorite topic for discussion: troublemaker talents!

When talking about strengths, curiosity about the other side -- the so-called “shadow side” or “blind spots” -- tends to surface. And that’s exactly why our next core concept is worth discussing.

Troublemaker talents are natural talents that have the potential to make you great yet may be causing pain or trouble to you, or to others within the team, due to misapplication, talent overuse, or squashing down of talent. 

Note that you may be squashing down a talent or not developing it because you don’t see the necessity. But when it does come out inevitably, it doesn’t come out looking good.

Join us explore these “T” talents, and towards the end you will get these takeaways:

  1. Some workplace scenarios where troublemaker talents can show up
  2. How these scenarios may affect teams and team projects 
  3. What you can do as a team in order to address the possible impact on timelines and results caused by the misapplication, overuse, or squashing down of talent

Are These 'Troublemaker' Scenarios Familiar To You?

  • Scenario 1: Love For Learning

Let’s say a member of your team leads through Learner and Input. Coming out of such strength is her love for learning, such as data gathering. As she’s bent on really getting to know the stakeholders and the end-users before beginning a project, she spends time on the front end of the projects not only collecting stakeholder specifications, the end-user information, and the end-user preferences but really digging into these items. 

What makes it a troublemaker talent?

This is showing up as a troublemaker talent for her because in the process of thorough and in-depth learning, you would see her as being too slow-paced or a “deadline-misser.” This is rooted in the following:

1) Her non-communication of how her workflow looks (70% of the time on front end then hastened towards completion)

2) Her lack of awareness that would make someone else nervous

What can you do as a team?

As you are following a more sensible timeline, and it’s clear that the troublemaker talent is going to make her miss the deadline, you have no choice but to step in. In this scenario, she’ll keep getting her projects pulled as she’s getting them started because you think she’s not going to complete them on time.

  • Scenario 2: Digging In Or Intruding?

For this same person who loves gathering information, it also comes out as a talent overuse when she spends most of a meeting with a colleague, asking too many questions -- to the point that she causes skepticism and guardedness on her colleague. 

What makes it a troublemaker talent?

While the main point of the meeting is to explore and learn as much as she can, “too much curiosity kills a cat” as they say, and may spell trouble by way of perceived intrusion. 

  • “Why the 20 questions?”
  • “Why are you digging into my business?”
  • “What’s the deal here?”

In the end, when the colleague senses that she’s prying into their business, she might not obtain the information she was driving for.

What can you do as a team?

  • Self-awareness - It’s important that this particular “troublemaker” be made aware of where she is not being well-received by others, and where her supposed talent seems to be getting in the way of her desired results. The ability to reflect on this starts the active process of addressing the “trouble” or pain. 

Maximizers also want to think about things longer and improve on them through constant reworks. However, they tend to get stuck on that phase rather than just jumping in and executing it. Naturally they go for the highest quality output, which requires that everything must be thought through. In effect, it keeps them from getting ahead along the timeline. But if high stakes are involved, Maximizers must not let themselves be okay with a B+ work. 

The Yin-Yang Complex

Another concept to watch out for in troublemaker talents is the “yin-yang complex’ where within a team, we often find talents that look the opposite of someone else's. 

Consider the previous example of the leader through Learner and Input. As her boss, you happen to lead through Activator. That means you want to get things moving, and in contrast to her Learner-Input themes, you are really fast on the front end of projects. 

Now due to self-awareness or team awareness about each other’s talent themes, you will know in advance how to handle and address potential “trouble” brought about by varying cadence and preferences in approach. Action steps may look like the following:

  1. The Learner-Input team member effectively communicates and aligns with you where she’s at in the milestone 1-10 through regular updates, providing 
    • explanation where there may be gaps 
    • assurances of how she will strategize to meet the deadline
  2. You determine the types of projects you can (or cannot) assign to her, depending on where her thoroughness may be best utilized. 

Your Team Challenge: Identify A Troublemaker Talent And Develop It

This challenge may take a little thinking through or maybe backtracking. 

  1. Think of someone right now that you know, or someone that you've worked with in the past whom you think you’ve often butted heads or clashed with because you were always coming from totally opposite directions. Recognize that these people are a great case study for troublemaker talents.
  2. Assume both their positive intent and your positive intent. See how they're both trying to achieve results for which you may have a very different approach. 
  3. Develop a troublemaker talent into a value-adding talent.

Suppose you're a visionary, and while you're passionately presenting about the vision of a project, you feel that your team or a team member is dragging it down into something that's irrelevant at present. It can be quite maddening. 

If you recognize the troublemaker talents in your team, you can avoid the frustrations of being derailed in your vision presentation by talking to that person in advance. Example:

“Hey, I'm going to give you the high level in the meeting, and then let's book an hour after because I know you're gonna have a lot of detailed questions."

This short and direct approach will most likely provide the win-win situation where you can cast an inspirational vision for the team. At the same time, these “troublemakers” are given the opportunity to raise questions, be heard, and add value to company-wide results.

