Lead Through Strengths

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 CST

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 CST

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 CST