Lead Through Strengths

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