So rather than merely point out to them what’s wrong that needs fixing, it’s far more constructive to focus on the team member’s potential, to inspire them to further develop their strength and express confidence that they can be among your top talents in the world. As you both commit support towards this person’s development, imagine the fulfillment for you both if they transform from a “troublemaker” to a superstar!

Bottomline: It's so much more inspirational to craft and develop something that is already strong in you or others than to feel like you need to squash something and stamp it out.

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: Learn how to regulate by situation. Stay tuned!

Direct download: 110-Troublemaker-Talents.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

In this episode, we start joining important puzzle pieces together to make your team a genuinely strengths-powered one.

When we zero in on the nuts and bolts that make strengths work, we develop the kind of perspective that can build and rebuild teams as often as necessary -- no matter what changes or challenges arise in your work environment.

Once you’ve mastered these core concepts, you will have won over the most unconsidered elements in implementing strengths at work.

Ready to set sail towards your shared goals as a stronger team? Since you’re here, I take it to mean you’re all set!

Let The Total You Shine

When it comes to career branding, people usually think showcasing their skills and experiences is enough. For the longest time, it's what we have seen others do: fill resumes and LinkedIn profiles the skills they've acquired along the way.

If that’s not enough, then what’s missing?

Oh, it’s just what we already have all along: talent!

StrengthsFinder views natural talent as the way we do things driven by the inherent way we think, feel, and act. When we add that to our list of skills and experiences, we are able to establish a more solid character behind our career brand. Yet how often do we really come across natural talents in LinkedIn profiles, resumes, and CVs?


Now that we've found what completes our branding equation, it’s about time we don’t leave talent out.

For example, if you have Deliberative/Intellection talents, you can present them in your career branding effort as:

  • Detecting risks that others overlook 
  • Dissecting on a topic with sensibility and depth

Your Challenge: Shift From 1D To 3D

Career branding without talents is merely a one- or two-dimensional view of yourself. To not showcase them is to deprive others the best of what you can give easily and naturally.

Imagine how sturdier and more powerful your career branding would be if it’s standing not just on two but three solid legs. You have your skills, your experiences, and your talents. Now that sounds like a total package!

Once you start adding in your arsenal of talents, you can expect to get a better match for this newfound well-rounded version of you.

Your Team’s Game Plan

As you determine your team’s pool of strengths today, it’s important that you get a 3D view of each other. The key is that you're willing to put out a 3D view of yourself. This means going through the following steps:

1. Think about your career brand vis-à-vis: how you're known currently and how you want to be known or remembered in the future

2. Think about how to communicate to your team--your process of working through your natural talents.

3. Mine natural talents and look for them from your teammates so you can…

  • see how you can collaborate better
  • observe when they're doing what leads them toward their aspiration
  • celebrate it with them

The 'Aspirational You' Impact

At Stronger Teams, we explore “Aspirational You" -- the things you want to be known for or remembered by other people. It resides in the “T” zone of S.E.T. This is an important step in career branding efforts and in your team's game plan. As a quick reminder, so that you don't have to scroll up to peek, S.E.T. stands for Skills, Experiences, and Talents.

If a 1D or 2D view has brought some positive effects on your career, imagine how much more the inclusion of “Aspirational You” would do for your brand! Imagine how much influence it would have on your team as you implement strengths altogether.

Digging Into 'Aspirational You'

Stronger Teams brings “Aspirational You” essentials to the surface through training for teams and individuals.

Here are examples of sets of words that the participants thought up as the aspirational representation of themselves.

  • decisive, observant, bridge-builder
  • trustworthy, inquisitive, excellence-seeker
  • casual, decisive, influencer
  • bold, forward-looking, listener

Of course, these examples are merely a guide on how you can come up with your own “Aspirational You” version.

Think well of how you want to be remembered as you move on from one role or career to another, and then find the right descriptive words that best capture you.

While you may be straightforward with your team, you may soften the words a bit by turning them into meaningful sentences. See how you can be creative and impactful as you share these words on your LinkedIn account’s About section.


  • “People have told me I am ________.” 
  • or simply list down your StrengthsFinder talent themes.

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: from the elusive T to the troublemaking “T’s.” Stay tuned!


Direct download: 109-Skills-Experiences-Talents.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Core Concepts for Stronger Teams

In this series, you’ll explore 9 core concepts that will help you implement strengths with your team at work. The concepts we chose for you came straight from you - both from listeners of this show and from participants in our training classes.

These are the concepts that pop out as most important or elusive. If you know the overlooked or unconsidered angles that can help you make the most of strengths on your team, you'll make big leaps. Keep reading to see the full list. There will be one dedicated podcast episode and blog post for each of the concepts.

Stronger Teams

This series of nine topics is inspired by Stronger Teams. Stronger Teams is a live, virtual training program we just launched to the public. It all came from that thing you’re constantly asking me about - making it stick. Nearly every day, I get questions like, “Hey, we read the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 and we did a team building day. Now what? How do we keep this going? What do we do next?”

