Lead Through Strengths

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