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Direct download: strengths-staff-meeting.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:07pm CDT

CliftonStrengths for Managers Report

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Direct download: 141-CliftonStrengths-Manager-Report.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 5:11pm CDT

If Someone Refuses To Participate In StrengthsFinder, Invite Them To The Session Anyway

Maybe it was a bad experience with another assessment tool, or the thought that another assessment is unnecessary. But if someone in your team refuses to participate in StrengthsFinder, it helps to gather insights behind the “why.”

Chances are you can form or offer solutions that could win you into Team StrengthsFinder so everyone can experience the awesomeness of discovering one's true strengths. 

In today’s episode, Lisa captures the top reasons some people pass on taking the Strengthsfinder survey.

Did they have a bad experience in the past? Can you convince them that you're using this to open up your understanding of each other - not to put them in a box? Is it possible to know your team member’s strengths without the assessment tool?  

Listen as Lisa answers these questions. Here’s the full transcript of the episode:

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 gotta tell you, it's tough to find something at work that is more energizing than using your strengths every day. 

Now, in today's Q&A episode, I got a question that kind of challenges that opening statement. It's from a person who asked, “As a manager, what to do when someone on the team refuses to participate in StrengthsFinder? They don't like assessments, and they don't want to be stereotyped.” 

So, I'm saying, “Hey what's more energizing than using your strengths every day?”

And this person is saying, “I don't know what to do. How am I supposed to use that person's strengths? They won't even participate."

Now, and digging a little bit deeper, this person specifically said they don't want to participate because they don’t want to be put into a box. 

We've delivered training to over 20,000 participants. I think I can remember three people feeling like this, like saying, “These assessments are stupid.” Or, “I don't want to be put into a box.” Or folding their arms at the back of the room just not participating, showing up at the event but not doing the process. 

So, that is good news, and most people feel like, “Hey, oh you want to talk about how I'm awesome? Let's go for it.”

But once in a while, you get people who don't want to participate. So first things first. I think that these kinds of tools and most training is best done in an opt-in kind of way if you're talking about personal and professional development

If somebody doesn't want to opt in to their own personal development, if somebody doesn't want to opt in to an event like this, trying to make them do it...“I just haven't seen that go well...” So, I always invite them in to the session, even if they haven't done the assessment. I always make it a point that they can decide later on, that they can take the assessment. 

I just tell them, “Hey, come on, try it and sit in the back. I won't bother you. See if you like the concepts. If you do, you can take the assessment later. There are some downsides to getting exposed to it before you take the assessment..."

But the reality is they weren't going to do it anyway. So, let them come in. If they feel like it's a safe enough thing or it's an interesting enough concept, then most of the time they'll opt in later.

Show The Appeal Of CliftonStrengths

One of the reasons that they do change their minds is: if you think about CliftonStrengths, the chance that someone else will have your exact top 5 in the same order as you, it's one in 33 million. And I don't think it's lost on people that you do feel really unique when you're doing an assessment like CliftonStrengths. It definitely does not feel like putting someone in a box.

The language is really easy. It's easy to understand and have conversations with each other on the first day that you're learning about it, but at the same time, when you know that it's one in 33 million that would have the same as you, 1 through 5 in the same order, that actually makes you feel like, “no boxes are being made at all.”

So I do think it helps that “don't put me in a box” situation. And sometimes, just giving that proof point up front — because there are 34 talent themes that are potentially there, and then of those 34 we’ll usually focus in on their top 5 — that usually helps people not feel like you're going to put them in one of four categories and they're going to be in the corner of the room as the mean people or the weak people or the whatever people because usually that's where it's coming from. We're definitely not here to create stereotypes.

What about when they've had a bad experience at another company?

Maybe they've done Myers Briggs or DISC, or one where they're put into four colors, and maybe it was facilitated in a way where it just did seem like there were only four options and a couple of them were demonized. 

So I get it that people have some bad experiences and then they think it's dumb and they don't want to participate. Of course, the design behind those assessments is deeper than that, yet sometimes they get over-simplified in training events.

Another approach to consider: if you have a solid relationship with this person, ask some questions like, "Tell me more about your reluctance."

You will probably hear insights you didn't think about. For example, “Well, I don't like taking assessments like this. I don't speak English as a first language.” Well, great - you actually have a solution for them. You can do the assessment in many different languages. 

Maybe they’ll say, “Oh, the truth is I don't like doing assessments like this because I don't do well on tests.” Well, if you actually have learning disabilities or some other situations, you can actually call the customer service line at Gallup, and they can take it off of the timer. So I know that one can be touchy to talk about it. You likely don't want to get into medical issues with people, but if somebody does not like taking tests because of processing speed, it is something that you could offer up to them.

Okay, so we've got the person who refuses to participate in StrengthsFinder because, “I don't want to be put into a box.” We covered that part pretty well. And you know that I like to do assessments in an opt-in culture kind of way. So invite them in to start participating at anytime.

The second thing, we have different languages and different test scenarios that can be available for them. Although it's not a test. On the language part, I like to call it the StrengthsFinder tool or the CliftonStrengths assessment. "Survey" can seem a bit too informal, like it's not a valid instrument. Tool sounds useful and accurate (because it is). If you're talking to an HR team, the word "assessment" will ring true to them. It all depends on your audience. 

For me, "tool" is the most widely-appropriate descriptor. I know I'm nerding out on the nitty gritty words, but wow - the "test" thing can really wig people out.

And then the last idea is, just let this person participate in their own words. So when we design our virtual training, we always take people out to tools that will say, if you have your top 5 focus in on XYZ — and when I say XYZ I mean, we've made tools for each of the 34 talents where they can look up their specific information. But if somebody hasn't, we have this extensive list of an inventory of words, where they can pick words that reflect how they get worked on when they are at their best. 

So we actually make the virtual training available so that someone could participate without having an assessment in front of them. We started doing that because people ran into budget issues and they were like, “Hey we want to run 100 people through this, but we don't have the money for assessments right now.” And then we could have strength-focused conversations, regardless of whether they had an assessment. 

So it's also handy for someone who didn't get to take the assessment because something came up. Maybe someone in the family died the couple of nights before your StrengthsFinder training. And now they're at the event, and boom, they don't have anything to go on, and I don't want to alienate them. 

So that's one solution as well. And one way that you could do this, if you go to leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge, you will see a page where we do this 12-week process. It's kind of like a team challenge for you to run a 12-week process of asking people about their strengths. Eleven of the 12 of those questions don't even mention anything specific about their talent themes. They are literally just thinking of what puts people at their best. 

So you can get them participating in the process, just have everyone on the team sign up for that, and have the discussions as a team and learn what puts people at their best. You don't have to have a language.

CliftonStrengths is a total shortcut. It can be like a decoder ring. I would use it every time - it's almost like having a human instruction manual for each person on your team. You can get to this faster with a tool like StrengthsFinder, yet you can uncover similar things about each other with meaningful conversations over time.

I love CliftonStrengths because it makes everything so much easier. It gives you a common language and helps you really understand who shares some similar talents, and that helps them understand how to apply them more quickly. I mean it's my favorite assessment by a mile. At the same time, we don't have to have a tool in order to have strengths conversations

So that's one thing I would do as a team, is get enrolled in that challenge. It's free, and that way you can start to have those conversations without the tool as a requirement.

Guide People To Their Strengths By Recognizing Them At Their Best

The last thing is, especially if you are a people manager — but this would go for anyone leading an effort like this — if someone refuses to participate in StrengthsFinder (or any training you're delivering to get strengths-based conversations going), just start looking for their strengths anyway.

You know when they're at their best, and if you've recognized it, you are now showing them that you see them when they're at their best. You don't need an assessment to tell you where they really rock. And they don't have to have a tool to figure out where they really rock.

Sometimes it gives you a whole new filter for looking at things. It gives you a whole new set of language that maybe you haven't considered. So of course, the tool has benefits - yet it's not the only way to get there.

Usually, I find that people are really good at describing what they know, kind of like the skills and experiences stuff they're really comfortable with. But when you talk about how you work, how you relate to people, how you make decisions, how you do critical thinking, those are the areas of these natural talents where people aren't as good at knowing their own. That's one reason I love the assessment because it brings it out and they're like, “Oh yeah I already know this but I wouldn't have said it.” 

So if you are on a strength-spotting mission as a manager, or a teammate who's trying to spot it in someone but you don't have their list of talent themes around you, just watch for what they do well and think of things like that. 

  • How do they relate to other people well
  • How do they influence people
  • How do they do their best thinking? 
  • How do they do their best decision-making? 
  • How do they get things done? 
  • How do they interact with others? 

Those are some really good categories if you go through. They'll help you spot their strengths, regardless of having any assessment. And the good news is, the likelihood is, once the momentum gets going in the organization, they're going to join you, because they see that it's being used for good and not for evil. 

So with that I will see you for the next question. Bye for now.

Additional Resources To Help You If Someone In Your Team Refuses To Participate In StrengthsFinder

Check out this episode to help you articulate the best advantages of StrengthsFinder for your team, as well as the practical applications for your strengths. Far from putting you inside a box, Lisa's guest Adam Seaman thinks that as you access the tool deeply, not only will it confirm how you already see and describe yourself, it will also guide you on what to do with those strengths.

But you may ask, is there proof that strengths-focused development works? See the data-driven proof points from Gallup research in this episode, which shows the difference in effects when you invest in your strengths versus when you invest in something that you’re just average in. 

That’s because strengths are easy buttons for better performance. When you focus on what feels easy for you (which may not come easy for other people), that allows you to be more productive and to contribute better to the team. The more these natural talents are consistently noticed, the more you are encouraged to cultivate them. Focusing on your strengths really works the magic.

Direct download: 140-refuses-to-take-assessment.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Influencing Strengths Not Part Of Your Top 5? Chill, You're Not Alone   

It’s totally normal for you or your team to hope for a balanced distribution of themes across all four domains of strengths: strategic thinking, relationships, executing, and influencing. You may think that you are not as productive and effective if you lack the talent themes from one or more categories. For example, being low or bare on influencing strengths could make you feel you are disconnected, unconvincing, or misunderstood.

The thing is, CliftonStrengths assessment might surprise you. Ideal does not mean evenly spread. In fact, when you look at the database of all people who have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment, you'll see influencing strengths in 15% of the top 5. 

If you're doing the math with us, you've already picked up on the fact that each domain does not get a tidy 25% count. So no worries. If you have 5% influencing strengths or 20% on your team, the secret is to work with what you have.

Here's Lisa Cummings to show you how (full transcript of the episode):

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 gotta tell you, it's tough to find something at work that is more energizing than using your strengths at work every day. 

Today we are in a season of the show where we are moving into question and answers from you, the listeners. Today's question: 

“We're just starting CliftonStrengths with the team, and we noticed a lack of influencing strengths."

So she goes on to ask about how to address this as a team. They have already talked about how to address when you have a "deficiency." 

I'm putting that word in quotes, about when you're missing a talent as an individual person, but how do you address these ideas as a team?

Now first, if you're new to CliftonStrengths or the book StrengthsFinder 2.0, when she's mentioning influencing themes, that is one of the four main domains of talent. Some people call these the four leadership domains. Sometimes I call them the four demands on our personal leadership. Beyond Influencing strengths, the other categories are:

  • Relationships
  • Strategic thinking
  • Executing

So the first thing to know is — hey, good news, this means you’re normal!

When you look at the whole database of people who have taken CliftonStrengths — more than 24 million people — that instances of influencing strengths (talent themes) in the top 5 is 15%. So it's not an evenly spread dynamic.

So that is the first thing. If you are on a team and you're trying to make all four domains have a nice tidy 25%, stop trying that. It's not how the human population looks — at least the population inside of this database, which is quite large. And spend a little bit more time learning to work with what you got. Work with what you got. You know what I mean?

Let Desired Outcomes Guide You On How To Apply Your Strengths

So, as I think through that, my answer is really to get a little bit more focused on the outcomes at work, rather than obsessing over the strengths.

So one of the things that I see teams do is they do an assessment like CliftonStrengths, and then of course all you want to do is talk about the strengths language and do things like, “Oh, I have the Focus talent, how can I go use Focus as talent? Or you lead through Relator — "How can I go use my Relator today?” 

That's totally natural and there's not really anything wrong with doing that. But in a workplace and in a team setting, where I think you'll get extra bang for the buck, is to think about the outcomes you're trying to achieve as a team.

And then think, “In order to reach that outcome, how can I use the talent themes that I have?”

So we're coming at it a little different way, and it's using the themes as your easy buttons to get the outcomes done.

So if I make this a little bit more practical, let's say you have a goal as a team to improve customer satisfaction by 10% in the next quarter. If you were coming at this from the outcome perspective, now you have something to apply your strengths to. Now you have something really practical.

"Okay, I'm going to improve my customer experience. So, if I'm going to improve my customer experience, and I see that I have Activator in my top 5, I think this means I should be able to take action quickly. I can make phone calls to them really responsively. If they have some feedback that we should jump on and make part of our process or operations, I can get on that really quickly." This influencing strength is going to come in handy when I want to create momentum.

Let's say you lead through Empathy (a relationship talent theme), and you actually have a customer going through a tough time, you could apply your talent by really helping them see that they've been heard and understood and that you are fully feeling them out. You're not trying to blow off their response or their complaint. You know when you lead through Empathy, there's something really deep there about the spidey-senses of you understanding what they're going through.

So on those two examples, what comes first is the outcome, not the talent. If instead, you're out there saying, I lead through Discipline, what are all the ways I can whip that out? It makes it actually a little bit tougher. It sounds like it would open up the world to you but then it just seems overwhelming and you're not really sure what to do with it.

So instead, when you're getting started, think of the main outcomes as a team, and start to drive conversations around that. The outcomes you're trying to achieve, and then use the strengths like they're tools, or the talent themes like they are tools, like they're your easy buttons for getting it done.

The other benefit is that talent themes from any domain can be influential. So - remember that we were worried about not having enough influencing strengths? In the examples above, both Activator and Empathy were influencing the customer experience metrics. One is technically an influencing strength, and one is a relationship strength. Yet, as you can see, they're both influential when you look at them from the outcomes perspective.

Now when this question started, you were asking a little bit more of a team level, not just the personal level. One thing you heard in the answer that I just gave, is that it's more of the personal action that you would take. And I do believe personal actions roll up into team outcomes because you started the conversation with team outcome.

But the other thing is, if you want to look with the team and say, “Okay well what are the vulnerabilities that we have as a team? What are the opportunities that we have as a team since we appear low in influencing strengths?”

And though it is more of a rolled-up conversation, you can still apply the exact same process. You will get the talent themes that you have and apply them.

To Bridge A Gap In Influencing Strengths, Think Chain-Link Fence

If you find, for example, “Oh, well, we're still feeling the pain that we don't have that many influencing strengths. And we do feel like we need to be able to influence and really move...create momentum in our organization; maybe be more persuasive - be more out front of things. We're leading a lot of change. How are we going to get our ideas heard without influencing strengths? Do we need to go hire a bunch of people and look for influencing strengths?” 

Well, no. Instead, what you can actually do is look at the ones you have and see how could you create a way of a conversation where you're partnering up a couple of the talent themes to act like they're influencing, or take the angle of it, that is influential.

So for example, if you take the Analytical theme, it is technically categorized in the domain of strategic thinking. But if you're the one who slices and dices data and makes it really interesting, the way that you put charts in front of people, and it suddenly changes their behavior because it makes them buy in when you show your proof points, well, you're being influential through your thinking. It might not be an influencing strength on paper, yet it's an influencing strength in your actions and results.

If you lead through Developer, and you've really watched a person grow and you've made each of their steps really acknowledged in front of other people, and now they are out doing big things in the world because you've unleashed their potential through your Developer — now this relationship theme has created a ripple of influence. They seem like influencing strengths in those examples, right?!

So, don't think of domains like they have really hard lines delineating them. One coach that I know says, “Think of them like they have a chain-link fence between these categories, not like they have a brick wall between the domain categories."

When I say categories I mean: relationship talent themes, the thinking themes, the influencing themes, and the executing themes. And that opens it up as well, because then you can think, “Oh yeah, I really create momentum because I get stuff done when I lead through my Achiever.”

You can suddenly now open up and categorize them however you want based on how you see them actually getting results in the organization. In the example I just gave, the Achiever talent theme, which is technically an Executing theme - it's now operating just like the influencing strengths.

Okay, with that, if you want to explore the themes in a little bit more detail with your team — go over to leadthroughstrengths.com/resources. And right at the top of that page you'll see a free webinar where I recorded a mini training for you. You can sit down with your team and have a really rich conversation about how to apply these strengths in practical situations on the job. 

With that, I look forward to hearing how you've claimed your talents and shared them with the world.

A Few More Reassuring Resources If You're Still Worried About Being Low On Influencing Strengths

Revisit our episode where we answer the question: Is IT Bad If I Only Have 2 CliftonStrengths DNA Colors?  Find out why having just 2 out of 4 CliftonStrengths DNA Colors (or strengths categories) is actually also cool. And if you like solving puzzles, this situation should excite you!

Our Honored And Insulted episode is another great reminder that your experience at work should feel totally aligned with your values if you want to feel driven and motivated. While strengths are not an excuse to avoid weakness zone at work, you may not feel as energized if you equally give time and focus on your strengths and weaknesses, just to satisfy the 4 strengths domains. 

Again, focus and work more on your top strengths. You — and those around you — will thank you for it. See you on the next episode!

Direct download: 139-influencing-strengths.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Team Questions and Active Listening Impact Strengths Based Conversations     

At Lead Through Strengths, our StrengthsFinder events are designed to help you dial deep into your strengths so you can understand yourself better and strengthen team performance. What better way to launch this goal into action than through meaningful activities and strengths based conversations that are grounded in your natural talents!

But how do you keep the value of these conversations when your reality hits? Maybe these conversations feel weird to you over Zoom or MS teams. Maybe you don't know where to start, and you feel a little too woo-woo kicking off strengths based conversations when you're usually the person who gets right to business. Or maybe you prefer to leave the CliftonStrengths kickoff to the experts, so you're waiting for that to happen.

In yet another idea-rich episode, Lisa Cummings and co-host Joseph Dworak will take you through fun and engaging ways you can create strengths based conversations, whether in full-length or “bite-sized” sessions, in-person or virtual. Even the popular online game World of Warcraft was an important part of their conversation, so join in.

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, also joined by your other host this week, Joseph Dworak (claps and cheers).

Joseph: Hello, hello.

Lisa: We're going to talk to you about Strengthsfinder activities and strengths based conversations that help you go deeper as a team over time. Now, of course, in your ideal world, you hire Joseph to come in. He's your facilitator that you request. It's easy, because he has a bag of great tricks, because he's been doing CliftonStrengths for 20 years. 

But sometimes people come to us and say, “Oh, gosh, you know, I don't have the budget right now, but I can buy everyone a StrengthsFinder 2.0 book.” So Joseph, if we were going to share some of our favorite kinds of things that might give someone a path to have solid strengths based conversations, what are some of your favorites?

Joseph: Yeah, I have to give credit to Chip Anderson, who was one of the founders of the StrengthsFinder movement with Don Clifton back in the day. I saw him do this in 2001... I just started going through my own strengths and I was at a retreat with a bunch of USC and UCLA students that we were with, and I was kind of getting into their groove and Chip Anderson had everyone take our glasses. And he did this whole thing about strengths being the lenses that you see the world through, and we all have unique glasses. 

And so then he had people divide up into the four quadrants, so people who have strategizing themes over here, and people who have Influencing things over here, and people who have Relating themes and so on. And then he would have a little bit like what you and I talked about before with a strengths mixer, where he would say, “What's the strength that you really like of your Top 5 and talk about it.” 

The other person has to actively listen for a minute and the other person can't interrupt. They actually have to actively listen, which is his own skill in this day and age. And they would talk back and forth. And he would do that for two hours. And he would just, "All right, switch partners. Okay, what's the strength that gets in your way sometimes, and why?

“What's the strength that fits you best, and why?

“What strengths combinations do you see working together?”

And he would just keep rotating and rotating and rotating. And I took that one. And when I became a strengths facilitator about a year later, I'd be some version of that for, as you mentioned, 20 years now. And that's a great way where it's one-on-one, because some people do well in the group setting, some people do well one-on-one... Some people will do well just reading the StrengthsFinder book on their own and doing it.

But that strengths mixer, that's what came to mind when you asked that question about a good strengths based conversation to get a team started.

Lisa: I love that. One idea that I used recently for Zoom meetings, courtesy of Charlotte Blair — thank you, Charlotte — she had this idea of renaming yourself in Zoom with your talent themes.

So say, for example, I renamed myself Lisa - Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo, (do as much as you can fit). You might have to truncate a little bit, so it helps to leave your surname off.

That works great, because as you're in chat, you can have conversations about your activities. As you kick off these strengths based conversations, you start to see people's answers. And because that's the name label, you can see how that strength showed up and colored their answer. 

For breakout room purposes, what I've been thinking about doing is: if you want someone in that mixer idea to be able to go in the same breakout room, then you pick a strength where you'd like to be matched up with somebody. You'd have to have a pretty large room. I would imagine it to be a 200-person kind of event for this to work.

But let's say you want to find all the other people who lead through Learner. So you rename yourself Lisa - Learner, or I think you'd have to put Learner first so that'd be alphabetized: Learner - Lisa. 

And then the person who's facilitating could use those to make the breakout rooms because then you could quickly grab anyone who is listed by Learner first, and it would be in order. 

So I think it could be done. And if you had the team's reports in advance, and you wanted to pre-place people in breakout rooms, you can do that in technology. Pre-set-up your breakout rooms.

Bite-Sized Activities: Keep The Strengths Based Conversations Short But Engaging

Joseph: Yeah, and just a take-off on what you talked about where you have the common strengths: there's also the activity that I've done over the years where you have a certain amount of time and you have to find people who have strengths that you don't have. You ask them:

What is that strength?

How do you use it?

What good is it for you?

Maybe it's a strength that you're like, “Well, how is that even a strength?”

But you can do the same in breakouts. You can even just be with 5 or 6 people and say, “Okay, I have these strengths. You have these strengths. I don't have Connectedness. Let's talk about that one. And how's that strength strong for you?” 

So that was an old Gallup activity from way back, probably when I first started, and I think you could do that in a virtual setting as well. 

Lisa: Yeah!

There's one that I used to use in in-person events. Let's see. I would use this. It's like the spin-the-wheel sort of thing, where I would have the team brainstorm some challenges or questions that they're going through. And then you list the challenges as all the options, and then you can spin the wheel. And then you have to get into groups and really quickly say, “Alright, which strength could you lean on to solve for that issue? And how would it help you get through the challenge?” 

And so to translate it in a virtual environment, there are actually spin-the-wheel apps, so you can share your iPad on screen, or whatever device and have the spin-the-wheel going and replicated in a virtual.

Let's use this to kind of take the arc towards something that you said to me in the past, which was, that you've been really thinking a lot about how to introduce this stuff to your team in bite-sized pieces. You want to have strengths based conversations, but you don't have time for an hour long meeting every week.

As we were just talking, I was thinking, “Yeah, we're stuck in an old-world thinking of what training activities are. We matched them to a time when we had 4 hours to spend together in person in a room.” 

And if that's not our reality, and we need to get down with the new plan, which is, “Hey, bite-sized! What can we do when we have 5 minutes to do strengths together and it's remote?” 

So what are some of the strengths based conversations you're having in that bite-size?

Joseph: Yeah. That takes me way back to when I was working with some different collegiate teams. I remember I had a great partner-client, University of Maryland. I had the pleasure of working with a couple groups there. And they would always ask that question, because they were bringing me in more than once a year, which was great. But then they wanted to know: how could they keep the strengths based conversations going? 

I would often give them 50 strengths based questions. They would typically choose one to use at team meetings. Ask just one question, and have everyone give a 30-second answer. So it might be 10 minutes, but they didn't need to be the expert StrengthsFinder facilitator just to ask those strengths based questions.  

And one of those questions a lot of times would be, “Where have you seen a teammate’s strength that works in the last week or 2? Give an example of that.” 

“Oh, I saw your Empathy here, and you did this there.” 

And so those can be really short and sweet and keep people engaged. But I just think about that for how clients could keep the conversation alive, post the engagement of strengths.

Lisa: Yeah, that's a big one - remembering to keep the strengths based conversations going after your CliftonStrengths kickoff meeting. It's reminded me of something that just popped in my head, facilitating last week on Microsoft Teams, where I said, “Post a GIF that demonstrates how your strengths are serving you this week.”

That is a fun one. It gets the team energized, and it takes about 2 minutes. And if somebody posts some random thing, like a guy sliding on a banana, and you say, “Hey, Sally, tell us more about that one.”

And then when she explains it, that becomes the piece that you expand. So you get a bunch of funny ones, but then you also got that one little deep strengths snippet that opened it up for that person.

Joseph: Yeah, and, and that stuff is happening in instant messages between people anyway, so, bringing that out into the meeting is fantastic. And I think the image piece on that is so powerful, too. Because, for those who are visual learners, it can click in a different way than listening to you or I talk about the strength, or even the teammates talking about it to think, “Oh, I see that. I get that.” 

And that's something we tried to do over the years, is get into the image. We'd ask, "what image would you think of with your strengths?" And then you combine that with narrative and you combine that with experience. That's where you start getting more powerful and it gets deeper and it sinks. It's where the fun really starts.

Virtual Meetings: The Creative Ways You Can Strike Up Strengths Based Conversations

Lisa: Oh, I think you just brought up something else just by virtue of talking about what we used to do.

So if you think about the old activity where we'd bring in an image, (select the picture that best represents your strengths) as you're getting started, if you actually said, “Everybody on the team is going to be on a camera, and go around your house for just a minute and find something that represents your themes to you.” 

And then people come back with props where you have the real-life object where I'm holding a pig that's flying, and I'm talking about how that seems like my Maximizer because somebody else may have thought, “When pigs fly, we’ll do that.” But I can see the quality steps from here to there, and the description of it makes it all come to light.

Joseph: Well, what's interesting, you just reminded me, I have a friend who leads a faith community in north of San Francisco and he was talking about how they've been doing all virtual church for Covid times, and there's been a lot of debates saying, “We want to get back in person..." and all of this....that's a whole different conversation... But he was saying that they've actually connected more with their congregants more than ever because people are actually doing that, whether they're walking around their house and they're in their house where they were used to be in church together. 

And now they do time of sharing and they can see what's going on in the person's house. So it's interesting. It's not even a fully-formed thought. But what you were just saying is really important. And then people are opening their houses up to connection. And that's a whole different level. So I'm still thinking about that one. But that's really powerful to have people walk around and kind of show that imagery piece.

Lisa: Well, the lesson I'm taking away from what you just said is, many of us who facilitated in-person for years, our first thought is, “Okay, I had all of these great exercises that I did in person, can I retrofit that into a virtual environment?”

And it may or may not work to translate old activities into a new environment. Instead, why not take the thing that seems like a disadvantage and turn it into something you only get when you're remote and you only get when people are in their own comfortable environment? 

Or the things that maybe in the past we joked around about seeing moving boxes in the back, because it's your real life. You just moved. So now we have a conversation piece.

Oh, where did you move? Are you still in Denver? Did you get closer to the mountains?

I have 100 questions I could ask you prompted by the U-haul box that I never would have seen if we were in the office. So I think going native for the platform and letting it create a new set of activities, conversations, the way that we're thinking - even the cadence getting down to the small bits instead of, “Don't torture people with the full-day on virtual trying to do one CliftonStrengths workshop for six or eight hours virtual. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.”

Joseph: And yeah, so interesting. And the thing that you made me think of was, I remember a number of years ago, and I think this game still exists, the game, the online game World of Warcraft. So you're a character, and to get things done, you typically have to work with other people as a character in this game. At some point, I read an article in, Harvard Business Review and that said, “If you can do well in a World of Warcraft, you can lead the teams of the future, because you're able to get people.” 

And it was people who you have no rank on. It might be a 12-year old and a 40-year old playing at the same time, and you don't know who people are. And you have to get these people on, online, to work together. Wow, I hadn't thought about that till right now, but how prescient, based on where we are now, because now we're fully into that. We're fully virtual, and that in some ways those massively online games were 10 years ahead of what we would hit with Covid. 

And it's even more true now in terms of how you lead with people. And how do you work with people? And how do you get up, especially in a flat organizational structure where you need to be collaborative. And certainly, the generations coming behind you and I, collaborations are just a given. It's different. It's not as hierarchical. I don’t like to be too “generation this is that” and others. But in general, they do prefer to be collaborative.

So lots of good stuff here. Lots of stuff that tie in with strengths. Strengths help, so we use strengths.

Lisa: Yeah, and I think even using the game example and relating it to workplaces that are complex, they're matrixed, they're global... You're on all different time zones, working with all different people in the organization at different levels in different departments and business units with different priorities... And if you can figure that out — and oh by the way CliftonStrengths, it gives you a lot of tools to figure out how to navigate that world — then, yeah, then you're on the right path to figuring out how to navigate work in the years ahead.

Joseph: Who knew that online games would give us a glimpse of the future?

Lisa: Yes, so if you're listening to this and you need a CliftonStrengths facilitator or a World of Warcraft... I just got it all wrong. What is it?

Joseph: It's World of Warcraft. 

Lisa: World of Warcraft. Okay, that's what I was about to say. But as the tongue twister was coming out, I was thinking I'm getting this wrong. Then, yeah, Joseph is your consultant. He's ready for you. Whether you need strengths based conversations or a World of Warcraft leader

So be sure to go over to the leadthroughstrengths.com/contactus form and make the formal request that he'd be your facilitator. And he can bring some of these cool strengths conversations and activities to your team in bite-sized chunks, of course.

With that, we'll leave you for now, and this has been Lead Through Strengths. Good luck to you as you claim your talents and share them with the world. Bye for now.

Additional Resources To Help You Engage In Strengths Based Conversations 

If you missed our previous episode with Joseph, First Step: Talking About Strengths To Get In The Zone, check it out as it articulates how talking about strengths beyond mere definitions results in quality interactions and higher productivity in their strengths.  

The same idea is echoed by Adam Seaman in another episode when he said that relationships with a team are optimized better when you understand not only your strengths but their strengths as well. He offered the German word “umwelt” and the Freaky Friday concept, where you get to inhabit someone’s head and understand what they care about, how they make decisions, or deal with the world. In the world of strengths, this can obviously be activated when you get people talking about their strengths.

Strengths based conversations also lessen the risk of missing people’s assumptions and expectations, which could be a source of conflict in the team. Here's a conversation guide that will help you prevent conflict. This one calls for an open conversation with each person on your team in a one-on-one meeting.

Direct download: 138-strengths-based-conversations.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Applying Strengths For Sales Teams Can Boost Performance 

If you look over those moments where you closed a deal or knocked out a killer proposal, you were likely in the zone. That whole idea of "flow" or being in the zone - it's a clue to your greatest strengths. Work feels effortless because either you were at your genuine best or you were dealing with a seller who was. 

In this episode, Lisa Cummings and co-host Joseph Dworak reveal how voracious learners study up on a bunch of popular selling methodologies. Yet, sometimes they fail because they're implemented as if each person leads through the same strengths. You'll find out more about using strengths for sales. It's an individualized approach, yet it's easy to do because you're amplifying each person's good spots. 

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, joined today by Joseph Dworak, another host,  Lead Through Strengths facilitator, and sales extraordinaire.

Joseph: Hello, thank you.

Lisa: Well, today I would love to talk to the audience about using strengths for sales teams - in the context of selling. So you have this unique position that I haven't seen in too many people, which is you've been a CliftonStrengths facilitator full-time, you've been a seller full-time, you've been a leader of sales people full-time, you've had a really wide array of these kinds of roles that allow you to know the philosophy behind strengths but also know how to put this into really practical application for a team. 

Now, of course, not every listener that we have is a salesperson or on a sales team. So as much as we can today, we're going to apply this and make it functional and useful for somebody who might be able to pitch an idea in a business meeting, make a business case, do some influencing, because everyone is selling ideas. But when you think about using strengths for sales, let me just kick it off and say, "Say more about that." How do you see this benefiting a sales team?

Joseph: I mean, so many ways. I think, people buy from people who they like and trust. And that's debated in the sales world but I would stick with that. And I think, at a really baseline, if you know who you are, you know how you're wired and you enter into a relationship with people in a way that's authentically you, that will differentiate you as a salesperson. 

So if you're not authentic, I don't trust you, I'm not buying from you. Even if you have the greatest thing in the world, I'll find someone else to buy from.

And one of the things in my current setting, which, I just absolutely love my company — they're fantastic, great culture — we from the top have been modeled to say, “We may or may not be a fit for you. If we're not, there's no drama with that."

"If we are a good fit, great, let's keep talking. We know you have options. You could build something yourself. You could outsource, you could look at a solution like ours.” And we try to do that up front to say, “We're not here to push anything on you that doesn't work.” 

Our products take sometimes a year, sometimes four months, sometimes a year, and they’re with multi-billion dollar companies, and so it's very un-transactional that way. And if we're in a competitive situation, which we often are, if other people are selling in competition with us and they are not those things, we will stand out. 

And so I think the baseline “I know my strengths. I'm authentic in that. And I'm really upfront,” that can help. And I think, obviously, like you mentioned, that can apply to people who are not in sales roles — just being authentic and being you. So I hope I answered your question, Lisa, but that's what I think about.

Lisa: You did, and you were taking me back to memory. So being in sales roles early in my career, where you had to memorize a script, and you were supposed to walk in and do a cold call, by opening a front door to a business and then launching into some scripted thing that doesn't sound like you at all - I remember, it felt so awkward until I decided to just discard that and do my thing. I was figuring out how to use strengths for sales before I knew it was a thing. Before I figured that out, it was awful. 

I worked next to a mall, like old-fashioned indoor malls that you could walk into all the stores. There was a Franklin Covey store in there and they had all these inspirational planners and quotes and. It was my tool to revive my energy. After cold calling all day and just feeling so horrible because I was acting like someone else, I would start in the car, reloading on Zig Ziglar audio. And then I would go to the Franklin Covey store to try to re-energize myself with quotes and inspiration because it was such a draining effort

But of course, it's all misplaced, like looking back on it from the future, I can see, oh of course it was really draining because I was using someone else's words, someone else's approach. Nothing about it felt right for me, and when someone receives you being disingenuous, I wasn't being that in a skeezy way but just like not me, they felt it. They felt my awkwardness. It makes them not trust me. Everything goes wrong about it. It wasn't strengths for sales. It was a template for sales - and it only worked for 2 or 3 people out of thousands.

Use Your Strengths To Formulate Your Own Effective Selling Style

Lisa: How do you help someone feel genuine when there are targets and quotas they have to cover? And, different companies have different types of requirements, but how does that come in where they can still honor who they are but they can also honor some of the requirements that the company might have with them? Can you use strengths for sales teams to align both sides?

Joseph: That's a really good question. I think I would answer it two ways. One, I think if you hire the right people, that's not super hard. So I think Marcus Buckingham talks about...if you ever have to warn someone, you've made a casting error. So I always think about that, like, the best people that I've hired and the people who have done well, it's just directing them in the right way and helping them be who they are in the thing. But typically, like you've thought about that role, and you've made a good hire. And hiring is hard, but I love doing it. It's one of my favorite parts of the job. 

The second piece is, I think, and I have to go back as you were talking before... I think I remembered a story, when I ran an admissions office at the university as you know, I've been kind of a career tourist and I'm always like, where we'll end up next, but it's been a fun ride — but when I was working in the admissions office in the university, I remember one time, my associate director was trying to get a lot of calls made to invite people to an open house. And she was enlisting people who normally didn't help us with more client-facing things.

She was asking one of our office interns who was really introverted and really not wired for influencing people. She was more of the really organized, really productive kind of person. But she was like, “Hey so and so, you're going to make these calls."

I remember I came back and this person was doing their darndest to make the call that they're reading a script. They did it, but it sounded terrible. And I remember talking to my Sales Director, and I’m like, “What are you doing? So and so shouldn't be making calls.” 

“Why not, I gave her a script.” 

And I'm like, “If you've given a script, you're probably a little bit off.” And I'm not dissing scripts. And I'm lucky too, I have enterprise sales folks who work for me, so they're pros of pros, and they're selling billion-dollar accounts like, they are at a certain level of functional expertise, where they do not have a script, typically.

They may think about things that they want to say and hit, but I think the short answer to your question is, I think a lot has to do with hiring, and then I think you need to get people... I'm very results-oriented as a manager, so I give people different paths that they can choose to get to those results, where it doesn't have to be a formula that they follow. 

And I think not everyone does that. But that's my, kind of where my background helps. It allows for their strengths in those different paths to get to the results.

Lisa: Yeah, interestingly, that is a perfect way to sum up the strengths philosophy. It's not going to be that every single rep must make this many first calls on Monday, and take this many steps on Tuesday. Instead, using strengths for sales teams is giving them the performance outcomes and then working from that point of view, not working from the point of view of a one-size-fits-all. 

And I have heard people go down that path with something like, “Oh, well, our organization uses the Challenger approach.” And then they're like, “Well, anyone who acts like a lone wolf is bad, and anyone who acts like a challenger is good, and anyone who has a relationship sales is bad,  because here, we are challengers.” 

And they kind of bastardize the philosophies, and then make it sound like the only way for you to be successful in this organization is to use this one stereotypical way to talk to someone else. And it's just the opposite of strengths for sales teams. 

Joseph: Well, yeah, and I'm really fortunate again. At my organization, my boss built a culture before I got there of, we look at… I mean, we're trained at Sandler, people have read Challenger, like, we're going through all of Jeb Blount’s cascade of books that he has in trainings, we worked with a gentleman called Joe Thomas out of Utah. And my boss is very much like, “We're going to provide you a lot of different methodologies, and we're going to combine them to be the unique best one for your talents. 

But it's definitely the strengths that's in with that, because it was already like, we're not just Challenger, and there are people who use Challenger, but there's also people who are really Sandler-based, or there are people who are Impact Advantage based. 

And we like to joke that my boss is like a ninja of all of those things, so he can pull out like the right one at the right time. It's truly amazing to watch someone who's done it for 20 years, and he studied, like, this master's level of sales because different situations call for different methodologies. So it also allows you to be flexible when you're in that moment.

Strengths For Sales Is All About Being Authentic And Focusing On Fit

Lisa: Yeah, that sounds very much like using someone's natural talents to honor their style. I remember being sold to as a business leader by someone who I knew personally. And when he was leaving the room, he did the old-fashioned Columbo technique on me, like - go back to the door, and you put your hand on the doorknob, and as you're leaving you, you have a thought, “Oh, one more thing.” 

I mean, it was totally obvious that I was getting techniqued. There was a tactic being played like so clearly in front of me. And it lost so much credibility, because I'm like, “Hey, man” (I won't say his name here), I know you,” like, I got that moment, what that moment was. 

It kind of undid everything that he had done before because it felt like a lie. And if I circle that back around to the way that you opened this up, it's about honoring who you are, what your talents are and how those show up to set you up to be at your best.

The person who leads through Empathy and Connectedness and Developer and Harmony, they're going to approach sales differently from the person who leads through Analytical and Deliberative and Focus. It's going to look different. And it should, because it's going to feel right to them. Using strengths for sales teams is simply letting each seller do what puts them at their best.

Joseph: Yeah. And, and one thing that I've appreciated getting back into in the software world is, sales is one of the hardest jobs. It's one of the most complicated jobs because you're being a consultant, you're being a project manager, you're being a coach. Sometimes you're being a sounding board, like, especially with the enterprise-level sale, where you're dealing sometimes with 50 people in the course of the sale. You have to be a politician, you have to be a diplomat.

There's all these different things. It's interesting, the older I get, the more I realized, yeah, someone sees your technique, and then, “oh, no, that's a killer." You just have to be you. 

I can think of someone who I ran into who was like that. They were really good at taking all the pieces, and they could put it into play. And they would say it and it just felt really inauthentic and rigid. And it was interesting, because after I didn't work with that person anymore, there was feedback from prospective clients who articulated that to me, kind of like what you just did, with the Columbo technique. And it's like, “Oh, no, we don't want that. We want it to be seamless. We want it to be helpful.” 

And ultimately, it's about people, going back to, “Do they like and trust you?” And so you have to start there. And so if you... they start being like, “Are you using like some Jedi mind tricks on me?” That's not gonna go well. But I'm still learning a ton. And it's been great to be in an environment where they support learning that way.

Lisa: Yes. Well, I think this is a great way to end the episode and broaden it. Because, number one, you started the episode talking about focusing on fit, and that is a brilliant way to apply the concepts that the best sellers use. Even if you're just trying to influence somebody in a meeting, and you're in an operations role, and you have nothing to do with sales, if you're talking to an audience and you're trying to offer an idea that you hope they will consider, If you focus on fit, it puts you in the other person's shoes, and it makes your message more palatable for them. 

So I think that you offered a lesson that anyone could use in any role, even with your kids or your significant other. It's making an idea of something that fits both people.

Joseph: Yeah, that's harder with family. I think my significant other will say like, “You need to parent that way too.” So I'm like, “Oh, sales is easy compared to parenting. That's a whole another conversation.”

Lisa: We'll save that for another episode. Well, with that you've been listening to Lead Through Strengths, getting some great ideas about how to use strengths for sales, and how to not get stuck in that world of just being a user of tactics but instead coming forward with the genuine you using your differences to be your differentiators on the job. 

If you would like Joseph to come in and do some team building with your team related to CliftonStrengths for sales teams, then be sure to request him over on our Contact Us form. 

Alright, with that we will see you next time as you claim your strengths and share them with the world. Bye for now.

Sell More Of What You Offer Through These Additional Strengths Resources

The idea of ‘easy buttons’ supports this episode’s topic, as it encourages teams to tap on their natural talents, or whatever comes easily and enjoyable for them, instead of what drains them (such as following a script in selling or focusing on their weakness zone). If you want to sell better or have better influence, use strengths as easy buttons for better performance.

Or listen to Andy Sokolovich as he shares tips on influencing audiences through strengths. These include identifying your talents and spending 80 percent of your time doing what you naturally love. So in the context of selling, that could be storytelling or just meeting people and talking to them. Again, it’s about being authentically you.

Finally, in the episode Use Strengths To Create Customer Moments, Mike Ganino underlines the importance of creating an environment that helps each person bring their best performance to work. It’s about using individual strengths to get the experience you want for your customers and employees.

Direct download: 137-strengths-for-sales.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

What's the first step after the CliftonStrengths assessment? 

The StrengthsFinder Test, StrengthsFinder training, and the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book are all a wealth of resources for uncovering what your top talent themes are, and how you can apply them. 

After your team gets their results, the next step by many teams is to focus on learning about each of the 34 teams. They pour over the definitions, and want to learn about the tool. Yet actually, there's a better way to kick off this process.

In this episode, Lisa Cummings and guest co-host Joseph Dworak emphasize the importance of having strengths-focused conversations with your team.

If you're getting started with strengths and you're wondering what the next step is, well..., it's simpler than you think. The most important step is to get them talking about their strengths.

They already know themselves pretty well. This tool gives them a lens to think through, yet the wisdom is already inside of each person. The CliftonStrengths assessment is more like a prompting tool to help them remember what they're like when they're operating at their best.

Learn more from their conversation in the video version. Here's the full transcript:

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 today, we have a co-host here. Joseph is here with me to talk to you about getting the team talking about strengths.

Joseph: It’s so good to be here Lisa. This is super fun.

Lisa: So good to have you back. Now I want to shower some praise upon you. You actually changed the way I think about training and facilitation.

So years ago when I met you, we were with a bunch of other strengths practitioners, and you said something... We were just kind of talking about our approach and you said something in a way that wasn't intended to be an earth-shattering moment, but it struck me and it hasn't left, which is: when you get people started with strengths, one of the things that you think is really important is to get them talking about their own strengths, or their own natural talents, straight away.

And as you were saying it I was kind of auditing myself and at the time I was thinking, “Ooh, you know, I was doing a lot of virtual training — this was probably five years ago I bet when we first had this conversation and I was doing a lot of virtual training — but because the time was short, it was 90 minutes, I remember thinking, 'I need to do a lot of output. I need to get people to answer quickly but move on to the next point.' And it was not getting them really thinking on and talking on their strengths in the way that I had in an in-person session."

So talk to us about that approach. Why do you think it's important to get someone talking about strengths from the get-go? How can they talk about their own natural talents before they know all the definitions and they know all the nitty-gritty details and philosophy?

Joseph: Oh well, first off, thanks. I'm glad that something I said resonated. Never know when something will hit, so that's awesome. I remember when I first started facilitating strengths discussions and introducing people to the tool, it was around 2001. I remember specifically, I went through the tool myself in 2000 and then I was certified and started doing it.

In those early years I did a lot of, “I have to get through the material.” And I realized, over time, even in 5-6 years of doing it, it was like, it was less about getting through the material than actually having quality interactions. It was more about getting participants talking about strengths first.

And just because we're getting through the material, that doesn't mean it was quality. And so I think I realized that as I was maturing as a facilitator/consultant of the tool, I started realizing that the more people were letting their guard down, and just even at a really basic level talking about how they were wired and what they preferred, it just made it easier for them because, if they don't know themselves, it's hard to know the team.

And almost every situation that I was in, they wanted to get to the team stuff like, “Okay I've mastered my strengths." 

And it would be like, “No, you haven't really mastered your strengths, like, you don't even know all 5 of yours backwards and forwards." Knowing them doesn't mean knowing the definitions, it's more about processing the stuff on the report. And that happens by talking about strengths. 

So I think, just getting up that talent piece, the building blocks of all strengths and themes, the talents of, you know, I like checking a box off when I do a task and eventually that leads to some form of Achiever right? And so I think it was just moving away from trying to get through a number of strengths activities that I had to do, and worrying more about the quality of the experience for that individual and that team. 

The other thing is that you know we have assessment or psychometric du jour and it's, you know, everybody wants to try the next one. They say, “Oh, we already did Strengthsfinder, we want to do Myers-Briggs, and we did we did Myers-Briggs, now we want to try DiSC." Or whatever it is.

And I would say, “But you still haven't gone deep on strengths. And so, look, if you don't want to use StrengthsFinder, that’s fine. Then do Myers-Briggs but whatever you do, really stick with it. That's where you’ll really know it, and you'll learn surprising things about yourselves.” 

And people don't like that. They just want to take a new test and go on with new things. To do the work and stay on it takes a lot of effort. So I think that's the other pieces that ties with not so much just getting through but really getting into that quality interaction. So, yeah, I want to get them talking about strengths because it's how you go deep with a tool. Rather than doing another assessment, when they're talking about strengths regularly, they're actually doing more to be more productive in their strengths.

Same Strengths + Different Perspectives = Endless Possibilities

Lisa: I fully agree. I think it's added a lot of benefit in terms of people being able to understand one of the natural talents that they may have seen on the list but they weren't identifying with in a workplace setting. Before they start talking about strengths, they had one sitting there. It was for "home use only" - and then as they're talking with the team, they see how it can be a differentiator at work too.

I have a couple of examples of that happening. One with Connectedness is popping in my mind where getting them talking about strengths with other people made it all make sense and then suddenly they love this thing that when at a glance, if they just left it at that surface, they would have been like, “Yeah I use that one with my kids but not at the office.” 

And then you also get the nuance of you, and how it looks on you, and your unique other talents that it's combined with versus how it looks on me, like maybe we can do our own little workshop-py moment here. So, you and I both have Focus right up at the top. So I'd be curious if we get you talking about your Focus and then we get me talking about my Focus, let's see how it shows up differently in us.

Joseph: With Focus for me, I'm constantly reprioritizing throughout the entire day to figure out what's most important about that day. Now that can lead to me procrastinating on things that I don't see as very important.

But I'm always like, "What's most important?," and then I start working on it. I have a list as an Achiever but it's constantly getting reprioritized. So that would be a great example of Focus.

Lisa: That’s big. I would say for me, first of all, of my Top 14, Focus is the only executing talent theme. So I lean on it, like you wouldn't believe, to be able to get things done. And when it's time to buckle down on something. I am impervious to the world. I literally talk to the team and say, "I'm going in my cave. You can't get to me for a couple of hours." 

That's the Focus-approach of just doing one thing until it's done. It's my myself creative space or get-it-done space.

And then the other way I see it coming up a lot is — I don't want to bring it to the shadow side of it but for me it does turn into a shadow side sometimes — makes me a little bit OCD. Whether that's keeping the house tidy and keeping everything put away and where it goes, or being organized. Often, it's getting this one priority and making it number one and making sure that everything is aligned to number one - that terminology that Gallup puts in there about monomaniacal, that one’s definitely true for me.

Joseph: I think that's a new word for me, Lisa. I don't know but I've thought about monomaniacal in Focus, but I could see that. When I was in the office I'd have to tell folks, "I may seem a little aloof, but really I’m just focused. I’m not aloof. I don’t not care about you. It’s just…"

And so I used to have people on my team say, “Can you please ask me if I'm focused or not?” 

And so that was a management of that strength. It worked great, and you can only get them into that boldness if you've been talking about strengths openly and regularly. 

Lisa: Oh wow. And you're bringing up management of the strength and then if you translate it into management of a team and how the perceptions of you come off and what a big deal that could be. Let's circle back to the focus of the conversation originally: how do you get people talking about their strengths? How do you get people talking about their talent themes and why is that important?

Well, imagine if you're a manager, and now you're talking about your strengths in a team building, and now I know that about you. Instead of thinking that you're an arrogant jerk and you ignore me every time I walk by, I think of, “Oh, okay Joseph is in Focus mode. I need to make sure that we have time booked. I don't want to be an interrupter.” 

It makes me want to honor the interactions that put you at your best. It helps me not tell myself stories in my head about you being aloof. 

Joseph: Yeah, talking about strengths is huge. There's so much misconception of how people are wired. And you know I talk to people sometimes, like who are frustrated with somebody else, and I'm like, “It might not be about you at all.” It probably isn't, most of the time, right?

And I had to learn that for myself over my career. You are a really small thing in their world. Now, some days it is about you and you have to work it out, right? 

But a lot of times it's not, and you know we always talk about strengths are not an excuse, but you do need to be aware of other people's strengths, and your own strengths, and how they might be interplaying with the world. So I think you and I will always be busy with some stuff with strengths in it. Talking about strengths sounds easy, yet it's not done so much in practice.

Listening To Others Talking About Strengths Is Key To Deeper Understanding

Lisa: Absolutely. Okay, so as we close this episode, I'm going to think about what my takeaways are if I'm a listener — what I could be doing with this and how I could be using this approach of getting people talking about strengths.

So I'll go first. I would say, it doesn't matter, even if you don't have the facilitator in with you, and you're a manager, you just bought the book Strengthsfinder 2.0 and you're trying to do this with your team... 

If you were to go into a session and try to focus in on the definitions and the technical aspects of it, it would be far less meaningful than it would be if you just got people talking about what makes them feel like they can show up at their best.

So that's big. It's just the personal meaning and attachment and interest that people have to the topic. 

The second big takeaway I get from this is, you're telling people what to expect as a team. When you're talking about strengths, you’re telling people what to expect of you. It explains some of your actions and behaviors and it takes the mystery out. And even when people are making up stories about each other, it gives them the language and the ability to say, “Is that the Focus-based thing that you were talking about?” instead of just making the assumption. 

So, those are the two biggest ones I'm pulling. How about for you? 

Joseph: Yeah, I think I have one bigger one. So I think along the lines of what can someone do that has the books or has taken the StrengthsFinder test, or as a follow-up as you know, one of the things that we've done a lot of over the years is just going through all the strengths in a training session. And that can be, sometimes it can take 3 hours total. Maybe you break it up into three 1-hour sessions. 

And you just say like, “Who has Achiever?” and people raise their hand and you know you define it quickly to say these are go-getters. You bring up a topic, like "Every day starts with zero when you lead through Achiever," and ask them about the topic. I'd say, "how do you see that playing out?" and let them run with it. That's what it means to get started by talking about strengths. It's simple. You give a prompt and let them fly. 

Just like we were both talking about Focus earlier - where the real power comes in - it's where other people in the room can say, “This is where I see that in you.” 

So if you can get co-workers to affirm those talents in them, that’s more powerful than when they realize it themselves. 

When other people start talking about strengths that are in you, yet you never thought of them as anything special - that's when you decide to let them out. You think, “Oh people see this in me. And it's a good trait. I should let it out."  

It takes some skill to get teammates to fully acknowledge these things about each other, but you can just try it and see what depth you can get out of it.

Lisa: Absolutely. And you just made me think of one more that plays off of that. I remember a training event with an organization where a few people led through Connectedness. Two of them had to pull me aside on a break, this was in an in-person session. and they said, “I don't really get this. I don't really resonate with this one. I'm not so sure that this one is me.” 

So I did this thing, we call it the "strengths mingle" and we just get people to hold up these cards, they could find a quick match and they in person met up with the other four or five or ten people in the room that had that one. And in this moment there were two people who thought, “This just isn't me. I just think this one's wrong.” 

And then they got in this group and they started giving me examples, just like the couple that we just gave, and suddenly they were like, 

“Oh yeah, that's totally me.”

“Oh yeah yeah. It's not just all about this mystery thing.” 

“Oh yes, I'm, I have a big network.” 

“Oh yeah, I see downstream effects and ripple effects of the actions.” 

“Oh yeah, I'm always thinking like this.” 

So then they see it modeled in other people that they admire, or in other words, and then it's like, because it's being modeled in someone else, reflected in a different setting, suddenly they're able to grab a bunch of examples they couldn't see in themselves but now they can. This is what talking about strengths is all about. You can learn a lot about yourself by hearing someone else apply it in a different context.

Joseph: Yeah. People sort of get stuck in the label or the name of the strength versus the talents that are actually making it up.

I have a person on my team right now who has Connectedness, and it took him a little while. but now I can, be like, “You're doing that Connectedness thing right now.”

And he’ll go, “Okay, I get it. Making a connection, seeing the big picture." Talking about strengths regularly makes all the difference.

Lisa: Yeah. I love how you also just said you're doing that Connectedness thing right now. And it brought up for me how often the habit for people is if you were saying, “You're doing that thing right now,” it would be a negative feedback. But that's actually… there's that positive reinforcement.

“See you're doing it right there.”

“Oh yeah, that's good. All right, nice.”

It didn't really take you any effort. Took you 15 seconds to acknowledge that as a leader. 

Joseph: I think one of the things that I tried to do to differentiate myself as a leader is that thing that we talked about earlier, which is just really, if you can manage and lead to who those people are...you're helping them be at their best. I don't think a lot of people have experienced that along the way. I'm not saying I'm perfect at it by any means. I'm still learning and trying to get better at it.

And when you do any of that, people are like, “I've never had this before.” 

So I think what's important for that manager who's just trying to do strengths on their own is to say, even if you just acknowledge people have these strengths and you're going to try to pay attention to that, I think that that still is a 10% or less thing in the workforce and that's a powerful piece for managers. Just start talking about strengths any way you can.

Lisa: Yeah. Oh what a powerful gift to leave someone with a memory of a manager who affirmed them - a leader that saw the things in them that put them at their top performance. It's a beautiful thing.

I think that's a great way to wrap this episode. So for the listeners, as you are out there helping people claim their talents and share them with the world, get conversations going about strengths. See them in action. Spot them in action. Say it when you see it and get these conversations going about strengths in action. Just do it. Start talking about strengths regularly.

So instead of strengths being an abstract definition, it becomes your approach. It's how you get to know yourself, and how you get to know each other. 

With that, if you want someone to actually facilitate like this for your team, be sure when you go out to our Contact Us form, be sure that you request Joseph Dworak for your event. With that, we will see you next time. Bye for now.

More Resources To Get Your Team Talking About Strengths

If you missed our previous episode, Managing To People’s Strengths, go check it out. You'll hear Lisa and Joseph talk about including meaningful conversations in virtual meetings. These are conversations that can give you a peek into each other's natural talents.  

As you get people talking about strengths, some of them might come off as cocky that others might not respond well to it. Thankfully, there are ways to not sound arrogant while building a career around strengths. 

Remember that talking about strengths not only deepens your understanding of your own strengths but is an opportunity to share your insights about how you see strengths in others. So keep the conversation going — you never know what surprising insights you'll pick up!

Direct download: 136-talking-about-strengths.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Managing To People’s Strengths, A Simple Path To Better Performance

This topic opens a series of interviews featuring Lead Through Strengths facilitator Joseph Dworak. Now this particular episode looks at the value of workplace conversations, especially when the team is remote.

People have never been more hungry for human connection than today. In response to this challenge, Joseph models how a keen and intentional manager ensures that team meetings seamlessly incorporate business updates with open-ended questions about work or life — the answers to which become a goldmine not only for human connection but also for deeper insights into people’s strengths. 

Pick up some great ideas, such as examples of these open-ended questions, and see if you can apply them in your teams as well.

Here's a full transcript of Lisa's conversation with Joseph:

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 today we have another host here with you, Joseph Dworak.

Joseph: Hello, how are you?

Lisa: Wonderful! And we are so stoked to have you here because in this series of having other facilitators come in and do strengths interviews, our customers are really loving this extra perspective from our CliftonStrengths facilitators so that it is not only my voice on the show. 

We've been talking a lot lately about remote work, and how all of our spaces are combining work and life. Some of us miss workplaces and some of us love working from home. Some of us get in these awkward situations...you pointed out the fact that if somebody is looking at the video version, they see a U-Haul box in there. Because we're alive. Sometimes you move to a new house the day you have an interview. 

So how has it been for you as a leader hiring people remotely, not meeting people that you work with? Talk to us about strengths and how you even try to incorporate that into a workplace when you don't see each other. I know you value the idea of managing to people's strengths, yet it's tougher to do when you don't have any "incidental strengths sightings" around the office.

Joseph: Yeah, trying to find that connection piece between teammates who are completely remote and virtual. So the team that I lead, we have people all across North America and some of those folks have never met. Some haven't seen each other since last January in person.

And so when we do have precious time together, we're trying to find ways to make a human connection. And you know what doesn't do the greatest job of trying to find a human connection: just going through bullet points of announcements and things like that. It's fine, but to get people really to share and open up, I try to do something a bit different.

So yeah, back in a management leadership role in 2020, I did not know that COVID would hit, but then I took that job and so... I remember one of my coworkers saying, “Well, now you're going to see how it really is to be back in management leadership with this kind of challenge.” And we didn't even know what it would look like. That was like in March. And I had this sense that we need to stay connected throughout this time.

And so we've been asking those kinds of open-ended questions to start meetings. You know, simply like, “What have been shaping events in your life?” And I always go first with my team to try to like, say, “I can do this so hopefully you can do this as far as you're comfortable.” 

But then as they do it, other people will share and whatnot. And then as you mentioned earlier, like adding people to our team throughout the year, I think by the early January, we'll have hired 6 people to the team, so the team almost doubled in size or a little over doubled in size. And trying to incorporate those folks and making them feel part, and some of them have never met everyone else.

And so they're coming on and they're totally new. And they're trying to figure out their teammates and the system and doing it a virtual way. It's been challenging but really fun.

Lisa: It's a great way to make the best of it. Okay, I have heard our customers ask questions a few times when you talk about holding these meetings that feel a little different. Many of our listeners are already on board with using natural talents. They want to manage to people's strengths, rather than obsessing over weaknesses.

They also want to do more. They don't simply want to have people listing off natural talents. To focus on people's strengths - it sounds like a simple concept, but when it comes to implementation, leaders start to feel dorky and awkward about how to incorporate these conversations. They meetings that aren't boring, that aren't just a bunch of updates. 

But then, when you're trying to lead a meeting and say, “Oh alright I'm going to incorporate strengths into the meetings and we're going to learn about each other,” how do you go about introducing that? Because it has to be this thing that makes team members almost feel disjointed or like, “What's going on here?” Or do they raise up one eyebrow and say, “Who is this guy?" Or, “What's he talking about? Did he put something funny in his coffee this morning? Is he for real?” 

So, obviously, there's a process of normalizing people to these kinds of conversations because that's going to be a different kind of meeting. But how did you set it up for the first time and get this thing going?

Joseph: That's a really good question. I think I had some credibility with the team because I was a member of the team before I became their manager leader, so that helped. There was some trust there to be able to say, “Let me try something. Let me take you somewhere that we really haven't been before.”

And then I did kind of go over, “Hey, there's this thing I've done for over 20 years. It's a tool called StrengthsFinder to help understand how people are wired and for what purpose, and how they can work better. "

I've used it in lots of different settings and one of the things I would always talk about is, I want to manage to who you are, not just manage to just a general expectation, but really like, how are you going to get there and how can you thrive in your strengths.

So I tried to tee it up with all of them to say this isn't just a random personality thing. This is something that's really part of who I am, and kind of what you get whether you like it or not as your manager leader. And so we did an initial session, StrengthsFinder overview, which you and I have done a lot of over the years, and then to try to use it in bite-sized ways over time where we'd just ask a strengths question at a meeting.

Now what's happened is the team has grown. It'll soon be 13 people. And so, it typically means I can't ask everyone to share StrengthsFinder nuggets in every meeting. It would take up a lot of meetings. So I'm having like three or four people in each meeting share different things on different topics, and it's not always strengths-based.

So then I think they actually look forward to our bi-weekly meeting. And certainly we do update stuff and we do like, “Hey, here's the sales plan for the year” and things like that.

But I actually told them, today in a meeting before I got on with you, "I really value the fact that you all play ball and you ask these questions.” 

And now new people are getting assimilated in. They just kind of go, “Oh, this is normal.” And they haven't really said much, and I think they just go along a bit to get along probably, but they're also like, obviously different. We're not just talking about quarters and targets.

We're actually talking about who we are and how we work. We're actually managing to people's strengths so we can hit our targets better.

For Open-Ended Strengths Questions, Go First As A Manager

Lisa: Right. I bet it feels really enriching after that. And then the way that you set it up, I'm imagining myself in their shoes, and if you're telling me as my manager, “Hey, I really care about managing to you, and who you are," I'm thinking, “Ooh, there's something in it for me to go here and see what this thing is all about.” 

As a way to give people a practical application for this episode, I know I'm putting you on the spot a little bit to ask for example questions, but could you give us an example of the kinds of questions that you might ask in a meeting? I think it will get the creative juices sparked for our audience.

Joseph: Wow. That's a really good question as well. One that we used in consulting when I was doing StrengthsFinder consulting full time was, “What's a person that has shaped you along the way, and why?” Or like, today at our team we actually asked people to share like, “What's a place that has shaped you?” 

And so, the team that I used to work with, we would use that as a way to get people to go a little bit deeper. And one of the things we always did was to go first. And so today I said, “A place that shaped me is growing up in the Chicagoland area. What you'll experience from me is really straightforward. I say what I mean, I mean what I say. 

And that isn't the same way across the United States. There are different cultural differences in how people act and operate. And I use an example of when I moved to Minnesota. People are very Nordic up there and they are very polite and they don't always say exactly what they think. And so that took me years to understand." 

So that was a question we have today, is like, “What's a place that shaped you and why?” And I think for the leaders who are listening to your podcast, I think it's important for them to go first before asking employees on the spot to do that.

And I think you'll get a depth of answer depending on how comfortable people are. But then once they start doing it then, the next person will go a little bit deeper and so on and so on. Whenever we ask questions like that person or place or just share your story, I always learn things that.. I've only known some of these folks for three-plus years, now I'm still learning new things about them and how our teammates are.

And so that's one really easy way to do it, Lisa. It's really not rocket science but it works.

Lisa: That's wonderful. And one thing I've been trying to incorporate in personal life that sounds sort of similar to what you're doing with the team is Becky Hammond from Isogo Strong. She's made these conversation cards, and I've been using one of the questions from the conversation cards with my family. And since everything has been remote, it's been a way to stay connected, and we answer one of these questions, and for workplace purposes, you can filter in or out the ones that are a little more personal.

But that would be a nice way for someone to have like a cheat deck to get started with as well. It helps you manage to people's strengths without it feeling like a big mountain to climb. You're already busy as a manager, so no need to create the friction of learning how to be a StrengthsFinder trainer on top of your day job. 

And your point about leaders going first to model an answer — I think it's big. I think as a trainer or facilitator, if you can share with someone what an answer might sound like, they understand the direction because these questions — although they're simple and clear — they're just not normal meeting. They are not normal workplace conversations, although I hope it can become normal.

Joseph: They really aren't, and I think that's why sometimes people will give you that eyebrow raise or they'll kind of go, “What's going on here?” Because I think other questions that we've asked in different meetings are only focused on quarterly targets. I've asked like bucket list questions like, “talk to me about 2 or 3 things that are on your bucket list that you still want to do in life.” 

We've had things where people have said, “There's this island in Russia that's very remote, and it's almost like Russia's Alaska. It's just very remote, I forgot the name of it. But the streams are overflowing with trout and there's kodiak bears and all this stuff going on. And one of the members on a team talked for about 5 or 7 minutes on why he wanted to get there. And it's like a multiple-day journey to fly to Russia and then charter a plane to get there. Everyone's riveted by the story. They're leaning forward to hear it. 

I'm always looking to see, are people doing email while someone else is talking? Are they actually paying attention? Are they locked in? And when someone starts talking about going to a remote island in Alaska someday, people listen. You know, like this is different. So it's fun to do. It's really fun. 

There’s Power In Blending The Language Of Strengths With The Stories You Share  

Lisa: Yeah, it sounds excellent. And I can imagine the nuance that you learn about a person when you get 5 to 7 full minutes. This is a really cool insight for me as well. I'm learning from you as a facilitator because I'm thinking about... My tendency is to get people on the chatbox, have 100 people ask the question and then see the chat go brrrt with all of these short answers but they're more surface-level answers.

And then your approach here, if you're doing it with a tighter-knit team, you're really going to get some depth that helps you learn about what makes that person tick. And of course, the magic is that you pick out nuances that help you manage to people's strengths and motivations.

Joseph: Well, there's that piece certainly and then, what we always try to do in the past was that when we started talking about strengths, often you could hear strengths in their answers, right? And so you're like, “Well when you talk about that, I could really hear your Achiever saying, ‘I have 20 things on my bucket list that I want to check off’, or, ‘How are you doing Woo in this virtual format when you're not meeting people?'" 

And I even said to my team earlier today, one of the things that I promised them was that I would help them with networking referrals, and I don't know that I've done great with networking referrals virtually this year. I really relied on face to face, and that wherever I go, whatever city, I would say, and if I was in the Boston area I'd be like, “We should hang out.” 

You and I did that virtually at one point, as a phone call, but it's just better if you can be in person. But you definitely will hear their strengths in some of those open-ended questions, and they don't really know what you're doing at that point. But if you're a trained facilitator, or if you're a manager who has a lot of experience in strengths, you can start hearing strengths in people’s answers. 

Lisa: Right. I think that's just the perfect way to end the episode because it's not just the question itself but what the answers and what the listening and tuning into each other allows to happen in the future. Because now you can spot their strengths. Now you can begin to manage to people's strengths and assign clients based on their natural talents.

Now you can notice what works about them. Now you can mix the language of strengths that you have with the stories that they tell, and it makes it concrete for them so that they want to unleash that more in the workplace. Beautiful.

Well, as a listener, if this prompted your interest and you're like, “Man, I need to get that Joseph Dworak into my organization to do a team builder. I want to get this going,” then be sure in our Contact Us page, when you're filling out that form, make sure to do a specific request for Joseph.

And with that, we wish you the best as you unleash these questions and help people claim their talents and share them with the world. Bye for now.

More Resources About Bringing Out And Managing To People’s Strengths

If you are high in Connectedness, Communication and/or Relator, chances are you’ll crave for workplace meetings where you can maximize certain conversations for relationship-building and human connection. You are most likely a great storyteller and an active listener.

Especially if you are a manager who is trained on strengths, you’ll easily pick up a team member’s strengths through planned and random interactions with them. For example, in the episode Engage Employees Through Strengths, marketing consultant Grace Laconte immediately identified an Achiever from a team member who shared a morning process that goes, “Every morning at 8:32 I do this. Every day I have to do these things in order.”

But managing to someone’s strengths doesn’t stop at spotting who they truly are or how they work. In another previous episode, Lisa explains how to Prevent Conflict By Knowing Your Talent’s Needs, Expectations, and Assumptions — a great guide to help the team get along better at work.

Direct download: 135-managing-to-peoples-strengths.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Work In Your Strengths Zone To Make Work Enjoyable

How often you work in your strengths zone has a lot to do with living your best life. Here at Lead Through Strengths, we believe that choosing easy doesn't equate to choosing lazy. It means choosing efficiency and getting more of what works for you and what you enjoy focusing on.

This may sound too good to be true. But what if the gap between you and your own strengths zone is actually shorter than you think?

In this episode, Lisa Cummings and co-host TyAnn Osborn will walk you through some of the ways to get there. Read on and listen as they share stories and lessons that shaped their "work in your strengths zone" concept. Another spirited, inspiring and important discussion that you wouldn't want to miss.

Here’s a full transcript of 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: So today's episode is all about using your strengths to make things easier, to make life easier. It's about doing more work in your strengths zone. There's actually a very high return on effort from using your strengths to get things done. However, many of us do things the hard way. 

TyAnn: So true. Why do we do that?

Lisa: Maybe we don't know we are. 

TyAnn: Yeah.

Lisa: I know that I've done it in my career or out of habit... 

TyAnn: Me too. 

Lisa: … where as a younger performer, and I wanted to prove myself, I would work the longest hours, I would, you know, you have the stuff to learn so you have to go through the learning curve part. 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: But then you get in the habit of doing everything through brute force. And there comes some time when it doesn't matter if you work 72 hours a day. That isn't the thing that is going to get you to the next level. If you work in your strengths zone, you're way more likely to crush your performance goals. You have to figure out how to not do it through your hours... 

TyAnn: Right. Absolutely. I think you have to really keep an eye on:

What's the end goal here?

What problem am I trying to solve?

Am I trying to solve for “I need to work a lot of hours," or am I trying to solve for actually getting an end product done?

But you know, this kind of reminds me of when we were in school and we were learning math, because I don't know if your math teacher was like this, but mine was where anytime you learned a new concept, you would learn it the hard way where you had to do it all by hand and write it all out.

And then the next day when you came in, the teacher would say, “Okay, and here's the formula." Or, “Here's the shortcut.”

And then invariably, you're like, “Why didn't you teach me that the first time?”

And then there was always some answer about, “Well, you might be out without a calculator one day and…” — which no one's ever out without a calculator now.

So anyway, but it's just one of those “We can get to the same place, and you can get there the hard way or you can get there the easy way.” 

And it's interesting that as adults or are in our corporate world, we tend to think that the easy way, that there's something wrong with it. And it's funny how many times someone will kind of fight me on this concept, or say like —

“That's cheating. I have to do everything the hard way." Or, you know, "Go uphill both ways, little brother on my back, in the snow with no shoes, or else it doesn't count.” 

Like, where do we get that message?

Lisa: It does make people feel awkward. There was a time when I was talking about strengths, making you feel like work is easier, that you could enjoy it, that you could be energized by it, that it makes you feel excellent with less effort. All of the E's you get when you work in your strengths zone.

TyAnn: Right. Ease, enjoyment and effort.

Lisa: Yes. And they're like, “So, making work easy?” It was this kind of cheating response, like, “So, where the goal is to make everything easy?” As if it's a shortcut that brings low quality. 

TyAnn: Isn't that funny that it can only be work if it feels like it's awful or hard, or like I have to trudge off to the salt mine every day and...

No, that that's not how it's supposed to be. And frankly, if it feels that way, I would say maybe we ought to take a pause and look at what's going on because it doesn't have to be that way.

But this is a concept you and I talk about all the time. And I use this almost daily in my conversations with clients and other people and even kids. It doesn't have to be that hard. And you're making it too hard.

And so here's where I think having like a spirit guide or a trusted person you can talk to can really help because when you're the one making it hard, it's almost impossible to see that you're the one making it so hard.

Lisa: Yes. 

TyAnn: It can be really hard to get yourself out of that. 

Lisa: Yes. 

TyAnn: Yeah. Because it makes sense to you at the time. 

Lisa: You even did it to me as an accidental coaching one time. I remember I was like, “But I need to do more of this because I want this on my resume. I need this credibility.”

And then you said, “It's already on your resume. And it will still be on your resume if you don't do it anymore.”

And I had this moment where I was like, “Oh right, it's draining me. There are other ways to build this career…” 

TyAnn: Right. 

Easy Doesn’t Mean Lazy

Lisa: And I don't have to continue that one. Somehow, I got convinced.

And I also think with people like Gary Vaynerchuk, and there's a lot of messaging about hustle, and I'm not saying that hard work isn't good. And I'm not saying that there isn't a time in your career or when you're new to something like in startup mode for something, a lot of times, it is a glut of effort at the beginning.

So I don't poo poo the idea of hustle because I don't want that to mean, “Well, then I believe in lazy." But I think that's part of the problem.

It is easy doesn't equal lazy. But for some reason, we tell ourselves it does. What seems to be missing is the idea that finding work in your strengths zone can really step your game up.

TyAnn: Yeah, I think that's baggage associated with that. Or yeah, that if it's not a struggle, it doesn't count, or something like that. I think that's kind of an American thing, too. I don't know where that comes from. But I would just say, let's revisit that. I don't think that is the way it has to be.

Lisa: Mm hmm.

TyAnn: I don't think you have to work 28 hours a day. 

Lisa: How do you know when you're making it hard? So let's say I hire you as a coach, and I'm like, I'm totally overwhelmed. I'm working late into the night, I'm not seeing my family. It's just too much. And you're going to be assuming that I'm probably making something tougher than it needs to be. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: How do we even uncover what it is? 

TyAnn: I would say, the first thing you've done well is you've brought somebody else to help. So, spirit guide!

Again, you don't have to hire somebody. But do ask for help, because being overwhelmed, and then just trying to muscle through — here's what I know to be true:

More of what's not working is going to get you more of what's not working. 

Lisa: Oooooh. Tough truth.

TyAnn: And I put that on a t-shirt.

And so, and that's often what our natural response is — when something's not going well, like, “I'm just going to double down." Well, guess what? That's going to get you twice as much of what's not working.

So good on you that you could recognize “I need help.”

But after we don't know where we need help, so here's what I have people do. Just where's the crunchy? Where's the frustrating part?

So here's a true story. I was working with an executive at a high-tech computer manufacturing place that we both worked at one time. And she was very frazzled, very frustrated, and you could just see it. She exuded this kind of hot mess energy, you know what I mean? Have you ever met somebody like that, just sort of, it was sort of repellent, honestly. It was sort of like, “I don't want that to get on me.”

And you can imagine how that made her team feel and how that made her clients feel. And so I was asking her, like, “What is going on?”

And the first thing she said to me was so funny. She said, “I can't get to work early enough.”

And I thought, “Oh, maybe we're just looking at ’I work all the time.' Something like that." 

“So tell me more about that.” Which by the way is one of my favorite questions. “Tell me more about that.” Because never assume you know what they're going to say. I have to tell myself this all the time. 

"Tell me more about that."

And she said, “Whenever I get to work in the morning, people are waiting for me in the parking lot. So they pounce on me when I drive in. I can't even get in the building and set my bag down before people are all over me and everyone is wanting a piece of me like there's nothing... I can't even get in the door and I've given myself away.” 

And then I, “Oh my gosh, wow." Whoa, I can write a whole book about that. There's so much there.

And so we talked about that. And then I just asked her, “What would make your life better?”

And she said, “I would just like to walk in the door and put my bag down and get a cup of coffee and have a few minutes to look at my calendar, plan my day, and then start.” 

And I said, “Okay, why don't we do that?”

And so it was a little bit like that kind of doing it the hard way. Her solution was, “I'll just get to work earlier." And so literally, she had backed her work up to where she was showing up at 6 am. But then people kept showing up at 6 am. So whatever time she got there, that's what time they got there. Like, you're gonna start having a cut, you know, in the parking lot. This is crazy.

"Why don't you just set a boundary and tell people what you need? And all you need is an hour or 30 minutes or whatever. So that's not unreasonable. Just tell people.”

And she couldn't see it. But, so it was so easy for me and so “Aha” for her. 

So again, she was doing things the hard way. And like I was, “Just make it easy. Let's just set a real easy boundary.”

Totally changed her life. 

Lisa: Hmm. It's amazing one thing — this might be one of your magic powers, because you did it for me, you did it for her... There are a lot of these conversations where you just need another person to help you see how simple it can be to shift into work in your strengths zone.

TyAnn: You've done that back to me too. So I appreciate that. 

You’ll Never Know What’s Possible Until You Try To Work In Your Strengths Zone

Lisa: You also have this other great, favorite question. So besides, “Tell me more about that,” one that I think that you've asked very well on this theory of seeing where you've made a barrier between getting to the life that you want and the one that you're in, where you're just like, “I'm making it all too hard and can't do it all," your question of:

“What would you do if you were brave?”

Now it gets, you have to get in reflection mode to really answer the question. 

TyAnn: Yeah, don't you love that question? 

Lisa: Yes. Because even for her situation, this isn't like... A lot of times when we're talking about this brave question, it's more like the “I'm self-actualizing and I'm trying to come up with ‘what would I do with my life if I were brave?’” 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: That's deep and it takes a lot of reflection, and there are probably five great answers to it. But what about her scenario, if you just said, “What would your solution be if you were brave?” 

TyAnn: Yeah. And what's fascinating is, you know, we've talked before about fear, and I think she was afraid to set a boundary, because it was so easy when I asked what would make your life better. She's like, “I just want to put my purse down. I would like to have a cup of coffee. I would like to look at my calendar.”

Okay, well, that all seemed super easy. None of that is crazy at all. She wasn't asking for a personal driver and, you know, a corner office or anything crazy. She was just asking basically for boundaries. 

And okay. Well, what was holding her back from doing that? Fear. Fear that if she told somebody no, what would happen? She would be seen as a bad leader. She would be seen as a manager who didn't really care, that a good manager gives everything to their team. And you know, whatever, all these things, all the “shoulds” she should be doing. 

And so I love that question. I wish I could take credit for it. I'm sure I heard it somewhere, though. But the “What would you do if you were brave?” because often again, your body knows the right answer, but your brain won't let won't let you go there because of fear that holds us back.

So what would you do if you were brave? You're like, "You know what, I wouldn't even do this project.” 

“Okay, well, why not?” 

“Because it doesn't matter. This isn't really what we should be doing anyway. This thing is a waste of time. Our customers don't even want this. What would I really do? I would explore this other thing.” 

“Okay, well, how come we don't do that then?” 

“Ah, well, because we tried that once and it got shot down.”

Or, “Well, you know, we're so far down the path now that we've expended all this time and energy. So I can't. I can't say no." Or whatever it is. 

And so we don't even let ourselves go there. That's a great question. 

Lisa: Yeah, it is. And you may not always use the answer, like, that's another really great practical example: "I would scrap the whole project."

Well, we go back to this concept of where your personal preferences and your business priorities are that it may or may not align. But if you don't ask yourself the question, you can't discover the action that you could take to explore it. 

And even if the business decides, “no, that project is going to continue," what if by expressing it and thinking through it in a way that is mature and well-thought-through.

Who knows, maybe you end up having a conversation with your leader about that project and they go, “You know, but Jane's been dying to work on a project like that. So if you want to just get reassigned, if this thing's dragging you down, I'd love to get you over on this one.” 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: That's a possible outcome.

TyAnn: There's always possibilities, right? And I think sometimes we're afraid. Again, fear underlies all this stuff. We're afraid of what the answer might be.

By the way, the answer might be, “You know, we just got, we just got to finish.” Which by the way, is always going to be the answer if you never ask. 

Lisa: Oh, this is like the ultimate sales question. If you don't ask, the answer is no. 

TyAnn: Right. 

How Can It Make Things Easier For You? For The Team? For The Business?

Lisa: So, you can always ask. Now, there are high-risk requests and high-risk things to put out there. But I think if you've thought through a process like this, like:

What am I making too hard?

Think about business terms.

If I'm going to justify something in business terms, what would resonate with my leaders? What if work in my strengths zone actually translates into more revenue or more productivity (which it likely does).

Well, being efficient. Getting a high return on our energy or effort or spend. 

TyAnn: Yeah, absolutely. 

Lisa: So if you can find a way to express that, you're more likely to get this new path. 


Is this something that can help us scale?

Is this something that really drives internal productivity?

Could we decrease noise in the system?

Could we increase market penetration?

Could we increase customer retention?

And there's all kinds of things out there that could be helpful to you. And again, the answer is always going to be “no” if you don't ask or if you don't think about it.

But I think this is actually a really fun, creative question too that I've seen some teams use as, you know, in a team meeting, not every time but maybe once a month. Ask as a team:

What would we do if we were brave as a group?

And see what comes up. And you know, usually, there's a big silence at first because it's always hard to be the first one to be like, “I think we should ditch that project,” Or you know what. But once you kind of get the ball rolling, it's fascinating. And it's a really cool creative thinking activity. 

Lisa: Yeah, it really is. And you could take that thinking activity and layer in strengths very literally as well, where you could say:

How would you apply one of your strengths if you were brave this week?

TyAnn: I love that. Be brave and work in your strengths zone.

Lisa: That's like, real practical. 

TyAnn: I love that. That would be great. 

Lisa: And then I might say, “Oh, well, I would reach out to that colleague in Latin America, who is on a team and does a similar role. And I've been wanting to get to know him but I just haven't taken the initiative and felt a little awkward... Okay, I'll just… I'll do that and make that thing happen.”

TyAnn: You know, it's interesting, and I'll bring up the Relator theme. And that one's a fairly common one, we see that a lot in team Top 5s. It's one of Gallup’s Top 5 for their overall database, and that is a particular theme that tends to get shoved aside because it's not an urgent theme, right? You’re usually not graded on your performance review for how your Relator skills are today. But that one tends to show up high in terms of personal needs, in terms of satisfaction for you. So that could be one of those things that —

“You know what, it's not my job description to reach out to the guy Latin America, but that would actually kind of really be satisfying for me, and that would really help me build that relationship. And yeah, it's gonna take a little time and frankly, might feel a little bit awkward at first, but that's what I would do if I were brave.” 

Lisa: Yeah. And what a great way to circle back to this concept of, “Okay, you're making things too hard.”

So I can imagine a scenario where that Latin America team you've been trying to pass your work off and say, “Hey look, we've localized it.”

And they're like, “No, you're not localizing anything. You've made some poor translations into Spanish, and it's awful.”

And they think you're terrible to work with. And the team is resisting everything you hand off to them. And meanwhile, you have this nice little talent theme, Relator, sitting there waiting in the wings for you to say, “Okay, what would make my life easier? Where am I making it too hard? Where I’m making it too hard is I'm trying to shove the way everyone else has already done it, and I'm not stopping to say, 'I have tools in my tool bag right here.'” 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: My Top 5. 

TyAnn: Right. 

TyAnn: You’re trying to lead with execution as opposed to a relationship theme when that's your jam. So lean into that. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: And you can even, you know, blame it on us, blame it on the podcast. You can say, “Hey, I was listening to Ty and Lisa, and they said, you can kind of lean into one of your themes so I'm going to try that even though it feels a little weird.” 

You can use that. And that's a really good intro. And you can be like, “Okay, it didn't work so well.”

Lisa: You're probably going to be at least back to where you were before. It rarely goes bad where you should at least ask or try. Just use it.

TyAnn: You should give it a try. Again, first thing that can happen is you're back to where you were. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

When Work And Life Gets Hard, Lean Into Your Strengths

TyAnn: And again, you know, you get better at things you practice. And so just, I would keep trying, but I would just say if something feels hard in life, or crunchy, or you really just feel like, “Man, why is this so hard?”

And you hear that oftentimes on teams. I say that, like, “This shouldn't be this hard. Why is it this hard to get a decision made? Why is it this hard to get this thing approved?” 

That's a really good time to kind of stop and think, “Yeah, what is going on here?”

And there is another way to come at this thing, where we can lean into our ease, enjoyment and you know, effort on, and have it just better spent. So that's a really good verbal clue to pick up on.

Lisa: It is. Every time I talk to Ty, I think of song lyrics. So now I'm thinking of this Cake song, I think it's Short Skirt/Long Jacket, where they say “she uses a machete to cut through red tape.” And I'm thinking about your talent themes as your machete. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: And now you've got some red tape. You've got like, “I can't get it. Why is it taking so long to get this approved? Why is there all of this bureaucracy?” Yeah. 

TyAnn: There you go.

Lisa: Start getting your strengths out. Start looking for ways to work in your strengths zone.

TyAnn: When you talk about it, your easy button all the time, you have one lying around here somewhere, I mean, that's it. That's your way forward. And so if life feels hard, if projects feel hard, if communication fails, or whatever it is, go back to your strengths and like, “Okay, there's got to be a better way to do this. It doesn't have to be so hard.” 

There's no medal for hard. There's no giant report card in the sky, that it's going to be like, “Gosh, Lisa did everything the hard way. Well done.”

That’s not how life works. Because if you spend all of your energy on things that don't matter, getting things done the hard way, you're not going to have energy for the stuff that does matter. And we're never going to get the best of you out in the world because all of your goodness has been sucked up on junk. 

Lisa: Hmm. 

TyAnn: Makes sense? 

Lisa: I mean, it's the end. 

TyAnn: That's it. 

Lisa: If you want the best of you, bring yourself the things that bring you ease, energy, and enjoyment. Remember to ask yourself that question: What would you do if you were brave?

And we'll leave you for now. If you feel like you're getting sucked into the junk — I don't know, I just totally botched your saying right there — but that this is the way to rethink it.

Ask those curious questions, and ask yourself, “Why not me and why not now?” And give them a try. 

Alright, with that, we'll see you next time. Bye for now. 

TyAnn: Bye.

These Additional Resources Should Inspire You To Work In Your Strengths Zone

We hope you enjoyed this episode with Lisa and TyAnn. Indeed, life can be draining when you don’t work in your strengths zone or not doing the things that you love. In the episode Can Working In Your Weakness Zone Lead To Burnout?, Lisa uses a plant that turned yellow as a metaphor for the poor attention to strengths. This important episode will especially help managers to detect the telltale signs of burnout in a team, and to discern their root causes, in order to address them ASAP.   

That comes with a caveat though, because life is not perfect, and in reality, work comes with some tasks we love and some tasks that live in the draining weakness zone. In the Strengths Are Not An Excuse To Avoid Weakness Zone At Work episode, Lisa points out that you can’t use your strengths as a reason to have bad performance or low accountability — by neglecting something you don’t like doing. There are results that still need to be achieved, but your talents can help you get them in a strengths-focused way.

Direct download: 134-work-in-your-strengths-zone.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Take The Path of Least Resistance To Save Time At Work

One of the best things that happen when you are aligned with your natural talents is that work ceases to feel like "work." This is that sweet spot where you accomplish your tasks feel like you're in a state of flow. This is when things on your to-do list energize you, rather than drain you.

Since the work is easier and the results are more excellent, you save time and precious energy at work.

It's totally different on the flip side when you work out of your weaknesses. You feel this inner resistance, which can lead to self-doubt and early exhaustion. As your energy dips, you feel like you have nothing to give. Which is not the truth, because you have it in you all along.

Here at Lead Through Strengths, we want you to drive towards what you want to have more of, such as work that gives a sense of meaning, while managing all other tasks at hand. 

The more you use your strengths, the more you're able to offer your best to the world. But how exactly do you get more of what you want when your plate is already full of soul-sucking tasks, and for which you think there are no takers either? 

Certainly, you don’t have to get stuck in this situation for long. So, listen up as Lisa Cummings and TyAnn Osborn put together and share great insights that will help you build a career centered on strengths that you love.

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.

Today, the topic is, you know, stuff that happens at work, that is, a little weird or awkward "things that make you go, hmm." And that thing…. it's a ridiculous call back to Arsenio Hall. It was way back. No really, it's those things that make you go hmmmm because you can't figure out how to quit making work feel so hard.

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: What if that thing is, “Hey, Ty, why is my manager keep giving me all the tasks that I hate? Hmm.”

TyAnn: I think it's because they hate you.

Lisa: (eyes widen) Hmmm.

TyAnn: No, they don't hate you. That's what we're going to talk about today. 

Lisa: But this is a real thing. 

TyAnn: This does happen. This happens all the time.

Lisa: I actually have an uncle who said from his corporate experience (shout out to Alan) he said that if you are doing a task that you can't stand, but you're the one who does it the best in the office, he's like, “Well, the next time they need to get that thing done, who are they going to come to to get the thing done? You, the one who did it the best.” 

TyAnn: Right. 

Doing A Great Job? Best If It’s On Tasks That You Love

Lisa: So I do think this can happen because people get known for things that they don't even like, but they haven't worked on their career brand. 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: They haven't talked to their manager about what they do like or hope for more of in their development. And I think that is one of the reasons you can be really good at something that you don't like. You're masterful because you keep getting it assigned to you.

TyAnn: Absolutely. This happens all the time. This has happened to you and me. This happens to our corporate clients all the time and in a very innocuous way. There's no diabolical plot behind this. And especially when you're more junior in your career, where you might not feel like you can say, “I don't really want to do this, or, I don't really like this.” 

And so, here's what happens: Oftentimes, when you're smart, you can do a lot of things, and do it in a very proficient way. And actually, your product can be pretty good. And then guess what, because you did a pretty good job at that, next time, they have that horrible spreadsheet that needs to be done —

“You did a pretty good job so you're gonna get known as the horrible spreadsheet fixer.”

Lisa: And you don't want to be the one... I mean, if you're a hard worker... 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: ...yet you don't want to be the whiner, complainer... 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: The purpose of this episode isn't to say, we're going to empower you to go tell your leaders all of the things that you just don't like. 

TyAnn: Yeah, don't don't do that. That’s not the takeaway from this section at all. That's a career-limiting move by the way. 

Lisa: High-risk conversation. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: It would be less risky to figure out a way to describe the stuff you do want more of that you would like to grow into.

TyAnn: Yeah. So Lisa's got a great term that she uses about career crafting. She calls it "job shaping." So we're going to talk to you about how to lean your job more toward the things that you do like, and how maybe to get away from some of these legacy things, that kind of seems stuck to your shoe that you can't quite shake. 

Lisa: Oooh, that's a good way to say it. 

TyAnn: Or how to, how to avoid that thing you don't like. So, we'll give you some tips both ways. So how to lean more toward the stuff you want, and how to get out of this position of some stuff that you don't like. 

Lisa: Yeah. And I mean, I think the simplest concept for the gum on your shoe, (that's a good one), is like, it starts to fade away from assignments if you continue to get known for the things that you *do* enjoy. 

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: I call this concept, “don't expect your managers to be mind readers."

Because it's easy to think, “They should know that that's a horrible thing, the horrible spreadsheet task, like they should know, I hate that. Why do the give the junk tasks to me? Yes, I might save time because it can turn into a mundane brainless task, but that's now how I want to save time at work.” 

TyAnn: How would they know? And what do you... 

Lisa: You call it something else, don't you? What do you call it?

TyAnn: I call it "the psychic method doesn't work." Even though we might try to prove this over and over? Yeah, so and here's the deal, too. We see the world through our own eyes, because that's the lenses we were given, right. And we tend to think, "everything I hate, everyone else hates." Or the opposite: "everything I like everyone else likes." 

But that's not how the world works. And certainly in the strengths world we find there's all kinds of different things. So just because you like something or dislike something, somebody else has a completely different set of likes and dislikes. So if you secretly hate that thing you're working on, and you don't ever say anything, guess what? How would anybody know that?

Especially if you keep doing a really good job at it. And the other factor is that if you're working in your weakness zone, it's not going to be as intuitive. It's going to take you longer. The way to save time at work is to spend more of your time in your strengths zone.

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: And you never say anything. And then they're like, “Hey, Lisa, good job on that spreadsheet.” You're like, “Okay, thanks.”

Lisa: Hey thanks. Hey, I'm a hard worker. And I keep getting more of this stuff that I don't like. It feels soul-sucking and time consuming.

TyAnn: And think about this. What if you have a lot of Achiever and Responsibility in your top themes? 

Lisa: I had it. I had a client, example, recently where she led through Responsibility. And she was on a big global project, all people in all time zones, and she thought it was really important to get people synched-up that someone would capture the initial conversation. This is basically a note taking thing. 

TyAnn: Ahh

Lisa: So she asked, “Who would like to volunteer?” 

TyAnn: Okay, usually the answer is going to be, “no one.” 

Lisa: That is pretty much what happened. Podcasts don't go well with me demonstrating the long cricket-silence she got in the meeting. But that's what happened. She asked, and all she heard was crickets.

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: *no answer, *no answer. 

TyAnn: She probably felt like she had to do it. 

Lisa: She did. She leads through Responsibility. She can't let a ball drop. She was like, “I'll take it.” So she takes it. And she said she found herself time after time after time taking it and she was new to the company and new to the role and six months in, she said —

“Do you know my career brand here is I'm the team secretary?” Oh, and she feels like it was that one decision that led to the next one, to the next one, to the next one. And now that's how they see her. So now work feels slow and clunky. She drudges through it. She's dying to save time at work because she's bogged down in tasks she hates.

TyAnn: And now for her branding exercise, she has to undo all of that, which is a, you know, a much more difficult spin. 

Lisa: Our career-memories are long. 

TyAnn: Yeah. So that's going to be a whole ball of work just to undo just to get her back to neutral. Because then we have to replace all that with something else.

Lisa: Mm hmm. Yeah. 

TyAnn: I mean, it can be done but that's just a harder way to go. 

Lisa: I think that's actually a good one for the example of what you were talking about. Like there's the how, how do you unwind from what you don't like and then build into what you do like?

Now if you imagine this person walking around declaring:

“By the way, I don't like note-taking.” 

“By the way, I’m not a secretary.” 

“By the way, that's not really what I want. I'm, I'm so much more.” 

"By the way, I'm actually trying to save time at work and be efficient here!"

That would not go well. That would be awkward, whiny and bizarre. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: But if instead, she starts really knocking it out on these other three things that are a big deal (the ones that are in her strengths-zone), then over time, it doesn't take that much time. She gets known for other (good) things and the draining things fade away into a distant memory. 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: And that is a path that is much more doable.

And I like to give clients a script that is like a starting place for a career conversation with their manager. For example:

“I just listened to this podcast episode and it got me thinking about what I would love the most to grow into next in my role. And so it made me think...I'd love to have more projects that require a person to create momentum on the team. I'd love it if you'd consider me next time a big change management effort comes up.

(To TyAnn), give me another talent theme that she has besides Responsibility. 

TyAnn: Okay, let's say she also has, um, Communication. 

Lisa: Okay, so she also leads through Communication. And the team's doing a project where they need to roll it out to a bunch of end-users who aren't really going to love it. And it's going to take some real change management effort. 

TyAnn: What clients don't always love what you have to roll out? Sometimes there's change management? 

Lisa: And imagine how many people wouldn't like that? You know, I have to go out and convince a bunch of other people to do a thing, like most people go, “I don't want to do the dog and pony show. I just want to make the great thing.” 

And then if you build it, they will come, right? No, you need people who lead through Communication, who can spark momentum and get other people excited about it, and communicate the benefits of it and get out there and spread the message and recruit other messengers. This kind of stuff that would be really fun to her would be loathsome to other people.

TyAnn: Absolutely. 

Lisa:  So if she comes around now and says, “I just listened to this podcast. It got me thinking about things I'd like to grow into. I know we have this problem right ahead of us. If you see a part of that project, where I could contribute my Communication talent theme to to be the spark of momentum, I would love to help with that. So I just want to put it out there. If you see this opportunity, I hope you'll think of me.” 

TyAnn: Absolutely. 

Lisa: Any manager would love to hear that. 

TyAnn: They're probably, “Oh my gosh, thank you so much because I was cringing inside thinking how are we going to get all the engineers on board, or whatever it is. And hey, now that you've been working, you know, Pan Global, you've been, you know, all these people in all these different regions. You know, we can really tap into that.” 

So what she didn't do was go around and whine about it. So I would say from personal experience, not the best approach. So she didn't put on her t-shirt, “Here's all the things I hate about my job.” Again, not the best approach. And she didn't go to her manager with an ultimatum, “If you don't give me this I'm gonna fight.” You know, be, “I'm gonna quit” or whatever. That's not also good. 

What she did do is offer up something that she would like to be known for, she would like to lean into. And even in this case, she might not be saying “I have all this experience in this area.’ It sounded like she was saying, “I would like to get experienced in this.”

And now she's getting assigned work she loves. Those lovable tasks feel like they save time at work because they do - they're easier. They're your space to get in flow.

Lisa: Yeah. 

Sharing Your ‘Trash And Treasure’ List To The Team Could Fast-Track A Career You Love

TyAnn: So that means I'm going to be great at it. First, right out of the box, I might need to partner up with someone to try to offload some of the trash-tasks. But it's a great way for her to lean into something as opposed to just leading with, here's what I hate about my job, which would be great.

Here's what's funny: because here's this task now that she loathes, but there is someone else out there, I promise you, who would love the opportunity to do the thing that she hates. This is what's so hard for us. Remember, everything that we hate, we think everyone else hates too. 

But there's someone else out there who maybe you know, funny enough, maybe they also have Communication, but theirs show up in a written form. Maybe they are not the extroverted person out there, in terms of extroverted catalytic change. Maybe they are, you know, they are more introverted. They like the details, they want to keep everybody abreast through this great written form. 

It could be all kinds of things. But there's somebody else out there who would love this. And so a great, you know, really well-functioning team is able to talk about these things. You've got this great trash-to-treasure team activity, where again, it takes a little bit of vulnerability, but we can say, here are the top three things I love, or I'm looking forward to. Here are the things that I'm kind of ready to pass on to somebody else.

Lisa: I mean, look at that, like we, we love talking with each other. And we don't get to the actionable takeaway this fast usually. This is, this is great. That thing that you just described, where if you share it as a team…. 

Here's an example the other day. A guy goes, (I introduced trash and treasure sort of things, like, what are some things that you really enjoy?), and he said, “I really like escalation calls." 

TyAnn: Which is funny, because a lot of other people are like, “Oh, my God, I would hate that.” 

Lisa: They thought he added in the wrong column. And then and you know, you just get a lot of that. “Why? Why?” 

TyAnn: Why? 

Lisa: “What are you talking about?” Like, “surely he wrote that on the wrong side.” And he's like —

“I, I am a deep subject-matter expert. I love when there's a big challenge. It's gotten.... I don't love that customer services are flustered, but he's like, “I love that it's been too big and hairy for anyone to figure out, and I can come in and I know when they talk to me, it is over. Their frustration is done.” He said, “It's so satisfying to know that there is no escalation after me. It is always solved.” 

TyAnn: Wow. 

Lisa: And that thing just made him feel so alive. And instantly, in that moment, people are like, “Can I give you mine? Can I give you mine? Can I give you mine?”

And he is like, “In fact, yes. If other things can get off my plate, yes, I would love it if my day were filled with that.” 

Imagine. He feels more productive doing escalation calls. He didn't study a time management book. He didn't even have to apply the Getting Things Done (GTD) method. He saved time at work because he loved it and that is a responsibility that lights him on fire.

TyAnn: That's brilliant. 

Lisa: Now, it's not always that clean and easy. I mean, you can't just be like, “Yes, let me give you my worst tasks ever.” For many on the team, that's their worst well ever. But it works. There are moments. 

TyAnn: I love that like that. I love that. Or if we could find, usually there's somebody on the team who maybe highly Analytical or they have whatever skill, like the Excel skills, or the Microsoft Project skills. They love, you know, a good Gantt chart or whatever. Usually, there's somebody who, that’s their jam. 

And someone else wants to poke their eye out if that's what they have to do. So wouldn't it be great if you could just shift a little bit so that, you know, “Hey, maybe I can't just unload this task? Maybe I'm still responsible for it but hey, Lisa, can I go to lunch with you? And you could just give this thing a once over and you know, make sure I'm on the right path?” 

You know, and you're probably like, “That's awesome. Yes!” And I'll say I’ll buy your lunch. And you're like, “You don't even have to do that, I'm excited to help.” 

Lisa: Mmmm. 

TyAnn: I'm like, “Why would you be excited to help about this loathsome project?” But so you know, those kinds of things are easy ways you can ease into it, even if it's not possible for me to be like here at least. So you take it up. 

Lisa: And I think you're bringing up a nuance that's important is that you don't just want your manager, the person you report to, to be the only one who knows what you want to grow into. Now, your teammates know new things about, you and you know things about them. 

Maybe then you share with the leader like, “Oh, wow, he was so helpful to me in this way.” And now he's getting known for the thing that he likes. 

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: And he's getting more of it. And it really does have this virtuous.. 

TyAnn: ...virtuous cycle — my favorite thing about Significance, right. Uhhmm, share with each other, what is the thing you love best about your job because, in the words of my friend, Lisa, notice what works to get more of what works. And so if I don't know what works for you, I can't ever help you get more of that. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: And I can't ever point out because if I keep pointing out your spreadsheet looks really good, and you're like, “Oh my god, I hate that thing. I am going to go to my grave and have that spreadsheet etched on my tombstone.” And you never want to say, “Ah, I'd really like to do this other thing.”

So again, coming back to the idea that your manager doesn’t automatically know what you want, and the psychic method doesn't work, and it doesn't work for your teammates, either. 

This is where I think being vulnerable, having that psychological safety, and I think also having that concept of, “just because I don't say, just because I don't love something doesn't mean I'm saying, “I hate this. I'm not going to do it.”

Or, “I'm going to do it poorly.” Because again, I don't get to run my unicorn work. I don't only get to do the things I want to do all day long. I'm going to approach my work and always do everything with as much integrity as I can. But there are some things I would like to do more of, and probably have more of an act to do.

Attract Opportunities By Striking A Conversation About Your ‘How’ Skills

Lisa: Yay. Good luck on that, Ty. And don't make your take away, the refusal of the job... 

TyAnn: Don't do that. 

Lisa: ...or the excuse to get out of work or... 

TyAnn: Don't do that. But as you know, as we tell children, you got to use your words. So you've got to put it out there. Whether you call it the secret, or the universe, or using your words, you've got to put out there what you're hoping to do more of. 

Lisa: Oh, and you have to first decide what you want more of. If you're going to save time at work by doing work that puts you in flow, you have to reflect enough to know what responsibilities put you in the flow state. 

TyAnn: Yeah.

Lisa: Strengths, reading the book StrengthsFinder, doing the CliftonStrengths assessment, these are all helpful things if you've never even thought of, “Oh, it's not just that I would like more of this skill, 

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: … but also, how I interact with people. Or like, in the Communication example, that was more of a ‘how’, not a ‘what’ skill thing” and... 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: ...like, “Oh, I like to build momentum. Aha, I can ask my manager for things that require momentum building, that's not something that they've probably ever thought of using, as an assignment criteria.” And now they have a whole new realm of things to offer you instead of like that one specific job that you were hoping to move into next. 

TyAnn: I think that's actually a really good point because if you just look at, you know, let me find the magic job title, well, I'll just tell you, that's going to be a long hard search. Because that often doesn't exist. But these “how” skills exist in a lot of places that you might not even realize, right? But that's where you can, the more you put out there what you want, the more other people will start to help you and say —

“You know, there's actually the thing you didn't even know, but they could use you on that project team.” Like I didn't even know that was a thing. 

And then, you know. But again, if you just sit there at your cube, or now you know, at your home office, hoping that the magical assignment comes your way and bluebirds into your, to your window, you're going to be sitting there a long time. So you can, you can have a little bit more control in your life when you do the right thing(?) 

Lisa: Yeah. So if we bring this all together, I would say one action is, you want to have a conversation with the person that you report to. 

TyAnn: Absolutely. 

Lisa: And and try to find a way to express, “Here's this thing I would love to grow into. And I would love it, if you would think of me next time you're considering assignments that relate to x, and if you use those “how” skills. 

TyAnn: Absolutely. And by the way, it's perfectly legitimate feedback for your manager to say, “Okay, I hear you saying that, but you know what, you don't have any of those skills today.” That might happen. And then you can have a conversation about, “Okay, how might I be positioned to get those skills? What would a path look like for that?” 

Lisa : Yeah. 

TyAnn: That is completely legitimate. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: Or for you to look up in the organization somewhere, and then just go talk to someone and say, “how did you get here?” How, and, you know, that's what, I kind of interview internal people all the time. Have, you know, and just have kind of an informational one-on-one.

By the way, people love to talk about themselves, little tip, and people will meet with you all day long, for 30 minutes, just to tell you their story. 

And so that's where real growth happens. So I love that. So talk to your manager. Again, second method doesn't work there. So that's the first tip, communication. 

Lisa: I'd say, volunteering the talent out. So let's say for example, you lead through Learner and Input. And now your company is implementing Microsoft Teams, but no one knows how to use it, and they're resisting it. And you're like, “we're gonna have to get down with this program, because it's going to be the way of the world. Microsoft is embedded in everything we do, we need to figure it out.” 

And so you decide, “I'm going to turn on my Learner and Input. I'm going to find all the cool features and things that could make life easier for teammates and then I'm going to share it with teammates.

So then you get an opportunity to get known for what you want more of because you've decided, “I'm going to do it anyway. I can tell it we'll have to figure it out. I'm going to turn on my Learner and Input which would be fun for me because those are in my top five. And then I'm going to use those, volunteer them out beyond myself to help the team."

By virtue of volunteering it out, you can see where using the talent makes you feel more productive and efficient. It's an experimenting process. It is a process, yet the compounding effect can save you a lot of time at work over the course of months or years. In fact, the job itself can be totally different as a byproduct of these experiments.

If the team does StrengthsFinder as a team thing, then they know the words Learner and Input and you're able to say, “Okay, you know, Learner and Input. I nerded out on this. So I thought you might find this helpful, here are all the things that I've picked up.” And you give them the tip sheet.

TyAnn: I love that. I mean, that's so cool. You've made yourself the super user. You've... and it's not just about you, you've created, you know, you've positioned yourself in a way of service to other people. 

So by the way, anytime you're helpful to other people, they tend to want to come back to you to get more help, which is great, because you've, you know, you're killing kind of two birds with one stone, this is great. They're gonna be like, -

“Oh, that you did such a great job that last time we had this thing. Now we've got to have this. You know, we're gonna put this in Slack. Nobody here knows anything about it. Can you help us with that?” 

And yeah, you would be the person. So I love that. It's volunteering your talent, not again, sitting at your desk quietly with your head down, waiting for someone to come tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, Lisa, I know you're a high Learner Input. So I was thinking maybe here's an opportunity, you could, you could do.” 

That, that's rarely going to happen. It's rarely going to happen. So you have to really keep your eye on the landscape and think, “How could I apply my top themes to what's going on here?” So... 

Lisa: Those are big. 

TyAnn: I know.

Lisa: Okay. I have a third one, which would be, listen for what people kvetch and complain about. 

TyAnn: Hmm. 

Lisa: Not to join it? 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: Again, more career limiting. 

TyAnn: Yeah, don't do that. 

Lisa: But if you listen, you can hear like when Ty was explaining the spreadsheet with doing the VLOOKUPs. She was good at them but when she remembers this role that she had where she had to spend all day in the spreadsheet doing Vlookups, her nose crinkles up when she says “Vlookup” like there's an uhm! 

TyAnn: Yeah, there's a physical response when you don't like something. You're basically or even your body might hunch down a little bit. 

Lisa: Yeah. So watch for that because let's say I were the teammate, I lead through Analytical and Deliberative and I love slicing and dicing data and living in Excel put me in Excel all day long as my favorite job, when I see her react that way, if I'm listening to other people's responses, both tuning in... 

TyAnn: Yeah, 

Lisa: ...even just to watch, but I'm watching, “Oh, saw your reaction in the Vlookup there.” 

TyAnn: ‘Saw the nose crinkle. 

Lisa: “Not your BFF, huh?” She's like, “NO!” And then I go, “Ah, I start to get ideas. I could, I could take that on for you. And maybe you could swap something out with me. Or maybe I could give you a shortcut template or something like that, where I'm just volunteering it out.” 

She's thinking, yeah Vlookups are slow and cumbersome and awful. Meanwhile you're thinking that Vlookups are such a great way to save time at work and get really efficient.

But beyond watch for things you could swap with others. And when you see others kvetching and complaining, you're often able to see —

“Oh, that thing that I like, not everybody likes that.” 

“Oh, that thing that I'm good at, not everyone else is good at it.” 

TyAnn: Right. I think that's huge. And just thinking about that person with a spreadsheet, you know, maybe there's a meeting they have to go to every week where they have to report out on that spreadsheet. And that meeting causes them no end of angst. They get the pit in the tummy feeling, they get the flop sweat, they go in and even though they know it front and back, they can't communicate that to save their lives. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: And it's miserable for everybody. And you're like, “I could talk to those people cold.” 

Lisa: That is perfect. 

TyAnn: You're like, “How about I, you do the back end, I'll do the front end and together we are the Ty and Lisa show? Only if it was the two of us. There really wouldn't be a back end, we would only be to the front. 

Lisa: We’re going, “To the back. To the back. To the front. To the front.” It would be stuck — a skipping record. “To the front. To the front. To the front” 

TyAnn: We need to have a team. We would need Deena a lot with this, to help, to help round us out. Um, yeah. So again, the psychic method doesn't work. So you got to have that, those conversations, and I think that will really serve me well. 

Lisa: Yeah. So let us know, how did your conversation go? How did you bring it up? 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: And when you were thinking of the talents that you're trying to lead into, how did you phrase it with your manager. This is a scripting thing that I find a lot of people get stuck on. And that's why I like to give that thing where it's like, -

“Hey, I've been thinking about what I want to grow into next.” Or even using this podcast because at least it's less awkward to say, “Hey, I was listening to this podcast. I was trying to learn more about being awesome at work," you know, in something that makes you sound like you're continuing to grow. 

TyAnn: Right? 

Lisa: “I've been putting a lot of thought into this and it gave me this idea.” And then you can offer it out. 

TyAnn: And then let us know and we'll talk about it. Let us know if you tried it and it doesn't work either. We'll come up with something else for you. There's more than one way here. 

Lisa: We can have the failure recapture. “Okay, here's a scripting idea that doesn't work. Don't try this because this goes back into that high-risk category that sits right along what... 

TyAnn: Lisa and I laugh about this because we have tried a whole bunch of things that haven't worked before. So we, you know, we can, we're right there with you on that. We can help prevent you from having those same experiences. 

Lisa: Yes. And although my stint in HR was very, very short, yours was much more significant. And the time that we got to spend with leaders saying, “All right, fire me.”

Like, “We’re doing the roleplay. It's going to be an awkward conversation. I am now the person.” And then getting them to go through…. 

Scripting things out is tough. And there are so many hard conversations in the workplace. So even these when you're, you're trying to talk about yourself without sounding braggadocious

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa:  That's tough too. 

TyAnn: Right? 

Lisa: And it's not even awkward, and you're not telling someone they're about to…

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: ...lose their job or be on a performance improvement plan. It's just simply like, “how do I describe something that I might be good at without sounding like an arrogant jerk? 

TyAnn: Like a braggy jerk. So it's fine. We, again, it feels a little uncomfortable, because we don't have these conversations all the time. So that's where you're just, you know, you can get a little index card and just literally write this out. And then kind of practice in a mirror saying this. You can practice with a friend. You can call a spirit guide to help you out. 

And the more you do it, the easier it will become. And again, we're not trying at all for you to say, “here's the list of things I'm not going to do.” This is just how can you lean your career, how can you steer it a little bit more toward the things that bring you energy, and a little bit less towards the soul sucker parts of the job. 

Lisa: Yeah. And if you do decide that you want to do this as a team exercise, where you're talking about it and you want a facilitator, Ty would be a great one for this. She can come into your organization and walk you through that trash and treasure exercise.

She's great at helping you figure out what fills you up - even a personal branding exercise for each person on the team.

We have one where you walk away with three words that describe how you would love to be known and describe how you want to show up in the organization so that you can actually take the time to reflect because it's hard to carve the time out, and then your teammates can know how you want to be known, and your manager.

TyAnn: That's a cool exercise too, by the way. People feel really good about that. 

Lisa: Yeah. And it feels so good to hear them about each other. 

TyAnn: Yeah. Very affirming.

Lisa: And it takes away that... 

TyAnn: Very affirming. I love that one. 

Lisa: Yeah because you're not being awkward or arrogant when some facilitators ask you to do the exercise. 

TyAnn: Yeah, absolutely. 

Lisa: Yeah.

TyAnn: So give us a ring. Let us know what works for you and if you need help on this process.

Lisa: All right. With that, we will see you next time. Bye for now.

More Relevant Resources To Support Your Strengths-Focused Career Growth

The previous discussion on strengths as easy buttons for better performance truly supports today’s episode. You turn on your "easy buttons" when you go for tasks or projects that you find enjoyable and energizing. This leads to a better and well-recognized performance at work.

But going more for these tasks that you love also means ensuring you don’t end up sounding braggy. Not all people around you might respond well to it. Here’s Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines sharing tips on how to not sound arrogant when building a career around your strengths, so you can review your script before you talk to others about yourself.

If you’re a team manager, you can help and guide your team members realize their full potential in whatever roles they express to lean more into by assessing their top strengths, along with their trash and treasure list. Revisit Lisa’s interview with Adam Seaman to pick up more tips.

Direct download: 133-save-time-at-work.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

If You're Not Feeling Very Worky Today, Your Feeling Is Valid

If you woke up not feeling very worky today, you're not alone. All around the world, this happens for reasons that are either obvious or hard to dig.

Being in a funk is a real struggle that can last from days to months and can impact many important decisions that you make. It happens in the workplace and beyond.

Being in this situation may lead you to deliberate whether to stay in a job or not, to stay in a relationship or not, to adopt a certain lifestyle or not, and so on. This feeling is valid, but when it does happen, do you usually deal with it from a place of fear, or from a place of strength?

In another fun and insightful episode, host Lisa Cummings and fellow StrengthsFinder facilitator TyAnn Osborn share their personal and professional take on what it means to be in a funk, and effective ways to turn that "funky monkey" situation around. (Expect some hints of Beastie Boys along the way too.)

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.

Today, we are going to talk about being in a funk. So very often, we go to strengths events, we get invited in to deliver training, and often it's from an inspirational standpoint. We want to get to know each other better, we want to communicate better, we want to get to know a new team... 

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: Team building... 

TyAnn: Very positive. Very fun. 

Lisa: And then the reality of the world is we have days when mojo meter is level zero. We have seasons, times, months, weeks, where sometimes you're just in a funk. Once, I had an entire, probably six months of a job where I was in a funk and I was like, “What is wrong with me? I like the people, I like the job, the pay is good. Life is good. Everything on paper sounds so right. What is wrong?"

And almost never do people think, “Well, this would be a great opportunity to use my strengths!” It just doesn't come up for people. But I know that you have ideas for this, and you've talked about them being one of the best things you could do for yourself when you find yourself in a funk or you think someone else might be in a funk.

Step 1: Acknowledge When You’re Feeling Funky

Lisa: So, if you are going to even begin applying strengths to this concept, what would you start with? 

TyAnn: I think that's so true. And like Lisa said, often when we come in, we've done a big team building event, everyone's all jazzed up, this is exciting. And then you go back to your desk, and work happens. Or life happens. And you're like, “Oh, that was fun.”

But meanwhile, Now my customer is upset with me. My kid’s upset with me... My spouse is upset with me... I have to make dinner... Whatever it is, and life just happens.

Or, like she said, sometimes you can't really put your finger on it. And for whatever reason, you're just like, “Oh, I feel like a funky monkey, I don't know why.” That sounds more cute than you might actually be feeling. 

Lisa: Sounds like Brass Monkey. Makes me think of Beastie Boys.

TyAnn: ‘Love Beastie Boys.  Yes, that's my jam.

Lisa: (sings)

TyAnn: So I think it's really easy to use strengths when things are going well. But I think really a powerful application is when you're not feeling that great. And so what do you do?

So I would say the first thing is, be able to recognize when you are feeling funky. And sometimes we don't want to intellectually allow ourselves to even go there. Or like you said, “I shouldn't be feeling bad about myself. I'm getting paid good money!"

Lisa: "My thinking skills tell me that does not make sense and therefore I must feel great!"

TyAnn: "This must be a first world problem because look at me, I have a job and on paper, everything looks fine... I'm not hungry. I'm able to feed myself, I'm able to provide for my family..." And whatever.

And here's the deal. 

Lisa: "You just feel like you're being a baby!"

TyAnn: "You feel like you're being a baby." And again, you might say like, "Oh, this is a first world problem."

But here's the deal: feelings are valid, because they're your feelings. And if you're feeling funky, you don't have to explain that away to yourself. It's okay. It's okay. I mean, nobody can discount your feelings because they're your feelings. It's okay.

So I would say the first thing is just to put that baggage aside for “I shouldn't be feeling this way,” because that's the quickest way to really start some problems internally.

Lisa: Let's break that piece down, like you're saying, Step 1 is to figure out that you're feeling like a funky monkey. And then what actually is it.

Well, if our client base is representative of many more people in corporate, which I think they are, like, if you're feeling wimpy about it, or feeling like you're being a baby, it's easy to want to discard it, push past it pretty quickly, or to not really spend any time going, what is it actually?

Lisa: When I ask people, “What do you think you're really feeling about the situation?” And people will be like, “Well, I'm anxious about it, it's stressing me out.” Those are the two... I think they're the easy words: stressed, anxious. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: I know you can tell me if you hear others are saying like anything past it. 

TyAnn: They're socially acceptable to say. You know, what is not socially acceptable, is to say I'm scared. And usually, if someone's angry about something, almost always fear is underneath that.

And anxiety? Fear is almost always underneath that. And so when you peel it back, you're like —

“What's making you so stressed about that?” 

“Well, I'm afraid I'm not going to do a good job.”  

"Okay, so what if you don't do a good job?” 

And so you can kind of follow this line of thinking.

“Well, if I don't do a good job, I'm gonna get a bad performance review, right?” 

“Okay. So what if you get a bad performance review?” 

“Well, then you know, I'm not going to get a raise.” 

“Okay, so what if you don't get a raise?” 

“Well, then, you know, this might happen.” 

And we tend to have an irrational fear. And sometimes I call it like the “bag lady” fear — that you're going to end up as a bag lady sort of pushing the shopping cart living under the overpass. 

Lisa: This is a real fear. 

TyAnn: This is a real fear. 

Lisa: I had a situation where I took a wrong job. I took a job that was a bad fit for me. 

TyAnn: By the way, this happens all the time. I have also done this. 

Lisa: Yes, and you've also written blog entries about the Mondays, the case of the Mondays that you get.

TyAnn: That's right. This happens.

Lisa: Yes, this happens. So when I picked that role, and I thought, “I think that the answer is to leave.” But then there was so much baggage hanging on to the leaving. 

So I was in a funk because I got myself stuck in a thought circle. And we actually went through a process, kind of like what you described. 

"What is the worst that could happen there? And then what would happen there? And then what would happen there?"