Oy vey, I’ve been there. When you’re leading a team you have so much on your plate. You don’t have time to come up with constant conversation prompts and activities. You’re busy enough trying to stay caught up on IMs and emails. If you feel too busy to take on the project of strengths, you’re normal. You probably feel like you don’t have the time or expertise to pull it off well. Or if you’ve tried, you might feel dorky and awkward as you set up these conversations with your team.

Well imagine if you and your team could just show up to a regularly-scheduled strengths training: an easy-peasy team building cadence built into your schedule. Think of what that would be like:

  • You get to grow. They get to grow.
  • You learn about each other, so you get the team building effect in your meaningful conversations over time.
  • There’s no prep work. No planning.
  • No travel & expense budget to beg for.
  • No writing of business cases to get the team in for an offsite, and
  • No more losing 3 days of productivity so that you can do one day of meals and bowling together.

This is where strengths-based cultures get really useful at work. It’s when you have conversations over time. Rather than a once-per-year outing, it becomes a steady trickle into the everyday work and conversations you’re already having.

Why Do Teams Fail To "Do Strengths" After Their Initial StrengthsFinder Training?

The #1 reason I see CliftonStrengths initiatives fail? It’s because they think of it like an initiative. Like an event. The hype fades off as soon as they get back to work. So, if you do a program like Stronger Teams instead, you get a full year of development together.

If you’ve been thinking that you need to do more to make strengths stick, go check out Stronger Teams. For less than the cost of one in-person training event, you can bring in an entire team of 10 people for a full year.

  • That’s 12 live, virtual trainings.
  • That’s 12 activity guides to help you expand it beyond your immediate team.
  • That’s 12 live Office Hours for live Q&A where I offer strengths coaching conversations.
  • That's access to a Strengths Vault where you can get quick-hit team tools and watch past recordings.
  • And an online community of peers.  This peer part is really cool because there are members from lots of companies and industries. You also get to  expand your professional network with other strengths-focused teams around the world.

The 9 Core Concepts

Each concept will have a separate podcast episode and blog post to go into detail. After all, this list won't make full sense until you see the descriptions.

  1. Skills, Experiences, and Talents
  2. Troublemaker Talents
  3. Regulate by Situation
  4. Easy Buttons
  5. Not an Excuse
  6. Gimme That Escalation
  7. Takes Time and Intention
  8. Honored and Insulted
  9. Starved and Fed

Notice What Works: A Challenge

The 3-Coin Challenge  is based on the concept “Notice what works to get more of what works.” It’s simple. You put 3 coins in your pocket. Or paper clips. Or any small item. Try it. Put 3-small-somethings in your pocket right now.

Then, you can get rid of one item at a time as you give away a bit of recognition. Now, you’re not giving the person the actual coin. You’re giving them recognition. You'll see some examples below.

Do this as a once-per-week challenge. Build a habit by doing it regularly--even daily if you’re game. Keep the recognition small and simple. Don’t give a thought to “saving your pennies for something extra good.” For the purpose of this exercise, there’s no benefit to withholding praise, no matter how small.

Here are a few examples:

Recognizing Ishaan, a Teammate

Imagine that I have a teammate named Ishaan. He takes a call from an irate customer. I hear it, and it’s good. Rather than silently nodding to myself about his moment, I acknowledge it aloud. I say,

“Wow Ishaan. You really worked magic when you talked her off the ledge. She sounded like she was going to leave us, and now she’s a fan again. That was amazing to hear.”

Recognizing Sonia, a Direct Report

“Dang, Sonia! Your 3D data visualization finally made sense of our Q2 forecast. Everyone seemed lost, and then, BAM! Your chart helped it make sense to everyone. Thank you for making it so clear.”

Recognizing Sam, a Peer

“Sam, that question changed the course of this meeting. Thank you for helping us see a new angle. We would have totally missed that.”

So that’s it. Have fun with it. Be generous and specific with the recognition. Get the pesky coins out of your pocket as you "earn them out" by giving away recognition.

You Get What You Measure--And What You Affirm

The beauty of doing this challenge is that you get more of what you affirm. It’s repeatable by the recipient of your praise because they already did it well.

Imagine how powerful that small thought can be. When they think, “Oh, that was easy, and the team seemed to like that. I can do more of that - no problem.”

If you hadn’t told them anything, it’s like they’re walking around the wilderness with a blindfold on and no compass. They just keep trying things to see if anything works. On the other hand, when you recognize them, it’s like taking off the blindfold.

What you appreciate and want is no longer hidden. And it’s like giving them a compass - they have a general direction to align with. And that direction is likely aligned with their strengths, so it will also be easy for them to offer more of it. That’s why you’ll get more of what works when you notice what works.

Direct download: 108-Ways-To-Build-Stronger-Teams.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT