Sun, 18 April 2021
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:
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:
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!
Sun, 4 April 2021
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.
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.