So I just played it out off of quitting.

And what would happen? "Oh, well I just, I would disappoint people because I put them through an interview process. How could I do that to them? They went through this whole thing. They picked me!" 

TyAnn: They would be mad at you. 

Lisa: Yes! I didn't want to be viewed unfavorably. I didn't want them to be angry with me. But also, I didn't want to be a jerk to them. I thought what if I'm not giving it enough time? 

TyAnn: Hmm. What if you're a quitter?

Lisa: What if I'm a quitter? What if I'm a poor decision maker? 

TyAnn: [7:05] ***You're branded with the scarlet Q that you'd have around for the rest of your life.***

Lisa: Yeah. I mean, these are things. And then it was...

Okay, and then what? Let's say I quit.

Well, normally, I'm a planner. I think ahead. I think far ahead. I would have been deciding what I am going to do next. And then I would get myself lined up for it. And then I would have it all lined up, and I would have an acceleration lane all planned up. I didn't have any of that. So this would be all new territory. I decided, well, this would be a good time to start a business. Not this business but it was a different one. 

But I was like — okay, what if I don't get any customers? What if I have no revenue? What if I…

TyAnn: And now I have to make a business plan. And now that's a huge project. 

Lisa: Yeah. And I was like, “Oh, we had just purchased this land that we wanted, that was the forever plan. What if I ruin, what if I single-handedly ruin the forever plan because I took one wrong job?” 

TyAnn: Oh, that's a lot of pressure. 

Lisa: But you know, even when you go through the worst, when I realized I was really just being a chicken, and that the worst that could happen...you know what we came to when we stayed up really late that night, just talking about, “No, seriously, what is the worst?” 

TyAnn: What was it? 

Lisa: We were going to live on an RV and be camp hosts in a lovely State Park, and it was like, “Oh, this is okay.” 

TyAnn: Which by the way, I have not one but multiple friends who are doing that right now.

Lisa: On purpose?

TyAnn: That is their dream. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: Yeah. Like that's the thing. 

Lisa: Yeah. And at the time, it was just like, “Well, we had an RV. So we literally wasn't something to purchase. It was just like we take the thing that we have while we lost the house, because remember, I lost the whole dream farm. We lost the farm. 

TyAnn: It burned. It burned up overnight. 

Lisa: Yeah. I brought it crashing down in flames. And then it was right there. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: So the answer was there. I'm not saying it made it unscary, but that was a funk breaker. So I know it was a bit of a long story to support your point, but I was in a funk — because I was stuck in a decision. 

TyAnn: You were afraid. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: It was fear.

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: But you knew the right thing to do.

Lisa: I guess so. 

TyAnn: You wanted to leave. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: You were just afraid. 

Lisa: But we fire ourselves on that often. I know. I do. And I know that a lot of customers do... And many smaller things because, well, you know, we work with plenty of people who are not in a funk because they're making self-actualizing giant life decisions. That does happen as well.

You know who you are. If you're listening to the show and you stayed after one of the sessions, and we’re like...

TyAnn: Right...which we love by the way.

Lisa: Oh my God, this made me realize... 

TyAnn: I made the complete wrong job. 

Lisa: But also it happens in the everyday mundane.

TyAnn: Yeah, absolutely.

Identifying The Root Of The Funky Feeling Is Not Magic But A Process

TyAnn: I hear this a lot. And believe me, this is kind of what keeps coaches in business, is working with people who kind of get to even like the 40, 50-plus category who are like:

“You know what? I've worked all this time, and I've sort of made it. I've gotten to wherever it was in the career in the company. I've gotten to whatever level job that I thought was the place I wanted to be, and kind of, is this all there is?”

Or like, “I thought somehow I would be riding my unicorn to work and playing with puppies all day. And you know what? I don't. I don't like it. I don't like what I do... I don't really like who I've become.” 

Or, “My kid drew a picture of the family and I'm not in it.” What we've heard from a colleague of ours... Or something else happens. 

This is why people have a midlife crisis or a complete breakdown. Talk about a funk. And that's something where you know that there's that little voice whispering in you, of discontent, and you have shoved it down. And you know, when you push that bad boy down, just like feelings, it is like your jack-in-the-box analogy — that thing will shoot out in a very ugly and untimely way. 

Lisa: That's true. And you know, it's like, once you've been shoving it down, long enough people know. And you're like, I have the pit in my stomach. I know it's off, but I don't know what is off. I can't put my finger on it. 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: And then boom, Jack in the box jumps out. 

TyAnn: Or people feel scared because “I have set up my life now where now I have the big house, or I'm supporting my whole family.” Or I mean, whatever it is. And we kind of make it bigger in our head sometimes. 

Lisa: Oh, I had one of those recently in a Strengths session. She said, she called it her "big kid bills." And she was like, “I have the house, I have the car, I have the stuff, I have everything. And I've got my mind all wrapped up in keeping with the Joneses.” 

And she's like, “All I want to do is just go buy a Honda Accord and live in a one-bedroom apartment and unravel it all. And I can't even do that.” 

TyAnn: So like, “more money, more problems.” And I mean that's why I think there's such a pull right now for downsizing, for minimalism, for “let's chuck it all and go live in that RV and go be the camp host...”

And there's a huge movement for that right now. I mean, even in the design world, there's you know, “Minimalism is in!" Not "Rococo is in.” You know what I mean? 

Lisa: I don't even know what that is.

TyAnn: "The heavily layered look is out!"

So you see this, there's a real pull and desire for that. And so it's real. It's a thing and it's okay to just sit back and think, “I've worked and maybe I've been the one pushing this, and I feel funky. I don’t know if I want this.”

Lisa: Okay, so I'm your client. We've been talking Strengths. 

TyAnn: Okay. 

Lisa: I do the CliftonStrengths assessment. I am in fact, in a funk and I did do my assessment. I know my top strengths. I think I'm gonna talk to Ty as my coach. So I'm going to start to open up to the concept and kind of like, talk through what's going on, so I can figure it out because I can't put my thumb on what is making the funky monkey situation happen. 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: So what do you do, like if you're in a corporate office, you know, most of our customers are, and they're like living through the funk, and they've acknowledged the funk isn't gonna go away in a one conversation sort of thing. This isn't a magic dust...

TyAnn: And I wish it was. I would charge a lot more.

Lisa: No kidding!

Poof! Life is amazing! 

TyAnn: For $20,000, I will solve your funkiness!

Lisa: 1 hour!

TyAnn: Shazam!

Yeah, sadly, a little bit more of a process. 

Lisa: So I know like in one podcast episode, we can't end it and say, “And here…” 

TyAnn: Here's your 30-second easy answer.

Lisa: It will be jerky if I'm like, “Go pay Ty $20,000 so she can get you the answer.” That's not the most fun.

TyAnn: But there are some things you can do, for sure.

Lisa: Yeah, 

So getting a coach is a great one. But what else, like what actions can people take away when they're living through the funk, they're in the middle of it, and they're getting to the other side? 

Look Up To A Coach Or Your Strengths Report As Your 'Spirit Guide'

TyAnn: So one thing you said, getting a coach.

So I would say absolutely. I'm a huge fan of that, not just because I'm a coach, but because I believe it works. So if your company supports that, awesome!

But if they don't, see if you can reach out to a trusted person, because often when you're in it, it can be really hard to see. You know what I mean? 

So it can be helpful to have spirit guides — somebody to walk beside you on that. So that's a) if you can, you know, put your hand up, and that takes being a little bit vulnerable. But it's okay to just say, “You know what, I gotta get some help here."

Because there's no prize for doing that hard and by yourself. Just a little clue to life here. 

And something too that when you can pull out your Strengths — and again, I realized when you're feeling funky, you might not be thinking Strengths, I mean, that might not be it — but I encourage you, like reach back in your desk and pull up that report. And there's going to be a piece in there about Brings & Needs, that I really like.

And you know, often when you first read it, you kind of blow through some of that. But oftentimes, when we're feeling funky, it's because we have a need that's not being met.

And each one of our strengths themes has a really specific thing that we need in order to feel fulfilled in that way. 

And so almost invariably, when I find myself in a funk, I can go back and like literally put my finger on the thing that I am not getting.

And it is illuminating to be able to give language or a word to, “Oh my gosh, I thought it was just me. I am not getting this. This is what I need.”

And life isn't about putting your needs on a shelf and doing it, again, the hard way. You are at your best and the world needs the best of you, not the most mediocre funky version of you. That's not helpful to anyone. Does that make sense? 

Lisa: Yeah, absolutely. And if they have the full 34 report, the version that you get the lesser themes at the bottom, you might look at the bottom 5 to 7. And you might notice, if you don't think of these as weaknesses, you think of these as potential energy drainers. Well, you look at that list. And you might think, “Oh right, look at that one. It's number 33 of 34. And I'm using that all day, every day. It's taking a lot of me to give it.” 

TyAnn: Yeah.

Lisa: Because you can be totally competent in those areas. By the way, if you're new to Strengths, it can be at the bottom of your list in the stack rank of 34. You can get competent, you can do the thing, but it's sucking it all out of you and you're empty by giving it.

TyAnn: Right 

Lisa: And it can really make you feel funky if you're having to do that over time. 

TyAnn: Absolutely. And you know, Gallup’s got these engagement metrics that we talk about with our clients. And you know, the data shows that people who are able to use their strengths during the day — six times as likely to be engaged, three times as likely to have a better quality of life.

And as I tell my clients, this doesn't mean I only get to work on fun stuff all day long, that really, you know, it is the Ty land. That's not life. 

But what the research behind this shows is that something in my day brings me energy. And because it does, it lifts me up enough so that then I can get through that noise and deal with some of that stuff that might be pulling on my themes that are at the bottom of my stack. Does that make sense? 

Lisa: Yeah. So gas in the tank. It gets you back up there so you can get through the day doing things that you're paid to do even if you don't like those things. 

TyAnn: That's just it. Because sometimes clients are like, “Oh, well, this means I don't have to do those other parts of my job I don't like.”

I'm like, “Yeah, no, it's still work.” 

Now if 100% of your job you don't like, that's not something. But there needs to be something every day that kind of fills your tank, and then you can get through that other stuff. But I think that's where you can start to kind of put some analysis around the funk and then say, “Oh, my gosh, I didn't realize 75% of my job is doing that thing that takes so much energy. I can do it because I'm smart, I'm competent, I mean, I got to this point, I can do it. I just don't want it to take so much of my energy."

And then, "Frankly, I don't even have enough energy left to do the things that do excite me." Which then, that becomes sad, you know.

I don't even have enough energy to play the drums. Or, I found this happening with me. I love to read, that's kind of my thing. I found if I get in a funk, I'll stop reading. And that's when I've noticed that, man something's really wrong with me. Because I love to read. So if I don't have enough energy to read...

Lisa: Okay, you know, we're into these analog tools in the list, this would be a good list like, "Can you remember back to times when you were in a funk and what might the signs be?” 

And some things like that. You stop reading. I might skip my drum practice for the day I notice. I let myself get a little disorganized, like if my trash starts to overflow because I'm Mrs. Cleanly, I'm Mrs. Tidy is basically me, so I noticed... Oh, if a couple of little signs, like my fingernails are very chipped and my trash is overflowing and I'm playing Tetris waiting for it to fall out — I know, I'm not in my normal game. 

TyAnn: Isn't that interesting? 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: So kind of know that about yourself, like what are these little signs, little guideposts along the way so that you can pay attention to those before you get to sort of the edge of the cliff, and you've fallen off. 

Unleash Your Best You — The World Needs It

Lisa: Okay, this is good.

So we have to-dos for them. Okay, we've got lists to make....

  • What are your early warning signs guideposts?

TyAnn: Absolutely.

  • Raise your hand if you're feeling funky and see if you can get a spirit guide to help you out. 

Lisa: Yeah.

  • And if you need a coach Ty, is really amazing.

One thing I love about your style in this regard is, well, depth, obviously. You get corporate, you get people's busy lives, but you're both empathetic and tough at the same time — not empathy in the Gallup sense of the word, but like, you feel the person for how they need to be seen and heard and appreciated in the moment. 

But then you can also tell the truth. You're not afraid of... 

TyAnn: I definitely have huge compassion for people because — especially with the clients we work with — I've been there.

You know, we've had these jobs. I have had the job where I felt like I had to be on 24/7. I've had the ex-pat job where I literally felt like I was on 24/7 because I had a whole job on the other side of the world, and just when that job was ending, the US was coming online. I've had the job where I got 300 emails a day. I've had the job where you go into the Ops review, and you have to prepare a 75-page deck that you get yelled at about. I mean, we've lived this, right? 

Lisa: Yeah.

TyAnn: I've been in a place where you get promoted to a position that you're like, “I don't want this. I don't want my boss's job. I don't want any of these jobs.” 

Lisa: “Why did I do this?”

TyAnn: “Why did I do this?” But you know what, I've also had things that are great. And I'm just saying, life can be awesome. And you have tremendous and powerful skills. And we just want to harness those so that we can unleash the best of you in the world — because that's what the world needs. 

Lisa: Yeah. Okay, that is a perfect end to this. One thing I am going to put in the show notes for you is a link to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/negative. There's one called /positive and there's one /negative. And it's a list of emotions. It's like an inventory of emotions.

And so if one of your takeaways is coaching — great, bring on Ty.

If you are more like, “Hey, I just need to DIY this right now, and I'm going to go back to the very beginning of this episode and do that thing where I'm trying to figure out beyond saying I'm stressed or anxious, what's going on with me with this funk... That list, it just gives you a whole different set of words to say —

"Oh, yeah, I think I'm just angry about this thing that got switched up on me at work. And I've just had the bee in my bonnet for a while, using an old saying, and now that put me into a funk.”

So that will be a good resource as well, if you have trouble naming it.

And remember Ty’s wisdom, I will call it, which is — you don't have to look at these emotions and name these emotions so that you can go tell your boss you're feeling it. This is actually you just doing it so you can understand what is making the funk. Right?

TyAnn: Yeah, absolutely. And it could be, I mean, I've seen this before, you could be mad because you're not getting recognized, you know. You're mad, you worked on that project and somebody else got the credit for it. You know, all these things. And you might think, “I can't say that out loud, because that sounds really petty.” You know, then someone's going to be like...

But that's a valid feeling. That's totally valid.

So I love that lists can help spark that for you. So write that stuff down so you can help in your mind...just get kind of granular on what specifically is it that's causing the funk. Because once we know, and we can drill into that, then we can help start building bridges to get over the funk. 

Lisa: Yeah. And you layer that with what you described about going back through your report and reading the needs. And if you have the full report, looking at the very bottom, so you might see something that is a soul sucker for you that you didn't know.

You have a pretty good inventory either of, “Oh, I've got my early warning signs”, or, “Oh, I've figured out what might have spurred this.” Like that moment where you didn't get recognized, maybe you're annoyed for about 30 seconds, and then you're like, “Yeah, [24:33] ***I'm a grown-up*** so I'm over it.” And then you move on — but you didn't get over it. 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: You just told yourself you did. 

TyAnn: Right. Or maybe that's like the 5th time that that's happened in this job, and it's just like, it's like your bee in your bonnet. It doesn't go away. It's there. And then every time that happens again, it's just that confirmation that's like see, this is in here. 

And maybe one of your themes is Significance, and maybe yours needs to be recognized. And so that's a really good starting point to think... What's going on here? How can I put more Venn in this diagram than these things that are totally opposite? So I think that's just a great place to start.

Lisa: It is.

And speaking of starts, we're stopping. [Laughs] So even though we're at the end of the episode, you know we always talk about how using your strengths will make you a stronger performer. And in this time, if you're listening to this, if you are in one of those moments where you are in a funk, don't forget that your strengths do strengthen your performance. Because, I think to Ty's point, it is not the first thing that comes to mind. But if you're experiencing the funk right now and you're feeling like the brass monkey-funky monkey, get over to your CliftonStrengths report and get...reflecting? Is that what you would call it?

TyAnn: Yeah. You’re reflecting. Yeah, go back and dig into those Brings & Needs, and I think you'll find some wisdom there.

Lisa: All right. With that, we will see you next time. Bye for now.

Need More Resources To Help You Further Beat Those Funky Blues? Check These Out

Lisa mentioned how being in a funk is largely linked to being “stressed” and “anxious,” based on her experience discussing the situation with her clients. Listen to her as she explains how having a bad day, a person/team who frustrates you, and an environment where you feel mismatched might bring out the shadow side of your strengths in What Do Strengths Look Like Under Stress? Here you will learn how to reframe them from bad to better.

Or listen to Lisa’s grandma Venetta as she shares 5 career lessons. In one of the lessons, she encourages listeners to simply step back, get some perspective and look for the good in things even when stressed at work and feeling overwhelmed. The rest of her shared nuggets are just as golden! 

Funky moments, whether major or minor ones, are all part of life, as the path towards our goals is not always straight and smooth. Our episode on How To Start Living Your Best Life with Lisa and Strother Gaines will inspire you to embrace situations that can throw you off your path yet lead you to reroute or arrange new ones. 

All this points to the importance of anchoring on your CliftonStrengths talent themes in life.

See you in the next episode with Lisa and TyAnn.

Direct download: 132-Not-Feeling-Very-Worky-Today.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT