Lead Through Strengths (careers)

Once You Get Your CliftonStrengths Report, How Should You Take Action?

Your CliftonStrengths report reflects your greatest strengths. As you focus on applying them to work, you might also wonder how to handle situations that call for talent themes way below your top 5 or top 10.  

If you're like most people, you'll want to dial up your bottom talents. Unfortunately, this can be a very draining process with a low return on your effort. Instead, your high-leverage will come from studying the top talents in your CliftonStrengths report — then double down on your superpowers.

If you need to take action on your lesser talents at the bottom of the CliftonStrengths report, there are strategies for mitigating these potential weaknesses:

1. You can partner with others who have that as a top talent.

2. You can stop doing some of the activities that call on the low talent area.

3. You can even do a task-switcheroo with a peer so that you're both in your respective strengths zones.

In this interview, Lisa Cummings and StrengthsFinder facilitator Sara Regan reflect on the value of looking at the full CliftonStrengths report as you navigate through work using your strengths.

Here’s the transcript of the insightful conversation between Lisa and Sara:

Lisa: Hello everyone, I'm Lisa Cummings from Lead Through Strengths. So excited today to be joined by Sara Regan, one of our facilitators from Lead Through Strengths, and I'm psyched to bring you some new fresh thinking and tips on applying your CliftonStrengths report (results) at work.

Intentionally Applying Top Talents From Your CliftonStrengths Report

Lisa: So that makes me think of a question on situational fluency. So a lot of people in the workplace, are thinking about —

“How do I read a room?”

“How do I get comfortable?” 

“How do I hone my chops in a skill?” 

And usually, people think about putting in the hours, putting in the work — doing the hustle behind the thing they want to get good at.

What else could you layer on for them, related to using their results from the CliftonStrengths report?

Sara: Right, I guess a few things. 1) I wouldn't discount just putting the time in but putting the time in a very conscious way. To be reflective about what they're learning along the way, can really help people to build that ability to shift and pivot in a little bit more fluency so that level of consciousness strengths come into play. 

There will be people who have certain themes and profiles and talents that allow that to happen more naturally. One of the things I like about strengths is it can certainly help us zero in on what we're really gifted at and where our talent lies. 

2) When I'm doing coaching with people, or sometimes working with teams and we're looking at the whole 34, there are some lesser themes and it's sometimes they simply need the awareness. Let's take Adaptability, it is a strength that usually allows people to go with the flow and adjust in a very calm and seamless way when maybe other people are freaking out, or the house is on fire these people maintain that calm presence and can shift. 

If Adaptability is number 34 for you, sometimes just knowing that, and knowing there will be situations when I need to really dig deep and so it can bring that clarity of focus of…”this is hard for me, but it's possible.” I need to think and act like somebody with high Adaptability. Study them. Listen to a podcast. Learn as much as you can and emulate what you can to do that shift, and then leaning on your other strengths that can help fill in as well. 

Now let's say that same person has Learner at very high — will stay curious, keep asking questions, partnering with other people who have different things that you can lean on. That, I find, is what helps people to navigate the unknown. 

CliftonStrengths Report: Knowing What To Do With Your Bottom 5

Lisa: I love it. I think you just gave a really good case for getting the premium version of Clifton strengths to get the full 34. You can do it without, but you get that very quick look at what is at the bottom of the CliftonStrengths report. And then instead of thinking of them as weaknesses, you think of them as potential drains or challenge points

I experienced the exact one that you were describing, but I could only see it in the rearview mirror so I looked back at an old job and I realized, “Oh I was so...soul-sucked.” 

And I couldn't figure out why because I loved the people, I loved the job. It all looked great on paper but it wore me out and I couldn't figure out why. Adaptability was the explanation for it when I look back, because it's low on my list. I can do it and I would tap into the need to have urgent phone calls and get interrupted constantly. 

I did it, well, because I cared about the people that I worked with so that's what gave me the juice to keep going. But it wasn't fun because focus wanted to be like —

“Hey, I'm in my cave working, and I need to have an uninterrupted time to be at my best.” 

So have you ever found any like that in yourself?

Sara: Absolutely. The situation that came to my mind was thinking about a different leader that I worked with before. He had Positivity as number 34. He became more conscious of when he needed to dial that up. Sometimes, I'm talking about calibrating these things and when we dial them up and dial them back and he had gotten some feedback along the way that people didn't always feel like there was the opportunity to celebrate, or the pat on the back. 

Achiever number 1 so we're off to the next project. You don't want to be uncomfortable. They were in place for too long, we need to keep moving. And so for him that was that — that way to think of the specific times when he needed to bring more of that Positivity forward. 

Your example was really interesting to me too because I think it proves that point that we can do these as needed with a lot of thought, and some consciousness. We can put the items at the bottom of our CliftonStrengths report into action. But we can't really live in that zone. And if we do, we're gonna experience burnout. We'll be stressed or just not as engaged — and maybe in a way that we don't fully understand. So I think that that can be a really powerful takeaway, and then that seeing the full 34 helps us with that. 

Your question about my own personal experience. Consistency is pretty low on my CliftonStrengths report. Context is low. And I know this is interesting too that I have had people who have Context very high, reporting to me. I've also reported to someone who had Context number 1. 

So, it sets up really important conversations about how you can get your best work done and how to communicate most effectively. I love it when we can bypass what might be an interpersonal attention or a misunderstanding or just literally not seeing eye to eye. But with that awareness and stepping back, being able to have a much greater appreciation. 

The other thing that has happened to the Connectedness believes that the universe gives us things that we need and opportunities to learn. My daughter has Context number 1, and so I had to develop an appreciation for this theme. I can't have bias. I really wanted to understand and I see how beautifully it helps her do what she needs to do. 

So there's lessons to be learned I think by seeing that full report and paying attention to when we can dial them up and when we just need to maybe step away from work that really calls us to stay in that that we can assume too much.

Lisa: So many good angles there and more cases for getting the full 34 CliftonStrengths report — because you can identify, “Oh that wears me out to be in that headspace. Wouldn't it be convenient if I used partnerships with other people, rather than feeling like you're head-butting with them, and they drive me crazy. Instead it could be like, oh they like thinking like this. What a benefit we could bring to each other.”

So good! One person's trash is another person's treasure. 

All right, now that you've picked up some new ideas from Sara, think about this: How does it apply to you? How does this concept show up in you and what could you do with it, given your top five talent themes and how you could apply those at work? 

We wish you the best as you claim those talents, and share them with the world.

Learn More About Maximizing Your CliftonStrengths Report

In an earlier Lead Through Strengths podcasts, Pete Mockaitis, trainer and chief at Awesome At Your Job, gave some more interesting scenarios to this podcast’s topic when he provided insights on How To Use Your StrengthsFinder Report. Through the CliftonStrengths assessment, he recognized how he had been applying his strengths in his academic and professional life. 

But there are instances when a CliftonStrengths report reveals a strength or two that you think are irrelevant to your job, are not supported by the workplace culture or something that you simply don’t like. Listen as Strother Gaines talks about What To Do When You Don’t Like Your Strengths in this podcast episode with Lisa.

On whether Working On Your Weakness Zone Leads To Burnout?, Lisa presents 3 tell-tale signs you could be and what you can do about it, whether you’re an employee, a strengths-champion or a people-leader. 

Better yet, if you’re a manager looking to power up your team’s efficiency and wanting to contribute to overall business performance, Jessica Rhodes shares magical ideas in this podcast episode on How To Use Your Team’s Talents To Swap Tasks And Leverage Their Strengths.

Direct download: 126-CliftonStrengths-Report-Now-What.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Your Strengths Have Everything To Do With Achieving Engaging Presentations

Presenting can be a piece of cake for some, but can be a daunting task for others. But whether you are an introvert or someone who loves to be in front of an audience, how well you can capture your audience really depends on how you use your strengths.

Do you focus on “wow”-ing your listeners with your dazzling approach, or do you focus on establishing genuine connection with them?

Get insights from Lisa Cummings and Sara Regan as they champion strengths in presenting.

Lisa: Hi everyone, it’s Lisa from Lead Through Strengths. Today I am joined by Sara Regan, one of our facilitators at Lead Through Strengths. You've heard a lot from me over the years and it's about time you get some new angles, fresh ideas on strengths, from other people who bring great content to Lead Through Strengths. Sara does just that. If her perspective grabs you, feel free to request her when you book your training events with us.

Authenticity Through Strengths Makes Meaningful Interactions

Lisa: So speaking of work, something that comes up constantly is people who have to do formal presentations, or they just have to present a PowerPoint in a meeting, and they get really in their head about the idea that they're not a professional presenter. They'll say —

“I don't feel like I have charisma and I'm not that colorful, so how do I use my strengths?

"Is it even possible to use strengths in a way to take a skill that I don't think I would be good at - and come at it from a new angle?”

"Can you deliver engaging presentations if you're an introvert?"

What are your thoughts on that?

Sara: I think strengths can give us a lot of insight, certainly into how to do our best work no matter what kind of work that is, including presenting. And my own experience with this is, I had a lot of doubts initially you know given the work that I did which was more one-on-one, or working with small groups or being in meetings. But it's different than being a facilitator, and being the person who is at the front of the room for sometimes four hours, eight hours. 

There's a level of energy that's required there and I really did feel like, I thought a lot about personality and what is the presence that's needed, and I did entertain how can I try to do it more like other people who I admired. And at the end of the day, I really just came back to, I have to do it, how I would do it, which is based on my own strengths. 

And so for me, the facilitation style I think one of the ones that probably comes through the most is Relator. So Relator is a theme where I really want to be able to create conditions for people to have a meaningful conversation. I like to keep it real. 

And so, I have found that if I show up as my most genuine and authentic self and not to feel as though I have to dazzle or be flashy, but just be real and create an environment where people can let their guard down a little bit, that's what I find works for me. And I feel like teams respond to that as well. 

But I am aware that everybody in the room, this may be some Individualization theme as well, but everybody's walking in and they've had a different kind of day, they've got a different story, they have different background. There will be that apprehension or the skepticism, or someone's new in the role and they're wondering, “These are my colleagues, I'm not sure what to share about myself.” 

Or there's someone up for promotion and they're wondering, “Gosh, my boss is going to be hearing everything I say about my strengths. What if I'm not communicating this in a way that's going to help me land that job?” 

So I feel like I have a lot of sensitivity to that and I like to just get rid of, kind of help eliminate any of those worries, on the front end. So I feel like that's my facilitation style — is to help create the most conditions. And I've had to just embrace it, because I can't be anyone else and if I try, I just don't think it goes as well.

Anxious About An Upcoming Presentation? Consider Strengths-Based Approach And Content Over Dazzle

Lisa: It's true for everyone, isn’t it? I mean, I see so many people come in and they're like, 

“Oh, well I have to do presentations now and I, (you've mentioned the word dazzle it always makes me think of), I'm going to dazzle you with my jazz hands.” 

Of course, a few people have that style, but if you try to force it, it just looks weird. And then if I think of my experience with you, I mean, even thinking back to the times when I first met you...you make people feel seen. You make people feel like they're the only one in the room. It's a totally different way to give an engaging presentation.

You're a great listener. I bet your Learner and Individualization combine to make you really curious about people. You're genuine and so many people want that over the stereotypical version of charisma. 

But for some reason, that thing got out there like, “Oh, you need to be the best dazzler.” 

So I love that you live out a style that isn't the one that pops to people's minds, but you can really demonstrate for them, “Look you can present from so many different angles. If you use your strengths, you could have all thinking talent themes. You could lead through Analytical and be the best at taking data and bringing new insights to people through that and stop worrying about the dazzle part. Start thinking about how you could amaze people through the insights you were able to bring and it could be through the content itself.” 

So I just think you're a beautiful example of, not the first thing people think of, but they're moved when they're in the room with you and how many teams need a real experience or real genuine experience and how you just are the perfect model of delivering engaging presentations through your unique strengths. 

Sara: Well thank you, Lisa.

Lisa: All right, now that you have new ideas, it's your turn to go apply this in your life. Let us know as you begin to claim these talents and share them with the world — what it's like for you,  what is hard, what worked well, what you loved about the ideas, and we'll see you on the other side. 

Bye for now.

More Resources On How To Make Your Next Presentation Engaging

We've mentioned authenticity a few times here as an important component of a great presentation. We highly recommend you also check out Lisa's previous conversation with Strother Gaines, where he encourages using your strengths to maximize the authentic “you” at work. He's a great example of actually having those aforementioned jazz hands to make engaging presentations. He's doing it genuinely - it's not put on.

If you lead through Communication, you naturally have what it takes to thrive on genuinely interacting with other people, which often results in a highly impactful presentation. So harness it! Your audience will thank you for it.

Another gem of a podcast interview Lisa had was with Michael Port. In this episode, you'll discover how to be self-expressed yet also able to flow from situation to situation with fluency, how to connect with the audience before the presentation, and a host of other useful nuggets. Don't leave the episode without checking out his book Steal The Show: From Speeches To Job Interviews To Deal-Closing Pitches, How To Guarantee A Standing Ovation For All Of The Performances In Your Life. Great resources are also up for grabs if you visit the Steal The Show website.

Direct download: 125-Engaging-Presentations-Introvert.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

StrengthsFinder Legit? Valid? Accurate?

If you're wondering, you're actually just like Sara Regan, the Lead Through Strengths facilitator in this interview. Before being exposed to the tool, she was a bit skeptical about it.

Usually, before doing some strengths finding with the team, one or two among us are wondering if psychometric tools are accurate. Is StrengthsFinder legit? Is it valid? The CliftonStrengths Assessment has not escaped such skepticism from some of our participants.

You're not alone. Many of us come to these tools with a cautious eye. We want to know that it's more than parlor games. We hope for a tool that allows for more than a 4-hour kumbaya team building event at work.

Most of the time, skeptical people wonder, "Hmmmm, is StrengthsFinder legit, or is my boss making me go to a gimmicky feel-good-training today?" Other times, it's an industrial organizational psychologist from the HR department who wants to know about the peer-reviewed literature on the tool. Either way, people like having the confidence of knowing that the tool is tested and valid.

Here’s the transcript of this episode where Lisa interviews Sara about her journey from being a skeptic to someone who fully embraces StrengthsFinder.

Lisa: Hello everyone, you're listening to Lead Through Strengths, and today it's both me, Lisa and Sara Regan. You've heard a lot from me over the years and it's about time to get some new angles from some other facilitators here at Lead Through Strengths. 

So let's get right into some fresh angles on strengths, from Sara. 

From Skeptical Customer To StrengthsFinder Facilitator: What Prompted The Change?

So Sara, sometimes we walk into a StrengthsFinder event. We're doing CliftonStrengths kickoff, it's a big thing. And you know, there are a couple of people in the room who are really skeptics. They wonder, "is StrengthsFinder legit, and is this an accurate tool?"

Tell me, how did you come to CliftonStrengths, and have you ever experienced that either in your own skepticism or other people in the room and how has that gone for you? 

Sara: Absolutely. I think at this point, I almost expect that there will be a skeptic or two in the room. And I, myself, also had that skepticism, when I was first introduced to StrengthsFinder. I think for me it was the opportunity of “let's bring the team together.” 

I was leading a group of around maybe 25 people or so at that time, and I thought I know team building is a good thing. We do this from time to time. We'll have coffee, we'll have bagels. Maybe people will get to know each other a little bit more. But I didn't really expect there to be much of a profound takeaway. 

But for me, I was really struck by reading my own report and feeling like it really did help to highlight some things that I was aware of. So my skepticism really certainly changed after I got to look at my own results. And then in seeing the results of the team members too, I mean it just really dramatically changed the way I thought about my work, my career, the types of things I said “yes” to to the type of things I said “no” to, and how to position other people for success as well. 

So even though I was a skeptic, I think I was a quick convert, and really felt like even in my homegrown fashion, I was doing strengths at any chance that I could with new team members or other people that I worked with. 

So now as a facilitator, I expect that there will be the skeptics who wonder if StrengthsFinder is legit. I think one of the things that really helps is that people have some of the research underpinnings, and to be able to see that ahead of time there will be people who will want to understand how was this validated, what's the reliability, why did they choose these questions... 

So to make that available for people, whether it's before or after a session, that can help as well. 

Lisa: Yes, that's great. We always do that in the pre-work where it's like, “Are you one of the people who wants to validate whether StrengthsFinder is legit? Here's a deep meta analysis if you want to look into it. It's a 40 page technical report with all of the design elements and reliability data from Gallup's behavioral scientists. (and for those of you who will gloss over it, just come to the session - you don't have to read it).” 

So, speaking of legit...you have a master's degree in psychology, don't you? 

Sara: I do. 

Lisa: So I can imagine with that kind of point of view, you might have needed to dig in when you first got exposed to the book StrengthsFinder 2.0.

So when you saw your own results, let's say you're fast forwarded. You're good with the tool. Now you've looked at the validity and the reliability statistics and you're feeling good. You believe that StrengthsFinder is legit. Now you look at your own results. 

Unravel Your Hidden Strengths Through Your StrengthsFinder Results

Lisa: Did you have any that you were personally surprised by, or even not quite sure that they were "you"? 

Sara: I think the biggest surprise for me was Strategic. And as I read the description, I think it's one of the strengths that people have a lot of confusion about because our mind can go many different places about what that word means. But in understanding fully the definition in that Gallup definition of Strategic, I did find that it really clicked for me, and it was a style of thinking about systems and problem-solving. 

I think I've always, as I traced back to hobbies and things that I've enjoyed, it has to do with patterns and how things fit together, so it explained a lot. I think at that point of my career, I had been in this role, or in this organization for probably seven or eight years, and I had so many ideas about how to, things that needed to change, and some of my ideas were pretty radical, and about how to reconstruct something, we need to go back to the basics and tear something down and start over. 

And I think I was holding back on presenting these ideas partly because they were pretty outlandish, some of them. Some were beyond probably my pay grade or I wasn't, it didn't have a seat at the right table for that. But I began to trust that perhaps some of these ideas about how to solve systemic problems were right on and I think it gave me more permission to share what I was thinking. And then I have some opportunities to put things in practice. And what I found is, I was completely engaged in my work. I loved what I was doing. 

And these things were working like they were solving systemic problems. So that was for me I felt like it was so powerful like I think it helped me to lean into my strengths in a way that I don't know that I would have otherwise. 

Lisa: I think that's such a cool example of seeing things through a workplace lens where you looked for systemic problems and you gave yourself permission because so many people look at their results and go, 

“Oh, this is why I'm always the voice of that in meetings.” 

“This is why this is always running through my head.” 

And suddenly, now that they have the result in front of them, they knew this about themselves but they say, 

“Oh, that's why I ought to just leverage that.”

I also love that you read the results with an open mind. So often, when people are surprised by one of the items, they want to dismiss the tool and say, "hmmmmm, is StrengthsFinder legit? It doesn't seem to capture what I think of myself." Meanwhile the disconnect is usually as simple as a terminology issue. It can also be one of those situations where you believe what the report says, yet you haven't found it valuable at work, so you don't view that thing as a strength.

Sara: Absolutely.

Your Strengths Are Making An Impact In Your Life Outside Work

Lisa: So, I can't help it. You mentioned hobbies and you mentioned patterns, so now that we have one workplace angle on you, will you give us a way that you've seen Strategic show up in your life outside of work and how these patterns came to be? 

Sara: I can. It's a hobby that I've gotten away from a little bit just by having a busy life and three teenagers. But one of my hobbies, for quite a while, was mosaic tile work. And so, I love to be able to sketch out a design. And then, I would take my tile in the driveway with a hammer and be smashing pieces of tile, and looking for exactly the color and the texture and the right piece to fit into this larger whole of the design. 

And so I did some commission works for a while. I got some things that were being sold in shops, and I loved it. I love to do in this work. And so, it's partly I think goes back to that, “How can I make everything fit and very strategic?” 

I feel it's the way I approach my work too. It’s I always feel like…(muffled)...optimistic like there is a solution for every problem. There is a way that this will work. I just need time, I need access to the resources, I need to play around with it but I'll get there. 

And that was completely the process of doing the mosaic tile work too. 

Lisa: That is sooooooo cool. I love hearing about this hobby. Also, I love looking at mosaic tiles because I thought about putting them on a shower floor - making a dragon formation - but all the same color, where the pattern and the angles of the pattern is what makes the dragon pop out to you, except they're actually all the same color. It would be a monochromatic thing.

Someday, watch out, I’ll commission you. I'll get, “Come over from Boston. I need a dragon on the ground.” After your teenagers are off the payroll, right? 

Sara: 'Cause even as I talk about it, I remember how much fun I had. It is definitely one of the things I plan to return to. 

Lisa: It's a perfect way to end that question because this idea of strength and how you can reconnect to the things that energize you and how, when you tap into it, it's not just saying, 

“Oh yeah, this hobby or this skill energizes me."

“Oh, that's why I like that thing that I didn't expect to like that much, just because it uses this pattern in my mind.”

So cool.

This speaks to an unexpected angle of the question "is StrengthsFinder legit." It's a powerful angle because often the reports from the CliftonStrengths assessment will give you a spark. You then think, "hmmmm...that's totally true in my personal life, but I don't really use that one at work." If you have those thoughts, you might have a spark for some seriously untapped potential. Maybe you have a strength that you can unlock at work if you look for ways to apply it.

---

Okay, now it's your turn. You have some great new perspective from Sara to go apply in the workplace. We wish you the best as you take these ideas, and you learn to spot them in yourself, and then apply them to your life to make the workplace a better place.  Most of all, you may believe that StrengthsFinder is a legit tool, but there's something bigger: it's believing that your strengths are valid. It's believing that you have a contribution you can offer the world. You have untapped awesomeness inside of you, and we look forward to hearing how you offer it out to the world!

Want To Explore More Of The "StrengthsFinder Legit" Question?

Some time ago, Lisa delivered a podcast episode that answers the question, Is StrengthsFinder A Personality Test? The podcast debunks any quick assumption that StrengthsFinder is just another one of those personality tests being used by managers. Instead, it asserts that it’s a performance-based tool that focuses not only on what is needed to do the job but on how to do it well.

So does StrengthsFinder work? In another episode, Is There Proof That Strengths-Based Development Works?, Lisa provides answers anchored on 1) proof points through some Gallup research and 2) a visual way to imagine why strengths make sense.

Lisa’s resource for this episode is the classic book Soar with Your Strengths: A Simple Yet Revolutionary Philosophy of Business and Management by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson, which uses a metaphor to bring us the powerful lesson of focusing on strengths rather than on fixing what’s missing or broken about us. It's a quick read. Warning: yes, the metaphor uses little animals like rabbits, which seems elementary at first blush. That's exactly why it works though - it's simple and totally understandable.

Want to know how else StrengthsFinder can provide practical value for you and your team? Listen to Lisa’s interview with Adam Seaman: Why Use StrengthsFinder For Your Team? or her conversation with Pete Mockaitis on How To Use Your StrengthsFinder Report. These are StrengthsFinder-focused conversations that can show you the practical side of living a strengths-focused life.

Direct download: Is-StrengthsFinder-Legit-Valid.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines Shares How CliftonStrengths Can Help With Productivity.

When it comes to work or personal goals, it is one thing to plan out all the things you intended to do and another to carry them out as committed. How we manage time, and how consistently or effectively we accomplish the tasks in our calendars, often determine the level of our productivity at work. 

Are we prioritizing the important and urgent issues when we need to make that decision?

Productivity is tough. Time management and calendars and overflowing to do lists create a lot of angst. Good news! You can use StrengthsFinder to help you do a gut check on your productivity and effectiveness at work.

Here’s the transcript of Lisa’s interview with Strother as they further explore this topic.

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 I'm also joined again by Strother Gaines, one of our Lead Through Strengths facilitators, who is here for the last interview in his series.

Next up, we'll be introducing you to another one of our facilitators. In this last one with Strother gotta tell you, my favorite thing is how he's calling me on this topic, commitments and calendar, and Maximizer be damned. It's the one that gets me. It's productivity and his "C's" that he'll tell you about.

I have so many commitments in my head about what I want to get done, what I hope to get done or to fulfill these high expectations, or this giant amount of potential all around us that I know could be realized. 

And it leads me to turn these ideas into commitments in my head. And when I allow them to become commitments in my head, and then I don't prioritize them as things that get done on the calendar because one human can only accomplish so many things, and I start to feel like productivity is a mythical force that cannot be attained. I'm the example of the person who would come up with the work of 10 humans for each one human, for every one human. 

Strother does a really good job of taking you through this prioritization exercise. And it's not just like the day-to-day prioritization of how you choose how you're going to spend your time and be productive over a few hour block. But it's looking back over your life and asking yourself:

“Am I prioritizing the things that I say are important to me as a person?”

“Am I living the life I say I want to lead?”

“Am I showing up with the values that I say I hold dear? Am I showing that I hold them dear?” 

It's the deeper level stuff. It's not just, “Do I do what I say I'm going to do?”

And it's not just a matter of whether you can prioritize one activity over another in a given day, as urgencies come up. It's not just a matter of holding productive meetings.

This is not that tactical. This is a much more strategic view of your life. And it's a great way to do a bit of a self-audit and see —

Are you living a life that is true to the one that you say you're setting out to live?

The 'Big C' And The 'Little C' In Commitments And How Intention Makes You Productive

Lisa: I love how you talk about calendars, burnout, "Big C, Little C..." Talk a little bit about how, when it's tough to manage time, and you're doing an audit of yourself and you're trying to get real with why you're overbooked all the time. Tie that into strengths and how you can take a good honest look at yourself leading to what you really do when you're at your productive-best...or...not!

Strother: This is Lisa, ladies and gents, this is her own individual issue but... 

Lisa: I may or may not have this issue personally (wink, wink).

Strother: She's working on it. We're doing a lot of work on her big picture productivity. Big C, Little C is something that I use all the time. The Big C, the C is commitment and what are your larger commitments. The Big C is the big stuff that aligns with your values and how you want to live your life.

The Big C is what you'd like to put down when you're telling people, “What are you committed to?” Family, growth, strength...

Lisa: Dog rescue...

Strother: Yeah, these are the things that I am very committed to them. And so the Big C is usually the high-minded, and it's the thing that would get us the thing that actually we do want because we don't have these high-minded commitments if we don't value them. 

The Little C is what I would think were your commitments if I followed you around quietly for 48 hours. What would I think you were actually committed to.

I wasn't able to interact with you. I couldn't talk with you. I was judging exclusively on my webcam vision of you for 48 hours. What would I say you were committed to?

For a long time, one of my struggles is the phone addiction piece because you know, you're in the lift, you're on your way somewhere, you've got a little break. You don't have enough time to really do deep work. So you're just going to pull out your phone, check in, scroll, all those sorts of things. 

And that would have been... 

Lisa: People would say you're committed to Instagram. You're totally productive with your social media games.

Strother: You're committed to your phone. Yeah, you're on it all the time. Piddly little iPhone games. I used to play iPhone games all the time. And I had to delete them because I recognized so much of my time….if an external Alien Force was coming down to see what I was doing, and they'd be like, “You do that thing a lot. What's that thing?” 

That's not forwarding the high-minded ideals that actually matter at the end of the day. It's not productive in a life sense. So when you are calendaring and seeing... The question that I think is most powerful in coaching, that I resisted very much when I first started coaching, but now I really do like it is: 

“What's that in service of?” rather than asking “Why do you do something?” Because that puts us on the defensive to defend why we've made that choice, saying — “Well, what's that in service of?” “What do you hope to gain from doing this thing?”

And sometimes we can't help but be reactive.

You have an inbox that's full. It's just a crazy day. It's not to make you wrong for ever doing that. But when you can be intentional, and you can tie your actions to a Big C as opposed to a Little C or no C at all, which is probably even worse when you're just like, "Whatever, I'm totally reactionary all the time." 

But when you can put intention behind it and tie them in, then the things that you do take on, the things you allow into your calendar, and sometimes that is intentionally blocking the calendar, so that nothing may enter that space, giving yourself as you've called it the white space in the calendar where you're like, 

“No, this is a protected time.” And I recognize if I don't put in something that says “Block this” that I will fill it with everything. 

Keeping A Commitment To Yourself Means You Can Keep A Commitment Towards Others

Lisa: I literally had to call it "untouchable." And it's a message to self, not just to other people. Literally untouchable. This is where I'm forcing productivity on the non-tactical items.

Strother: Don't mess with it. 

Lisa: And if I break that commitment to myself, what kind of commitment could I ever keep if I touch the untouchable? That doesn't sound like productivity at all.

Strother: And I mean, I need to start to reveal a little bit of this. Like, I remember how hard that was for you at the beginning. We've had that technique for a while where you're like, 

“I'm gonna block out an hour here and now and I'm gonna make sure...” 

And then we'd get back on the phone and you'd be like, “I didn't do it.” 

And it's because I had this really good reason, and there always is a good reason. 

Lisa: "My favorite customer called..." 

Strother: "I couldn't say no..."

Lisa: "I love them... What am I supposed to do? My productivity on strategic projects should not trump a client's simple, urgent question." 

Strother: The thing is you always have the choice. You all, like you are in control of your decisions. And if something did come up, and it was like your appendix has to come out, obviously, touch the untouchable. 

But it is when you've set those commitments in place and you say, "This is how I want to live my life. This is what productivity is."

Again, it's almost like a stoicism piece pulling back from the emotion of the immediate emotion and planning things out in advance before you're there. 

So then when you get there, it's the whole idea of like, set up your running shoes before you go to bed so that when you wake up, they're there. And you don't have to make that decision. If your calendar is already booked, you don't have to make that decision. And if you do, you have to really own what that means and go in and saying —

“I'm touching the untouchable and this is what that's in service of. And I have deemed that that is more important for me right now.” 

When that pattern just continues and continues and continues then you might need to put something new in place. If that doesn't again...

Lisa: It’s not working. 

Strother: Right, it's not working.

Lisa: Because really what you're saying is, "I am breaking my commitment to myself. And if I can't keep a commitment to myself, who can I keep a commitment to?"

Ultimately, no one. You're trying to keep it for everyone and that's probably why you're doing it. 

But in the end, you're not keeping a commitment to anyone if you can't trust yourself. You can trust yourself to be productive with your 3-item to-do list, but you can't trust yourself to earnestly live out the life you say you want.

Strother: Put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you help the kids.

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, it's a difficult one to do.

Strother: It's so hard because you care about the kids. But if you passed out as you're putting along them, like, then they're dead too. So it’s not... What a dark way to it…. “And then the children are dead..”

Lisa: And the episode is over because the children are dead (reader note: that was sarcastic humor that works better in the video version).

Strother: There's nothing else, burn it to the ground.

Lisa: And this is it you've been listening to Lead Through Strengths where all of the children are dead, but your strengths are alive. 

But really, thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths where you can apply your greatest strengths at work. 

Hope you get at least one tip that you can take today in terms of keeping your commitment to yourself, keeping your commitment to your strengths. 

And if you want a little help with that, get Strother on the house. He's good at keeping you honest at doing this stuff. Bye for now. 

Have Deeper Conversations On Productivity And Other Strengths: Ask Strother To Facilitate Your CliftonStrengths Training

So what did you think about while you were listening? Did you have an oxygen mask moment? Did you think of a thing where you went —

“Yeah, yeah, yup. I have not been setting boundaries... I'm taking on this thing for Joe in this thing for Susie Q and this thing for Ahmet at work and the look, I have not taken on the things that I say I want... Why can't I let my own things be my urgencies right now? Why am I constantly busy, but struggling with productivity?”

This goes back to that urgent and important quadrant concept from Stephen Covey, it goes way back. 

And Strother has a way of making it really practical and real. If you want to have some important conversations like this, either one-on-one coaching or CliftonStrengths conversations with your team, about what your priorities are, but beyond the moment-to-moment priorities to reach the goals, your priorities as people so that you really understand each other and what drives each person on the team, consider bringing Strother in for one of your events. He facilitates both in-person and virtual events. 

At the time of this recording, virtual is hot. So, feel free to come on over and request Strother for one of your events so that you can make the most of the environment that we're in. 

With that, you've been listening to Lead Through Strengths and we look forward to hearing how you have begun to claim your talents and share them with the world.

Dig Deeper Into Productivity Through These Resources

In his book Smarter, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg defined productivity as a choice between being “merely busy” or being “genuinely productive.”

When you’re someone who leads through Discipline, Achiever or Responsibility, chances are you are committed to completing tasks and achieving your results at the deadline intended, but you might get in the trap of completing many projects without experiencing productivity in your bigger life goals (because you've let other people's priorities take on a disproportionate chunk of time).

If this sounds like you, learn about the circumstances that could lead to your talents being starved, fed, honored and insulted. Focus on letting your natural talents shine in order to live your best life. These pages on will be helpful to you whether or not you lead through Discipline, Achiever, and Responsibility.

Direct download: 123-Using-Your-Strengths-To-Get-Productive.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Your Superpowers At Work - New Ideas For Finding Them And Using Them From Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines 

In this episode, Lisa Cummings and co-host Strother Gaines discuss, through analogies and practical examples, the impact of knowing how to wield your superpowers at work.

If our previous episode suggested ways of striking a balance between making your strengths known and not sounding arrogant about it, this topic is all about using your superpowers at work with out overusing your power.

Listen as Lisa and Strother explore one of the important paths towards professional maturity, through which StrengthsFinder has been guiding so many. You can also watch the video version of the interview on our YouTube channel.

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 about how energizing it is to lead through your strengths every day at work.

But sometimes, the truth is, it feels like the work culture is not aligned to our strengths. And it's really soul-sucking.

And we don't know how to ask for what we need, because you don't want to look like you're throwing a temper tantrum. You feel like you have more potential yet you don't know how to let it out. Heck, you might even feel like you have some superpowers to unleash at work, but you don't know how to make them known or useful. So if you're in that situation where you're thinking —

"Yeah, the culture and what would put me at my best, they're not fully aligned. And I get by because I'm trying to be a good team player.

"But yeah, there are some things that really get me down whether that's too many distractions, or how many details someone goes into or won't go into."

There are many, many colors of this example. And I'm here in this interview with one of our facilitators, Strother Gaines. And we're chatting about this topic of superpowers at work - and how you might contribute with them without sounding like you're arrogant. We go through a few examples of people and how they have asked: “What?” “How?” 

We go through a few practical examples of where people are frustrated by this at work and how they have signaled to their team some of the needs that they have or how they've explicitly asked for them without sounding like a bratty jerk. 

So without making you wait any longer, we're just going to jump right into an example that I experienced in a workshop where someone was not liking her superpowers at work (AKA her list of talent themes) because she wasn't getting what she needed at work and she felt like she wasn't able to express them or figure out how to express them. 

So watch for this thing. You've heard me call it the volume knob, and you'll hear Strother talking about controlling your powers.

Finding Opportunities To Leverage Your Superpowers At Work

Lisa: I'm thinking of a person who looked at her list of strengths from CliftonStrengths, and she sees Communication in her Top 5 and she's like —

“Number 1, number 2, number 3, number 4 ….. yes, yes, yes, yes. Those are sooooooo me.” 

“And then Communication — whelp, I have been told in the last few performance reviews that that's actually one of my weaknesses. So I'm not going to claim that one as a strength. That's actually been my greatest weakness.” 

And if you think of it like the “This or That” situation, I feel like when I look back on the situation that she was describing to me, she was saying —

“I'm going to give you all my Communication all the time, turned all the way up...or down. Since they don't like it up, I’m shutting off my superpowers at work because they're not welcomed here.” 

Strother: Yeah. 

Lisa: "I'm not speaking. So..."

Strother: Which is great in the meeting, and people love that like…no. 

Lisa: Yeah, suddenly you went from, “Hey, you don't give anyone room to speak in a meeting,” to getting feedback that “Hey, you have a resting, grumpy face."

Yeah, just literally shut down.”

Strother: Yeah. The on or the off, I think it's...you're totally right, it's back into what is the appropriate level right now. 

And as you become more adept at your strengths and you give them the space, I think that we struggle with that because in order to learn, it's like your mutant powers. I was just watching the old X-Men cartoons...and they really apply to superpowers at work.

This is a weird deviation. You're like, "Yeah, where are you going with this?”

And the old X-Men cartoon starts with Jubilee just sort of coming to terms with being a mutant and she has this sort of fireworks powers. And she just doesn't know how to control them. So they kind of help sometimes and sometimes they just go off and destroy everything and she hates them, because she hasn't learned to wield them yet. And you can't learn to wield those powers if you're too protective of them. 

She has to swing the pendulum too far to see —

“Oh, that's….and now it's too much. I got to learn to pull back my fireworks because if I go that far, it hurts people.” 

And so in protection of ourselves and other people's, and not looking stupid and not feeling silly, and all those sort of things that we protect against, when you have it, in particular, strength that has a bias against it, like Competition or something like that, where it's like, “Well, you're just being a jerk,” we're nervous to swing for the fences, because we see really clearly what it's going to look like if it goes wrong.

But you have to allow yourself that grace and that flexibility to learn how to control your superpowers at work, or you're going to waste them. So swing for the fences, let the pendulum swing in both directions until you find that nice, juicy middle ground where you're actually leveraging them appropriately.

Lisa: Yeah, what a great way just to give yourself permission to experiment with it. And to not think that there's only one way to do it because Competition doesn't mean I'm shutting down or I'm challenging you to a gunfight. It doesn't have to mean this or this all the way. It can be simple things like —

“Hey, when I lead through Competition, I'm keenly aware of our standing compared with our competitors. And it means that I make really cool bubble charts that show how we stack up in the industry. And the fact that I'm driven and motivated by that makes me a better performer.”

And so I think when people go from the “This or That” pendulum, they shut off the ability to even play with the middle and say —

“What else could it mean? How else could I contribute through my superpowers at work" And what else? And what else? And what else?

Strother: Well, you and I do, both of us, when we facilitate, oftentimes will do that activity “This or That.” The thing is you ask people, “you do this, you do that,” and then they spread themselves out throughout the room. 

And it's very rare that you'll get people who are like, “I’m the full polar.” And sometimes it happens, and that's an identifier for people and they really care about that. 

But most people do fall somewhere in that mid-ground. And so in that respect, it's easy for people to see that it's shades of gray. But when it's intellectual, and you're not in like the actual physical practice of the strength, people are like, well, it's “I'm one of the poles,” and you're probably just not.

Show People How You Perform At Your Best And Solicit Support To Make It Long-Term

Lisa: Yeah. Well, let's end with an example like that. So I did that exercise. And I remember this event vividly. The woman led through Intellection. And it was a question in my “This or That” exercise, I was having them line up on a continuum, whether they do their best thinking when they're in the midst of a group conversation, or if they're able to be alone and do the deep thinking. 

And she literally slammed her body against the sidewall to show —

“I am so far on the... I need to be by myself.” 

But she was in an environment where she was not allowed to work from home. And she didn't have any physical space where she could be alone. At the same time, she felt that her superpowers at work came out when she had space to be alone and think. Yet she felt like she was always getting barraged with “Collaborate!” and “Group work!” and all of these things. But she's saying —

“I can't be at my best like that — and I need you to know it.” 

And so that was a moment where she could bring it out and say, 

“I need more alone time... I need to go in my cave to think.” 

But how do you do that where if you just decided "I'm gonna maturely bring that up at work. I feel like I don't have a physical space to do that," without sounding like you're having a temper tantrum and stamping your feet and saying, “I need my corner office where I can be alone.” 

You know, how do you raise it...? She's afraid that if she brings up her superpower at work she will actually seem like she's anti-teamwork, and that's not a message anyone would want to hear. In fact, it could be a ding on her personal brand rather than an unleashing of strengths.

We know StrengthsFinder can help a lot with these conversations about what we individually need to be at our best. But once you realize "I have this need, but I don't know how to bring this up with my peers or my leader without sounding selfish or like a child or absorbed in me and not thinking about the business needs or how the culture actually works." 

So how do you face that? 

Strother: I think the first piece that we, anytime we're asking for something like that, framing it in what's in it for you instead of for me. If I come to someone and I say —

“Well, I need a corner office because I really need time alone and I just need you to make this accommodation for me.”

Like, “Deal with it. You're not gonna get any good work for me until you do it.”

Like, "Even if I have that corner office. I'm already like I'm not.... No." 

Lisa: You just sound like a brat or a diva.

Strother: Yeah, I don't want to give that to you, because you're just complaining right now. 

But if you can frame that for me in, 

“Here's how I produce my best work.”

Especially if you've done like a team StrengthsFinder type thing where everybody kind of knows, and we're all sort of moving into that methodology, we get it. 

“Let's find a way to activate your CliftonStrengths and activate mine.” 

“How can we make space for everyone?” 

If you're lucky to have that culture, then frame it in that way.  Say —

“Hey, you want the best work from me? We've found that one of the things I found in my report is that I do my best work like this. And I don't feel like we have access to that. Is there any way? What could we do?”

Lisa: What could we do? 

Strother: Instead of “Do this,” say, “What can we do to make this work?” 

And then it's a co-creative process. Then you are collaborating and you're giving them the opportunity to throw something out there, which maybe you've not considered either. 

Apply Your Superpowers At Work *For Work*, Not Just For Yourself

Lisa: Yeah, maybe you don't have a corner office. So you get to go down to the park outside and instead of someone thinking that you're just messing around out there for an hour, you're actually at the park alone doing your thinking time and you come back and when you show that produce better work that way, then people will say, “Oh, okay, yeah, go to your thinking in the park. Because right, we want that brainpower that comes back when you do it.”

Strother: And don't let your anticipated thoughts of what you think people will think about you, stop you, because I think oftentimes we're trying to project ourselves into other people. And we usually get that wrong. So when you think, “If I went to the park, I bet they would think that I'm lazy, or I bet they would think I'm just slacking off—” 

Then tell us you're not. 

A lot of times we're very nervous to throw those things out there, especially if it feels like an accommodation, or something that not everybody gets. People feel like, 

“Well, I have to do things the way they've been done.” 

There's no rule that says we have to do things the way it's been done. And if you can frame it in “Look at what you get from me.” 

Even when sometimes you might have to have a little data to support it, like, “This week, I tried out this thing, and I found that I produced so much better or it was easier work with me or I had an easier time in this way... Here's the data from my experiment. Can we make this more long-term?” 

So there's lots of ways to make it less like jump your feet and being a brat and more like “How can we build this together?”

Lisa: Make it about the business, not about you. Make it a pilot. And use your superpowers at work in service of the team.

And I like what you brought up about:

“What else could we do? How could we accomplish it, given what we have available to us?” 

And then knowing things like, you may not get the whole thing that you want. Certainly getting a physical office space, that's a big request. That's probably not likely. But what if the concession is that the team understands, “Hey, I'm going to put these big ol headphones on, and it's my one hour tiger time, and I'm not going to answer Skype, no instant message, no text. I'm going to shut out the world just for one hour a day.” 

And that's not something you've ever been able to have before and suddenly you're super productive, then your team's gonna want to honor that one hour. That seems very reasonable compared with you just deciding that “Well, I can't be productive here so I'm going to pout.”

Be Inoffensively Transparent

Strother: I had a client who, on the door of their cubicle or like the entrance of their cubicle, had a traffic light magnetic piece and he would put the magnet on the line like —

“Could you come talk to me?” was on green. 

“Am I deep on something? Don't come in.” was on red. 

So he let people know, “I'm in a deep workspace. Don't interrupt.” 

Because I think that is a challenge at work, it’s that constant, like, 

“Wanna gonna go grab coffee?”

“Can I ask you a quick question (that will turn into a 20 minute chat)?” 

“Hey, can I grab you for just a second? Can I talk to you for a second?” 

And his solution was, “I'll just be very clear and very transparent. Right now, no, you can't.” 

And they loved it because they knew when it's green, cool, great. And when it was red, he's busy and I'm not offended because that's not, “I don't want to talk to you.”  It's “I'm not talking to anyone right now because I produce better work that way.”

Lisa: And even knowing the talent themes like having the conversation where this is a team event so that someone can see, for example, someone who leads through the superpower of Focus at work -  that they could be in an open work environment and have their back to the room and literally not be able to hear everything that's going off behind them because they are so focused on that one thing.

Other people are so distractible that they wouldn't understand that's possible. They may not even believe it to your point about, you know, putting your own behaviors or the thoughts in your head, your lens on other people. So that's a powerful one.

Strother: Yeah.

Want To Grow As A Professional And Wield Your Superpowers At Work? Do CliftonStrengths With Your Team

Lisa: That moment when Strother said the example of his friend who said, “Life is so dynamic right now,” this is what it feels like at work when you're trying to be really mature about it.

It's like, “Oh my god, there's so much chaos and I'm burnt out and I'm just overbooked on my calendar and everything has gone awry.”

And then you're like, “Alright, now I need to show up and be a pro. So okay. Things are so dynamic right now.” 

You find a way to say it, you find a way to frame it, so that you still feel professional, but you still have needs. Even though you show up as a mature pro, there are still things that would put you at your best at work. 

And I loved how we were able to just jump around different examples and chat through some simple ways that people have signaled those to their teammates, and how they've asked for those kinds of things from their manager without seeming high-maintenance, without seeming like a brat or a jerk. You may not feel that you can leap from today's current state to "superpowers at work." Maybe that seems to far right now. That's okay. Take the smallest action in that direction.

If you think this kind of conversations would be useful for your team to have with each other, and I'm just gonna go — hint, hint — they're really useful to have with each other, meaningful conversation about your talent themes.

Over time, they're going to open up so much understanding for you so that you know:

  • What another person's interest is
  • How they would naturally process information
  • How they would naturally relate to the world
  • How they make decisions
  • How you could be helpful to each other by honoring those talent themes
  • What their untapped potential might be (AKA hidden superpowers at work)

This would be a great time to do CliftonStrengths with your team, and then consider doing some team building conversations. Many people are doing virtual training today. And Strother definitely facilitates those. So if you're interested in having him in for one of your virtual events, feel free to request him for your event. 

It's these kinds of open conversations that you have with each other that ensure you understand what each person on the team needs. Many people will consider it too high-risk, they won't come forward with these kinds of requests or wishes or thoughts because of the brat factor. 

They don't want to be seen as a brat. But they also see it as high-risk. They see it as a conversation that if they raise this, and that makes them go down a notch or two in your view, it's not going to be great for them in the workplace. 

And if you contrast that with what happens when you're having these strengths-focused conversations at work around CliftonStrengths, it opens it up in a whole different way. It puts it in a new context and makes people feel open in a way that they wouldn't if they were just going to come up with this conversation and raise it to you like it were an issue.

With that, thank you for listening to Lead Through Strengths and for bringing your best strengths to the workplace, because you know our workplaces need that from you. 

Next up: It's the last interview in the series with Strother and in that one we are talking about whether your commitments match your calendar, whether the things you say you want match what you actually do with your time. It's a powerful self-audit, and we'll see you over there.

Charge Up Your Superpowers At Work With These Helpful Resources

You can supercharge your career when you can do your best work in a way that will work not just for you but also for those around you. If you lead through Focus and Achiever, consider engaging in some mature conversation with your team and being more sensitive towards the needs of others and the business while striving for your best.

In fact, why not conduct a fun experiment with your strengths? Remember the volume knob that Lisa talked about? It’s a metaphorical way of regulating your strengths — in the context of the situation and the people around you. You’ll discover whether you need to turn your strengths up or pull back a bit. And once you’ve found that sweet spot, you’ll find that your strengths are better received.

Finally, review Lisa’s episode on how you can offer your awesomeness without sounding arrogant, where she explores the idea of balancing your talent’s energy with outward focus, i.e. thinking about the business outcome your strengths and talent can serve.

Direct download: 122-How-To-Wield-Your-Powers-At-Work.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

To Live Your Best Life, Know Your Intention And Be Clear With What You Want 

Lisa: What about the conflicts you have in your head as well, so they're not just with others? You know, you fight your own things that you wish you would do, maybe when you're not aligned with the personal leadership you want to demonstrate, or the life you say you want to live, but then you think

I have big bills, or I have practical things, or I need to get this deliverable done. 

So I'm just going to work 14 hours a day, just as an interval, I'm just gonna do it for a couple of weeks. 

But then it becomes your life. 

So when you battle, that sort of thing, you're facing burnout, and really, you're battling you and the baggage that you bring with you roll after roll after roll, it's the same stuff. 

What do you do to get inside of your head and let your strengths out in those situations?

Strother: It's back to that planning piece. 

Again, knowing the intention and being super clear. I think a lot of the times we have these visions of what we want our job to be like or our life to be like, but we're not crystal clear. It's a hazy, blurry... something like that. And we hesitate to be very specific because life is dynamic and things change all the time. 

What if you suddenly have a kid? OR,

What if there's a giant divorce? OR,

What if there's something that changes? 

So we don't want to put something down. We don't want to plant a flag in the ground and say, that's where I'm going. Because it could change. 

It's actually really valuable to plant flags, even if you're going to uproot them later and move the goalposts because it gives you something to go towards. It gives you a filter. 

I love the metaphor of filters in our lives. And again, from a non-emotional place putting these filters in so anytime you have a choice to make, anytime you run into a problem where you keep doing the same thing, you pour it into the top and you let it run through all the filters. 

It has to meet this requirement. It'd be really nice if it met this requirement. This is the very specific thing that I definitely want to go towards. 

And once you let everything sort of filter through you go  

“Does this serve it or not?”

And hopefully those filters will be able to knock out any behaviors that aren't serving that longer goal or that larger goal. But if you're unclear in where you want to go, then every time you make a new decision has to be a completely new process. 

So being really clear what you want and where you're going helps you when those types of conflicts come up.

Got Goals That Are At Odds With Each Other? Renegotiate Rules And Discover New Options

Lisa: So now if I get really tough with it, here's a situation that this is the kind of thing that people come up to me after the event. And I'm sure they do this to you too.

Strother: Yeah, I love it. But...

Lisa: Like, “Yeah, okay, I have a clear vision of the ideal life. Here's that flag you told me about it. And I think I know what that flag is. I want to have this role. And in five years, I think I could have that role. I could get the promotion. I could go start that company. I could do that thing. 

Let's say it's a specific promotion, specific role they want. And they believe that in order to get it, it also requires a certain level of workaholism or some other things that would then go against maybe a family value that they say they have as well. And these two things seem at odds with each other and they're like,

I want this but I don't want to leave behind my family or these other things?” 

How do I figure out how to prioritize or what to do with that when my goals almost seem at odds with each other?

Strother: No, I feel like it's the real question because that's the hard piece. It's so wonderful in the sort of concept where we're like

“Oh, we'll just leverage your strengths and everything's just gonna shake out great.” 

But then you bought up against that. And I think that the first piece in unpacking that is, one of the phrases that I use all the time is  

“Have you set up an unwinnable game for yourself?” 

And I think that helps people see, like, if you're saying, 

“Well, this is the outcome that I desire, and also this, this and this are in place…”

Well, you've set up an unwinnable game, there's no-win scenario for you in this because you're already setting up. 

I will be unhappy in some areas, whether it's usually the workaholic side of things. I'll just spend tons and tons of time here and fall on that sword. 

And I think that when you've set up an unwinnable game, it's time to just renegotiate the rules of it. And I think when you have it, the challenge here is that . this is the thing I hate about personal development, I bet you've found this too personal development always kind of defaults back to that feeling of like, 

“Be big, but not too big, small, but not too small. Do this…” 

But it's never a clear “this is how this works every time.” 

And we all want that. We want that clarity. But when it comes to this type of piece, when you're in that unwinnable game, oftentimes you have that clear picture, you also have preordained the path, and you have a hard time letting go of what you see as the way to get there. 

And there may be all sorts of different offshoots. And if you do have these tension points, there's both the ability to triage like, 

“Is one slightly more important?”

“Is there a lean here that I can lean into so I won’t default to this most of the time”

“And if not, how can I restructure the entirety of the concept of what I'm doing to make it work? What would I need to do to do that?”

“Does that mean I have to change an hourly rate? Do I need to get a new skill? Do I need to pick up something, bring in some type of support structure, someone who takes care of the house while I'm doing this thing?”

There are always options. And a lot of times they feel like they're inaccessible for one reason or another. But it's usually because we're holding on too tightly to the first vision of how it should go. And anytime you, or I was….. the phrase I love is, “should-ing all over yourself.” 

Like if you feel like you should do something that's a red flag for me as a coach to look and be like, 

“So why should you do that? What's going on there?”

And there's usually a way that you haven't thought of that you can pivot and try something new.

The ‘This Or That’ Dilemma Vs. Embracing Life’s Gray Areas

Lisa: Yeah, there's another thing that you do as a coach that I think is so good, which is about making things mutually exclusive where if I've already decided that if I want this path, it has to be like this. And if I have this, I can't have that. 

And then you lock yourself into it's “this or that,” right? And there's I don't know why humans do this, but we're so drawn to “this or that” kind of thinking and you are so good at catching people on that. This is not mutually exclusive, of that. They could actually live...

Strother: ….exist together. Yeah,.

We live in that... we crave... let's back to that. Don't tell me “do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” 

We want a clear boundary. We live in a binary mindset. And it's really actually difficult for us to move into that shades of gray, because our brains naturally crave, 

“Well, pick one!”

“Which one?” 

“That one.” And then the tension ramps up and we get emotional about them. We're like -  

“That one!” 

It's like “you have to turn this off!”

And so I think that, the more you can just acknowledge the duality of the world, and that things are constantly, a friend of mine did say that he was talking to me, he said: 

“Life is just so dynamic.” 

And I'd never….. It was almost a sad… He was like, “He’s just so dynamic right now.” 

And I was like  

Lisa: “That should be good!” 

Strother: I was like, “that's a brilliant way to put that though.” Like when life is challenging and things are unclear and there is all of this gray area in your life. It's just your life is being really dynamic right now. 

And that's sometimes hard to be with, but it also usually has the highest payoff, is that you can live in that dynamic place for a little while. You usually create some type of result that's so much better than “this or that."

Which would you like?

You're going to get something that encompasses all of your wants and all of your desires and all of your intentions, as opposed to... 

“Well, I pick that one. That one is good.”

Your Best Life Starts Where You Align With The Best Version Of Yourself

Lisa: This is one of my favorite things that Strother brings to coaching to StrengthsFinder events. He is always catching people in a moment where they get into “this or that” mode, where, if this then not that, and we get into this mutually exclusive kind of thing in our head, and we do it around lots of scenarios. 

“Oh, if I pick this role, well, I'm not living that passion.” 

Or, “If I change course this way, that I'm not going to have that thing.” 

And we try to narrow it down and simplify it so much that we actually get stuck very often. And Strother is so good at helping people become unstuck and helping people see that you can take small steps in many directions, to really feel like you are aligned with the best version of you and those small actions over time add up and add up and add up. And one day you look up. If you're setting the intention to do this over time, and you notice a year later, “Wow, I feel really good. I'm living a good life.” 

Want To Further These Conversations? Consider Strother To Your Strengths Events 

So, just to give another shout out to Strother for doing this episode, I really appreciate you Strother if you're listening, that you bring this conversation to me, to our clients, and to the concept of StrengthsFinder, because it really is one where people wrap themselves around the axle about it.

So if you are a listener, who has been in that mode with yourself where you're like, “Oh, I don't really know what my passion is,” or “I made the wrong choice when I started my career,” give yourself some grace. Apply some of the things that Strother mentioned in this episode about stepping into who you are in those smaller ways. 

With that, thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths. If you've been adoring these concepts that Strother has been bringing to you, feel free to request him when you do your training events with us whether that's an in-person event or a virtual event, depending on the time that you're listening to this, Strother does them all.

And with that, we have two more episodes where he is my guest. And the next go-round, we're talking about how to figure out how to talk to your manager and the team around you when you need some things from them or from your environment so that you can show up at your best but you don't want to sound like a brat who is needy and entitled. 

So we will see you over there in the next episode. Bye for now.

More On Letting Your Natural Talents Lead You To Your Best Life

The next time you catch yourself in the “this or that” predicament, remember you can always dial up your strengths to get you unstuck. If you lead through Adaptability and Arranger, most likely you can easily adjust to detours and unexpected changes around you because you thrive in a dynamic environment. As simple as tuning in to your top 5 talents can direct you to meaningful life choices.

You’ll definitely pick up some gems from Lisa’s conversation with Scott Barlow, where he guides listeners who find themselves asking that familiar question: should I stay or go now? Learn why your best life is worth the risks, as long as they are aligned with your dreams. As a plus, you can get his eBook on What Career Fits You for free.

Direct download: 121-How-To-Start-Living-Your-Best-Life.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Conversations About Turning Conflicts Into Strengths Collaboration - With Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines

In any work environment, especially widely diverse ones where people with different backgrounds, cultures and management styles work together, conflicts between or among employees can arise. At the same time, every customer seems to come to us hoping for better teamwork and collaboration.

While conflicts are inevitable, they can actually be an opportunity to exercise strengths so that these conflicts turn into a collaboration.  

Listen to Lisa Cummings and Strother Gaines as they navigate this conversation about turning conflicts into strengths collaboration:

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 actually today, I'm back with another episode where Strother Gaines is joining me for a conversation on strengths. And in this one, it is all about conflict and collaboration. 

Most people I talked to want to be known as having good emotional intelligence in the office. And when you feel those moments of conflict, that's when it gets most trying. And when we're doing our StrengthsFinder events or CliftonStrengths events with customers, one of the things we hear about often is opposites.

They'll say

“Oh well, I feel like I think totally different from all these other people on my team. I feel like we live on a different planet sometimes.” 

And if you have some of those moments where you really feel that you’ve come to things in a very different way from your teammates, it can definitely make you feel like you would be in conflict. 

The good news about strengths is having these strengths conversations, they allow you to see the positive intent from the other side, and not just the positive intent but actually the positive outcomes from being able to use your strengths and then their seemingly opposite way of coming at things and using that to be a more collaborative and effective team. 

So without making you wait any longer here's my conversation with Strother.

Planning Ahead Of The Moment Is Crucial To A Collaboration That Works

Lisa: How do you start to take these things where you might have opposites. So let's say you're a  

“Process it in the moment, talk it out, come up with the ideas right now.”

And somebody else is the opposite.  

“Hey, let me do my best thinking on it. Let me take a minute with it, give me a beat and then I'll come back and I'll give you much better work that way.”

So I think people can figure out, “Hey, we head-butt.” 

Or, “We don't think the same way.” 

But then what do you do with it? Because I love to tell people, 

“Hey, that's the perfect partnership, you can plan in advance to be the yin yang to each other. This can actually be great for your collaboration at work”

But then when you're in the moment, and it feels like conflict, what do you actually do or say, to ***invite the difference*** and not be defensive or not kind of push your way on to someone?

Strother: I think it's setting that conversation up before it gets emotional. This is something that I recommend across the board - partnerships, companies, coworkers, everything before we're in it, before it's  

“You need two weeks ***but I want to do it right now.”*** 

Having a conversation where we recognize when we get to that place, this is what we're both going to want. So what should we do? 

Let's plan now, before we're both emotional about it, before we're trapped in it and it's like, 

“You never do anything the way I want you to!” 

Sitting down and saying, 

“You need this. This is what you would like. I'm going to want this, what can we do?” 

And then we're not governed by that moment. And we get into that moment you sort of do that in emergency break glass, where you're just like, 

“Look, we're there. Activate protocol seven.” 

And then we've agreed, and we're going to run through with that instead of letting our emotions sort of drag us all around. We already know how we're going to collaborate and work together as a team - before the emotions get heightened.

Allowing Your Logical Mind Over Emotions Can Result In More Effective Collaborations

Lisa: That's so good. That's Marshall Goldsmith level.

Don't get hijacked by the emotion in the moment. Plan what you're going to do in advance. Yeah. Because then your intelligent thinking is there.

Strother: Let that logical mind come through and make a plan before you get there. Emotions are wonderful. I love emotions. But we oftentimes are like, 

“Well, when I get there, I'll be able to ***rein it in.” 

Usually not.***

Lisa: ***Makes me do a shut down.***

Strother: Yeah you're like, 

“Well, now ***just fine, whatever you want. We'll do whatever you want.”*** 

And not shutting down looks different for everybody. But if you use that logical, brilliant brain of yours beforehand and just put stuff in place, it's so much easier to deal with it when you are hijacked.

Lisa: Which is going to happen...

Strother: Oh yeah. When you try and avoid that emotional hijack, you're actually shutting yourself off to a lot of the things that are the red flags for you. These are important things. This is your body saying you need to pay attention to this. 

So you don't ever want to turn off the emotional response, but you don't want to be governed by it. *** Everyone thinks  

“Well, I don't want pain receptors.” 

But that's a horrible disease that people have when they can't feel pain because their body is just being… they broke their arm, they don't know.  If you translated it to work, you'd be wanting to opt out of collaborations altogether and simply work with someone else. Unfortunately, you don't get to pick who you need to collaborate with at every moment, so you need the pain receptors to tell you to work your stuff out.

You need those emotions to flare up and say, “Hey, pay attention.” 

But then if you can snap back into your logical brain, you're gonna have a better outcome.

Learn More Ways You Can Use Your Strengths, Invite Strother To Your Team Events

Lisa: I love how Strother framed that up as an emotional flare-up and how wise it is to think through your agreements you're going to have with each other before you're in the moment, before you're amped up, about a conflict. 

Being able to have those mature conversations when you're not in the moment, it is a total game-changer. Rather than avoid each other, you can use your opposite preferences to be a collaboration high point.

I've seen Strother work with customers where he has enabled people to open up a conversation that they have not been able to resolve on their own. They had these pent-up frustrations with each other, that annoying department or that annoying teammate. And strengths can create this vehicle for you to actually understand why someone thinks the way they do or why they relate to the team in the way they do or why they bring this totally different priority to bear. 

If you've been adoring Strother’s style in this interview series and you want to bring him into your event... If you do a team building or you're building a strengths-focused culture in your organization, feel free to request him when you contact us. He does both in-person and virtual events. 

Of course virtual as of the time of this recording are very hot and they could be very timely for bringing a team together when they're under lots of stresses, not just the butting head type of stresses that they're having with each other. 

With that, thank you for listening to Lead Through Strengths. We look forward to talking to you next time and helping you claim your talents and share them with the world. 

And boy, oh boy, next episode, we're gonna help you do that in spades because the conversation is around, genuinely trying to live your best life. It's a good self-audit to say, 

“Hey, am I going all-in in my life? Or am I dialing it in?” 

You'll get to find out next time. We'll see you there.

Other Resources To Help You Turn Conflict Into Meaningful Collaboration At Work

Preventing conflict: Lisa takes you into a deep-dive into the subject matter of conflict in this earlier episode. When you and your team understand the root of most conflict at work, you'll be able to win over moments of conflict together -- or even better, prevent them before they happen. Now that's collaboration!

Work relationship goals: Lisa's previous conversations with Jason Treu and Gary Ware will guide you toward building healthy team dynamics that result in meaningful relationships. If you're hearing a lot of "Yes, but" in your meetings, these resources will be worth your time.

Avoiding conflict? Meanwhile, this tends to be a hot button for people who lead through Command and Restorative. If you've ever felt yourself holding back, you have to honor your strengths again. Your team will surely be nourished by what you offer.

More from Strother: to see the full playlist of our interviews, check out these other five videos we recorded with Strother.

Direct download: 120-Turning-Conflict-Into-Strengths-Collaborations.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines Shares His Thoughts On How To Not Sound Arrogant When You Offer Out Your Strengths

In this episode, Lisa Cummings and co-host Strother Gaines talk about the different ways you can present or offer your strengths at work and how to not sound arrogant in doing so. 

How you can be received or appreciated for your contribution at work depends on how you are able to maintain that delicate balance between wanting to be known for your strengths and not coming off as full of yourself.

Customers come to us every day feeling excited about their StrengthsFinder results, yet simultaneously being afraid of turning everyone off. They want to know how to not sound arrogant or bratty or braggadocios when they try to get known for their top talents.

Here's the transcript of the interview with Lisa and Strother Gaines as they explore the topic:

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 I'm also back with my co-host Strother Gaines, where we are talking about that situation where you want to build a personal brand or a career brand around your strengths, but then you're worried because you don't want to sound like a jerk and you don't want to sound like you're walking around the office saying —

“I am really good at these things. So assign me these things.”

So it gets a little precarious because you want to be known for it, but you have to figure out how to talk about it without turning everyone off around you. Basically, you'll want to practice talking about your awesomeness while also balancing how to not sound arrogant when you bring them up. So I won't keep you waiting any longer. 

Here's my conversation with Strother, one of our Lead Through Strengths facilitators, talking about how to navigate this tough situation.

Wanting To Toot Your Own Horn? Learn How To Not Sound Arrogant With It

Lisa: Imagine the tall poppy syndrome that you've heard of, or "the nail that stands up gets hammered down." All of the things that say, “No, you need to be humble. You should keep it to yourself and make sure that you're a very humble person.” 

But then at the same time, how can you make your differences your differentiators if you're not willing to experiment with them and let them out?

So what does it look like to not be tooting your horn in a way that's obnoxious but you're actually offering them out as a contribution? How do you even begin to figure out what is what? 

Strother: So in the South, it's called “getting too big for your britches.” It’s what we would say. And I got a lot of that actually leaving Kentucky when I left because people are like —

“Well, you're abandoning everyone and you're leaving these things and you need to come back and do the thing that everybody does.” For some people, that's actually really rewarding to be a part of that. 

Consistency is my last strength in my report, and I don't like to repeatedly do the same thing. But for someone, if that's your strength, live in it. Someone needs to be able to do it. 

Tooting your own horn, when it comes from a place of, “This is my contribution. This is what I can give, and this is how I'm going to help the situation,” as opposed to, if I frame it in, “Look at me. Look at me. Look at me!” — it does come off like, “You're a jerk!” 

Definitely, no one wants to work with that guy. 

But when I frame it in, “If you'd like to leverage me appropriately, and you'd like to see me do my best work, putting me in this scenario, giving me an opportunity to do this specific thing, which is something that lots of people don't like to do...” 

It's when I think about public speaking. So many people are terrified of it. And I would so much... Excel Sheet versus Public Speaking? Throw me up on the stage! 

So it's finding where you have those natural fits and just making it accessible to the people that you collaborate with, giving them the option rather than demanding that they do your thing. If you've been fretting about how to not sound arrogant when you talk about your skills and talents at work, the solution is all about offering them as a contribution rather than framing it as a selfish need to let them out.

Direct download: 119-how-to-not-sound-arrogant.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines - Helping You Figure Out What To Do When You Don't Like Your Strengths

This episode is all about the situation when you don't like your strengths or you don't think you like someone else's strengths.

It's easy to stereotype one of the CliftonStrengths talent themes, good or bad, when you only take a cursory glance at it. It's also easy for your talent to masquerade as a weakness if you have the volume turned up too high for the situation.

Here's the transcript of the interview with Lisa Cummings and Strother Gaines as they explore the nuances:

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings. 

I'm always saying it's tough to find something more energizing than using your strengths every day at work. And today, the topic of the podcast episode is about those moments when you're asking yourself ⁠— 

“Oh, should I not use my strengths at work?” 

“Are these not good ones to have for a given job?” 

Or, “I don't know that this talent theme is going to be well appreciated in the work culture that I'm in, so maybe I should just bring it down a little bit because I don't think people at work are going to appreciate it.” This will help you figure out whether it should go into hiding when you don't like your strengths.

The format is going to be a little bit different in the following series coming up for the podcast here. I actually have Strother Gaines joining as a co-host, he's one of our facilitators here at Lead Through Strengths.

So many times now people are experiencing facilitators other than me when they do training classes on CliftonStrengths, StrengthsFinder, strengths leadership development, etc. And so I thought, wow, our customers and our podcast listeners need to get to know these amazing facilitators. So, coming up over the next weeks and months, you will be getting to meet many of them. 

In the next six episodes, you'll meet Strother, where I'm having a conversation with him.

Having A Case of ‘Bad’ Talents? Don’t Like Your Strengths? We Get You

Lisa: We're talking about that thing today, where you get your list, and you're loving a few of them, but one of them is leading you to think ⁠— 

“I don't know about that one... I don't think I would call it a strength... I think I want to get that one back.” 

“Can I see my #6, 7, 8, 9, 10? Can I choose from some other ones?” 

So when I jump into this interview with Strother, you'll see that we are cracking up a little bit because I had just been a klutz in the office and caught my pocket on the table in the office.

And so we're busting a gut a few times in these episodes. I'm going to do an intro for each one, I'll do a closing for each one. And if you hear us jump right into some laughter, well, yes, some shenanigans are probably going on me being a klutz, or us goofing around.

If you want to see some of the shenanigans and silliness - things we were doing where we're playing around in the office - then make sure that you go to YouTube and look at the video version. At the end, I'll include some of the outtakes so that you can see them there. 

So let's jump right in to talk about what to do when you don't like your strengths.

Shifting Perspective When You Don’t Like Your Talent Themes

Lisa: Let's say you take the CliftonStrengths assessment, and four of the five of them you're like ⁠— 

“Oh, yeah, these are so me... I love that, but that one -- well, I mean, it's kind of me, but I don't really like one of my strengths…” 

Or, “I don't really think that in this workplace they're gonna love it. I don't want to be seen like that... I don’t know if that would be valuable here or even accepted here if I let that one out.” 

So what's your opinion on that? What do you do with it?

Strother: Well, I totally had that happen in mine. I have Significance in my Top 5, and to me when I read Significance, it came across as like, “Tell me I’m pretty… Tell me I did a good job..."

I need everyone else to tell me, like, “This is a good thing.” And one of my greatest fears in my work is that I required external validation. Everyone tells you to find that joy, find all of that inside of you. And then my StrengthsFinder came back and it's like, “No, you actually need people to tell you what’s good. And I was like, NO. 

But then, after I sat with it for a long time ⁠— you encouraged me to, like, “Stay with it for a little bit...”⁠ — I started to find that it influences so much of the types of projects that I take on, and it helps me actually delineate what I would be good at, what I would be excited about, and what I'm not. 

I'm not great at something that I'm not passionate about, and I don't like creating something that doesn't have that feedback loop where I get someone else's opinion or other people are collaborating with it. It's re-visualizing how you conceptualize that strength. Find a way that you can tilt that so that it is still you...

Your ‘Bad’ Strengths Are Good Enough To Make You Stand Out

We've talked a lot about “basements and balconies.” Do you have a strength that's in the basement, and that's where you're viewing it from? What does it look like when it's fully actualized, when you're actually taking control and being intentional about it, instead of letting it run the show underneath all of the things, that when you look at it, you go, “That's the thing I want.”

Then it's a lot easier to bring it out, even in a culture that might not support it, because that's your unique offer. This is a tricky situation - training participants will often say that you save a talent for your home life because you don't like your strengths for work purposes.

If it's something that doesn't show up a lot, if you have a rare strength, you're going to stand out. And standing out can be challenging sometimes, but it's also the thing that's going to get you noticed. Most of the time, anytime you want to move forward, first you have to get noticed. So use it, like leverage that weird thing and make it your strength.

From ‘Irrelevant’ Strengths To Workplace Impact

Lisa: I love how Strother framed this one out for you, as a way to bring your unique offering to the workplace. We always talk about your differences being your differentiators. So, instead of thinking of a strength as something that you need to squash down and say, “Oh, maybe I have a bad strength...” ⁠— which is an oxymoron ⁠— use your strength fully, figure out how to mature it, and get the most out of it. 

Now sometimes people feel like they have skills that aren't relevant on the job. This is definitely a case where you might wonder what to do when you don't like your strengths because they don't feel helpful in your current role.

For talents, we're talking about something different. We're talking about how you naturally think, or feel, or act when you are at your natural best, and you wouldn't want to squash those out ⁠— because it would be squashing down the best of you. 

With that, thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths. You've been getting to meet Strother Gaines, one of our facilitators from DC. In the next episode, you will hear us talking about how to not feel arrogant when you're talking to other people about your strengths. We'll see you there.

Want More Ideas For What To Do When You Don't Like Your Strengths?

A while back, Lisa interviewed Ben Fanning on what to do when you think your job isn't a good fit for your talents. Ben was funny and insightful. He gave lots of ways to reconnect with what you like about work, build a personal brand around strengths, and to mold your job in that direction.

Ben wrote a whole book on the topic called The Quit Alternative. The book is excellent, and it hits on a common situation where people think they might need to quit their job to be content again. If you read Ben's book, you'll almost certainly think that the grass isn't greener on the other side it's greener around the corner of the same company.

Another episode you might like to explore is the one where Lisa answers the question of what to do when you only have 2 of the colors in the CliftonStrengths lineup. This is another situation that makes a typical training attendee say that you don't like your strengths.

Direct download: 118-dont-like-your-strengths.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

We have now reached the ninth and final core concept in our STRENGTHS series, where we’ve been discussing the importance of engaging in strengths-focused conversations with your team over time. If you’ve been following this conversation, congratulations on getting this far! And if you’ve been applying even just some of our tips and taking on our tiny but impactful challenges, then you’re well on your way to becoming experts at finding CliftonStrengths blind spots in your team and building on everyone’s natural strengths!

Before we dive into the final topic of this series, here’s a quick recap of the core concepts that we have already gone through. Notice the magic word that the initials of these topics spell (STRENGTH). 

  • S.E.T. (Skills. Experiences. Talents)
  • Troublemaker talents
  • Regulate by Situation
  • Easy Buttons
  • Not an Excuse
  • Gimme That Escalation
  • Takes Time and Intention
  • Honored and Insulted

And now, in this episode, we explore the breadth of what we call the Starved and Fed Continuum -- turning our magic word into STRENGTHS. It’s just one letter added, but it makes all the difference, especially in the context of teams. The more strengths-focused you and your colleagues are, the stronger your team will be.

In any team or group, your differences are your differentiators — and this is the foundation of this core concept. And when you think of your differentiators, these come to life and look like your strengths when you've been feeding, nurturing, and developing them over time. 

Feed Your Talent The Same Way You Feed Your Body

What would it be like if you were starved for food as a human? Physically and even mentally, you would feel weak, which would most likely impact how you feel or think. You're not at your best. Being hungry can cause you to be grumpy and to ill-treat others, which can negatively affect how you relate to other people. In short, you wouldn't be able to show up in your full force. 

But on to the other end of the continuum, you're well-fed. On this side, you've been nurturing your body right -- not overfed or stuffed to the max that you need to loosen up a button on your pants. Just well-nourished and well-taken care of. 

Let’s use that as an analogy for your strengths, particularly your CliftonStrengths blind spots. You can ignore your strengths or starve them out because you don't think they would be valuable in your workplace or you didn't know it was one of your strengths. What happens next? They just shrivel up -- it's not going to look like when it's at its best. 

On the other hand, if you've been developing yourself by feeding and nurturing your talents, what you look like at your best keeps getting better and better. When you feel well-fed, well-nurtured, you feel strong, and your STRENGTHS strengthen your performance. That's why this all matters in a workplace context. 

Jack-In-The-Box: What Happens When Your Natural Strengths Are Squashed Down

You may remember having or seeing a Jack-in-the-box toy as a kid. It's this little box which has a handle on the side that you can twist. As you keep twisting it, Jack surprisingly jumps from inside of the box. That’s half the fun of it all when Jack jumps out suddenly and scares you. 

It’s the same thing with your strengths. If they have been squashed down, like in that box, you don't know when they're going to come out. They can jump out when you least expect it and scare people who may not find it cool, like when you scare them with your unmatured, talent themes. When that happens, collaboration becomes a challenge and it can lower down the equity of your career brand. 

Your CliftonStrengths Blind Spots Want Your Attention And Nourishment

Sometimes, we are driven to hide our strengths because we feel they are not suited in the kind of work environment that we have. 

Here are real-life examples from a person who leads through Connectedness and another person who leads through Command.

Scenario 1: Letting Connectedness shine in a ‘tough’ culture

Someone from a previous Stronger Teams session came forward with a concern on the report about her talent theme, Connectedness. While she liked that the report said she’s kind, gentle, and that she can see the ripple effect of her action on people, she found that the descriptions sounded “soft and wimpy”. For her, being viewed that way might not sit well within the tough work culture she belongs to if ever she will let that part of her out. 

She had valid concerns; however, it may not be enough to starve her talent just to fit into a specific work culture. There's so much more dimension to Connectedness that she can explore, one of which is the fact that she was very well networked. 

What Can She Do?: It is common among many who lead through Connectedness to see all of the connections among departments and people and the effect of what they're doing. This person can see the ripple effect of each team’s work as though she is watching from a higher place. It will not be a surprise if she notices and says things such as:

“If we make this decision here, it might be a challenge to roll it out to this particular department. Given the potential effect on their work, they're going to put up as much resistance as they can during the implementation.” 

This ability to make these web-like connections is what you can highlight when you lead through Connectedness. As you’re able to really relate well with a vast network of people, you’re able to establish where there was going to be a challenge in project implementation. This is quite practical. 

So, rather than starving out a talent because it doesn't seem to fit the company culture, direct the development at the part of it that would be most valued by other people. 

Scenario 2: The newbie is a strong leader inside

Another real-life example is from another person who leads through Command. He expressed his concern on being conflicted, knowing that he’s a natural-born leader but at the same time he’s young and in an entry-level position. 

Some of the things he said:

“I feel like when I'm decisive here, it feels unwarranted, and people look at me weird.” 

“I feel like I don't need a bunch of the inputs from other people and expected to go get them.” 

“I'm not really sure how to wrangle this all in or make it valuable here.” 

This guy therefore felt that he needed to push down his talent until he’s gained a certain status in the organization. Also, he didn’t seem to want to show that he was too cool for his entry-level job and therefore needed to skip all other positions just to be in a leadership status.

What Can He Do?: There are other dimensions of the Command talent theme that he can explore. A sample case he was presented with was in the event of big changes happening in the organization where: a) he's behind it and b) other people are complaining about the effects of the change. In this scenario, he can easily leverage on his influence to convince others into embracing the more positive impact of the change. 

  1. Roll out short and powerful demos. He could be part of the peer group and is giving others a demo about how good and important it is on the other side. 
  2. Summarize to make it clear. He could also often be in the meeting and summarize into fewer words what someone else would take 10 minutes to get out. He, of course, has to do it in a well-honed and kind of not too overbearing manner, lest he embarrass them. Maybe he could say the following:

“Yeah, that makes me think of the team motto which is _______________,” or “This could be our headline. As we roll this out, I see this could be kind of our mantra as we get this going”.

How Conversations Can Help Feed Or Starve CliftonStrengths Blind Spots

It is a natural tendency for people to see something about their talent theme and think it may not be of value to others that they try to stuff it down. Natural talents refer to how you naturally think or feel or act when you're at your default. The thing about them is that they always come out anyway, no matter how much you suppress them. But when they do after so much squashing down, they come out unrefined, which may not look good on you. 

The most important thing, before you ever decide to squash down your talent for whatever reason, is you’re able to explore some of these nuances of what your talent themes look like when they're at your very best, versus what they look like on the full end of the continuum where you’re not at your best, where everything seems to go wrong and these talents have really been starved out. 

This kind of introspection can be effectively facilitated if you have consistent strengths-focused conversations within your team – quite another reason why meaningful conversations really, really matter.

I hope that you liked these nine core concepts that spelled out the word STRENGTHS, and that you pulled at least one thing that was an unconsidered angle, something that gave you a new way to apply strengths with your team that you hadn't before. Get in the habit of recognizing what works in other people because when you notice what works, you'll get more of what works. 

Direct download: 117-Starved-or-Fed.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Finding Energizing Tasks At Work

We’re almost at the end of our STRENGTHS series, where we discuss a total of nine concepts that will help you implement strengths with your team at work. In this episode, we'll explore one of the most interesting topics in this series: Honored and Insulted. 

This topic always generates the liveliest conversations. Why? Because people generally have this special keenness over what might honor or insult their talent themes. If you're a manager and you assign energizing tasks at work, imagine what it could do for productivity and employee engagement. Win-win!

Read on to learn how to keep your team motivated using the strengths perspective. If you know what honors their talent themes, then you likely know their personal values. When they work on a team where they can see the fit between the work and their values, they feel more motivated and energized.

Imagine a pyramid-like structure, where strengths are at the top, natural talents come next, and values form the base. Strengths are the talent that you've already developed well, while natural talent is how you think or feel or act in your default situation. 

At work, there are situations (or entire cultures) that either insult or honor your talent themes at a human level. We don't meet many teams that talk much about personal values.

The thing is, if your values are insulted, work can feel like soul-sucking drudgery. On the flip side, if your experience at work feels totally aligned with your values, you'll feel pumped. It actually acts like a fuel to keep you motivated and performing at your best. Energizing tasks at work - the concept might seem doable, yet it might seem far from your current situation. Hang in there because it is totally possible, regardless of your role.

 

How To Keep Your Team Motivated: Know What Might Insult And Honor Their Talent Themes

Within a team, there are lots of small moments that can suck the energy from you. You know them: draining tasks, things you procrastinate, or people who wear you out. Worse, these scenarios could make you want leave your job if you're not actively addressing them. These are sneaky de-motivators.

Let’s look at these examples. If you're a people manager, definitely look at these examples. Think about your team members and what energy takers might be foiling their plans to show up as a top performer. This is a super practical way to apply CliftonStrengths at the office. In fact, the energizing tasks at work might spill over into energizing responsibilities at home. The more you find these energy makers, the more you can bring them into your life.

1. Leading Through CliftonStrengths Responsibility. Imagine that you lead through Responsibility, and you’re working on a team where people are constantly showing up for meetings 5 or 10 minutes late. Because it's part of your DNA that you do what you say you're going to do, these people who disrespect other people’s time annoy you big-time. In general, no one likes it when someone misses a commitment, but it’s a different (deeper) level of insult to someone's talent of Responsibility.

While you learn to get over it after a while, and rationalize that it's just how the working world seems to be, you also might tag these moments as your “red line” or “red-faced” moments. They lead you to wonder why people can be downright flippant about it. That's an example of an energy taker for those who lead through Responsibility. These are the de-energizing tasks at work, or in this case, the de-energizing moments and interactions that can drain you and make work feel like the hardest of hard work.

2. Leading Through CliftonStrengths Analytical. Imagine leading through this strength and someone regularly pulls random anecdotes out of the air. You would, of course, wonder if this person ever fact-checks or uses reasoning skills. “Do they ever vet their comments to see if they're actually true?”

When you keep encountering moments like this, it can get to your nerves. When people seem to be making decisions that feel highly emotional, this would be insulting your talent theme of Analytical. When teams work on problems that come from things like, "this doesn't feel right" you will expect them to validate that gut feeling before investing gobs of money or time on something that might not be a an actual problem. Maybe it's just that one vocal customer's opinion - not an experience shared by others.

Imagine how helpful it would be to know that your talent theme of Analytical is getting insulted. You can say, "Aha - no wonder this meeting is always so frustrating for me. Maybe I can spin that around by offering to vet or validate the gut feelings that come up so often."

3. Leading Through CliftonStrengths Includer. Imagine you’re leading through this talent theme. You’re really good at identifying who among the team a) has given a voice, b) has not said anything, and c) might want to comment but hasn't been given the chance.

But when people talk over each other and ignore what one or two other people have to say,  it would be an insult to your talent theme. This could feel quite rude to you even if you’re not the person that’s not being included. Consequently, you develop this dislike and distrust of the people who are excluding those others and their ideas.

These are just some of those “red line” or “red-faced” moments that might happen when your talent (or values) are insulted. These may be small but they can add up over time and lead to feelings of disillusion, until you think, “Ah, I'm not valued here.”, or “This culture sucks. I don’t want to be a part of this team.”

These are the kinds of conversations that can put you in a dilemma of whether to deal with it or leave, as far as your talent theme is concerned.

That's exactly why it's so important to honor your talents, and also learn to honor the talents of teammates. When their strengths and values are honored, they can show up at their best. They can contribute something the team needs, and it may not be easy for others to do that thing. If you're a people manager, you can assign them as their most energizing tasks at work. They literally act like a fuel.

Your Team Challenge: Acknowledge Each Other's Talents

This is where strengths-focused conversations, done consistently, become very useful. It's a practical way to apply StrengthsFinder. Over time you build the trust that allows you to share with the team what honors your themes and what can make the workplace feel ideal or “the best.” Your team members will be able to avoid the difficult dilemma that can make them decide to leave their job. When values and strengths are in alignment, the team feels motivated and valued.

Even if this isn't part of your team culture today. You can be the person who helps the team begin to notice (and say aloud) what already works well. These small acknowledgements help every person understand what puts their teammates at their best. With some conscious effort, you can slowly shape your job description toward these energizing tasks at work.

Go Beyond 'Give And Take' When You Apply StrengthsFinder

Lisa, our founder, once shared that her troublemaker talent is Maximizer. At the same time, she also works closely with someone in her team who leads through Activator. So, while being a Maximizer, Lisa would pore over her work and polish things to make them better. Those are energizing tasks at work for her - making things better and better and better.

On one side, the Activator talent would wait on her and prod her to “just move on with it” or "just ship" the product. Lisa understood where the input was coming from. In some cases, where the quality output was high-stakes, she acknowledged the person by saying, “This is going to kill your Activator, but I need one more day on this.” In other cases, when good (and done) was better than great, she'd do the hand off. It all depends on the business outcome that the team agrees upon. This is where you can apply CliftonStrengths to get the best business results.

Of course, there are times when give and take is the reality. Although it feels good to live in your personal strengths panacea, you can't let your personal preferences trump the business priorities. You should constantly be looking for ways to get better results by using your strengths.

At the same time, be careful to not let them be an excuse. It would be unhealthy to be so obsessed with finding energizing tasks at work that you refused to do things that drain you. If you did that, you'd appera selfish and not results-oriented. Strengths get more powerful when you think beyond yourself. It makes total sense. Strengths work in relation to other people and other contributions being given on the team.

Practicing “give and take” comes handy within your team because when you become familiar with each other’s talent themes, you have a short code language to use. But you can also extend it to your stakeholders, your customers, and your colleagues outside of the team. You may not know what their talent themes are, given your much shorter engagements, but imagine how much stronger your working relationships would be if you start getting a feel for what honors them or what insults them.

Internally on our team, we find a regular flow of #goinput or #thatwasmyrelatortalking type of hashtags to keep it lighthearted and acknowledge the good sides and the dark sides that can come out from a talent.

3 Reasons To Apply CliftonStrengths Conversations Regularly and Informally

This whole concept of exploring what honors or insults talent themes is important for 3 key reasons:

1. To get a well-rounded team. In any given team, there’s a clash of perspectives that are not discovered until they are actually talked about. Suppose you brought your whole team of 10 direct reports together to apply StrengthsFinder in a virtual strengths discovery training.

Imagine watching their conversation in the chat box about the things that honor or insult their talent themes.

You’d probably realize that some of the things that drive them crazy, you yourself are doing sometimes. Is it an "Oops, I'm frustrating you and I'll stop" moment? Is it an "Uumph, that really drains you, yet it's a reality of our team's responsibility" moment where you try to mitigate the pain or impact? Regardless of the type of insight, the important part is that you're talking through them so you can address the situation with mutual respect. 

You have opposing views of things because, for example, what you would view as common sense may not come as common to how others think. What would come easy for you may not come as easily for others.

It’s also the reason why some people don’t bother letting their strengths out because they don't think those contributions are a big deal. If you can find those hidden gems and let them out, the whole team is better. With that strategy, you get a well-rounded team and you can stop obsessing over being a well-rounded person who is good at every possible thing under the sun.

2. To get your job matched to strengths. Conversations like these also allow you to discover what aspects of one’s job could lead to that person disengaging from that job.

If you apply StrengthsFinder to uncover what honors a person's talents, you'll uncover their easy buttons for performance. You'll find that a job matched to strengths feels easier to perform. A job matched up to talents also brings energy to the person doing it. In fact, if you're using your natural talents, the work can even feel easy. At a minimum, it's easier to get into flow.

Contrasting that, if your job is not matched to strengths, it will likely feel draining. You can usually do the work. You can get the results, yet it will feel effortful. You may procrastinate or feel drained and you can't figure out why. If you've been feeling that way, ask yourself if you've been working out of your weakness zone, or out of your non-talents. Often, it's an unexpected cause of burnout. As our colleague TyAnn often says, when your job is matched to your weaknesses rather than strengths, it can give you "a case of the Sunday nights."

3. To get more energizing tasks and get fewer draining tasks at work. Conversations like these become an opportunity to turn a “Man, this culture is awful” experience into a “So, if this is what other people value, which runs against my values, then here's how I'm going to cope.” So, think of what strategies you can come up with to convert a workplace experience into a positive and enriching one.

You can't always pick your responsibilities on the job. Of course, you want a job matched to your strengths. And you want energizing tasks at work, but sometimes the role is the role. Even if you can't to a lot to shape the job description, you can adjust the way you approach the work. At a minimum, you can adjust the meaning you make out of it. This might sound like a Jedi Mind Trick (and maybe it is), yet it's effective at bringing your energy and motivation back.

Key Things If You're A People Manager Applying CliftonStrengths

Here are key pointers to note before conducting a conversation with your team on what might honor or insult their talent themes.

  • Make sure the conversations are well-facilitated as you apply CliftonStrengths. Sometimes, these team chats can result in a venting session about all of the  "other annoying departments" or issues at your company. We're not saying you should squash or hide issues, yet it does take some skill to keep the conversations aimed at specific performance - and the things you can actually control or influence. Aim it right and lead the team to productive conversations.

    One useful tip is to ask them to list 3 energizing tasks at work and 3 draining tasks at work. We call it the "yucks and yays" list. That makes things specific, and it helps you cover both the Honored and Insulted. In this case, because you're trying to uncover their deeper values and reactions, focus the yucks and yays on situations rather than job duties. For example, someone might feel honored (or insulted) by the situation of an urgent interruption. But if they said "customer calls" you wouldn't understand why it's a yuck or a yay.

     

  • Be specific as you work toward the goal of getting their job matched to strengths. Get to the in-depth scenarios and situations that happen in an average work day. Apply StrengthsFinder using some of the tools and language behind them, as modeled by our examples involving the Responsibility, Analytical, and Includer talent themes. For example, the difference between, "I hate all of the emotion in our ops meeting" and "I'd love to help us pinpoint the depth of the problem we identified in the ops meeting" is night and day. The first one is venting. The second one is getting the job matched to strengths. It's action-taking for Analytical. It's volunteering and contributing the talent to a team who needs it. It's practical application of CliftonStrengths at work.

Ready For The Final Concept?

Now that you're loaded with energizing tasks at work, let's get to the next topic. Up next is the last in this series of nine core concepts: the Starved And Fed Continuum. See you there!

Direct download: 116-Honored-or-Insulted.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Our seventh core concept in this STRENGTHS series, “Takes Time and Intention,” may sound like a lame title compared with our previous topics (“Troublemaker Talents,” “Easy Buttons,” “Gimme That Escalation,” etc.), but as we go along you’ll find that there’s a lot more nuance to it than that. You’ll get a deeper sense of why strengths take time, and hence calls for intention along with consistency. 

As in any process or situation, patience is a virtue. Something good always awaits, so stay with us!

Let’s break this core concept down to its two components.

1. Strengths Take Time

Between the two components, time is generally the easier one to commit to. It may mean a little bit of being patient, but the concept is more about asking:

“Now what?” 

“How do we keep this going?” 

After all the strengths blitz you go through with your team -- for example, going through the motion of reading “StrengthsFinder 2.0,” or preparing a budget for a team offsite and then getting together for some retreat or teambuilding activities -- ultimately, what do you do with all of that? How do you connect them to your natural strengths once you’re back to the grind?

While team activities like these open to a number of realizations, the questions remain: what’s next? How do we go about what we’ve learned? 

It all boils down to having the patience to take consistent effort towards building a strengths-based culture or thinking on the team. This includes breaking old thinking patterns in order to adopt new and better ones. For example, if many in your team are oriented lopsidedly towards weaknesses, it will take consistent effort in order to correct that. 

The best thing we can recommend is to have meaningful conversations with your team over time. And to achieve meaningful conversations, that takes a lot of trust between a manager and the team members.

Patience As A Way Of Thinking

Here at Lead Through Strengths, the way we help patience come into effect is by making it a way of thinking rather than just generic words of encouragement. Instead of telling teams to “just keep waiting, it will happen,” we prefer for them to think of strengths as the way they can get any results more easily. 

To illustrate this concept further, if you're using your natural talents and you've been developing them into strengths, you should be able to apply them to the work you're already doing. It shouldn't feel like strengths is so much of an initiative or an event or an extra thing on your plate that’s already full, but rather something like —

"I’m gonna lend my strengths to the work I already have to do."

When you are constantly busy and overworked, you would not want to view strengths as an extra task to have to manage. You would have less resistance when you are able to successfully lend your strengths to the work that’s currently on your plate.

When you see this from your own perspective, it opens things up and paves way for patience that will allow these meaningful conversations to happen over time. It is over time that you discover more about your team. Ultimately, when your understanding about each other deepens, trust is built and you collaborate better. That’s how you can honor their talents so that they can be effectively applied at work. 

Remember: Think of patience more like how you do the work you're already doing to easily achieve results versus seeing it as another item on your plate. That helps make patience more effective. 

2. Strengths Demand Intention

If time is the easier component in this concept, intention is the bigger one. As human beings, we have a number of cognitive biases, including negative cognitive biases. Let’s skip Google search and the psychology language by looking at this term this way -- if we are naturally oriented to spot what's negative, that is usually because we are trying to figure out what's gonna hurt us. 

“What weakness do I need to shore up with?” 

“What do I need to improve at so that I don't get fired for it?” 

“Where do I need to shut up in a meeting because otherwise, a) it might endanger my job, and b) I might disappoint my teammates who might think I’m not being a good collaborator.” 

These are just some of the reasons we are drawn towards this negative cognitive bias. The problem arises when we become too focused on it to the point of overdone or overblown. That’s where the idea of leading through strengths becomes powerful, because it gives you a totally different result when you’re working within your strengths zone. 

What Happens When We Lead Through Strengths Instead? 

When we think of strengths as a tool that we could use, like the "Easy Buttons" we talked about in Concept #4, that can unlock some real performance gains that people are missing out on. 

Have you ever tried to pull a nail out with the back of the hammer and you don't have the lever in the right place because you can't get it up in there all the way? Because you're not pulling against the strong lever, you exert more effort to get the nail out so it bends it all sideways and messes up the material you're pulling it out of. That's what it’s like when you're working in your weakness zone. 

But when you're working in your strengths zone, you get the full leverage and you exert less effort to get better results. You get that kind of satisfying feeling when it happens. 

Time And Intention As A Factor In Realizing Strengths

Setting time and intention means that you stay consistent as you go through the process of fully realizing your strengths, from spotting talent to developing it.

  • Spot the potential talent when it’s happening. You have to spot it when it's happening. If you’re an individual who is trying to spot your own talents, you may want to focus on your unique abilities, or those things that are easy for you to do but not for other people.

 

  • Experiment with the talent. This is the stage where you test the potential talent. Here, you must be able to realize that it can work well for you when you try it out and work on your potential. You have to give it credence and check what impact it can create for others. For example, see and check for yourself that the thing you thought was easy and that no one would care about, actually seemed to help the team out.

 

“Oh look, people actually care about that.”

"That actually helped the team out."

“Now that actually helped me get good results that people like.”

 

  • Apply the talent. Look for places and opportunities where you could offer your talents and be seen as a valued contribution.
  • Develop the talent.  When developing your talent, have the mindset that if you can achieve much with less effort, imagine how much more you can get if you will try harder. Then you would be inspired to double down on it and develop further so you can offer an even bigger contribution.

This whole process of seeing the talent, experimenting with it, applying it, and then developing it further may sound like an easy cycle to do, but it takes time, intention and thought. You’ll find that it’s not that easy to do when you don’t set aside time from your busy schedule, or if you're not stopping to give it some thought. It takes all that in order to succeed in this personal exercise for growth. As a personal exercise

Your Team Challenge: Create A Strengths-Based Subculture 

At the introduction of this series, we mentioned a 3-coin challenge that can help get you in the habit of noticing what works in each of your team members so that you get more of what works. 

The beauty about doing that as a team, especially if you do it consistently with time and intention and it works well, is that you get to start a culture in your company. That would be the culture where, 

  • You are oriented to each other in a way that favors strengths, you call it out and notice it in each other
  • You are mindful enough to recognize what the person is trying to contribute so that when they do and you see it, you're like, 

“Oh, yeah, that really was effective, but I wouldn't have noticed it otherwise because I would have been too busy in my computer and did not care to look up.” 

A tiny subculture of 10 people (or whatever size of direct reports you have) is powerful enough to start the snowball effect of what the whole team is doing. It is even more powerful than the company culture overall, as the different departments, founders and variations that come at play can get pretty complex. But if you are a team where you all work closely and learn about each other day in and day out, that is going to be a force in the company. 

So, Now What?

The concept of taking time and intention is a very important that we’re giving it its own term and airtime. It allows patience or some breathing room for the strengths to fully develop instead of cramming them all in at once. 

Have meaningful conversations with your team over time, and you’ll find that it is much more effective and less expensive than constantly going on offsites. 

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next, we're going to talk about a concept that you surely wouldn't want to miss: "Honored and Insulted." Stay tuned! 

Direct download: 115-Takes-Time-and-Intention.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Our sixth core concept is a perfect build-on to the “Plus One, Minus One” activity mentioned in our previous episode, Concept #5: “Not an Excuse.” 

Plus one, in particular, is about mining your team of the things they want to have more of. Then, as you dig deeper into this challenge, it’s amazing what you’ll discover from each of the team member’s responses. 

The Story Behind ‘Gimme That Escalation’ 

In one of the recent training sessions, a guy came forward and expressed what he has written on his wish list. 

I would love to have more escalation calls.” 

This statement set off these confused looks and reactions among others in the room. 

Did he just say that right? ‘I want more escalation calls?”  

What is he talking about?” 

These people were shocked that the guy was wanting more escalation calls. So of course, they had to ask him for further explanation.

According to the guy, he’s the “deepest subject-matter expert in the whole organization on this matter. He’s quite confident that he can very well handle when a customer turns utterly irate.

“I know that they can be so frustrated and can give up any time, but I know I'm gonna resolve it. If anyone can, it's me.” 

His awareness and certainty that he has the resolution and knowledge to turn things around fires up his love for doing escalations. And for that, we have named this concept in his honor.

Open Up To Meaningful Conversations 

The guy’s gimme that escalation statement opened up a whole conversation with others in the room. If you guessed that his teammates instantly offered him their own escalation calls, that’s not far-fetched at all. But expecting him to accept all escalations may not be realistic since of course, he actually has to get some other stuff done

While the guy got more escalations after such conversation, he also freed up his plate with tasks that were on his “minus one” list. Obviously, he was able to achieve the “plus one, minus one” balance, thanks to some good thinking and meaningful conversation. 

Opening up about what you want more of — though oftentimes surprising many in the room — can create a shift in the tasks. This proves that indeed one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Expanding The Concept 

How can we expand this concept further so it’s easier to apply? Consider the following as fun exercises for you as an individual or as a manager. 

1. As an individual: Discover other people’s “trash” tasks

  •  Gather information. Consider walking around the office and listen for what people are kvetching, complaining or procrastinating about. This is not to suggest that you join in the watercooler talk or random office conversations. Your goal is to capture as much information as you can for this little internal research project. 
  • Look out for “magic” moments. Most likely as you listen, you’ll find some “aha” moments. You discover that certain things people complain about are not bad at all. They could be stuff you actually like doing. You’ll find that what others consider as an area of weakness or difficulty might be an area of expertise for you. As you look out for these moments, compare and take notes. 

2. As a manager: Discover your team’s “loathe” list and shift tasks when possible

Imagine if you knew what each of your team members’ trash tasks were, especially their top list. Just knowing this could be really important because you are able to spot whether the “loathe” list includes tasks they have to do every day. You get an insight into the team’s demotivation points.  

In reality, it might not be that outright and easy to shift things around, as tasks that people hate still need to get accomplished. But in a lot of workplaces, the assignments are not homogenous, so you might have some power to be able to switch things around. Perhaps you could take something off the plate of a top performer in your team who may be losing interest in their job as they have to do what they loathe on a daily basis. 

Time And Trust Are Key

Opening up a conversation with your team members about the tasks they hate require a lot of trust. That's why you can't do strengths just as a one-time offsite team building and expect it to create all the magic things in the world. It takes meaningful conversation over time, up to that point they are comfortable enough to say, “Sure, I'm gonna give it my number one best, but I actually hate this job duty.” 

The ‘Gimme That ________’ Exercise

On the flip side, this exercise can prove powerful for the whole team, as it opens some cool opportunities. When assigning projects to your team members, consider these:

  • Their strengths. For each team member, find and assign to them that thing that lives in their strengths zone, especially if it's not in the strengths zone of everyone else. What is it that they love and makes them come alive?
  • Their expertise. Think about the projects that tend to get assigned at work. Those who are good at certain skills or knowledge areas related to those projects can be the go-to persons. 
  • Their development plan. If you’re the type of manager who puts considerable thought on what a person wishes to develop, as expressed in their individual development plan, be on the lookout for a relevant opportunity or project for them.

Sometimes, however, it can be pretty difficult when you’re finding an opportunity for them based on expertise and career goals. Let’s say a team member wants a very specific project, and you happen to have just one project like that and it’s already assigned to another person. This leaves you with very little choice as a leader. 

As a team leader, what do you do? 

Gimme That Challenge 

Here’s your challenge: get cool with limiting or difficult situations like that and then approach the conversation in terms of talent themes. 

As we know, talent themes are about how they get things done. You can just imagine what strengths and talent themes can come up. So, here’s what you can do.

  1. Ask each person to think about their talent themes.
  2. Let them come to you with 3 examples of projects that call on how they think/feel/operate in the world. 

Check out these “gimme that ________” scenarios:

1)  Gimme that situation. (Includer talent):

Okay, next time you're assigning projects and it’s important for you to find someone who will thoroughly listen to all of the requirements of each stakeholder, really cares what each person has to say, and want every voice of every department to be represented -- call on me.”  

2)   Gimme that dilemma. (Deliberative talent):

“Hey, next time you're assigning a project and you need someone to look at the downstream risks of a decision, or someone who can think seven or eight steps ahead about all the things that could go wrong so that we don't step in the potholes -- I'd love it if you consider me.” 

3)   Gimme that complex problem. (Restorative talent):

“Next time you're assigning projects and you have one that just seems like a big, hairy problem, I hope you'd think of me. I love to roll up my sleeves and just really get into all of the ways to solve a complicated problem.” 

With this approach, what they provide could allow you more space and flexibility in assigning projects.

You’ll find that there are actually a lot more opportunities for each individual than if their “gimme that _____” was too specific and narrow. 

This becomes awesome to you as a manager, especially that some people in your team don’t want to deal with such kinds of problems. 

Key Takeaway

It’s important that you get your team to communicate their wish list of work and projects that align with their strengths. This will help you look for opportunities and assignments where they can apply those easy buttons every day on the job and give their best. 

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: “T” for "takes time and intention." Stay tuned!

Direct download: 114-Gimme-That-Escalation.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

If you've been following this series, you'll know we've been spelling the word STRENGTHS with nine core competencies that pop out as the most elusive, interesting, or unconsidered when implementing strengths at work. So far, we've had:

1. S.E.T. (Skills, Experience, and Talents)
2. Troublemaker Talents
3. Regulate by Situation
4. Easy Buttons

Now we are midway through as we explore our fifth core concept: “Not an Excuse.” 

Avoiding Responsibilities?

Once in a while, people want to use their strengths like an excuse. Here are a few examples:

“I’m an Activator and I don't like to wait. I only work on things where I don't have to wait.” 

I lead through a bunch of Executing talent themes and I like to get things done. And now you're asking me to do some deep thinking and research, and that sounds boring to me. So I don't want to do it.” 

“That just doesn't sound like fun to me. I lead through Positivity and I can't do anything that is just way too serious for too long.” 

But in the world of work, this is not how we can operate. We have to do certain responsibilities that we don't like. 

When those kinds of thoughts come up, make sure you're assessing that you can‘t use those as a reason to have bad performance or low accountability—just because of something you don’t like doing. 

Understanding The Strengths Spectrum

As it seems, there are two ends of the spectrum that people end up raising around this concept of excuse:

  1. Team members making up their own excuses in their minds 
  2. Team leaders having some resistance in implementing strengths. They think they’re giving people the wrong idea, that they're just going to turn lazy.

When it all comes down to it, revenue still has to keep coming in. As a team you still have to get results, or else none of you will have a job. 

Remember: if you're really living out strengths as tools, you believe in high accountability and in getting results.

We all know that it's better to get more time in our strengths zone and fewer minutes in our weakness zone over time. It's always a great idea to shape your job toward that, but it's not instant. It would be foolish to believe that you're going to live 100% of every moment in your strengths zone, and that all weakness moments will now be gone forever.

Your Team Challenge: Plus One, Minus One

Here’s a great exercise to do if you're leading a team. (You can also do this as an exercise for yourself.) 

+1

Ask every member of your team to think of one thing that they would want to get -- either something they don't have or something they want to get more of. 

A few guide questions:

  • What would you like to add to your work? 
    • Is there something that you already do but you want to get more of it because you just love it? 
  •  
  • Is there a kind of work you’d like to experiment with?
  • What do you wish I would assign to you? 
    • Is there a project that somebody else has been assigned over the years and you’ve never been the go-to for this kind of work?
    • Is there something that you think is really in your strengths zone but which you’ve never been able to do or get a lot of? 
  • What would you love to add in your ideal world?

-1

Ask them to think of what they would want to subtract. It could be:

  • Something they don't like
  • Something that drains them
  • Something they procrastinate with
  • Something they wish they could get rid of

Share-out

Once all members are ready with their answers, you can do a round-robin as a team where you go around the room and every person shares one thing they want to add more of and one thing they would like to get less of.

Sometimes, however, the answers aren't as useful. For example, eight out of ten people might say, “I would like fewer emails.” As a manager, you want to get way more information than that. Prior to a round-robin, another approach could help.

Brainstorm First

Give the members of the team two to five minutes to write as many things as they can and as specific as possible under the + side and the - side of their list:

Tips:
  • Encourage them to keep their pens moving. If they forget about what they could be adding to the list for their current work, they can start going into the personal zone and write things about their hobbies, for example, just to keep their pen moving. This keeps their mind focused on the stuff that they love.
  • Give them some extra prompts. Put prompts on a whiteboard or a flip chart. Examples:
    • + category prompts
      • At the beginning of a project, what do you love working on? 
      • When you're working with customers, what would you put in the + category? 
      • When you're doing hobbies on the weekend, what would be a + for you? 
    • - category prompts 
      • What are all of the things you wish you could have less of
      • Things you wish to get rid of entirely 
      • Things that drive you crazy 
      • Things that you procrastinate on

As this is a brainstorming activity, emphasize to them that the objective is just to get as many things written down as possible. 

Too Many Common Answers? 

Whenever this happens, as it typically does, immediately acknowledge it. For example, if a lot of the team members say “too many meetings” -- 

  • Encourage them to pick the one that's top for each of them. 
  • Or: Ask them to give one more that’s specific.

That way, they won’t feel like they're getting dismissed, but at the same time you’re getting some more unique and useful information. 

Still, if you hear the same answer many times, then take it as an opportunity to address it like it’s a team scenario. 

Then you can do the share-out in a much more insightful way. As the leader, you may throw these questions:

What would be useful for other people to know about you? Maybe you have something that others in the room could call on you for? 

This would be useful information to your team members. They (or you) would be able to recommend situations where each other’s pluses could be called on for. Opportunities to swap tasks or to be honoring each other's talents would surface. Ultimately, they would be tapping one another for something they want to be leaned on for.

Follow-Through On Your Team

As the leader, set a follow-up 1:1. As soon as your share-out is done, tell your members you’d like to keep their lists so you can dig into them. Doing this will also guide and prompt you to begin assigning them projects that align with their strengths as much as possible. 

Remember: not an excuse to shirk performance is not an excuse to get rid of accountabilities. It is an opportunity to start talking about the things that either feel like drudgery or really life-giving. If you can know these things about each of your team members, imagine how powerful that would be! As you help them align with their internal motivation, your team will also grow and do more wonders.

A lot of high performers are rarely whiners regardless of what’s assigned to them--even if it’s draining for them. The "plus one, minus one" practice can give them a vehicle for talking about what tends to be less fulfilling for them and what really lights them up.

Excitement and energy for the job are the internal drives that you want on your team. Those can be had over time if you've been having these meaningful conversations where you learn more about them and align with their natural values.

The more you do things with your team using the lens of strengths, the better their collaborative strengths will work toward your business results. 

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: “G” for "gimme that escalation." Don't miss it!

Direct download: 113-Not-An-Excuse.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

We notice it all the time: when we point out to people their natural talents through meaningful conversations, their success comes more easily. In this episode, we refer to this phenomenon as “easy buttons” — our fourth core concept in this series.

Here at Lead Through Strengths, we love seeing people’s potentials. It’s always an amazing experience to help others realize something special about them and saying it aloud to them. This is because people often find it difficult to notice their very own potential. And so the more we hear responses like “Really? That’s a special thing?” or “Oh, I’m good at that?” — the more we find fulfillment that we are into strengths development.

Embrace What Feels Easy

A lot of people still hold this default assumption that if something feels easy to them, it’s probably easy for anyone else. They think it’s nothing special. They dismiss it as they wouldn’t want to offer a bunch of work that’s ordinary or easy. In effect, they are actually depriving their team of their gifts or potentials.

“Why bother? Anybody could have done it anyway.”

If you’re a manager, you have to mine for these potentials and spot them. Make your particular team members aware that what they’ve got is something special until they themselves acknowledge it. 

Once they are convinced that what may be easy for them may actually be a challenge for others, they’ll cease to think that their talent is “unspecial.” They will be more inspired to do more of that.

The more you consistently notice your team members’ strengths, the more they will develop the eagerness to cultivate them. Eventually, they will let their easy buttons get pushed. Those little but meaningful conversations mean that much.

Pushing The Button

The CliftonStrengths talent themes show how you naturally think or feel or act at your default. Your reports provide you some words that may serve as clues to make it a little easier to spot your easy buttons for success. Again, while this is a very simple concept, it’s strangely way overlooked in the office.

How exactly do easy buttons work?

What comes easily and enjoyable to you puts you in the strengths zone. And if you’re in your strengths zone, your performance gets strengthened even more. 

When we talk about implementing strengths, we normally ask people what comes easily to them. What do they find most enjoyable? They would list them down for sure, but as previously mentioned, they also tend to think that they’re easy, that there’s nothing special about that. “Anybody could do that,” as they would add.

Nevertheless, as we listen to the conversations, we find that the things that are easy and enjoyable to a person tend to be in their strengths zone. But given their default assumptions, they tend to go for what’s challenging or difficult. In their effort to be top performers, they labor through their weaknesses rather than shine in their strengths.

But then again — as your strengths strengthen your performance, your weaknesses weaken your performance. 

Easy Buttons When Turned OFF

Most of the time, working on stuff that’s really hard for you is like banging your head against the wall. You keep working hard and fighting the struggle that comes with dealing with things that are:

  • not enjoyable
  • doesn’t come naturally
  • not intuitive

In other words, these are not the things you typically excel at. 

Easy Buttons When Turned ON

In order to stand out without draining yourself, you need to be aware of this lever of strengths which when pulled leads to: 

  • better performance
  • people acknowledging you like you’re a top performer
  • getting your desired outcomes at work

That is equivalent to simply pressing those easy buttons.

Your CliftonStrengths talent themes also represent how you get things done, not what you’re choosing to do. So regardless of the job you’re in, your easy buttons will tell you how you can approach any outcome to get better results. 

Easy Buttons in Teams

Easy buttons vary among people. In sales teams, for example, a benchmark personality type is usually set for the ideal salesperson. Desired types may include:

 

  • A challenger – one who challenges the current beliefs that are embedded in the organization today
  • Presentation-savvy – someone who is the best at presenting case studies

 

The truth is, all these will depend on the easy buttons for each person.

Maybe there’s Person 1 for whom it’s natural to challenge current thinking, so that’s what he is inclined to do. But the person who’s best at it is the one who’s developed that in a way to make it a palatable conversation for another person.

Maybe there’s Person 2 who’s really great at collecting data, case studies, and analytics. In a sales engineer capacity, he can brilliantly present data that support how the product has worked for other similar companies. This can lead a client to make a buying decision.

Maybe there’s Person 3 who’s highly effective at building relationships with people by breaking the ice and making them laugh and have a good time. He may say, “I’m a relational person, therefore that helps me sell because once the relationship is built, then we gain mutual trust that works out for us.”

These are very different easy buttons and you could take any of those three people and they could all learn the other model. They could memorize sales tactics, scripts, and whatnots.

But for them to achieve their best performance, as a manager you have to help them figure out their easy buttons. By pushing these buttons, you help them towards great outcomes.

Hearing Excuses?

As you explore this fun concept with your team, you still might feel some resistance or hear excuses like: 

“Nope, I’m not doing it your way because that’s in my weakness.” 

“Nope, not in my strengths zone.”

When you face this scenario, hang in there because that will be tackled in one of the upcoming core competencies. 

Key Takeaways

  1. What you need to accomplish at work is dictated by the job description, but how you do that will largely benefit from talent themes tools. Think of them like easy buttons to help you deliver your responsibility with much better results.
  2. Keep a list of your talent themes somewhere readily visible or accessible. Some ideas include:
    • A frame of your Top 5 talent themes on your desk 
    • As magnets
    • As your phone’s lock screen display 
  3. Examples of moments when the “easy buttons” concept comes in handy:
    • When you’re feeling a little bit stuck and you need something to help you maneuver the situation
    • When your default reaction hasn’t been working for you and you’re looking for a new way out

Your natural strengths are easy for you for a reason. Why choose another way?

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: “N” for “not an excuse.” See you in the next episode!

Direct download: 112-Easy-Buttons.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

If you want others to experience the best of your StrengthsFinder talent themes, you'll love our third core concept -- regulate by situation

A Simple Concept?

Imagine you’re in front of a mixing board wherein you’re looking at your Top 5 or Top 10 from your CliftonStrengths reports. Each of your talent themes is assigned a fader so that each of them could have its own volume. 

To regulate by situation is to adjust your talent theme’s “volume” based on the following:

  • the person you're interacting with 
  • the project and what it calls for

It’s much like setting the quantities of your musical instrument or tool based on the song you wrote or the genre you're in. 

From Simple To Complex

While that seems like a fairly simple concept, it gets a bit more interesting when we apply it to a team context.

Having to fiddle five to ten faders in order to manage your own talent themes can already be overwhelming. Imagine how much tougher that would be when aside from watching over your own set of five or ten, you will now have to consider that every person you interact with -- whether within or outside of the team -- could receive the varying quantities of your strengths in different ways! For example, in certain projects, they may call for a little bit more or a little bit less of that given strength. 

If you think about working on this for the rest of your life, it can get really complicated!

The Experiment Mindset

The most effective way to not get overwhelmed with regulating your strengths is to think about it as just an ongoing experiment. In particular:

  • Assess how much every situation calls for. 
  • Get a feel for what is received well by other people in your collaborations. 

Scenario 1: Communication as a troublemaker talent

In one StrengthsFinder event, a client had five cards representing her Top 5 CliftonStrengths talent themes spread on her desk. Out of the five, there was one card that was pushed off to the side. It read: “Communication.” 

Apparently, she could not view Communication as her talent or strength. She had just gone through a series of performance reviews with her manager who elaborated to her what she described as bad feedback on her communication, including: 

  • “I talk too much in meetings.” 
  • “I’m just too much to handle.”

She resisted when we offered the notion that Communication could be her greatest asset. But coming into the event might as well be her opportunity to apply the core concepts of both troublemaker talents (core concept #2) and regulate by situation (core concept #3), as follows:

Core Concept #2 (Troublemaker Talents) - She needs to recognize that her love for words -- how she values them as important -- are strong points to her communication theme. The reason Communication was coming out as a troublemaker talent for her was that she was talking to think instead of thinking before talking. 

Core Concept #3 (Regulate By Situation) - By turning her Communication volume high up all the time and not checking how it is being received by others, she’s clearly not regulating it. She has to start adjusting it accordingly.

In the end, it’s how she operates that can transform her troublemaker talent into a great asset.

Scenario 2: Volume wars

In a band, the drummer plays a loud instrument, which tends to make the guitar player, the keys player, and other members to start turning up so they can hear their part and not miss a note. This kicks off what is called volume wars. 

When this results in a big wall of sound, not every person in the audience will receive it well. Loud is not for everyone. 

The same thing happens at work if we think of our talent themes as a collection of variations, nuances, and colors and can be received differently by people. But many of us haven’t recognized those variations and the value of regulating that we turn our talents all the way up to all situations. 

Tip: Get a feel of each situation to determine whether you should turn up your strength or pull back a little bit. 

Let’s Regulate By Situation

Using the strengths volume dial in a team context, how can you regulate all your talent themes? 

As you play with your own Top 5 or 10 knobs, you also face an almost infinite number of rattling and twisting as you try to find the right mix based on all of the people on your team. That’s how complex and layered it is. But that's why we have our third core concept to remind us that it's all just a matter of adjusting according to the situation!

  • Regulate based on the person you interact with

If, for example, you lead through Individualization, you’re most likely interested in every person and what makes them unique. You’d like to learn everything you can about them so that you can customize your communication in a way that is palatable to them. 

If you don’t mind to regulate in your first meeting and turn your talent theme volume right up to a 10, it might catch others off-guard and they might perceive your probing questions as intrusive. 

  • Regulate based on the project or company

Similarly, if you get into a company that’s focused on standard operating procedures in a highly regulated environment, trying to customize everything might not be well-received. It’s not going to fly. You will have to take that tendency down a notch.

Bottom line: Think of regulating by situation as a general concept. Then, start playing with it like experiments. 

Your Team Challenge: Reflect On Your Dials

To make this core concept an even more conscious practice yet still a fun experiment to do for your team, encourage these guide questions: 

  • “How were my strengths? Were they dialed in?” 
  • “Were they all operating in the right place?” 
  • “Were there any that I should have pulled back a little bit?” 
  • “Were there some I could have pulled up more to add more to the results in that situation?”

Taking the time to "play it by ear" with your team will make all the difference and will bring out your unique harmony.

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: “E” for easy buttons. See you in the next episode!

Direct download: 111-Regulate-by-Situation.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

From the S.E.T and “Aspirational You” concepts in the previous episode, we now move towards a seemingly favorite topic for discussion: troublemaker talents!

When talking about strengths, curiosity about the other side -- the so-called “shadow side” or “blind spots” -- tends to surface. And that’s exactly why our next core concept is worth discussing.

Troublemaker talents are natural talents that have the potential to make you great yet may be causing pain or trouble to you, or to others within the team, due to misapplication, talent overuse, or squashing down of talent. 

Note that you may be squashing down a talent or not developing it because you don’t see the necessity. But when it does come out inevitably, it doesn’t come out looking good.

Join us explore these “T” talents, and towards the end you will get these takeaways:

  1. Some workplace scenarios where troublemaker talents can show up
  2. How these scenarios may affect teams and team projects 
  3. What you can do as a team in order to address the possible impact on timelines and results caused by the misapplication, overuse, or squashing down of talent

Are These 'Troublemaker' Scenarios Familiar To You?

  • Scenario 1: Love For Learning

Let’s say a member of your team leads through Learner and Input. Coming out of such strength is her love for learning, such as data gathering. As she’s bent on really getting to know the stakeholders and the end-users before beginning a project, she spends time on the front end of the projects not only collecting stakeholder specifications, the end-user information, and the end-user preferences but really digging into these items. 

What makes it a troublemaker talent?

This is showing up as a troublemaker talent for her because in the process of thorough and in-depth learning, you would see her as being too slow-paced or a “deadline-misser.” This is rooted in the following:

1) Her non-communication of how her workflow looks (70% of the time on front end then hastened towards completion)

2) Her lack of awareness that would make someone else nervous

What can you do as a team?

As you are following a more sensible timeline, and it’s clear that the troublemaker talent is going to make her miss the deadline, you have no choice but to step in. In this scenario, she’ll keep getting her projects pulled as she’s getting them started because you think she’s not going to complete them on time.

  • Scenario 2: Digging In Or Intruding?

For this same person who loves gathering information, it also comes out as a talent overuse when she spends most of a meeting with a colleague, asking too many questions -- to the point that she causes skepticism and guardedness on her colleague. 

What makes it a troublemaker talent?

While the main point of the meeting is to explore and learn as much as she can, “too much curiosity kills a cat” as they say, and may spell trouble by way of perceived intrusion. 

  • “Why the 20 questions?”
  • “Why are you digging into my business?”
  • “What’s the deal here?”

In the end, when the colleague senses that she’s prying into their business, she might not obtain the information she was driving for.

What can you do as a team?

  • Self-awareness - It’s important that this particular “troublemaker” be made aware of where she is not being well-received by others, and where her supposed talent seems to be getting in the way of her desired results. The ability to reflect on this starts the active process of addressing the “trouble” or pain. 

Maximizers also want to think about things longer and improve on them through constant reworks. However, they tend to get stuck on that phase rather than just jumping in and executing it. Naturally they go for the highest quality output, which requires that everything must be thought through. In effect, it keeps them from getting ahead along the timeline. But if high stakes are involved, Maximizers must not let themselves be okay with a B+ work. 

The Yin-Yang Complex

Another concept to watch out for in troublemaker talents is the “yin-yang complex’ where within a team, we often find talents that look the opposite of someone else's. 

Consider the previous example of the leader through Learner and Input. As her boss, you happen to lead through Activator. That means you want to get things moving, and in contrast to her Learner-Input themes, you are really fast on the front end of projects. 

Now due to self-awareness or team awareness about each other’s talent themes, you will know in advance how to handle and address potential “trouble” brought about by varying cadence and preferences in approach. Action steps may look like the following:

  1. The Learner-Input team member effectively communicates and aligns with you where she’s at in the milestone 1-10 through regular updates, providing 
    • explanation where there may be gaps 
    • assurances of how she will strategize to meet the deadline
  2. You determine the types of projects you can (or cannot) assign to her, depending on where her thoroughness may be best utilized. 

Your Team Challenge: Identify A Troublemaker Talent And Develop It

This challenge may take a little thinking through or maybe backtracking. 

  1. Think of someone right now that you know, or someone that you've worked with in the past whom you think you’ve often butted heads or clashed with because you were always coming from totally opposite directions. Recognize that these people are a great case study for troublemaker talents.
  2. Assume both their positive intent and your positive intent. See how they're both trying to achieve results for which you may have a very different approach. 
  3. Develop a troublemaker talent into a value-adding talent.

Suppose you're a visionary, and while you're passionately presenting about the vision of a project, you feel that your team or a team member is dragging it down into something that's irrelevant at present. It can be quite maddening. 

If you recognize the troublemaker talents in your team, you can avoid the frustrations of being derailed in your vision presentation by talking to that person in advance. Example:

“Hey, I'm going to give you the high level in the meeting, and then let's book an hour after because I know you're gonna have a lot of detailed questions."

This short and direct approach will most likely provide the win-win situation where you can cast an inspirational vision for the team. At the same time, these “troublemakers” are given the opportunity to raise questions, be heard, and add value to company-wide results.

So rather than merely point out to them what’s wrong that needs fixing, it’s far more constructive to focus on the team member’s potential, to inspire them to further develop their strength and express confidence that they can be among your top talents in the world. As you both commit support towards this person’s development, imagine the fulfillment for you both if they transform from a “troublemaker” to a superstar!

Bottomline: It's so much more inspirational to craft and develop something that is already strong in you or others than to feel like you need to squash something and stamp it out.

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: Learn how to regulate by situation. Stay tuned!

Direct download: 110-Troublemaker-Talents.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

In this episode, we start joining important puzzle pieces together to make your team a genuinely strengths-powered one.

When we zero in on the nuts and bolts that make strengths work, we develop the kind of perspective that can build and rebuild teams as often as necessary -- no matter what changes or challenges arise in your work environment.

Once you’ve mastered these core concepts, you will have won over the most unconsidered elements in implementing strengths at work.

Ready to set sail towards your shared goals as a stronger team? Since you’re here, I take it to mean you’re all set!

Let The Total You Shine

When it comes to career branding, people usually think showcasing their skills and experiences is enough. For the longest time, it's what we have seen others do: fill resumes and LinkedIn profiles the skills they've acquired along the way.

If that’s not enough, then what’s missing?

Oh, it’s just what we already have all along: talent!

StrengthsFinder views natural talent as the way we do things driven by the inherent way we think, feel, and act. When we add that to our list of skills and experiences, we are able to establish a more solid character behind our career brand. Yet how often do we really come across natural talents in LinkedIn profiles, resumes, and CVs?

Rarely.

Now that we've found what completes our branding equation, it’s about time we don’t leave talent out.

For example, if you have Deliberative/Intellection talents, you can present them in your career branding effort as:

  • Detecting risks that others overlook 
  • Dissecting on a topic with sensibility and depth

Your Challenge: Shift From 1D To 3D

Career branding without talents is merely a one- or two-dimensional view of yourself. To not showcase them is to deprive others the best of what you can give easily and naturally.

Imagine how sturdier and more powerful your career branding would be if it’s standing not just on two but three solid legs. You have your skills, your experiences, and your talents. Now that sounds like a total package!

Once you start adding in your arsenal of talents, you can expect to get a better match for this newfound well-rounded version of you.

Your Team’s Game Plan

As you determine your team’s pool of strengths today, it’s important that you get a 3D view of each other. The key is that you're willing to put out a 3D view of yourself. This means going through the following steps:

1. Think about your career brand vis-à-vis: how you're known currently and how you want to be known or remembered in the future

2. Think about how to communicate to your team--your process of working through your natural talents.

3. Mine natural talents and look for them from your teammates so you can…

  • see how you can collaborate better
  • observe when they're doing what leads them toward their aspiration
  • celebrate it with them

The 'Aspirational You' Impact

At Stronger Teams, we explore “Aspirational You" -- the things you want to be known for or remembered by other people. It resides in the “T” zone of S.E.T. This is an important step in career branding efforts and in your team's game plan. As a quick reminder, so that you don't have to scroll up to peek, S.E.T. stands for Skills, Experiences, and Talents.

If a 1D or 2D view has brought some positive effects on your career, imagine how much more the inclusion of “Aspirational You” would do for your brand! Imagine how much influence it would have on your team as you implement strengths altogether.

Digging Into 'Aspirational You'

Stronger Teams brings “Aspirational You” essentials to the surface through training for teams and individuals.

Here are examples of sets of words that the participants thought up as the aspirational representation of themselves.

  • decisive, observant, bridge-builder
  • trustworthy, inquisitive, excellence-seeker
  • casual, decisive, influencer
  • bold, forward-looking, listener

Of course, these examples are merely a guide on how you can come up with your own “Aspirational You” version.

Think well of how you want to be remembered as you move on from one role or career to another, and then find the right descriptive words that best capture you.

While you may be straightforward with your team, you may soften the words a bit by turning them into meaningful sentences. See how you can be creative and impactful as you share these words on your LinkedIn account’s About section.

Examples:

  • “People have told me I am ________.” 
  • or simply list down your StrengthsFinder talent themes.

Ready For The Next Concept?

Up next: from the elusive T to the troublemaking “T’s.” Stay tuned!

 

Direct download: 109-Skills-Experiences-Talents.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Core Concepts for Stronger Teams

In this series, you’ll explore 9 core concepts that will help you implement strengths with your team at work. The concepts we chose for you came straight from you - both from listeners of this show and from participants in our training classes.

These are the concepts that pop out as most important or elusive. If you know the overlooked or unconsidered angles that can help you make the most of strengths on your team, you'll make big leaps. Keep reading to see the full list. There will be one dedicated podcast episode and blog post for each of the concepts.

Stronger Teams

This series of nine topics is inspired by Stronger Teams. Stronger Teams is a live, virtual training program we just launched to the public. It all came from that thing you’re constantly asking me about - making it stick. Nearly every day, I get questions like, “Hey, we read the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 and we did a team building day. Now what? How do we keep this going? What do we do next?”

Oy vey, I’ve been there. When you’re leading a team you have so much on your plate. You don’t have time to come up with constant conversation prompts and activities. You’re busy enough trying to stay caught up on IMs and emails. If you feel too busy to take on the project of strengths, you’re normal. You probably feel like you don’t have the time or expertise to pull it off well. Or if you’ve tried, you might feel dorky and awkward as you set up these conversations with your team.

Well imagine if you and your team could just show up to a regularly-scheduled strengths training: an easy-peasy team building cadence built into your schedule. Think of what that would be like:

  • You get to grow. They get to grow.
  • You learn about each other, so you get the team building effect in your meaningful conversations over time.
  • There’s no prep work. No planning.
  • No travel & expense budget to beg for.
  • No writing of business cases to get the team in for an offsite, and
  • No more losing 3 days of productivity so that you can do one day of meals and bowling together.

This is where strengths-based cultures get really useful at work. It’s when you have conversations over time. Rather than a once-per-year outing, it becomes a steady trickle into the everyday work and conversations you’re already having.

Why Do Teams Fail To "Do Strengths" After Their Initial StrengthsFinder Training?

The #1 reason I see CliftonStrengths initiatives fail? It’s because they think of it like an initiative. Like an event. The hype fades off as soon as they get back to work. So, if you do a program like Stronger Teams instead, you get a full year of development together.

If you’ve been thinking that you need to do more to make strengths stick, go check out Stronger Teams. For less than the cost of one in-person training event, you can bring in an entire team of 10 people for a full year.

  • That’s 12 live, virtual trainings.
  • That’s 12 activity guides to help you expand it beyond your immediate team.
  • That’s 12 live Office Hours for live Q&A where I offer strengths coaching conversations.
  • That's access to a Strengths Vault where you can get quick-hit team tools and watch past recordings.
  • And an online community of peers.  This peer part is really cool because there are members from lots of companies and industries. You also get to  expand your professional network with other strengths-focused teams around the world.

The 9 Core Concepts

Each concept will have a separate podcast episode and blog post to go into detail. After all, this list won't make full sense until you see the descriptions.

  1. Skills, Experiences, and Talents
  2. Troublemaker Talents
  3. Regulate by Situation
  4. Easy Buttons
  5. Not an Excuse
  6. Gimme That Escalation
  7. Takes Time and Intention
  8. Honored and Insulted
  9. Starved and Fed

Notice What Works: A Challenge

The 3-Coin Challenge  is based on the concept “Notice what works to get more of what works.” It’s simple. You put 3 coins in your pocket. Or paper clips. Or any small item. Try it. Put 3-small-somethings in your pocket right now.

Then, you can get rid of one item at a time as you give away a bit of recognition. Now, you’re not giving the person the actual coin. You’re giving them recognition. You'll see some examples below.

Do this as a once-per-week challenge. Build a habit by doing it regularly--even daily if you’re game. Keep the recognition small and simple. Don’t give a thought to “saving your pennies for something extra good.” For the purpose of this exercise, there’s no benefit to withholding praise, no matter how small.

Here are a few examples:

Recognizing Ishaan, a Teammate

Imagine that I have a teammate named Ishaan. He takes a call from an irate customer. I hear it, and it’s good. Rather than silently nodding to myself about his moment, I acknowledge it aloud. I say,

“Wow Ishaan. You really worked magic when you talked her off the ledge. She sounded like she was going to leave us, and now she’s a fan again. That was amazing to hear.”

Recognizing Sonia, a Direct Report

“Dang, Sonia! Your 3D data visualization finally made sense of our Q2 forecast. Everyone seemed lost, and then, BAM! Your chart helped it make sense to everyone. Thank you for making it so clear.”

Recognizing Sam, a Peer

“Sam, that question changed the course of this meeting. Thank you for helping us see a new angle. We would have totally missed that.”

So that’s it. Have fun with it. Be generous and specific with the recognition. Get the pesky coins out of your pocket as you "earn them out" by giving away recognition.

You Get What You Measure--And What You Affirm

The beauty of doing this challenge is that you get more of what you affirm. It’s repeatable by the recipient of your praise because they already did it well.

Imagine how powerful that small thought can be. When they think, “Oh, that was easy, and the team seemed to like that. I can do more of that - no problem.”

If you hadn’t told them anything, it’s like they’re walking around the wilderness with a blindfold on and no compass. They just keep trying things to see if anything works. On the other hand, when you recognize them, it’s like taking off the blindfold.

What you appreciate and want is no longer hidden. And it’s like giving them a compass - they have a general direction to align with. And that direction is likely aligned with their strengths, so it will also be easy for them to offer more of it. That’s why you’ll get more of what works when you notice what works.

Direct download: 108-Ways-To-Build-Stronger-Teams.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Achiever to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Achiever Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

Here are a bunch of Achiever-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Producer
  • Doer
  • Busy
  • Finisher
  • Energetic
  • Motivated
  • Completer
  • Workhorse
  • Tireless
  • Gets It Done
  • Ambitious
  • Intense
  • Driven
  • Independent
  • Pacesetter

Red Flag Situations For Achiever

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Achiever. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Achiever:

  1. Slackers. If you lead through Achiever, try to keep yourself out of environments where you perceive your colleagues to be slackers or lazy. Sometimes, this is a simple thing to spot. For example, say you’re on a team, and you have a teammate you work with very closely. You perceive him to be a low-accountability-slacker (albeit a nice guy). If this is someone you’re working with all day every day, you’ll likely be frustrated as you imagine all of the things you could get done together, if he’d just pull his weight. A sneakier version of this is when you’re at a company or in an industry that moves at a slow pace. The Achiever in you will likely feel continual angst about what you could be getting done. This consistent “if only” thinking can really drain you. Whenever possible, surround yourself with high-achieving, driven colleagues who will match your intensity and motivate you to step your game up.
  2. Meetings About Meetings. If you lead through Achiever, you likely love getting the actual work done. If you find yourself caught up in circular discussions or bureaucracy, it can be soul sucking for you. If you keep getting invited to meetings because you’re involved in a lot of projects (and therefore people think you’ll want to attend to stay in the loop), practice ways of politely opting out. Of course, the culture around meetings can be vastly different from company to company. Play with different techniques until you find something that honors your team culture, and honors your work style at the same time. For example, some Achievers have successfully created the habit of “popping in” for the 10 minute segment of the 1 hour meeting so that they’re not wasting 50 minutes of their productive time. Others have become expert at declining the meeting altogether—while also contributing to the project and staying in good graces with the team.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Achiever

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Achiever at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Achiever, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Small Bits. Although you have a lot of work stamina and you can crush it on long term projects, you’ll have more fun when you give yourself a way to feel the feeling of “done-done-done” throughout the day. Get in the habit of writing down your next small action that matters for a project. Break it down to the tiniest step so that you can get a little hit of Achiever-dopamine when you finish it. For example, if your project is to research and recommend a new piece of software for the team, you could be looking at a 3 year implementation. If your next action is “schedule online demo” and the next action after that is “attend online demo,” you can turn the 3-year-long-slog into digestible pieces that give you a motivating jolt of accomplishment.
  2. Power Hour. Try blocking out one hour on your calendar where you plan to crank out as many tactical tasks as possible. Don’t take calls. Get rid of all interruptions. Don’t look at email or IM. Simply crank out work. If this sounds like fun, you can also try the Pomodoro Technique, where you do intense spurts of work for 15-25 min, followed by a 5 min break. My favorite is an hour long cycle of (15 min work + 5 min break)x3. That gets you one hour of amazingly productive time. If you work in a distraction-heavy environment, these short cycles can help you feel super efficient, even when it seems like the world is conspiring against your personal effectiveness.
  3. Contests. Measure yourself doing a task that you do regularly. Maybe you make outbound calls. Maybe you write social media marketing posts. Maybe you reply to a lot of emails. Track yourself doing one of these things to get a Personal Record (PR). Then, week over week, challenge yourself to beat your PR while maintaining high quality. The contest makes it fun, and since Achievers are often the last ones at the office, it’s a great way to keep yourself out of the workaholic zone.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 107-Achiever.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Activator to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Activator Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

Here are a bunch of Activator-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Instigator
  • Go Button Presser
  • Fresh Thinker
  • Action Jackson
  • Initiating
  • Movement Maker
  • Catalyst
  • Fast
  • Just Ship
  • Influential
  • Kick Off Crew
  • Eager
  • Brave
  • Change-Friendly
  • Energetic
  • Action-Oriented
  • Starter
  • Propulsive
  • Spark
  • Gets It Going
  • Momentum Creator
  • Early Adopter
  • Motivator

Red Flag Situations For Activator

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Activator. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Activator:

  1. Analysis Paralysis. If your industry or workplace culture is to carefully weigh every option before taking action, it can be very draining to Activators. The waiting game is extremely frustrating. If you lead through Activator, you get satisfaction from starting things, so every delay and moment of bureaucracy can make you feel like an animal trapped in a cage. Be sure to communicate with your leader that you’d love to be involved in as many pre-launch and starting line moments as possible. Since it’s unconventional to assign projects based on the place in the timeline, this can be an eye-opening step (and one that helps you shape your job toward the elements that put you at your best).
  2. Maintenance Mode. If you lead through Activator, you are most motivated, energized, and excellent at the starting line. If you find yourself assigned to the maintenance of processes or products, you’re more likely to get bored. Your magic mojo is usually not at the finish line and after. It can be a powerful insight to realize that you may be more attracted to short-cycle projects than to programs. After you try on that concept for awhile, have a conversation with your manager about your ideas for how to amplify your contribution by getting you involved at the momentum-creation phase, and then moving on to the next thing.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Activator

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Activator at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Activator, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Come In, The Water Is Fine. Often, Activators are early adopters. If you’ve observed someone who leads through Activator, and they’re courageously braving a new way of doing things, use them as a model that the team can follow. Often, when big corporate rollouts happen, the team perceives the company messaging as “rah rah visioning.” Many people will sit on the sidelines until they know it really works or until they know this rollout is going to be a real thing that gets implemented. Meanwhile, your Activators are likely already in there, doing the thing, testing it out, and living in the new world. Get them to champion it by sharing exciting features or time savers with the team. Activators can be a practical voice to show others that the new way is working out great.
  2. Beta Testing. People who lead through Activator love being on the cutting edge. They bravely try new things. So if you ever need to pilot a program or beta test, they could be a great group to use to get things started.
  3. Change Management. When you have a major change initiative, often, you have a project team that has been working away for months or years. Getting people to adopt the change is often tougher than all of the tactics it took to plan and create the new thing. It can be exhausting for those who got the project to this place. Well, this is the finish line for one group and a starting line for another. It’s a great place to bring in Activators. They often love being part of a kick off crew. They are great at being a spark of energy. Notice the difference: they love creating spikes of energy at the kick-off, yet their energy for a project wanes as it drags on. So get them on the kick-off crew, not the maintenance crew.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 006-Activator.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Adaptability to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Adaptability Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

Here are a bunch of Adaptability-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Early adopter
  • Goes With Flow
  • Spontaneous
  • Responsive
  • Thrives Under Pressure
  • Mindful
  • Reassuring
  • Present
  • Calm
  • Easygoing
  • Right-Here-Right-Now
  • Adaptable
  • Flexible
  • Agreeable
  • Enjoys Change
  • First Responder
  • Accommodating
  • In the Moment

Red Flag Situations For Adaptability

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Adaptability. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Adaptability:

  1. Old Faithful. Just in case you’re not familiar, Old Faithful is a natural geyser. It sprays 100 ft in the air. It happens over and over again - over a dozen times a day. It’s in Yellowstone National Park, where Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho come together.If you lead through Adaptability, you might like to see Old Faithful, but you wouldn’t want to be Old Faithful. Mundane work, predictability and routine will likely bore you to tears. Repetitive work is not fun when you lead through Adaptability because you draw excitement from changes in the moment.

    Here’s a coping strategy: if you’re in a role where you do something similar over and over, search for the unique surprise inside of it. For example, if you do customer inquiries over and over, focus on the element that makes this person’s question unique. Focus on being fully present with the other person. Those two elements (the change/surprise part, and the right-here-right-now part) can help you find threads of motivation.

  2. Rich in tradition. Many companies are proud to represent years of tradition and history. If your company is heavily focused on the past, it might feel like stagnation to someone who leads through Adaptability.

    The stuck feeling of “same old, same old” can be frustrating for Adaptability. Even if you work for a cutting edge company that puts a heavy emphasis on lessons-learned meetings or post mortem processes, you might still feel the drain of not being able to live in the here-and-now. Every rehashing of the past can feel like an anchor in the water when you’re trying to drive a speedboat.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Adaptability

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Adaptability at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Adaptability, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Unexpected Detours. If you manage someone who leads through Adaptability, they revel in change. They’ll likely have a fun work day when they can take immediate action and work things out "on the fly."

    They make people feel seen and heard during changes that are difficult for people to adopt. So pull them in to help you implement change that involves the buy-in of other people.

    When balls get dropped (even by others), you won't see this person sulking on the sidelines. You'll see productive progress. So next time you have unexpected changes at work or in your industry, think of people on your team who lead through Adaptability. Their ability to be amiable to change (on both the people and process side) can be a huge help to the team.

  2. Urgent Pressures. If your team works under urgent pressures, surprises, and emergencies, think of those who lead through Adaptability. Challenge them to fine-tune their responsiveness. For example, if the job demands unanticipated travel, see if they can learn to pack and leave in under 30 minutes.

    Also take advantage of their demeanor as a calm and reassuring person. When other teammates are upset by daily events, someone with the Adaptability talent can often help the team find productive ways to relieve stress and make progress. They can have the influence that moves teammates to acceptance rather than resistance.

  3. Never The Same Day Twice. Avoid assigning work that requires structure and predictability from someone who leads through Adaptability. As much as you can, avoid asking them to work on a project where they’re required to follow the same operating procedures every day (or where there are lots of rules and controls). These responsibilities will be frustrating. Look for projects or roles with constantly changing circumstances. Call on them when you need to respond to constantly-differing requests of customers, guests, patients, etc.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 105-Adaptability.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Analytical to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Analytical Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

Here are a bunch of Analytical-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Numbers Oriented
  • Truth-Finder
  • Data Driven
  • Systematic
  • Coherent
  • Evaluator
  • Questioning
  • Rigorous
  • Level Headed
  • Deep Thinker
  • Researcher
  • Inspector
  • Well-Reasoned
  • Methodical
  • Logical
  • Diagnostic
  • Reasoned
  • Scientific
  • Observer
  • Factual
  • Meticulous
  • Rational
  • Pragmatic
  • Measurer

Red Flag Situations For Analytical

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Analytical. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Analytical:

  1. Drama. If you lead through Analytical and you feel surrounded by constant drama on the team, it might suck the life out of you. Of course, workplaces have humans, so you’re going to have conflict and hurt feelings from time to time. At the same time, if you feel that decisions are continuously swayed by a heart-led focus that discounts the facts, you’ll be drained. If you have to work with a teammate who is highly emotional at every meeting, you might suspect that they’re unable to do the critical thinking necessary to do the job well. These high-drama situations will likely frustrate the heck out of you.
  2. Trust The Process Decision-Making. Imagine leading through Analytical and going through a big merger at work. You’re analyzing all of the angles, trying to figure out what the job will be in the future, and whether you’ll even have a job. Your leader keeps telling you “have faith.” The concept sounds simple, yet that likely won’t fly with you. Any version of, “just trust us” or “just do what I say” or “just believe us when we tell you we’ve thought about it from every angle.”…well, that won’t cut it for people who lead through Analytical. You will often need to see the sausage-making that people are trying to buffer you from. You want to know the ugly underbelly so that you can weigh the real facts rather than the sound bites. In fact, it can be helpful to communicate this need with your leader during tough times - that even when the underbelly is ugly, if you know the decision points and assumptions, you can get settled in the same way as the people who are comfortable with blind faith. It’s counterintuitive to many people, so this is an important red flag to explore and discuss with your leader.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Analytical

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Analytical at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Analytical, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Poke Some Holes. You’re optimistic about something, but it’s high stakes. You want to be sure you’ve thought through all of the assumptions, downsides, risks, and objections. As a leader, this is the perfect time to bring in your team member who leads through Analytical. They can poke holes, be a skeptic, and give you watch-outs that you’d never think of. And in this context, it feels great because they’re doing it as a contribution rather than as a negative nelly.

  2. Deeper Insights. If you have a mound of data, and you don’t know what story it should be telling you, hand it off to someone who leads through Analytical. Ask them to bring back their top 3 insights. Besides allowing them to have fun swizzling the data in pivot tables and charts, you’ll get a new lens on an otherwise overwhelming pile of numbers.

  3. Level-Headed View. Imagine a situation where you need to make a go / no-go decision about a service you currently offer your customers. Most of your team is emotionally attached to this service because it’s the one that allows them to have tight relationships with customers. The simple mention of a go / no-go decision puts the team in a frantic, emotional state. This is the perfect task to give to someone who leads through Analytical. Ask them to provide the qualitative and quantitative data that will allow you to make a level-headed decision about this service. Come up with a rubric that is grounded in logic. With a scorecard and analysis in mind, this person will be able to put their personal preferences aside and get you a well-reasoned dissection.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 104-Analytical.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Arranger to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Arranger Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

Here are a bunch of Arranger-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Juggler
  • Multi Tasker
  • Organizer
  • Piece Fitter
  • Collaborative
  • Change Lover
  • Maestro
  • Turnaround Queen/King
  • Configurer
  • Flexible
  • Dynamic
  • Conductor
  • Coordinator
  • Resourceful
  • Unflappable
  • Change-ready
  • Puzzle Rearranger
  • Interactive
  • Decision Maker
  • Change Agent
  • Priority Adjuster
  • Enlister

Red Flag Situations For Arranger

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Arranger. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Arranger:

  1. The Slow, Steady Slog. If you lead through Arranger and you’re in a slow-paced, careful work environment, you might get antsy fast. If you feel bogged down by obsolete processes or technologies, you’ll be dying to make the positive changes needed to move forward. If you happen to be on a team where the obsolete guidelines are sacred, you’ll want to find other parts of the job that are not so steady-eddie to keep your Go Button firing.
  2. Stay In Your Lane. Let’s say you lead through Arranger, and you’re responsible for marketing analytics. Although the job is typically focused on the marketing and sales teams, you see a cool opportunity to bring in a panoramic view with customer data and product data. Then you get the news that you need to “stay in your lane” - keep focused on the job you were given. This can be extremely frustrating if you lead through Arranger because the broad collaboration and the ability to adapt to the current times is exactly where your genius lies.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Arranger

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Arranger at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Arranger, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Stalemate. Imagine two teams have been battling each other for years. They never seem to agree on budgets. They seem to have competing priorities. Collaboration has halted. Consider bringing in someone on the team who leads through Arranger. They may thrive on the idea that they get to put together processes, plans, events, and tasks that will actually move both teams forward. It’s important to know that if you put them in a situation where you want them to get momentum where it stalled, they need to have enough sway to make things happen. If they get blocked and ignored, they’re likely to find a workaround, yet running into an entire team of people bellyaching about the change or telling your team member to “stop fixing what’s not broken” it will actually drain them rather than make them thrive.
  2. Progress During Adversity. Let’s say you lead a team of hardware engineers. Someone discovers a defect in the product that might set your go-to-market date back by two quarters. If someone on the team leads through Arranger, see what they can come up with. The puzzle of shifting resources, remaining unflappable, and keeping people enlisted in the project during these hard times - those are all things that this person will be fired up by.

  3. Matrix Mess. Imagine you’re like 49% of the workforces around the world, and you have a matrixed reporting environment. People might describe themselves as having 4 or 5 bosses. Let’s say you have a project that has become a complete mess. No one knows who owns it. Team members are spread all over the world, and no one can attend the conference calls at the same time. Most people work remotely, so getting everyone in a room to work things out is simply not an option. When you have a messy environment and a high stakes project that must get ironed out, call on your team members with the Arranger talent. Ask them specifically to focus on bringing functional collaboration. Ask them to be the maestro of the matrix. They will likely thrive if they get to think of themselves as a conductor in this seemingly muddled-up environment.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

     

Direct download: 103-Arranger.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Belief to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Belief Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

Here are a bunch of Belief-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Anchor
  • Stable
  • Grounded
  • Mission-driven
  • Certain
  • Self-Sacrificing
  • Values-Driven
  • Evangelist
  • Committed
  • Principled
  • Passionate
  • Loyal (if values-aligned)
  • Purpose-centered
  • Altruistic
  • Purposeful
  • Consistent Advocate
  • Inspirer

Red Flag Situations For Belief

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Belief. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Belief:

  1. The mission isn’t what it seemed. For example, let’s say you joined a medical device company. You joined because you heard the vision of the lives you’d save with this new product that makes people’s pace makers last an additional 10 years. You were overjoyed by the idea of not putting elderly or weak patients into another risky surgery. A few months into the job, you overhear some people talking about a revenue strategy that makes you think they’re prioritizing revenue over the patient’s best interest. Now, if you lead through any talent and you think something unethical is going on, you’ll probably dislike it. But if you lead through Belief, and you suspect the mission that you joined the company for is a sham, it’s all over. Now I’m giving you an extreme example to make the point clear. Yet if you lead through Belief, be on watch for this. Even in small situations where things are not what they seemed on the surface (or people are not who they seemed to be on the surface), it is difficult to ever get your trust back. When you’re detached and “arms-length” because you’re skeptical, your engagement on the job changes. It can go downhill fast if you don’t get in front of this one.
  2. You have to work closely with your anti-belief. Let’s do another extreme example to make this one obvious. Say that you lead through the talent theme of Belief and one of your life’s missions is to protect and serve animals. You are an active member of PETA, which is something you spend every night on. In the daytime, you work at an advertising agency. Last week, you got assigned to a new client - and they’re a cosmetics company that does extensive animal testing. You try to suck it up because you need the job, but every time you talk to the product manager at the client, she makes your blood boil. If you lead through Belief, you probably can’t just grin and bear it. It’s more than that with Belief. Now, if you take a less extreme example, imagine that you learn a peer at work has a belief or closely held value that runs counter to yours. It gives you a seed of doubt about this person who you used to love working with. These are the moments you need to get ahead of before they derail the productivity you’ve always enjoyed when you work together. This is different for every person and every belief. For you, it may work out by simply finding other shared values so that you can feel rooted in other areas of trust. That can be a way to rebuild mutual respect. For others, it may be that you have to have an open conversation about your value that feels insulted.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Belief

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Belief at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Belief, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Product Evangelist. If you know your team member leads through Belief and they deeply believe in the “why” of the product, it’s on! Unleash them as a product evangelist. Make it a thing to share the features, benefits, mission, and delight with the outside world. In a time when consumers are skeptical about “sales-ey ad copy,” imagine what would happen if your team member ties a life mission to it. That’s a product narrative that your customers will get behind.

  2. You Need An Ethical Rock. Imagine a situation where bribes are common. Or a role where a person is placed in a lot of tricky ethical situations. This might be a great place to bring your ethical rock - someone who leads through Belief. This person’s clarity and convictions around ethics and values will allow that person to shine where others waffle. They will see clear moral standards where other people struggle with gray areas.

  3. Make Some Meaning. Regardless of the task, Belief is considered an executing talent. That means that it helps people get things done. As you can imagine, if you feel so passionate and connected to a topic that you would run through walls for it, then you’d have someone who is going to get some mega-big task lists checked off. Next time you need to apply the Belief talent theme, take time to connect the job responsibility with the bigger purpose. This brings the internal motivation to bring the A-game to the job.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 102-Belief.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Command to your career.

In this series, you get one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Command Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

Here are a bunch of Command-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Strong-willed
  • Bold
  • Challenging
  • Driven
  • Truthful
  • Decisive
  • Determined
  • Concise
  • Unruffled
  • Candid
  • Honest
  • Persuasive
  • Frank
  • Quick
  • Direct
  • Plain-spoken
  • Leader
  • On The Level
  • Assertive
  • Chaos Tamer
  • Purposeful
  • Influential
  • Clarifier
  • Forthright
  • Straightforward
  • Clear Communicator
  • Strong Presence
  • Unshakable
  • Truth Teller

Red Flag Situations For Command

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Command. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Command:

  1. Sugar Coating Culture. Do you have a team that avoids the issue behind the issue? Are there elephants in the room? Are people often beating around the bush? Are there passive aggressive comments? Do people skim past challenges because they’ll raise uncomfortable conflicts? Ooooh. If you lead through Command, all of the stuff I listed sounds awful. It could totally suck the life out of you. If colleagues sugar coat the bad news, you might feel like they’re patronizing you. If you lead through Command and you know a teammate is boiling hot about something, you want them to just say what it is. You will feel soul sucked if you think that work has turned into a giant mind-reading game. If you are great with the candor, yet you’re not feeling very tolerant of the over-harmonizing, I recommend practicing Radical Candor. Check out the book by Kim Scott. It’s a way of giving direct feedback with candor and compassion at the same time. You will become a great model for the team. They can watch you demonstrate candor in a way that they’ve never tried. Once they see how your truth-telling is a more efficient way to perform (and they get less scared of directness because they see the feedback working), you might be able to slowly turn the norms around on the team culture.

  2. Don’t Poke The Bear. See, if you lead through Command, you’re not afraid of poking that sleeping bear. Yet, when the corporate narrative is that you cannot challenge the assumptions of Mr. X (Mr. or Mrs. X could be any leader, subject matter expert, or sacred thing). If you lead through Command, you need the freedom to disagree (even if your stance is the unpopular one). You thrive when you can ignore the typical norms of an org chart where you’re “supposed” to defer to others and not dig underneath the decision to reveal a flaw. If you work in a culture like this, learn to bring your most mature version of challenging assumptions. You might be viewed as “having sharp elbows” or being too blunt. Yet truth-telling is how you thrive, so focus on the influencing part of the equation. Try a “yes, and” approach where you affirm something about what they did. Then your “and” comes in as a new layer of a building block, rather than calling them out. For example, Ted, I love how your solution put the customer experience right up front. And it strikes me that they’re likely to take this action next. In order to stay out in front of it, let’s add this element to your plan to make it lock-tight. See how that worked out? Rather than telling Ted he was a dumb dumb for missing a step, you built on his idea. And now he’s nodding along with you rather than resisting you or resenting you for catching his oversight.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Command

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Command at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Command, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. When you need clarity over consensus. Sometimes you have a workplace situation that leaves one party to feel disappointed or upset - you know, one of those times when it feels like there will be a win-lose vibe by the department who doesn’t get their way?! When you need someone with an objective presence who can remove ambiguity, call on your team member with Command. Although they see consensus as a nice-to-have, it will not distort their decision-making process. This is great where you’ve had harmony-seeking teammates fail at getting to the core of the issue.

  2. When the messaging is a jumble. When you have a direction to communicate, and every department has thrown in their 2 cents…plus the kitchen sink, it can be a big ‘ol cluster. It can turn into an incomprehensible jumble-of-jargon. People who lead through Command are great concept people. They can easily narrow your thoughts into a few words or a few buckets so that people can understand the message clearly. Even in a small moment when you need someone who can “cut to the chase,” send in your person who leads through Command. They’re great at finding the three words that decode the mess in everyone’s head.

  3. When you need someone to take the driver’s seat. Maybe your team is in chaos. Maybe you have a lot wishy-washy-ness that has kept the team from progress. Maybe the team culture has always been one that defers to the leader, yet you don’t have time for someone to ask for your permission at every turn. When you need to get to a calm, clear future state, ask a person on the team who leads through Command to drive you there. They love being direct and decisive. They thrive when they can fix or manage out-of-control situations. And they will absolutely thrive if you give them permission to own it and then get out of the way. That will sound dreamy to most people with Command. When everyone else would be nervous to own a decision, they’ll be thinking, finally…less micromanagement.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the About section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 101-Command.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Communication to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Communication Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

We often see two distinct "flavors" of the Communication talent theme. You may have one. You may have both. One is fairness in the treatment of people. The other is standardization for processes. So here are a bunch of Communication-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Presenter
  • Transparent
  • Eloquent
  • Captivating
  • Expressive
  • Clever
  • Nuanced
  • Conversationalist
  • Entertainer
  • Collaborative
  • Poignant
  • Vocal
  • Word Nerd
  • Explainer
  • Evocative
  • Witty
  • Storyteller
  • Writer
  • Interactive

Red Flag Situations For Communication

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Communication. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Communication:

  1. Dismissive About Words. If you lead through Communication, you believe that words carry truth. They matter, big time. Having your expression squashed or shut down will be draining. Seeing others get shut down will also feel draining. If someone keeps telling you to stick to the facts, and ditch the nuanced descriptors, you will likely feel handcuffed at work.

  2. Don’t Talk It Out. If you’re in a place where you’re expected to fully vet your ideas and think them through before expressing them, you may feel like you’re not at your best. If you lead through communication, your best ideas often happen while you’re talking out an idea…live! If you’re in a quiet, keep-to-yourself environment, it might feel stifling to you.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Communication

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Communication at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Communication, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Volunteer To Give Presentations. You can become known as someone who captivates others. This may be through the colorful, charismatic way that you present. Or, it can be that you’re utterly compelling because of the way you craft the story arc.

  2. Invest In A/B Testing. Although you may love to improvise because you’re a natural communicator, the extreme strength in communication happens when you focus on craftsmanship. Give a presentation with 3 different metaphors. Or try 3 different attention grabbers to kick it off. As you watch people respond, you’ll learn a lot about which nuance lands with your audiences.

  3. Borrow From Hollywood. Think of your favorite movie plot. Re-watch the film to study how they reveal each new twist. Jot down ideas for how you can use similar techniques at work to deliver a training topic or to communicate a customer message. Experiment with ways to remix their techniques for building tension, surprise, and contrast. Use them at work to keep your audience on the edge of their seat – even if it’s just for an email.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 100-Communication.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Competition to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Competition Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

We often see two distinct "flavors" of the Competition talent theme. You may have one. You may have both. One is fairness in the treatment of people. The other is standardization for processes. So here are a bunch of Competition-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Winner
  • Energetic
  • Selective
  • Intense
  • Record Holder
  • Driven
  • Scorekeeper
  • Striver
  • Measurer
  • Champion
  • Challenger
  • Scrappy
  • Ratings Creator
  • Gamer
  • Performer

Red Flag Situations For Competition

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Competition. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Competition:

  1. No Public Metrics. Call them KPIs. Winning Scorecards. Dashboards. Performance Metrics. Quotas. Standards. Job Levels. Targets. Whatever you call them, they’re something you need if you lead through Competition because you find it motivating to know where you stand. When there's no measure of success, you have no idea how you compare to others. And that’s no fun if your drive comes from your ranking of things.

  2. Everyone Gets A Trophy. If you're in a culture where people get rewarded for simply showing up, you might feel offended and drained. In a work environment, this can be more annoying than in 7-year-old soccer leagues because it tells you that you don’t work in a meritocracy. If everyone gets the same commission or bonus or job level for the same, mediocre performance, it will really take away the juice that makes you want to be awesome.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Competition

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Competition at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Competition, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Earn A Personal Record. Even when you run a 5k by yourself, it’s fun to set a personal record (PR). Translate this to mundane tasks at work to give yourself the juice to blast through them at work. For example, if you made 90 phone calls one day, challenge yourself to get to 100 tomorrow, or to get to 90 in 7 hours rather than 8.

  2. Help Someone Else Win. Share your hacks and tactics. Help other people on the team step their game up. Since winning is fun, you’ll enjoy treating someone else to that feeling. Also, it allows you to keep stepping your game up so that you can feel challenged in a pool of smart and formidable teammates. As the water level of the whole pool goes up, so does yours. So do the company results.

  3. Challenge Someone To A Duel. Find someone else at work who thrives on winning. Look for a top performer who will make you step your game up in order to win the bragging rights. Make it a duel that you have a chance at winning. At the same time, be sure it’s not a “gimme” because it’s no fun when you’re not even in a legit challenge. Of course, the smack talk and the energy of the competition is fun, yet it’s also a great way to meet company goals by pushing each other to set new records and pull off more than you’ve ever done before.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 099-Competition.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:00am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Connectedness to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Connectedness Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

We often see two distinct "flavors" of the Connectedness talent theme. You may have one. You may have both. One is fairness in the treatment of people. The other is standardization for processes. So here are a bunch of Connectedness-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Integrator
  • Idea-Connector
  • Bridge-Builder
  • Comforter
  • Considerate
  • Abundance-Minded
  • Faithful
  • Kind
  • Listener
  • Seeker
  • Perceptive
  • Unifier
  • Caring
  • Nature-Lover
  • Advocate
  • Open-Minded
  • Philosophical
  • Thoughtful

Red Flag Situations For Connectedness

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Connectedness. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Connectedness:

  1. Silos. If your company is famous, internally, for a siloed, departmental approach, you might be drained by the closed-mindedness. When colleagues refuse to see that issues impact more than one small group, they could seem selfish. If you’re constantly trying to get people to be more aware of the downstream impact of their actions, you might wear yourself out, like you’re walking upstream in a fast-flowing river of non-collaboration.

  2. Experiencing Us vs Them Comments. If you constantly hear the service team complaining about the sales team, or the engineers complaining about product marketers, you’ll wonder how it’s possible to view things with such a self-serving mindset. You’re keenly aware of how we all have a ripple effect on each other. You even realize that disdain that is felt but not spoken has a ripple effect. If this is the vibe on your team, it can really bring you down.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Connectedness

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Connectedness at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Connectedness, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Help People Live In The Matrix. You naturally see connections among people and processes that other miss. If you have a matrixed organization, where people report to 4 managers, take calls all over the world, and connect via conference call and instant messenger all day, it can feel like a sea of disparate transactions. But they don’t seem separated to you. Volunteer your talent by showing the connections and helping your colleagues understand how things fit into the larger picture.

  2. Leverage Your Network. With your strong sense of community, you can connect people to each other to amplify the teamwork in your group. You might be the only one on the team who would realize that Susmitha does the same thing in India that Mateo does in Argentina. Not only can you give them a sense of community with each other, but your insights might allow for some efficiencies that no one else would have seen.

  3. Make Someone Feel Like They’re The Only One In The Room. In a hard-charging, distracted environment, your teammates are probably used to not being seen, heard, and appreciated. You probably have a natural ability to listen and make someone feel like you’re fully present in the conversation. What a great way to spread the ripple effect of kindness.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 098-Connectedness.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Consistency to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Consistency Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Consistency-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Policy-Maker
  • Operations-Focused
  • Rule Enforcer
  • Compliant
  • Systematic
  • Even-Handed
  • Standardizer
  • Practical
  • Reliable
  • Pragmatic
  • Equitable
  • Efficient
  • Steady
  • Guardian of Equality
  • Unbiased
  • Fair
  • Justice-Maker
  • Egalitarian
  • Impartial
  • Promise Keeper

Red Flag Situations For Consistency

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Consistency. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Consistency:

  1. Constant Customization. If you lead through Consistency, you might prefer stable routines and clear guidelines. If you do, you could feel very drained at work if all processes seem to be up for negotiation and tweaking. You have a keen eye for standardization and ways it could serve your team or customers better. If you feel like you constantly have to battle people to get them to follow the guidelines, it could be a real soul-suck for you.

  2. Special Favor. If you lead through Consistency, you might have more of the people-fairness variety of the theme. With this, you believe that people should be treated equally. If you observe a team or a person getting unfair advantages or special favors, it will annoy you. If you see a specific person getting an unfair disadvantage, you might even find yourself taking action as their advocate. If you’re in this environment and it feels unfair to you, you would likely feel drained by the culture because it runs counter to your personal values.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Consistency

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Consistency at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Consistency, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Document Things. If you like the process side of Consistency, document processes so that they can be referenced by new hires or people new to that task. That way, the likelihood of inconsistencies goes down because they’re following your steps rather than loose verbal instructions that Emma-down-the-hall mentioned.

  2. Stabilize After Change. After a re-org or merger or team shake up, you’re likely going to create new norms, routines, and standards for yourself. It would be something that you naturally do because you want to get back to a routine that feels normal again. This is a great time to offer your processes to the team. Imagine how a standard operating procedure guide might help others find some calm in a sea of chaotic change. Even if you make something as simple as the “who does what” list, it will help people figure out the new norms.

  3. Rules Role. Look for responsibilities that allow you to establish or enforce guidelines. Even in knowledge worker roles, I’ve seen people become the creators of the team manifesto or the “keeper of the brand promise.” It’s a way to help the team keep standards, even when they’re inconvenient. Get an ISO 9000 certification. Become a Six Sigma black belt. Volunteer for compliance-related responsibilities.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 097-consistency.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Context to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Context Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Context-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Grounded
  • Researcher
  • Company Storyteller
  • Perceptive
  • Highlighter
  • Business Unit Biographer
  • Studious
  • Collector
  • Culture Keeper
  • Archiver
  • History Buff
  • Trend Spotter
  • Comparer of Then & Now
  • Corporate Archaeologist

Red Flag Situations For Context

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Context. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Context:

  1. Rework. If you lead through Context, you value lessons from the past. So it would make sense that if you live in a work culture that experiences constant rework (especially rework caused by repeating the same mistakes over and over), you will likely feel frustrated. If you lead through Context, you proactively avoid failure by learning from the past - this is how you naturally think. You would use that information and insight as often as possible. Someone else already did the work or learned the lesson, why re-learn it the hard way? So watch out for frustrating rework. If your colleagues never slow down to understand where you came from so you can make informed decisions as a team, you’ll likely resent that you keep running into the same obstacles.

  2. Bull In A China Shop. Imagine a culture where the mantra is “just ship,” where the ultimate priority is to quickly and consistently get new products out the door. Don’t stop, don’t look back. Well, that action bias might work great, yet moving forward hastily without knowing how we got there also has risks. If you lead through Context, you’ll be keenly aware of the potential to lose your grounding in the why and how. When the past is forgotten or under-valued, you might even feel under-valued as a contributor because you would feel like your opinion doesn’t matter. You will also feel drained if people ignore the lessons of the past by blazing forward, breaking things in the China shop, that could have stayed in perfectly good condition.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Context

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Context at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Context, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Culture Keeper. Help your organization strengthen its culture through folklore. For example, collect symbols and stories that represent the best of the past. Use these to celebrate people’s contributions. Give major wins some air time. Rather than forgetting accomplishments one day after they’re done, celebrate their meaningfulness. This can help people feel that they are part of a legacy. Maybe you’ll inspire someone to honor the legacy of people before them. Or maybe you’ll inspire someone else to imagine how they can be remembered for significant accomplishments. Create a Hall of Fame award to show how early results and legacy team members have shaped the company you are today.

  2. Fail Forward. If “failing fast” is a part of the culture, volunteer to use your Context as a way to index the learning and keep it in a place that people can easily find it. Whether that’s a wiki or a story or a resource list or a lessons learned document, give people a way to remember this thing as they blaze into the future. You’ll help the lessons not get lost in the chaos.

  3. Study Success. Look at examples from the past that worked. Replicate those things to demonstrate how looking to the past for a minute can help you in the future. This is a great way to enjoy a look back while also making it useful for the current state.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 096-Context.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Deliberative to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Deliberative Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Deliberative-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Cautious
  • Safe
  • Problem-Averter
  • Observant
  • Careful
  • Serious
  • Private
  • Risk-Manager
  • Forward-Looking
  • Confidence-Keeper
  • Sensible
  • Spotter of Downstream Impact
  • Thoughtful
  • Guardian
  • Threat Mitigator
  • Think 7 Stops Ahead Guy/Gal

Red Flag Situations For Deliberative

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Deliberative. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Deliberative:

  1. Ready, fire, aim culture. If you lead through Deliberative, you’ll likely be frustrated if you’re surrounded by hasty decision-making and action. You likely prefer to be careful and considered. You probably prefer to get it right rather than to get it done yesterday. If you’re in a culture where preventable mistakes happen often, you could get extraordinarily frustrated by this lack of prudence.

  2. Lovey, huggy, happy hour culture. Often, those who lead through deliberative are private people. They’re slow to open up personally at work. They often see work as work, and friendships as friendships. Yet as workplaces become more informal, it’s more common to see personal questions, shared emotions, friendships, and hugs. These things could be off-putting to you if you lead through Deliberative. And if you seem like the odd-person-out…wondering, “why are you in each other’s personal business so much” it might drain you as you wonder why they can’t just come in and get the job done.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Deliberative

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Deliberative at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Deliberative, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Volunteer To Be The Risk Manager. If you lead through Deliberative, you’re likely exceptionally talented at thinking ahead about the pot holes the team might fall into. If you play that up on purpose, you can help the team in many situations where they’d otherwise step right into a pile of poo. Be sure to affirm parts of the idea or direction that you support, and that you’re calling out these “watch outs” so that the project or product can be successful and not get unraveled by an unforeseen roadblock.

  2. Find Confidence In Your Judgment. You have confidence in your own judgment, so take action on what you think is sensible, regardless of the impact on your popularity. Know that it’s possible to get labeled as a “Debbie Downer” type if you are the one always coming into meetings as the Devil’s Advocate for someone’s idea. With a slight tweak in your delivery, there’s huge power in this confidence that you see things others may not see. By adding a phrase, “I know it won’t be popular to share an insight that might slow us down, yet it’s worth it to share this insight that might put our goals at risk.” Then share the risks in the spirit of keeping on track to reach your team goals. This is a huge value to the team because it’s easy for most people to get blinded by the glossy, sexy parts of the project - and skim over the potential risks and downsides.

  3. Match Up The Gas And The Brakes. If you take an easy StrengthsFinder metaphor, you could say that the Activator talent theme likes to press the accelerator pedal of the car, and Deliberative likes to pump the brakes. Both are useful for the team. If you lead through Deliberative, you have a voice that needs to be heard on the team. And it’s one that many people miss. If you’ve ever seen head butting on a team where someone wants to slow down and ask questions…meanwhile someone wants to speed up and get the next thing off of their plate, you can see where an inherent conflict might exist. On the other hand, if you consciously partner up and make this a yin-yang thing, you can get the benefits of Activator-urgency and Deliberative-accuracy and risk mitigation. The trick is to go find the yin to your yang before there’s a conflict so that you can appreciate each other’s perspective and bring out the best of the combined approach.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 095-Deliberative.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Developer to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Developer Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Developer-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Coach
  • Teacher
  • Mentor
  • Celebrator of Growth
  • Advocate
  • Capabilities Cultivator
  • Encouraging
  • Foster-er of The People
  • Caring
  • Patient
  • Perceptive
  • Recognizer
  • People-Investor
  • Talent-Nurturer
  • Potential-Spotter

Red Flag Situations For Developer

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Developer. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Developer:

  1. Wasted potential.  If you lead through the Developer theme, it will frustrate you if you see people being typecast into a single function. You see potential in people that other people are often not willing to see. For example, you might see careers being limited because someone doesn’t have a degree or they lack some experience. Yet you wish for people to take chances on them and let their talents bloom. This seems a bit odd as a red flag for Developer (if you don’t lead through this talent) because it’s often demoralizing for the person who leads through Developer when the overlooked talent is actually other people on the team. This isn’t weird at all to someone with Developer though - they feel enlivened by cultures that help each person reach their full potential. And they feel stifled and demotivated when they see potential getting wasted.

  2. Being the fixer. Now this red flag is actually self induced. It happens when you fall into a bit of a martyr syndrome, where it’s your mission to help every person be seen and heard and appreciated for what they are - even when they don’t want it. If you see that someone is consistently struggling the role, and they don’t want to be helped…or when you see that someone is a cancer on the team and they don’t want to turn around, you might want to let it go. I’ve seen this happen in organizations where low performance was tolerated for awhile, and complacency has set in. Now, as you swoop in to try to pump them up to see their greatness, they’re having none of it. If you see it as your job to turn them around, this burden can get emotionally heavy for you. Don’t let it bring your performance down. Now, I say all of this, knowing that you will still see potential in them. You’ll still believe in them. But you can’t make everyone care. You can’t own their performance results. They have to take accountability too.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Developer

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Developer at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Developer, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Celebrate what you see. Fill some buckets, and do it over the seemingly small stuff. You’ll naturally see these small accomplishments because you know they aren’t small when you add up the ripple effect. For example, if you know a numbers-crunching peer has been working on their communication skills, compliment them when you see them customizing their interactions to be more palatable to the listener. When someone knows they’re on the right track, they’re more likely to continue on that track. Although it’s popular right now to bemoan the “everyone gets a trophy” mantra, you see the value in giving out small, metaphorical trophies for each person’s small wins. Don’t let that trophy thing get in the way of you noticing what works. You’re not giving away disingenuous compliments. You’re not giving them a participation trophy. You’re celebrating the small things so that they can tell that their efforts are actually working.

  2. Share your optimism behind the scenes. Tell a person what you see in them. If you lead through Developer, you can often see potential in people that they cannot see in themselves.   Make it a daily practice (or at least weekly), to share with someone how much you admire a thing about their work (or their work style). When you help someone see that their ability to provide clarity is useful to others, they’re more likely to give it in the future. When someone knows that their way of telling stories through data is insightful for others on the team, they’re more likely to share that data with the team next time. Give these small, personal encouragements so that people can see that their common sense is special…it’s in fact, not common at all.

  3. Nurture new hires. Be a mentor. Volunteer to help with on boarding programs. Make newbies feel welcome. Take someone who is green under your wings. Tell them where the learning curve will be steep in a new role, and how to get some quick wins within their first month on the job. Any of those things will be easy for you to know and convey - and it will be energizing for you to see new people step into their potential faster.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 094-Developer.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Discipline to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Discipline Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Discipline-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Organized
  • Orderly
  • Well-planned
  • Predictable
  • Structured
  • Team Blueprint Maker
  • Reliable
  • Timely
  • Gantt Chart Lover
  • Routine
  • Exacting
  • Goal Systemitizer
  • Neat
  • Efficient
  • Meticulous

Red Flag Situations For Discipline

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Discipline. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Discipline:

  1. Flavor of the month culture. People who lead through Discipline love routines, processes, systems, structures, and long term planning. They’re always scanning for what the norms are so that they know what to expect. If your team culture tends to have a lot of “flavor of the month” initiatives that start and stop, it might be maddening for you. Be on watch for these red flags, and look for the ones that bug you and kill your mojo. For example, you might be fine with a monthly book study initiative because you know that people are talking about the latest and greatest business topics. But if you notice that there’s a new flavor every month for the customer onboarding process, you’ll likely be frustrated because you can’t map your personal responsibilities to the ever-changing systems and frameworks.

  2. We’ll know the day’s priority when that day rolls around. If you have to be reactive at work, take note of whether this drains you. For example, if you work on dispatch (like, I don’t know what I’ll do that day until the customer calls start rolling in), that might be stress inducing. Or, if your days are filled with urgent requests that blow up your already-planned week, you might go crazy. That will not be fun. Especially when you feel a need to be precise and accurate. When urgencies blow up your day, you’re not only off-routine, but now your other plans are at risk for solid execution. Of course, most people don’t like it when their days are hijacked by someone else’s priorities, yet if you lead through Discipline, this can be especially draining. If it’s an unavoidable reality of your workplace, do your best to set up a structure that allows for the lack of structure (like pre-planned buffer time).

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Discipline

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Discipline at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Discipline, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Share project planning templates. One of my friends (Laura, you know who you are), leads through Discipline. One day, she told me about her wedding planning spreadsheet. It had every potential vendor for every element of the event. Each vendor had categories that reflected their priorities and preferences so that they could be scored on a rubric of sorts. Everything had deadlines and timelines to seamlessly make every decision, bit by bit, so that things didn’t pile up into a big stress ball near the wedding date. When her friend marveled over this document, Laura was surprised that other people didn’t make spreadsheets like this.

    As you might guess, this is a superpower that extends into all areas of work and life. So if you lead through Discipline, share those documents with colleagues. They don’t have systems, structures, and routines like this in their lives. And they’d love to use your awesomeness to make their lives more streamlined and structured. Volunteering your project plans and routines to the team can be an amazing contribution.

  2. Create order. If you manage someone with the Discipline theme, think of them when things are in chaos. Whether you just went through a re-org at work, or if a new product launch created chaos, many people will naturally crave order. Whether you ask them to do it or not, people who lead through Discipline probably already have new systems, processes, and routines they’ve established to adapt to the new order. So why not mine this for the benefit of the whole team? Next time a major change is happening, think of them and ask them to help people get to their new status quo. This is brilliant because many people think of “change management” as the people-related stuff - like getting emotional acceptance for change. Yet often, the simple, day-to-day systems and routines bring the team a lot of that settled feeling. If you personally lead through Discipline, offer your new routines and hacks to your teammates. They’ll love how you’ve already moved into efficiency mode, and that you’re saving them time on the learning curve.

  3. Long haul view. If the team is great at starting things, and then fizzles in the middle, consider defining the role of the person with the Discipline talent theme to keep things on track over the long-term view. They have a long view of projects. They love to ensure that things get done over time. They’re not procrastinators, and they won’t fill the team’s inbox with urgent requests because they let the tasks in the middle of the project fall off of their radar. Nope! Instead, they are tuned in throughout the whole thing. Even if the person’s role isn’t formally a program manager or project manager role, they likely think like a PM. So use that for the good of the team.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 093-Discipline.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Empathy to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Empathy Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Empathy-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Spidey Sense
  • In Tune
  • Perceptive
  • Feeler
  • Caring
  • Sage
  • Listener
  • Sympathetic
  • Absorber
  • Confidant
  • Friendly
  • Intuitive

Red Flag Situations For Empathy

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Empathy. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Empathy:

  1. Give Me The Facts, I Don’t Care How You Feel. For someone who leads through Empathy, the emotions are where the truth lies. If you’re in a work culture that not only loves facts and data, but takes it further by also mocking or disregarding emotions, it might suck the life out of you.

  2. The Helper Job. Many people who lead through Empathy are drawn to helping careers like nursing, customer service, counseling, or support desks. Although you can provide a great service to those on the receiving end, you can also do yourself a disservice if you allow the escalations, irate customers, pain, and suffering into your psyche every day. The drain of these situations can be significant if you don’t get ahead of it and have a regimen for boosting the ratio of positive vibes.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Empathy

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Empathy at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Empathy, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Persuasion Ninja. People who lead through Empathy innately know that people make decisions with their emotions and they justify those decisions with logic. Next time your team needs to be persuasive for a presentation or business case, get someone with Empathy to help you think through what you want to make the audience feel…and then now to present a story or data to make that happen.

  2. Name It. Many coaches and therapists have used a technique where people name their feelings. People who have the Empathy talent theme can often do this more readily. They understand that our thoughts create our feelings. And then they can name the feeling (beyond the obvious first ideas, like “anxious”). If they act as a model for how this can boost collaboration on the team, they can show others how effective it is. For example, imagine someone saying, I felt totally divided and disheveled when both teams demanded the opposite solution.

  3. Notice The Unnoticed. Often people with the Empathy talent theme will catch the unspoken elephant in the room. They’re the person who knows that everyone is nodding their head as if they’re aligned…yet that Frankie is not going to implement the agreement when you leave the room. Someone with the Empathy talent theme can be the one to say, “Hey Frankie, you look like you might have a reaction to this - what’s your opinion?” That small action of calling out an eye flinch that no one else saw may have saved the team 3 months of re-work and in-fighting.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 092-Empathy.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Focus to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Focus Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Focus-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Selective
  • Singular
  • Efficient
  • Persevering
  • Concentrated
  • Goal-oriented
  • Monomaniacal
  • Prioritizer
  • Rudder
  • Intentional
  • Driven

Red Flag Situations For Focus

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Focus. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Focus:

  1. The Do-Not Do-Not-Disturb Team. You know that setting on your instant messenger - the DND (or Do Not Disturb) setting? Well, it very well may be imperative for someone with the Focus talent theme. Yet if you lead through Focus and you believe that the only acceptable way to behave on the team is to be always-on and fully distractible, this will severely challenge your success. I recently met a woman who said if she didn’t keep Skype open all day, she’d get feedback immediately about being un-collaborative or unhelpful.

  2. Squirrel Brain. You know that saying when you’re in the middle of a thought, and then you go on a tangent, and then you come back and claim, “Sorry, squirrel.” If this is how the team always works - exploring rabbit trails, going off-topic in meetings, and playfully admiring the team ADHD, it will be enormously frustrating for someone with the Focus talent theme. If you lead through this theme, you know you’re talented at being monomaniacal. You naturally use FOCUS like an acronym to stand for Follow One Course Until Success. If the team is pinging around all over the place, you might stay in frustration zone.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Focus

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Focus at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Focus, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Team North Star. When your team has been bogged down, and there are way too many tasks to do within the allotted amount of time, use the Focus talent theme as a compass. This person is naturally going to keep the end in mind - they can probably see a straight line to the finish line. So when your team seems distracted by low-priority urgencies and pet-projects, give the Focus talent theme a voice by asking them to keep pointing to the most important thing.

  2. Project Plan. Next time there’s a big shake-up at work, (imagine a re-org or acquisition or team changes), have the person who leads through Focus clear up the murky waters for everyone. Often, when these big changes happen, people can’t make sense of their day-to-day work for the first few months. With the Focus talent theme, they can break things down into baby steps, important dependencies, and a project plan. This turns stressful chaos into order.

  3. Alone Time. A person who leads through Focus will often be at their best when they’re left alone to get the job done (after the planning phase is over). Allow this person to buckle-down and do the tasks. Usually there’s no need to micromanage someone who leads through Focus. They’re great at making the most of quiet time, and moving things forward in a blitz of action.

Here's Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
Direct download: 091-Focus.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Futuristic to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

– If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Futuristic Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it’s full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting – to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Futuristic-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Visionary
  • Imaginative
  • Creative
  • Inspiring
  • Energetic
  • Vivid
  • Forward-Looking
  • What-If Thinker
  • Anticipator
  • Dreamer
  • Futurist
  • Predictor

Red Flag Situations For Futuristic

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Futuristic. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Futuristic:

  1. The “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” Culture. Imagine the situation where the status quo is a good thing. You might work with a teammate who wants to steadily maintain the current excellence on the team. Yet you see standing still as shrinking into the past. You look ahead. You see a vision of “what can be” in the coming months and years. And you like to step forward toward that vision (even if they are baby steps). Yet if you encounter a work culture or colleague who constantly tells you to leave well enough alone, you might feel stifled.

  2. The “We Already Tried That And It Didn’t Work” Culture. Think about this scenario. You have a great idea for a process improvement. It’s big and bold and it requires some action-taking from others on the team. When you present your ideas, they quickly shut you down because they tried that two years ago and it failed. If this is a common experience for you and you lead through Futuristic, you will likely get frustrated with how they’re stuck in the past. You know that two years ago, things were different. The team was made of different people. The technology wasn’t ready. The implementation didn’t get followed up on. There are a hundred variables you can see that make it different today, and it would be maddening to the Futuristic talent theme to be dismissed because of dated ways of viewing the work.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Futuristic

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Futuristic at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Futuristic, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Visualization. Encourage your Futuristic team member to spend 30 minutes each week thinking about the future of your department. Encourage the person to be extra concrete and visual with the vision for the future. Tell them to imagine what is already true and good and possible on the team – and then to project those good things into “what could be” 1-2 years out. The more vivid and concrete these ideas become, the more compelling they’ll be to other people as well.

  2. BHAGs and Dreams. If someone on your team leads through Futuristic, let them in on your BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Tell them about your career dreams. Ask them about their life dreams. This person thinks a lot about the future, and giving them space to marinate on those inspirational futures can be an energizing headspace for them. Many leaders will hesitate to share visions or ideas that are not fleshed out enough – they don’t want to lead people on. Yet those who lead with Futuristic can help you do just that. They can help you turn those dreams into realities.

  3. Early Adopter. If you have a major change, and you know people will resist, consider enlisting the help of a team member with the Futuristic talent theme. For example, let’s say you’re implementing a new CRM system and your existing Customer Relationship Management system has been in place for 12 years. The changeover will undoubtably cause some people pain for a few weeks, yet you know the new features are going to wow the team soon after. Someone with the Futuristic talent theme can see from here to there. They will not get mired down in the switching costs and how much extra work it will cost them over the next few weeks. Enlist them as an early adopter and promoter of the new change.

Here’s Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Want To Do StrengthsFinder Training With Your Whole Team?

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Direct download: 090-Futuristic.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Harmony to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding

2. Red Flag Situations At Work

3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Harmony Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Harmony-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Agreeable
  • Mediator
  • Pragmatist
  • Diplomat
  • Tactful
  • Ambassador
  • Sympathetic
  • Diplomatic
  • Ruffled Feather Smoother
  • Similarity Spotter
  • Consensus Finder

Red Flag Situations For Harmony

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Harmony. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Harmony:

  1. The Awkward Hushes: Imagine the situation where you walk into the kitchen at work, and you hear two of your teammates talking about another colleague and how to undo that thing that they all got pressured into. This makes you feel super uncomfortable, because you don’t like constant conflict - and it bugs you that they won’t work it out in a healthy way in the room together. If you see a lot of closed-door conversations or offline conversations that seem secretive, this environment might feel toxic to you.

  2. The My Way Or The Highway Team: Lets say you’re are a member of a team that has a few very strong personalities. Instead of focusing on what needs to be done during a meeting, many of the team members spend a good chunk of the time re-hashing things that you thought were addressed last week. They tend to do this. When they don’t get their way, they won’t let a topic die. This meeting deja vu is wasting your time, and it might crush your mental energy because you can so clearly see the common ground that they can’t see because they’re unwilling to hear the other party’s point of view.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Harmony

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Harmony at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Harmony, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Find The Same Page. When you’re on a team that has a lot of unproductive fighting, ask your person who leads through Harmony to give voice to the things that they agree on. It can add a lot of value to the team to say, “It strikes me that we agree on these 4 things, and that item #5 is the only one we need to work out.” It will feel like Mr. Obvious to someone with Harmony, yet often with internal battles, people get lost in the argument and can’t stay clear and objective about what they’re negotiating.

  2. Set Agreements In Advance. If you see an issue that will likely lead to conflict with your team member who leads through Harmony, have them consider what could go wrong in advance. Have them chat about expectations with their teammates before the issue happens so that when it comes up, it’s easier to raise the situation. This will keep them out of conflict avoidance mode.

  3. Get A Wing Man. Ha! Not in that way. It’s a talent wing man. This is to have the person who leads through Harmony to match up with a person who leads through Command or Self-Assurance or Activator, basically, someone who will not waffle on a topic - they’ll be a partner who can help things move along and not get stuck when conflict arises. This partner can sometimes take over the conflict resolution. And, this person can also be a conflict-mentor who helps the person with Harmony see how things go down when they are addressed immediately and firmly. Although the person with Harmony won’t deliver the messages in the same way, they’ll get some resolution ideas and confidence by watching the masters at work.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Harmony. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 089-Harmony.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get tons of questions about how to go deeper to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Ideation with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per post.

That way, you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re reading as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re reading for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Ideation. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding For Ideation

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned.

What’s missing in most resumes and profile is "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn. That's why it's not just for job seekers - it's also about shaping your career.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It's where your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to.

Rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you. So here are a bunch of adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Discoverer
  • Insightful
  • Unbound
  • Stimulator
  • Fascinated
  • Designer
  • Creator
  • Innovator
  • Brainstormer
  • Spontaneous
  • Fast-Thinker

Red Flag Situations For Ideation

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Ideation. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to disengage on the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Ideation:

  1. The “Yeah, But” Team. This is the team where there’s a table full of devil’s advocates ready to pick apart every idea. See, if you lead through Ideation, you love having ideas. You love exploring ideas. You love talking through them to see what they could turn into. If you’re part of a team that instantly greets new ideas with “Yeah, but that will never work here” or “Yeah, but we tried that two years ago and it didn’t work” “yeah, but” “yeah, but”…you’re going to feel really shut down if you lead through Ideation.

  2. The “Little Less Talk And A Lot More Action” Team. This is the team that loves to execute and crank out volumes of transactional work. If you’re on a team with this type of job responsibility, be on watch for what’s valued in the culture. Often you’ll hear that they need less talk and more action, which to you means fewer ideas, less exploration, and less growth. Which leads to boredom. Which leads to the death of your soul. I’m dramatizing, yet if you lead through Ideation, you likely love to think and dream and expand beyond what’s going on today - and to do that requires thinking and talking through new ideas. If your ideas constantly get squashed, you’re likely to feel like the environment is a total downer for you.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Ideation

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Ideation at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Ideation, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Making Unlikely Connections. People who lead through Ideation are great at brainstorming ways that things could be repackaged or reimagined. For example, they could take a stale product line and bring you 3 ideas for ways that they could be refreshed or remixed to solve a new problem for customers and create new revenue streams.

  2. The Blue Sky Dreamer. If you want the team to be thinking about what you could accomplish if you really dreamed big - without constraints - this person will be great at leading, generating, and even facilitating this kind of thinking from others. When you’re trying to pull the team out of the status quo, someone with Ideation would love spearheading that type of mental exercise.

  3. 10 Better Ways. Lets say you work in a customer-facing role, and your team uncovers that customers do not understand or use your help page when they have an issue. If you assign the person with Ideation to come up with 10 better ways of solving the problem for the customer, they will likely have a blast and offer innovative ideas that the team loves.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Ideation. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 088-Ideation.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get tons of questions about how to go deeper to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Includer with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per post.

That way, you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re reading as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re reading for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Includer. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding For Includer

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned.

What’s missing in most resumes and profile is "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn. That's why it's not just for job seekers - it's also about shaping your career.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It's where your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to.

Rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you. So here are a bunch of adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Accepting
  • Expander
  • People-Aware
  • Integrating
  • Welcome Wagon
  • Interactive
  • Others-Oriented
  • Warm
  • Barrier-Buster
  • Inviter
  • Tolerant

Red Flag Situations For Includer

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Includer. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to disengage on the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Includer:

  1. Cliques. If you lead through Includer and you sense that the existing tight knit relationships inside of the company are impenetrable, it’s going to feel like a really frustrating place to work. If you think that your industry is filled with good ol' boys clubs, you are going to feel more than left out, you might begin to resent the structure and the idea of being closed off to outside viewpoints. The idea of in-groups and out-groups and exclusion really sucks the life out of someone with Includer.

  2. Loud Voices Always Win. If you work on a team or in a company culture where the ideas that get implemented seem to always come from the most talkative, extroverted, or loud people, you might begin to question the values of the company. When you lead through the Includer theme, you are keenly tuned in to each person‘s contributions and ideas...not just the ideas that are spoken aloud. So if it appears that the only way to succeed is to be a bold talker, you may come to resent this idea. This can be true even if you are extroverted or comfortable speaking aloud. When you have Includer you will be aware of this dynamic on behalf of other people.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Includer

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Includer at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Includer, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Assimilate New People. A great way to use the Includer talent is to help integrate new people into a team or a culture. You can make them feel part of the group quickly, and help them feel seen and appreciated, even when they are new. And being assigned to this kind of work is the type of thing that might light up the soul of someone with the Includer talent. This could be a new hire or a new team member or even a new customer - this is a fun way to feed the Includer talent theme while also making someone else feel like they’re a critical part of the group.

  2. Interested Party Finder. This one is about uncovering people who are interested in being involved in a project you may not know about. It makes me remember a customer situation where a team I worked with in Malaysia told me they were so frustrated that they were never consulted about the advertisements that were placed in their country by their marketing team. There was a billboard strategy across the company, but they felt that billboards were a waste of money in Malaysia because, living in the jungle, the logos and the text on the billboards constantly got covered up by fast growing trees. This is an example where the locals were contacted for translation, but not genuine localization. This is the type of investigation someone with Includer would be great at. They can find stakeholders who are feeling ignored, and give voices to people with no voice. They can help you prevent vetoes or internal battles that could’ve been prevented with better listening up front.

  3. Turn On The Megaphone. If you have people on the team who seem to never contribute in conversations, assign it to someone with Includer to turn the megaphone on for them. Often, quiet people will give their opinion if they are asked. If a person with Includer gets in the habit of saying things like “Maria you know a lot about advertising in southeast Asia; we haven’t heard from you yet. What do you think?“ You can unleash the power of hearing from people who are used to not sharing their voice. It will be fun for someone with the Includer talent to notice and bring those voices out, rather than being annoyed that the project leader is not doing this.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Includer. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 087-Includer.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Individualization to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding

2. Red Flag Situations At Work

3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Individualization Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Individualization-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Perceptive
  • Astute
  • Insightful
  • Outlier Detector
  • Customizer
  • Anthropologist
  • Uniqueness-Spotter
  • Sees Who People Are
  • Observant Biographer

Red Flag Situations For Individualization

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Individualization. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Individualization:

  1. Execution Over People. Imagine going to a kickoff meeting for a new project team, and the head of the team dives right into the task list. They don’t give you time to get to hear how each person’s strengths can fit into the bigger picture. They don’t even give you a second to get to know the people you’re going to work closely with. If the feeling of brushing over or devaluing the people side is part of the culture, it might be really draining for you when you lead through Individualization. This is because you thrive by knowing what makes each person tick. You’re at your best when you can see how people’s differences are their differentiators. Without having this step, you’ll feel like you need to cram that into your personal process. And if there’s no time made for “those soft things” you’re going to feel drained.

  2. One Size Fits All Rules. Imagine a situation where your manager distributes a list of canned responses that you are required to use when contacted by any customer. You are told not to deviate from this list, regardless of the person’s individual needs. I remember this happening early in my career when I was required to answer the phone by saying, “It’s a great day at ACME Company, how may I help you?” This drove me crazy. Although I could appreciate the positive vibes, it felt fake. Those were not words I’d ever choose, and they never felt genuine coming out of me.

    This is a double whammy for Individualization. First, if you have this theme, you likely don’t believe that one size fits all. Each person would be better off coming up with their own version of a positive vibes greeting. Secondly, if you have Individualization, you might dislike being boxed into rules. So when a one-size-fits-all rule gets implemented, it’s going to feel like an energy vampire every time you have to execute on it. You likely feel that any list of responses should only be a guideline. And you’ll know that it could be made better if you could put a unique spin on it based on each customer’s style.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Individualization

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Individualization at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Individualization, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Style Spotting. When you get a new customer, and your team doesn’t know anything about them, assign someone with Individualization to research the customer and create a style profile. They’ll have fun uncovering how they are unique, and what kind of communication they prefer.

  2. Team Connector. Say you have a newly formed global team that’s working on a huge new project. You don’t know most of the team members, and they don’t know each other. Everyone’s in a different time zone, with unique cultures and experiences. If you want to kick off with a team building meeting or a get-to-know you activity, assign it to someone with Individualization. Even if you’re listening as an individual contributor and no one assigns you a task like this, take it on yourself. Find one fun fact about each person and make a one-pager that shows each person’s photo, role on the project team, and one fun fact. This will be a fun and useful exercise for you, which will help you get you feel more productive because you now know something about each person. And it helps the team connect as well. It’s a win all the way around.

  3. Objective 3rd Party. If you have a personality clash on the team, or you’re having one yourself, call on a teammate who has Individualization. This person can be the objective 3rd party who is excellent at seeing the gifts and positive intent of each person. Often, their deep intuition for seeing value in each person can bring the battling parties to see that they’re not so far away from each other. Often, they can find the differences and see how they can be used as a positive partnership. Of course, use this one with caution. You don’t want to send in a peer as an arbitrator when the goals are not artfully set up and executed. Yet, if you have a highly mature and self-aware team, this is an outstanding use of Individualization.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Individualization. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: Individualization.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get a whole lot of questions about how to amplify your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Input with your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding

2. Red Flag Situations At Work

3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding When Input Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Input-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Inquirers
  • Collectors
  • Information Sponges
  • Generous
  • Appliers of Knowledge
  • Well-Read
  • Knowledgeable
  • Researchers
  • Investigators
  • Corporate Librarians
  • Archivists
  • Curators
  • Workplace Archeologists

Red Flag Situations For Input

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Input. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Input:

  1. Busy work. Because people with Input like to learn and then aim that learning at something useful, it’s really draining to do tasks that seems like “make work.” If you lead through Input and you see this happening, challenge yourself to share insights or document the process to make it useful to someone else. This way, you can still feel like you’re curating something useful to teammates.
  2. Outdated or unsearchable tools. If you lead through Input and you see something like a database or CRM system or customer service tool that is not kept current, it will be draining. You’ll be able to see the huge value in sharing information, and it will be extremely frustrating to find that others don’t value the repository in the same way.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Input

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Input at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Input, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Make information findable. If you lead someone with Input and you want a system for curating, storing, and finding information that everyone can use, send it over to someone with Input. Whether you ask them to make a Wiki or update an intranet page or collect FAQs, the idea of gathering and sharing useful information will light up someone with Input.
  2. Research deeply. When you need someone to do a deep research quest, ask someone with Input. They’ll enjoy looking through archives, learning, and then distilling the important parts down to make them usable to others. The idea of researching and applying is highly energizing for those who lead through Input. And then translating them into usable bits will be a fun way for them to apply the information while being challenged to distill the important takeaways.
  3. Soak up practices from other teams. Basically, ask them to be a sponge and soak up the approaches that others are using. Then they can apply it to your team’s specific situation and make recommendations. The idea of investigating the options by being curious inquirer will be fun. From there, applying it to your team adds to the energy because someone with Input wants to apply the learning to a specific project or situation.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Input. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 085-Input.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get a whole lot of questions about how to amplify your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Intellection with your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding

2. Red Flag Situations At Work

3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding When Intellection Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Intellection-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Philosophers
  • Deep
  • Musers
  • Intense
  • Intellectuals
  • Critical Thinkers
  • Reflective People
  • Contemplative
  • Solitude Seekers
  • Introspective
  • Willing To Be Contrarian

Red Flag Situations For Intellection

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Intellection. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Intellection:

  1. Pressure to give answers in the moment. If you lead through Intellection, it will likely be annoying to go to a meeting where someone asks you to make an important decision or give your opinion on something they’ve sprung on you in the moment. You do your best thinking when you have time to marinate on it, so be sure to find a way to communicate to your team that you’ll be at your best when you have time to think about something in advance. This means, watch out for those blank calendar invitations that don’t tell you anything about the meeting at hand. Get the agenda in advance. Know what contribution someone is hoping for. Otherwise, they might pressure you to “talk it out” in the moment, which will likely drain you and frustrate you.
  2. Groupthink. If you lead through Intellection and you’re on a team where people blindly nod along with each other, you’ll probably feel frustrated with the lack of critical thinking. If you’re in this situation and you’re thinking that your team is a bunch of sheep or "Yes Men” or lemmings, imagine how difficult it would be for you to have a deep, trusting relationship with peers. The same goes for teams who seem to skim the surface and then act - while never doing the deep thinking on a topic. Watch out for these situations because they’ll be big energy-zappers for you.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Intellection

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Intellection at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Intellection, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Help me poke holes in my idea. Many roles today are filled with distractions, quick meetings, and instant messenger. This can be efficient, yet it can also keep teams from the deep contemplation needed for important decisions. If someone on your team has Intellection, ask them, “what am I missing here” or “what else should I be thinking of” or “can you poke holes in my idea?” They will appreciate the idea to think beyond the surface.
  2. Contrarians wanted. Just because someone on your team has Intellection, it doesn’t mean that they'll disagree with everything. At the same time, using their critical thinking will unleash their best. Their deep reflection and reasoning skills are valuable to help teams see past the surface. They can see downstream impact that others can’t see. They can see the unexpected consequences that others can’t spot.
  3. A task of solitude. Next time you have a role where someone needs to work from home, or do a seemingly lonely job of traveling and being alone in hotel rooms (or holed up in a remote cabin), see what someone on your team with Intellection thinks. They will often love doing tasks that require solitude because they do their best thinking when they can contemplate alone. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like people. Yet often, they will be private people who need time alone to be at their best.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Intellection. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 084-Intellection.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 9:30am CDT

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Learner to your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding

2. Red Flag Situations At Work

3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding When Learner Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Learner-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Curious
  • Variety Seekers
  • Studious
  • Lifetime Learners
  • Expert
  • Multi-Passionate
  • Inquisitive
  • Dynamic
  • Explorers
  • Growth-Focused
  • Early Adopters

Red Flag Situations For Learner

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Learner. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Learner:

  1. Stagnation. If you lead through Learner and you stop growing and learning, you will likely feel like you’re dying inside. Use this as an early warning sign. If you’re bored. If you’re stagnant. If you’re assigned to maintain something and keep it the same, you have to find other ways to feed your Learner or you will be super drained.
  2. Maintenance. Think about the contrast between maintaining something that is already up and running versus being involved in a new project or program. If you’re involved in keeping something at status quo, you will likely have few days that feel energizing. That’s because you love to explore and learn and experience new things. If you own a program that has already launched, be sure that you’re continually working on your craft or your subject matter depth. That way, you can maintain the success while constantly bringing new information or new angles to the team.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Learner

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Learner at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Learner, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. When you need a tester. If you have a change initiative and you need someone to be the early adopter, call on someone with Learner to be your pioneer. Tell them that you’re asking them to test and explore - to soak it all in - and to document the good and bad. They will have fun being on the cutting edge and being the trailblazer for the team.
  2. When you need to introduce something foreign. Imagine a situation where your team is taking on a whole new set of responsibilities. You’re going to have to ask some people on your team to think or act or learn in a whole new way. Pick someone with Learner and tell them that you’re introducing this to give them some variety and a growth-challenge.
  3. When you need one person on the team to learn everything there is to know on a topic. Sometimes teams want to be on the cutting edge of an ever-changing competency or subject matter. A project like this might seem insurmountable to the non-Learner. Or it might seem frustrating to a non-Learner because they’re never complete. But to a Learner, this continuous study and growth will be fulfilling.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Learner. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 083-Learner.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get a whole lot of questions about how to amplify your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Maximizer with your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better alignment between your job and your strengths.

- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

1. Career Branding

2. Red Flag Situations At Work

3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding When Maximizer Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of Maximizer-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Efficient
  • Sorters
  • Selective
  • Persuaders
  • Strengths-Oriented
  • Choosy
  • Challengers
  • Always Refining
  • Never Done
  • Transformers
  • Excellence-Seekers
  • Tinkerers
  • Iterators
  • Quality Boosters

Red Flag Situations For Maximizer

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Maximizer. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Maximizer:

  1. Premature Launch. If you lead through Maximizer, you naturally focus on quality. You have high expectations, and it hurts to hand over a work product before it meets your quality standard. So if you’re on a team that values quantity over quality, you’ll likely get frustrated. Also, if you find that a work product has huge potential…if only you could do this to it…(only to find out there’s no time or budget to allow it to live up to its potential), it will make your Maximizer sad.
  2. Weakness-Focused Culture. Maximizer is a talent theme that is naturally aligned with a strengths-focused culture. If you find yourself part of a team that obsesses over weaknesses and problems and what’s wrong, you’ll be yearning to flip things around. Sometimes your strengths point of view will be refreshing and welcomed, but if you find that it’s dismissed, you’ll feel drained by only working on what’s broken rather than getting the high leverage out of strengths.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Maximizer

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Maximizer at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Maximizer, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. When the rest of the team can’t see potential in a project or person. The Maximizer talent sees potential all over. So you could apply this to a change that people are resisting, or a future vision that needs to be created. You can even turn on the Maximizer talent to bring an inspirational message to help other people see “what can be."
  2. When you need incremental improvement over time. People with the Maximizer talent don’t need to constantly work on exponential change. They get a charge out of incremental improvements that compound over time. If you need someone who can help you realize potential over the long-haul, tap into the powers of the Maximizer who loves to test and experiment and iterate to continually improve something.
  3. When you want to go from good to great. People who lead through Maximizer rarely rest on their laurels. Good isn’t good enough. They like to make things better and better and better. They’re constantly asking “what if we did this” or “I wonder what it could be like if we tried this” - they’re looking to get the most out of things, so they’re chasing efficiencies and mastery all the time. If you want someone who doesn’t get bored with continuous iteration, tap your Maximizers.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Maximizer. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 082-Maximizer.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get a whole lot of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Positivity with your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post.

That way, you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

– If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

 

Today, the talent theme of the post is Positivity.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding When Positivity Is Your Strength

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it’s full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting – to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.

So here are a bunch of adjectives you can use in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile. People who lead through Positivity are often:

  • Upbeat
  • Fun
  • Energetic
  • Hopeful
  • Magnetic
  • Encouraging
  • Optimistic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Warm & Friendly
  • Celebratory

Red Flag Situations For Positivity

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Positivity. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Responsibility:

  1. Devil’s Advocate. If your team has a pessimistic tone where people are awarded for their cynicism or constant reality checks, be on watch. This can suck the life out of you – especially if the team is constantly picking on each other’s ideas with a “that will never work” type of default response, rather than building on each other’s ideas and hearing each other out.
  2. Celebrate For A Nano Second. If you lead through Positivity and you’re in a culture that doesn’t stop to celebrate, regardless of how big the accomplishment, you’ll be constantly drained and baffled wondering why you can’t slow down for a second to acknowledge the accomplishment. Although you don’t expect everyone to give praise as readily as you do, it will drain you if you know it’s getting withheld.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Positivity

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Positivity at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Positivity, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Lifting spirits though change. If you have someone on the team who leads through Positivity, call on them when the team is having trouble seeing the silver lining in the situation. Behind the scenes, brainstorm with them all of the things you can think of that are still going well. Also list all of the potential future outcomes this change will enable. You’ll have fun making the list, and you’ll likely come up with ideas that will help you get adoption for a tough change.
  2. Tone setting. When you need someone to pump up a room, consider someone with the Positivity talent. They often light up a room just by walking into it. So next time you have a kickoff event, or you want a moment of levity in a meeting, ask this person in advance to bring a fun segment to the event.
  3. Seeing possibilities. When a team feels stuck, the leader is often reluctant to come in with a rah-rah message about how you’ll be okay in the future (and rightly so). If you want to lead the team through a deep conversation along the lines of “Who do we need to become to make that happen?,” enlist your team member with the Positivity talent in advance. They’re awesome at possibilities-thinking, so they can seed the conversation with believable ideas to get the momentum going in the room.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Positivity. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 081-Positivity.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get tons of questions about how to go deeper to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Relator with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per episode.

That way,  you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re reading as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

– If you’re reading for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Relator. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding For Relator

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it’s full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned.

What’s missing in most resumes and profile is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn. That’s why it’s not just for job seekers – it’s also about shaping your career.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s where your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting – to see who they’re about to talk to.

Rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you. So here are a bunch of adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile. People who lead through Relator often have a tight-circle, a good BS Alert System, and are often:

  • Friendly
  • Genuine
  • Loyal
  • Transparent
  • Caring
  • Trustworthy
  • Authenticity-Spotters
  • Deep Connectors
  • Relationship-Focused

Red Flag Situations For Relator

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Relator. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to disengage on the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Relator:

  1. Keeping Up Appearances. If you have the Relator talent and you feel that people are always Peacocking around to show off only the polished, perfect parts of their contributions at work, you’ll probably be drained by the relationships at work because you think they’re fake and superficial.
  2. Transactional. If you’re in a role where there’s no time or desire for building relationships over time, you’ll be drained by it. If the sterile, fast, transactional exchanges are part of the expectation, you need to find other ways to fuel your need for care and friendships. Try challenging yourself to see how quickly you can drip in relationship-building anecdotes into a 30-second conversation (note: this doesn’t mean superficial, talk-about-the-weather type of small talk). Activities like this will help you test it out to see if there’s room for relationships in your organization.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Relator

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Relator at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Relator, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Nurture. When you need a deep relationship to develop over time, think of someone with the Relator talent to nurture it over the long term. For example, this could be someone who manages your most important account. Or it could be the person who onboards new hires as their first-year mentor. Or it could be a performance coach who helps a peer develop over time.
  2. Confidentiality. Sometimes you can’t tell everyone about a decision or a product or a process change. Yet you need someone to be assigned to it. Often, people with the Relator talent are great keepers-of-confidences. Especially when they can tell it is important to someone else.
  3. Authentic. Imagine a situation where your team or your brand is getting dinged for being stiff, stodgy, and old school. You’re afraid to swing too far into the informality that seems to be taking the world by storm. You still worry about professionalism, yet you need to attract great talent to your team. If you’re trying to strike the balance, call on someone with the Relator talent to bring the authentic, professional personality of your team out to the world. This can be valuable for marketing your team and your company when you’re hiring for the next opening.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Relator. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 080-Relator.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get a whole lot of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Responsibility with your career.

In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

– If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

 

Today, the talent theme of the post is Responsibility.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding When Responsibility Is Your Strength

Let’s start with career branding. You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it’s full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting – to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at howit is to work with you.

With that in mind, here are a bunch of adjectives you can use in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile. People who lead through Responsibility are often:

  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal
  • Diligent
  • Dependable
  • Accountable
  • Conscientious
  • Promise-Keepers
  • Honest
  • Committed
  • Responsive

Red Flag Situations For Responsibility

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Responsibility. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Responsibility:

  1. Chronically Missed Deadlines. If you lead through Responsibility and your team culture is one that is cavalier with deadlines, it will suck the life out of you. To you, your word is your honor, and you expect other people to honor their commitments as well. So when people miss their deadlines and treat it like no big deal, you’ll likely feel like it’s a place where mutual respect is severely lacking.
  2. Imposed Urgencies. You’re conscientious and dependable. You plan things out diligently so that you can keep your promises. So when other people constantly blow up your day with their lack of preparation, you’re likely fuming. If you work in a place where people tend to launch their hand grenades at you — which puts you at risk of not keeping your promises, this will suck the life right out of you.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Responsibility

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Responsibility at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Responsibility, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. The long haul. When you need someone who will consistently chip away at a project over time, assign it to someone with Responsibility. They are self-starters who will diligently follow it through the long term.
  2. Trust. When you need to hand something off to someone you can trust, assign those responsibilities to someone with Responsibility. When you know you can’t babysit the process, the person who leads with Responsibility will keep you posted on timelines, deadlines, and progress without any hand-holding necessary.
  3. Ownership. Think of a project or process that no one has really owned before — one of those things that sort of gets done, but never that well. Change that up by assigning clear ownership to someone with the Responsibility talent theme. They’re great at covering it from soup to nuts when they know they can take charge and bring order to a neglected part of the business.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Responsibility. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 079-Responsibility.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get gobs of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Restorative with your career.

So in this series, I break down one strength per post so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

– If you’re exploring for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

Today, the talent theme of the post is Restorative.

 

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding For Restorative

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it’s full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting – to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at howit is to work with you.

With that in mind, here are a bunch of adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile. People who lead through Restorative are often:

  • Problem-Invaders
  • Issue CPR-Givers
  • Unintimidated by Big Problems
  • Root Cause Finders
  • Diagnosers
  • Fixers (or Fixer-Upper)
  • Investigators
  • Accountable
  • Rehabilitators
  • Realistic
  • Troubleshooters

Red Flag Situations For Restorative

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Restorative. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.

Here are two Red flags for Restorative:

  1. False Harmony. If you lead through Restorative and you have a team culture where people are outwardly harmonious (when they don’t actually agree) — where they fake their agreement and go through great lengths to be conflict avoidant, you will probably feel super drained by that.
  2. Sweeping Issues Under the Rug. If you keep getting responses to your problem-solving ideas that sound like, “Well that’s not really something we own” or “That will never work here” or “No one else seems worried about it, so let’s not make mountains out of molehills” — you will be soul-sucked because you’re around people who are ignoring problems that you’d be happy to solve.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Restorative

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Restorative at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Restorative, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Give them your big, hairy problems. Many managers feel bad delegating problems. Yet problems are a treat for people who lead through Restorative. Tell them why you assigned them, and that you know they’ll be able to diagnose and propose at a level that few people can do.
  2. Get them assigned to solving problems for your best or biggest customers. This person will enjoy the challenge of discovering and removing the obstacles. You can rest assured that they’ll go about it in a businesslike, focused way (rather than the emotional panic that many would get into).
  3. When you’re stuck. When you catch anyone on the team saying, “I’m stumped” or “I’m baffled” or “I don’t know what to do” — consider partnering them with your team member with Restorative. This person has fun finding the root causes and helping people decide how to move forward.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Restorative. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

 
Direct download: 078-Restorative.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get a lot of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Self-Assurance with your career. In this series, I break down one strength per episode so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

– If you’re exploring for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

The talent theme today is Self-Assurance. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

 

Career Branding For Self-Assurance

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it’s full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing in most profiles is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding – because it’s the tool your teammates, customers, and vendors use to go look you up before a meeting – to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you. So here are a bunch of adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile.

People who lead through Self-Assurance are often:

  • Independent
  • Instinctive
  • Self-Sufficient
  • Stable
  • Resilient
  • Confident
  • Courageous
  • Solid
  • Influential
  • Certain
  • Persistent

Red Flag Situations For Self-Assurance

These are the company cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Self-Assurance. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on the watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached at work.

Here are two red flags for Self-Assurance:

  1. False Collaborations. If you lead through self-assurance and you’re partnered up with another person or another department when your opinion doesn’t really matter, it will drive you crazy. You will already know a direction you’d propose, and if your ideas constantly fall on deaf ears, you’ll feel totally soul-sucked by it.
  2. Hand Holding. If you work with someone who needs constant hand-holding, it will wear you out. You work independently and you expect others to at least try to figure it out on their own before leaning on you. And if you feel like someone is trying to constantly hand-hold you, you’re likely to resist and feel as if they’re treating you like a child or a newbie or a dummy.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Self-Assurance

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Self-Assurance at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re listening as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Self-Assurance, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. When a critical issue comes up, think of the person who leads through Self-Assurance. This doesn’t mean to dump all of the problems on them. It means to look for situations where a lot is riding on the decision or execution (good or bad). Rather than being scared and hesitant as many would be, someone with Self-Assurance can confidently handle the challenge without getting ruffled.
  2. Watch for change that makes others nervous. Think about things like process changes, re-orgs, or mergers that make others fear that they’ll be redundant and lose their jobs. This is the situation where you can put the person with Self-Assurance out front to show people how to confidently and resiliently flow through major organizational changes.
  3. Assign this person to responsibilities that benefit from no second-guessing. Those with strong Self-Assurance have strong instincts and can move forward quickly. If you need someone who will not hem and haw over a decision, make this person your go to.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Self-Assurance. Here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 077-self-assurance.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get tons of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Significance with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per episode. That way, you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

– If you’re exploring for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

 

Career Branding For Significance

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Significance. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it’s full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned.

Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is. an. overlooked. use. for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding – it’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting. It’s their most efficient way to learn about who they’re about to talk to.

And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you. Here are a bunch of adjectives you can consider using in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile.

People who lead through Significance are often:

  • High Visibility
    • Big Dreamers
    • Difference-Makers
    • Credible
    • Purpose-Driven
    • Not Afraid Of The Spotlight
    • Results and Performance Oriented
    • People Who Want Their Lives to BE for Something … Not Frittered Away

Red Flag Situations For Significance

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Significance. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on the watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Significance:

  1. Busy work. If you lead through Significance and you think the work you’re doing has no purpose, it will bother you at a values level because this is not how you want to spend your life.
  2. No one sees or cares about your results. If you’ve been busting your butt for months in a thankless role, you have a red flag on your hands. People who lead through Significance want to leave their mark on the world — they like to be recognized for making an impact through what they do at work. If you’re doing something big, and it seems that no one will see it or no one will care, it will drain your energy fast.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Significance

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Significance at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re reading this as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Significance, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Take a chance on something big. If you manage someone with Significance, give them a highly visible project that has a lot riding on it. Be sure to communicate the importance and the gravity — when they know that their success (or failure) will be in the spotlight, it’s a hugely motivating factor. Whereas others might feel crushed by this pressure, it brings someone with Significance alive.
  2. Put them on a project to start a recognition campaign. While people with Significance love to BE recognized, they also love to help others feel significant. Ask them to create a shift in the team culture over the next 6 months so that praise and credit-giving feels like the norm on the team.
  3. Rub elbows with high achievers. Ask this person to name a few of the top achievers that he or she admires in the company. Then get them linked up on a project. People with Significance love the opportunity to step their game up by standing side by side with people who are great.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Significance. So, here’s your homework:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 076-Significance.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I get a steady stream of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Strategic to your career. In this series, I break down one strength per episode — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

– If you’re exploring for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

 

Career Branding When Strategic Is Your Strength

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Strategic. You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it’s full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding – it’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting – to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at howit is to work with you. To that end, here are a bunch of adjectives you can use in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile.

People who lead through Strategic are often:

  • Fast Decision Maker
  • Culler of Lists
  • Pattern-Spotter
  • Vetter of Ideas
  • Simplifier
  • Planner
  • Creative Strategist
  • Anticipator Who Sees The Downstream Impact

Red Flag Situations For Strategic

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Strategic. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on the watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached at work.

Here are two Red flags for Strategic:

  1. A culture of slow decision making or analysis paralysis. If you have Strategic and you’re stuck in status quo while you can already see the clear path ahead, you will likely spend your days at work in extreme frustration.
  2. Micromanaging your decision process after trust and credibility are built. If you have Strategic and you’ve already built credibility, yet you’re still being questioned deeply and constantly about your decisions, it will impact you beyond the lack of trust. It will hit you at the core because you like moving into the future. If you have to justify every detail, you’ll likely be counting the wasted minutes you could have been using toward progress, which is a serious drain on your psyche. Instead, you’re probably at your best when you can sort quickly and take action.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Strategic

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Strategic at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re reading this as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Strategic, put this talent to good use with one of these action items:

  1. Put this talent to use when you need a workaround. Sometimes, the long-term solution to a problem is in in the works…and meanwhile you need a bandaid-type solution to also cope in the short-term. Usually, someone with the Strategic talent will be able to sort all of the options quickly and get into the workaround-action on the same day.
  2. When there’s a topic on the team that seems confusing and overly complex to everyone. Get a whiteboard in front of the person with the Strategic talent and see if they can simplify the complex in a way that helps everyone nod their heads in agreement that they’re looking at the same thing. This could be drawing a contextual model or framework. This could be dissecting a problem. Or even getting everyone to agree on what the problem is that you’re solving.
  3. Use this person for collaboration insight. When you’re hearing that stakeholders are not getting consulted or that people are frustrated that your process changes have a negative impact on their work, get someone with Strategic talent involved. They’re great at seeing the handoffs between steps in the process. And they can predict what consequences will come from small upstream changes by the time they get to the 3rd or 4th person down the way.

Your Homework

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Strategic. So, here’s your homework if you have this talent theme:

  1. Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. Volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 075-strategic.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

I constantly get questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Woo with your career. So in this series, I break down one strength per episode — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make a better match between your job and your strengths.

– If you’re exploring as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.

– If you’re exploring for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.

 

Talent Theme: Woo

Today, the talent theme of the episode is Woo.

You’ll get three layers to chew on:

  1. Career Branding
  2. Red Flag Situations At Work
  3. Fresh Application Ideas

Career Branding For Woo

You probably already have a reputation for what you know. If you imagine your resume or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it’s full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned.

Now, what’s missing in most of them is “the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. This is an overlooked use for tools like LinkedIn, which is not just for job seekers.

I bet you are just like most of my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t see your teammates and customers every day. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding – because it’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting – to see who they’re about to talk to.

And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you. So here are a bunch of adjectives you can use in your career branding and your LinkedIn profile to represent the Woo talent theme.

People who lead through Woo are often:

  • Charming
  • Social Butterflies
  • Interactive
  • The One Who Knows Everybody
  • Welcoming
  • Instant Connectors
  • Engaging
  • Great Conversationalist
  • Energetic

Red Flag Situations At Work For Woo

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Woo. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached at work.

Here are two red flags for Woo:

  1. Weeks in isolation where you don’t get social interaction — if you lead through Woo and you work from home, be sure to “get your people fix” through video calls with colleagues or by getting out of the house for social hour.
  2. The need to continually deliver bad news or work with irate customers — if you lead through Woo, you’re usually watching for a positive reception from that person. If you’re in many interactions per day where people don’t like you or your answers, it will be extremely draining.

3 Fresh Application Ideas For Woo

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Woo at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re reading this as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.

For someone who leads through Woo, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Onboarding New Hires: Consider how this person could play a role in onboarding new team members or customers. They will likely enjoy the opportunity to create a welcoming experience.
  2. Making Strangers Feel Comfortable: Talk about responsibilities that include meeting a lot of new people — anything from software demos to creating a destination booth at a trade show to delivering presentations or doing customer tours.
  3. Emcee or Experience-Creator: If you have annual events, like holiday parties or customer appreciation events, see if your team members with Woo would love to Emcee them or be part of designing a magical experience. Keep in mind that there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work with big events. Someone with the talent of Woo is usually more energized by the front-of-house type of responsibilities.

Your Homework

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Woo. So, here’s your homework if you lead through this CliftonStrengths theme:

  1. LinkedIn: Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
  2. Audit For Red Flags: Think over the 2 red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. Offer Your Talents To The Team: Finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And if you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.

Rock Your Talents As A Team

If you’re thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head on over to our training page to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you. Until next time, thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness already inside them.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 074-woo.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 1:30am CDT

Today we're exploring your CliftonStrengths Q&A with a question someone asked me in a training class the other day. He said, “Hey, I only have two of the four CliftonStrengths colors in my StrengthsFinder DNA chart. Is that bad?” My answer to this one is like that Lil Jon Song “Work What Your Mama Gave Ya.” Maybe he said Shake What Your Mama Gave Ya, but you know what I'm talking about here. It’s the best thing you can do with your lineup of talents: use the ones you have.

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you’ll notice what works, you’ll get more of what works because people can replicate what they’ve already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

The DNA Colors = 4 Demands You Have In The Workplace

If you're not sure what I'm talking about when I say, “the DNA colors,” there are these 4 domains or 4 demands that all of us have in our work day. These demands are represented by color in the CliftonStrengths StrengthsFinder report. Those are:

  1. Purple for executing talent themes
  2. Blue for relationship building talent themes
  3. Red for strategic thinking talent themes
  4. Yellow for influencing talent themes

If you’re interested in StrengthsFinder colors, you might also like the episode “What Do StrengthsFinder Colors Mean?

Royal Flush Gets A Unicorn Trophy

I have to admit, I have been known to celebrate with a game-show-like moment when someone has all five talent themes in a single color. It’s usually in a big giant ballroom of people in a training class or a StrengthsFinder speech. If we have one of those royal flush moments where someone has all of the same suit (or same color in this case), it’s a fun thing to spot. When you have a room of 300 people and somebody has 100% purple executing talents or 100% blue relationship talents — it really is a rare sight, so I get excited. Then yeah, yeah, I admit it. I give out Unicorn Sticks and I make a thing of it for a second because it's fun.

Dang. I Only Have 2 of 4 Colors. Surely I Need Those Other Ones.

Most often, what happens is that people say, “Oh Dang, I only have two of the four, so I'm probably missing something really important that I need.” Or, “Oh man, I have three, but I really need that 4th color for the job I’m in right now.” To know what to do here, you really have to go back to that concept of working with what you have. It's almost like that scene from Pretty Woman where she's saying, “Work it! Own it!” You have what you have. So instead of trying to go back to game the assessment by retaking it to get it to say what you want, look at the ones that you do have and figure out how to use those to meet those very same demands.

What To Do When You’re Missing A Color From Your Top 5

I’ll give you an example from my personal lineup of all 34 talent themes. Of the Top 14, I have 1 executing talent. So you would read that and think, just like participants do in my training sessions, “Oh no, I'm not going to ever get anything done because I only have one executing talent out of my top 14.” But the thing is I do get things done. Focus is the only talent theme that is in my top 14. And so yes, I have an easy go-to talent theme when I need to get things done.

Get The Full 34 CliftonStrengths Report To See Where Each Color Comes In

When you get the upgraded CliftonStrengths 34 Report, you can see all 34 potential talent themes in stack rank order. I mention that in case you're wondering how I know what my top 14 are. So if you get the full report, you can look to it for your easy go-to colors that represent each demand. That’s why, when I really need to get something done, I'm going to rely on my focus talent theme. That’s not the only option though. There are other things to do besides going to your obvious go-to talent. My favorite alternate option is to think of all 4 of those demands with all of your talent themes, regardless of color.

Action Step: Make Your Top 5 Meet The Demand At Hand

You can actually impact any of those demands through any talent theme if you stretch your brain creatively. It's an innovative application of strengths thinking that I love to do. So that's my action item I offer you for this question: think of 1 of those 4 demands — pick the one that is calling on you in your job right now.

Example of Stretching A Talent To Look Like Another DNA Color

Let's say I really need to get some stuff done. So I would pick the executing demand for this activity. Oops. Now I look at my top 5 and I see that I don't have any executing talent themes to call on. I have zero purple and my top 5. This is where you have to tell yourself to not fret. I'll give you an example by running through my top 5 and this will just demonstrate for you how you could do this for yourself.

Maximizer Can Impact How I Execute

If I used my Maximizer talent in a git-r-done moment, it would be when I need high quality because my Maximizer loves to tweak and keep working on stuff. It’s fun to keep making it better.

Strategic Can Impact How I Execute

For an execution situation where I need to get a lot of decisions made fast, I would rely on my Strategic talent. It helps me sort out what the options are quickly, then pick a path, and then press the go button. Although it’s technically in the thinking talent domain, Strategic allows me to get moving and not belabor the thing or have buyer's remorse.

Positivity Can Impact How I Execute

If I needed to execute on something and I wanted to use my Positivity talent, it would likely be on one of those crap tasks that you hate doing, yet you also don't want to waste your time bellyaching about things. So Positivity could make light of it or find a silver lining in it. It helps me reframe and move on.

Individualization Can Impact How I Execute

If I wanted to get things done and I really needed to customize, that would be a great way to call on my Individualization talent. So even though it's technically a relationship talent, I certainly use it to accomplish things because I would be thinking about the audience and what the recipient cares about. It helps me think, “How can I make this palatable for them, not just me?”

Woo Can Impact How I Execute

Woo would be great if I'm collaborating with some new people and we need to get to know each other. Or maybe there's a task that has to do with spreading an idea. The Woo talent loves to get the word out — and that would be a great way to execute on an organizational change.

Your Turn To Run Through Your Top Five Applied To A Single Demand

When you look at your top 5, don’t worry about what colors you do have or don’t have. Instead, think about a specific demand that you're getting called to do right now at work:

  1. Executing
  2. Relationship Building
  3. Strategic Thinking
  4. Influencing

After you pick 1 specific demand that you're getting called to do in your work, run all 5 of your talents through that single demand. See how they could support you in that endeavor.

It's a really cool way to stretch your talent themes and think of them in a way you haven't used them before. I hope you really enjoy that way of looking at talent themes with a new lens. Instead of lamenting what you don't have, love and leverage what you do have. Now get on out there, claim your talents and share them with the world — no matter what color they are!

Remember to Downloaded Your Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 073-cliftonstrengths-dna-colors-missing.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q12_-_Uncommon_Sense.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: LTS-Strengths_Q11_-_Cultures_You_Value.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q10_-_Wins_At_Work.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q9_-_Team_Reputation.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q8_-_Lend_Your_Talent.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to [http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge] to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q7_-_Face_Lit_Up.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q6_-_Daily_Good.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q5_-_Career_Branding_Quote.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q4_-_Favorite_Job_Duty.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q3_-_Dream_Jobs.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q2_-_Favorite_Thing_About_Team.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this 12-week strengths implementation series, you get one conversation per week to help your team start each week with strengths. If you “did” StrengthsFinder with your team and you didn’t follow up after the initial conversation, this is a great way to make Strengths part of your work culture.

Go to http://leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge to get the series emailed to you one week at a time. You’ll get the question and examples to make it sound real and practical. You’ll also get additional angles so that you can take the answers beyond the surface. If you’re a manager who wants to make culture-building part of everyone’s job, have each person on the team sign up for the email series. That way, it won’t rely on you doing the question-asking each week. You can get the team to share their answers after they receive the email.

This series is usable even if you’ve never used CliftonStrengths. Although the questions work in excellent alignment with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, they also work with no assessment at all - just conversations about what already works on the team.

Direct download: Strengths_Q1_-_Proudest_Accomplishment.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge

Direct download: Announcement.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Today’s episode is a question that came up this week when I did an event for one of my awesome tech clients here in Austin, Texas. I was checking in with security and he asked about the purpose of my visit. I said I was delivering a StrengthsFinder team session. Pretty soon, he's telling me his top five talent themes and we were asking each other questions about our CliftonStrengths profiles, which led to the answer highlighted in this episode.

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you’ll notice what works, you’ll get more of what works because people can replicate what they’ve already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

My First Major Strengths Insight … Ever

He asked me a unique question, which was what my first ever major insight was from strengths. So here I am, quickly scanning over 13 years of insights, and boom — it hit me like a bolt of lightning. My answer was that seeing my strengths and the strengths of people on my team (my direct reports) helped me understand that I had some dangerous unconscious biases. Now, I am not talking about the biases that many workplaces are focused on right now, like racial biases or gender biases. Cognitive bias is another layer entirely. What I discovered is that I had strong cognitive biases. And being in a people-manager role, it was leading me to value the thought processes of certain people on the team more than others. It was leading me to appreciate the relationship styles of some people over others. It was leading me to think that some people were high maintenance and not enrolled in our vision. But once I explored our talents at a team level — our natural ways of thinking and feeling and acting — it helped me discover that I placed the greatest value on people who thought most like me. It was a dangerous bias because I didn’t realize I was doing it.

Cognitive Biases Are Extraordinarily Powerful Yet Often Unconsidered

Just imagine what this awareness could do to improve performance on the team. For example, one person on the team leads through the Consistency, Deliberative, and Intellection themes. She is probably at peak performance when she can think deeply and carefully about changes, how they will affect the people and processes on the team, and how they could be implemented prudently. Meanwhile, imagine my Strategic theme: decision-making and pressing the go-button fast. And my Individualization theme leads me to rarely feel married to a consistent, standard way of doing things. If a situation calls for something else, I love to adjust and customize and change. To take it further, my Maximizer loves to tweak and change and make things better. All the while, I am driving her crazy with my constant changes. And if you’ve read the book Strengths-Based Leadership, you know that stability is one of the deepest needs of your team. So in this scenario, which happens to be a real-life memory from one of my teams, my personal biases and preferences were leading me to create an environment that put her at her worst and left her feeling frustrated every day.

Self Awareness Of Your Patterns

To apply this to yourself, think about your talents and consider these questions:

  • What kind of people do you most enjoy being around? This tells you something about your relationship-building patterns and preferences.
  • What kind of thinkers do you love working with? Is it fast thinkers with lots of ideas? Is it careful thinkers who go deep? It is it analytical thinkers who always consider data, credibility, and proof?
  • What are your trust patterns? My friend Lexy Thompson has this concept of a trust faucet. Are you a person who trusts easily — the type of person who extends trust quickly, like a faucet that is turned all the way on? Or do people earn your trust slowly over time, like you’re releasing it one drop at a time?

As a manager of a team, if you will take the time to understand these things about your team members, you can have massive insights about where you are similar and where you are different from people on your team. And if you’re honest with yourself and you’re willing to be very self-aware, you may find that you are biased toward people who are like you. Or, you might be biased toward experiences that honor your talents or bring you personal energy. Even when these biases are totally fine (which they sometimes are), it’s great to have an awareness of them.

Here’s a super simple example of being biased toward experiences that honor your talents: When I was sitting in the lobby with that guy, chatting about strengths, there was a Rolling Stones song playing in the background. It’s the one called Sympathy for the Devil. Nope, I’m not about to dive into a lesson on devilish biases. What happened is that just as he asked me my talent themes and I finished with my #5 Woo, the song breaks into the part where the rest of the band does the “Woo Woo.” I pointed at the speakers and add in my own “Woo Woo.” He thought it was awesome because his Connectedness talent knows that song came at the perfect moment for a reason and that there are all sorts of connections like this for us to make if we’re looking around for it. My Positivity talent theme loved being able to create a second of comic relief by singing in the middle of the lobby and getting to crack up together. We each had a bias toward that moment, yet it came from a different place. So that’s another reason why this concept of cognitive biases is fascinating because your preferences might be similar on the outside, yet on the inside, you have vast differences in the motivations and values that sit underneath them.

Differences Are Differentiators

The beauty of a strengths-focused culture is that you can see differences as differentiators rather than seeing them as annoyances. It helps you understand how to use each person's unique awesomeness to improve your overall team performance. And rather than viewing those “different” team members as high maintenance, you can reframe that to understand that there are people on the team that do not think like you. Which means they cover important ways of thinking, acting, doing, and performing that do not appeal to you. And likely, your organization needs some of that “other way."

So if you can value those ways of thinking, you can make the person a superstar in that area. And — bonus! You don’t personally have to spend your headspace in that zone. For example, I don’t personally love to think about all of the risks and possibilities for where things might go wrong. There are usually people on my team who do enjoy that. So, in this example, I could delegate risk management-related responsibilities to the person who enjoys it. I could send juicy problems to people with the Restorative talent theme — to people who have a great time working out the solutions — people who love the puzzle of exploring the problems and fixing things. It’s no surprise that my Positivity talent theme doesn’t get energy or enjoyment from wallowing in problems. To give you another example, a manager I met with last week is not strong in relationship talents and so rather than lamenting all of the critical customer relationships he needed to build, he instead delegated that authority to someone on his team who leads through Includer, Empathy, and Connectedness. Then both people get to have more fun and be more aligned with their highest and best use. The customer gets a better experience. And the company gets better overall performance.

Reflections To Consider Your Biases

So to summarize, take a look at your own biases. Here are three questions to get you started:

  1. Who do you like spending time with? And to go deeper, after you think of those specific people or those types of people, now ask yourself if you tend to believe that the people you like are the higher performers? That’s a dangerous bias I’ve fallen into as a manager in the past.
  2. If you've unlocked your full 34 StrengthsFinder lineup, look at your lesser talents, which are probably your bottom five. Ask yourself which themes, at the bottom of your personal list, bring you a tendency to potentially insult those talent themes in others who hold them in their Top 5. For example, Harmony is #33 on my list. And someone who leads through Harmony might feel totally drained in a work environment where people are disagreeing all the time. Well, my Individualization doesn’t mind if people disagree because I think we can all come at things differently and still be a functional team. Yet someone who has Harmony at #1 might get a gut-wrenching feeling when we are not moving toward consensus or not trying to find areas of similarity. To make this self-reflection even cooler, extend it into an others-assessment also. If you can see the lineup of all 34 of your direct reports, go explore your themes that seem opposite of each other on the surface. Look for where you might drive each other crazy if you’re not conscious of pairing your strengths for and awesome yin-yang thing.
  3. Think about whether your biases are allowing people to be seen and heard and appreciated at work. My friend Dave Stachowiak mentions this on our podcast interview. His insight really stuck with me. And if you think of this in the context of biases, you’ll quickly see that most of us have preferences that would make it tougher for someone else to feel appreciated. Of course, as your self-awareness increases and as your talent themes mature, you learn to ask great questions and be curious and to value other peoples' opinions even when you don’t agree with them. And if you want to amp up your emotional intelligence and your overall effectiveness as a leader, it’s important to give this a good consideration.

Burnout Might Bring Your Bias Out

As we bring this in for a landing, it's important to note that I don’t believe that our strengths and natural talents bring us negative cognitive biases all the time. But we’re human, which means we’re flawed. And you’re probably a growth-minded lifetime learner if you’re listening to a show like this. So think of these cognitive biases as states of mind that you can change. And that might be more likely to crop up in you when you’re overtaxed, burned out, and falling into lazy thinking. But when your awareness is high, you can invest in those talents to apply them as contributions — and you will be on watch for other people’s contributions (especially the ones that are different from yours). I’ll leave you with the idea that using your strengths on the team will help you build stronger performance on the team. To keep your biases in your awareness, watch for differences and use them as differentiators!

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

 

Direct download: 059-strengths-unconscious-biases.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Today’s episode is a question that comes up every time we prepare clients for a training event that includes StrengthsFinder. The question today is whether you can take old or existing results and use them in a team or leadership training event today.

I know this question is a bit tactical and technical compared to our usual topics, yet I thought it would be important to answer because we get asked so often. As you listen on, you will hear both HOW to find existing results (even if you think they’re wayyyy old), and we will offer a quick reason WHY it’s important to get old results.

You’ll also get a list of books that you may have used a code from that you can import into the newest, snazziest report layout and dashboard. Even if you have your personal results already, if you’re a people manager or strengths champion, this could be an important question for you to know the answer to because your new hires or future people you’ll coach will likely have this question.

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you’ll notice what works, you’ll get more of what works because people can replicate what they’ve already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

What To Do If You Have Existing Results But You Don’t Know Where They Are

If you have existing results, you can use your credentials from any of the old Gallup sites to import your data into the newest version of the Gallup Strengths Center. If you're working with a leadership and strengths training company like mine, you’ll get asked for each person’s individual results so that we can give you better insights and make custom company level reports that take the individual insights and turn them into team level conversations. 

Over the years, there have been different landing pages and dashboards for all of these different places where you could get started with strengths. Although the books were different, the assessment is the same. So you can take your login information from those old sites and use the same credentials in the Gallup Strengths Center. If you do that, it will import your old results into the most recent report layout and dashboard. 

This is helpful if you’re a busy person and you have a calendar already filled with meetings and to do’s — because when you have a training coming up and you’d rather not spend 45 minutes of your life answering questions you already answered when you did it years ago — you can just pull in your existing data. The problem is that people say, “Oh geez … I did StrengthsFinder like 3 jobs ago. I have no idea how to find it.”

Or if you’re like me and you first did the StrengthsFinder assessment over 15 years ago, you'll probably have no way of guessing your username and password from those days.

If You Had An Account At One Point But You Have No Idea What Site To Log Into Or What Your Credentials Are

My recommendation is to first go into the Gallup Strengths Center, click Sign In at the top right (or if you’re on mobile, tap the main menu in the top left to get the sign in). THEN do a test with your old email addresses. Check your old work and personal email addresses you might have used with the forgot password function. On their site, their version of “forgot password” is a link called "Need help with your username or password?" If you do this first, it will help you confirm whether an account exists at Gallup with a given email address.

For example, I found mine with a yahoo account from the 1990s. If you type in your old address and it works, you'll get a message back from Gallup saying they sent you an email to update your account. Boom you’re in.

Even when you are unsuccessful, It helps you narrow down the accounts. For example I typed in my old email address from the employer I worked for in those years. And I got a message that says, “Your email address does not match any accounts that we have on record. Please try again or create an account." So it’s a step in your sleuth work to tell you whether you used that address back in the day. 

Now, of course if you no longer work there, you would not be able to get the password recovery data in your inbox — because that inbox no longer exists. If that were to happen where you learn that the account exists but you can’t get the recovery by email, you can use the Gallup Strengths Center support team. They are extremely helpful. I will link to their support page in the show notes so you have access to that too. Their Contact Us page from there also has a phone number where you can troubleshoot with a human if you don’t want to do it by email. 

You Think You May Have CliftonStrengths Results But Your Book Or Assessment Had A Different Name

There are also a bunch of books from Gallup press that have a code for StrengthsFinder. Over the years, you may have used a code from these books and now you want to import it in for your team StrengthsFinder training. Only the most recent copies would have flap with a CliftonStrengths assessment code. All of the older ones would have called it StrengthsFinder. It’s the same assessment — just a name change to honor Donald Clifton, the original creator. Regardless of the original Gallup website you went to to redeem the code, you can get them all imported into the Gallup Strengths Center site today.

Here are 5 of the books our corporate clients most commonly used when they’re importing “old” StrengthsFinder results in:

  1. StrengthsFinder 2.0 
  2. How Full Is Your Bucket? The Expanded Anniversary Edition
  3. Strengths-based Leadership
  4. StrengthsQuest or CliftonStrengths for Students
  5. Strengths-based Selling 

If you originally did StrengthsFinder through a code in one of those books, you’ll want to get yourself transferred into the new system. And when I say transferred in, I mean remember your login because your old credentials will work over on these (if you remember them).

It Has Been A Long Time, So Should You Retake StrengthsFinder Anyway?

There’s a whole episode-worth of conversation on that topic, but the short answer is we recommend using your original results. Here are a couple of links from Gallup on whether your strengths change over time and how retaking the assessment can change your results (even decrease the accuracy of the results).

Another Step If You’ve Done The CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder) More Than Once

If you have already taken StrengthsFinder more than once, you can contact the Strengths Center support team to have them combine your data so that it represents the data of a single person (versus making it appear that two people have similar results). Gallup takes their data integrity seriously, so they would appreciate having the most accurate database possible. And It also helps us make you the best charts possible because our comparisons against the entire database will be more accurate, which means that your team charts will be more meaningful if you help us keep a nice and tidy database.

Remember to Downloaded Your Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 058-Import-Old-StrengthsFinder-Results.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: Will a strengths approach work in different cultures and countries? She the shares how leaders can use strengths to fulfill the five different needs of Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

Remember to grab the strengths-focused 1x1 and team meeting resource to get your 12 weeks of conversation starters. That will help you start applying the conversations to your cross-culture understanding.

Will A Strengths Approach Work In Different Cultures and Countries?

Today a question came in from Molly about whether strengths-focused development will work across any culture or country. If you manage a team of people from around the world, or if you’re about to roll out a strengths approach across your company or university — this is an important question to ask!

The short answer is, yes strengths-focused development will, in fact, work around the world. Let’s break the question down from a literal translation standpoint and then the conceptual.

Can You Translate Strengths Language?

Yes! And If you want to give team of people a native language experience, I definitely recommend looking at Clifton StrengthsFinder or the VIA Character Survey. Both of them are available in more than two dozen languages, so whether your native language is Polish, Croatian, or Indonesian, they have you covered. I think that’s an important factor to know because if you’re answering questions about your natural thoughts and feelings and behaviors (on a 20 second timer), you can’t waste time looking up vocabulary words because it would impact your results. The other good thing is that you'll also receive your reports in the native language.

Something you might find fascinating or surprising is that even after millions of people have used the tool, the data shows us that the differences are negligible when you break them down by race, gender, age, and nationality.

If you’re into the data side of things, you can also find some interesting factoids in different countries, like with CliftonStrengths, the #1 talent theme in India is Responsibility, whereas you see Learner #1 in Mexico, Panama, and Argentina. And then you see Maximizer and Harmony in the #1 and #2 spots in Japan.

As you can see, different countries do have some different “typical” top spots, and yes, those differences by country probably tell us something about the strong effect of cultural values.

But one thing we haven’t been able to isolate with empirical research is how much of this is nature vs. nurture. Our hypothesis is that it’s both. Your environment, your upbringing, your family values, your experiences, and your DNA all play a role in how your strengths show up and what your unique lineup of talents is.

How Strengths Can Bring Understanding Across Cultures

This question about whether strengths can bring appreciation across cultures first made me think of Grace. She’s a client in Taiwan. And she was thrilled about StrengthsFinder because she works for an American manager and it gave her a way to map work conversations to her values and her natural way of thinking.

If you’ve ever studied different cultural dimensions, you might instantly think about the potential for Grace, with her #1 Harmony and #2 Responsibility to be on a different page from her manager with #1 Individualization and #2 Competition because she’s from a country high on the collectivism scale and her manager is from a country high on the individualism scale. And their personal talent themes happen to reflect their country’s values pretty closely.

Using the language of strengths, it gave each of them a way to describe what they bring to the team. And it helped Grace find a language for talking about her potential contributions to the team without feeling like she was running against her country’s values of saving face, being humble, and showing loyalty to the team — even when it means putting her personal agenda last.

By the way, if you’ve never studied cultural dimensions, it’s totally fascinating. You can see how each country maps on continuum across 5-6 categories. The super quick preview is that these continuums cover your relationship to people, power, certainty, and time.

My favorite resource on cultural understanding is the book Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands. It helps you understand each country’s government, religion, decision making values, negotiation styles, and how they tend to process information. It goes even further to help you out with gestures, gifts, and clothing so you can be sure that you know the basic expectations and keep you from making a fool of yourself.

Different experts use different labels, yet most look something like this:

  • Individualism <——> Collectivism
  • Accepts Unequal Power <——> Rejects Unequal Power
  • Uncertainty Avoidant <——> Accepts Unknown
  • Cooperation <——> Competition
  • Short-Term Orientation <——> Long-Term Orientation

To bring this back to strengths, I look at it like another layer of understanding. Cultural differences can run sooooo deep. And we don’t know where we might view a topic differently from another country.

I remember the first time I visited India and learned how uncommon it is for men to wear shorts. The more traditional view is that if they have shorts on, something must have happened to their pants! I also found it so fascinating that it’s totally normal to wear a sari to work and show your midriff. Whereas in the US, it would not be okay to show your midriff and work. Don’t even get me started on how hard I worked to tame my left-handedness. It took a few visits to work that one out.

My point is, when you are working across cultures, there are a million ways for people to spot their differences. Of course, the visual ones like clothing are the easiest to spot. Then there are many ways to accidentally offend colleagues during conversations. And there are some stressors when team members bring their local assumptions about how work relationships work. And they assign meaning to things differently — not just the meaning of men’s pants.

Strengths give you a language to talk about these things in a productive way. For example, Grace, with her Responsibility talent, would naturally see ways that she could jump in to help the team meet its commitments. But before having some strengths-focused conversations, she didn’t volunteer because she was used to a more hierarchical approach where she would wait to be assigned those responsibilities.

How Strengths Can Help Leaders Create Significant Meaning For Their Team

Now let’s add one more important layer: it’s that basic human needs cut across all cultures.

No matter where you live in the world, your team shares the same basic needs. Most people remember hearing something about food, water, and shelter when they think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

If you do some digging on this topic, you’ll see that there are a bunch of others that managers can impact. And these others are where you’re really helping people feel seen, heard, and appreciated in a way that gives them purpose. And strengths-focused conversations make it easy and natural for that to happen. Let’s look at each of these 5 needs.

1. Physiological Needs

If you look at this like the typical pyramid, you’ll see physiological needs at the bottom. Yes, that’s where you get your food, water, shelter, and sleep. After you get past this one, it gets really interesting as you layer in strengths.

2. Safety & Security Needs

The next one is safety needs. In Gallup’s extensive leadership research, Stability is one of the four primary “follower” needs. Yes there are some safety needs that have nothing to do with work, but employment stability, social stability, and sometimes health are items that you can address through strengths.

Or, you can think about your natural talents and how they might lead you, at your default, to make your team feel un-safe. For example, my Maximizer talent constantly leads me to change things. Over the years, I’ve seen how that can feel unstable because people don’t know what to expect from week to week. And strengths have given me a way to look at that with a different lens because I can acknowledge that people need to feel a sense of stability.

3. Love & Belonging

Yes, there are friendships, family, and other parts of life where people fill this human need. Now switch over to work. People want to belong. They love knowing that they’re contributing to the team. They love knowing they’re doing important work — that the 8 (or 12) hours they spend every day is for something that matters. They love accomplishing something bigger than themselves.

So when you use strengths, you can use their talents to help them see their superpowers. You can use their strengths as a lens to help you see when to recognize them. And you can help them feel the connection between their actions and the bigger cause they are a part of.

If you want to help your team members feel a bigger sense of belonging by connecting their strengths to the contributions they can offer the team, be sure to get the conversation starters in your 12-week Activation Series.

Each week, you’ll get a strengths-focused 1x1 conversation starter and quick team meeting topic so you can keep learning more about what puts your team members at their best so that they can feel like they are a meaningful part of the team.

4. Self-Esteem

Moving up the scale, you have self-esteem, which includes things like feeling respected, being recognized, knowing their strengths, and achieving. Strengths help you create a culture of recognition. It helps people know what they’re great at.

And I call them your “easy buttons” to high performance. If you provide your team members an easier path to high performance, they’ll achieve more and feel better about themselves, which tends to create a virtuous circle where they feel better and better about their contributions and they continue to achieve bigger things for the team.

5. Self-Actualization

Finally, you have self-actualization. This includes deeper life meaning and living up to their potential. It’s all about being the best they can be. It even gets into things like innovation and creativity because their outputs reflect a unique view of the work that no one else could bring.

Now think about this in terms of strengths and workplaces. When teams are in turmoil with RIFs, re-orgs, and conflict, they revert back to safety mode. They give less because they’re trying to survive the explosion of uncertainty or despair.

But if you contrast that with a fully functional team, you can start to imagine some moments and some team members who have been way up in this self-actualization zone. And as a leader, you have the ability to move people through these categories. Of course, it’s not 100% on you. They have to take personal accountability in their lives. Yet, you have a heck of a lot of influence on helping them unlock these other categories.

Basic Human Needs Exist Across Cultures

It may have surprised you that the question on culture led to this angle for an answer. Yet when I think about international businesses and organizations, the best ones cut across cultural differences by getting to the humanity of it all. We all have some basic needs, and strengths can give you a way to have conversations about these human needs without feeling weird.

And when it comes to the cultural dimensions I brought up at the beginning, each person’s talent themes can give you a great doorway into talking about how their personal thoughts, feelings, and actions line up with cultural norms. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me, “Aha! No wonder I am a fish out of water at this company (or in this country).” And then rather than feeling bad about it, their strengths give them a way to see the other side of it — the side that brings value.

Remember to grab the strengths-focused 1x1 and team meeting resource to get your 12 weeks of conversation starters. That will help you start applying the conversations to your cross-culture understanding. It helps you open up topics like their ideal work culture, their untapped strengths, and even get them to fess up about the soul-sucking elements of their job. Each week, it gives you one question to ask in a 1x1 and one question for the team. That way, you can spend your time having these conversations rather than spending a bunch of time trying to come up with new strengths conversations.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 057-strengths-across-cultures.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: How can you share your awesomeness without sounding arrogant or entitled?

Have You Downloaded Your Manager Tool For Strengths Conversations?

If you’re a manager and you want to help your team members feel less awkward about speaking positively about the contributions they can make to the team, please please please, open these conversations and make them a regular part of how you operate with each other.

And since it’s tough to put this into practice, we actually have a 12-week series made just for people-leaders. You’ll get 12 weeks of conversation starters for strengths-focused 1x1s and quick team meeting topics so you can keep learning more about what puts your team members at their best. 

Resources of the Episode

Awesomeness Without Arrogance

Today you’ll explore a question that came up in a strengths workshop I did with a group of high potential team members who want their talents to shine, yet they don’t want to seem like braggadocios jerks. Their question was, “How can you share your awesomeness without sounding arrogant or entitled?”  

What an important question. I hear it from all levels, and even from every cultural background I’ve experienced so far.

For example, Australians will tell you about the tall poppy syndrome. This concept is about cutting down someone who is higher in stature or prominence to bring them down back to size. Of course, many Aussies are reluctant to talk about their standout areas because it has been such a cultural faux pas to try to stand out. 

My Japanese clients tell me about the saying, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” 

In Western cultures I hear things like, “Don’t rock the boat” or “Don’t make waves.” 

Regardless of the country, most of these sayings are meant to keep you humble and remind you to not run around being an arrogant jerk. Yet, unfortunately, they also keep a lot of people from sharing their gifts with the world.

So, back to thinking of this in a self-reflective way, how do you begin to offer your personal strengths to the world while also staying humble and being perceived well? Here are three steps to becoming known for your talents without having to brag about them.

Step 1 - Know What You Want To Be Known For

First, take some time to imagine what you want to be known for. Yes, this can be knowledge, skills, or abilities. If you’re thinking about natural talents, think about how you would be getting work done if it brought you energy — if you were totally in flow — and things even felt easy. Imagine the kind of work you’d be doing and how you’d get work done.

To help you with this, try the "More Of Inventory" where you’ll see a list of phrases to spark your ideas. You’ll can imagine that someone who picks “give advice” and “poke the bear” as the two things they’d want more of — well, they would be more of a status quo busting person who wants to push the team forward and get people on the edge of discomfort — maybe even someone who loves living risk-taking mode.

And you can imagine another person who wants to “ensure quality” and “work carefully” — well, they would be way more excited about a project or role all about operational effectiveness or safety or compliance.

That’s why it’s important to do this step first. If you don’t know what you want to get known for, you’ll get known for what you did well last. I’ve seen way too many people become known as the quality assurance guru or the best team notetaker or the one who delivers the quarterly ops review presentation — and they’re only known for it because they did it well last time. 

When actually, it may have sucked the life out of them. It may have taken up all of their mental energy for days. It may have drained them and felt dreadful, but when you’re a highly accountable high achiever, you’ll try to knock it out of the park. Even on work you hate. 

You’ll use brute force to become competent, even in your weaknesses so that your performance is solid. And if you’re not a complainer, no one will ever know you don’t like that work. That’s why you need to spend a bit of time thinking about what you’d really love to be known for. In your ideal world. Then you can start aligning to that reputation over time. 

Step 2 - Focus Outward

This is all about taking an outward focus. It’s thinking about a business outcome your talent can serve. It’s thinking about a person you can help. Since your talents will help you feel ease, energy, and enjoyment on the job, people will see the enlivened version of you while you serve another person or a team goal or business outcome.

For example, if you’ve been nerding out on the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Physics literature on the understanding of dark matter — and you happen to have the Clifton StrengthsFinder talent theme of Input — you could move toward the enlivenment scale by sharing your findings with the team rather than just reading the journals for your personal education.

You could summarize the key findings and mention a team goal that it applies to. This would be fun for someone with the Input talent and it would also help the team. They’d see your awesomeness and would appreciate it. 

And if you offer your talents this way, you’ll often uncover where one person’s trash tasks are another person’s treasured tasks. That can lead you to task swapping opportunities where you can do a task-switcheroo with teammates to get more of the work you love. 

You can also volunteer your talents. You may have heard my interview with Ben Fanning where he talked about finding all of the things you look forward to on your to do list or your calendar. Then he encouraged you to find the trend in the things you enjoy.

He also suggested seeking out more of them by volunteering to help a teammate in one of those areas. Or offer a Lunch and Learn to the team on something you get jazzed about. Offer data or articles on topics that would be helpful to the team. It’s basically sharing things with others that would be fun for you to do anyway. 

This is all about finding ways to offer up your talents as a contribution to the team — and not waiting for someone to offer you the golden-ticket job. It’s more about creating small moments for yourself that put you in a state of flow or energy or enjoyment so that over time you can become known for that. And once you build a reputation for it, the offers for project work and roles and assignments (even at small task levels) will begin to match up with your strengths.

Step 3 - Talk To Your Leader About It

This is an important step, of course, because your manager has a lot of sway when it comes to the tasks and responsibilities of your role. 

Here are three flavors of conversations that work well when you want to put your strengths on your leader’s radar. These are great for 1x1s. Or you could tweak them for email. Put them in your own words, and you’re on your way.

Flavor 1: I Want To Support A Team Or Company Goal  

"I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can personally support [goal], and wanted to volunteer some help around [talent or thing you want to build a reputation around]. Are you game to hear an idea?”

So an example might sound like, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can personally support [our goal to increase customer retention by 15%], and wanted to volunteer some help around [our contact center coaching]. Are you game to hear an idea?”

And then, once this conversation opens, you could volunteer a small or large contribution — anything from the creation of a quick cheat sheet resource, all the way through spending one day each month coaching contact center reps in your area of expertise.

Flavor 2:  I Want To Bring My A-Game To The Company

“As you know, I’ve been digging into StrengthsFinder and thinking about how we can amp up our performance. It got me thinking about what puts me in A-game mode, and one of them is [talent or thing you want to build a reputation around]. Next time you’re assigning a project like that, would you consider me for it?”

So an example might sound like, “As you know, I’ve been digging into StrengthsFinder and thinking about how we can amp up our performance. It got me thinking about what puts me in A-game mode, and one of them is [that I’m really on fire when I’m pushing my limits of learning]. Next time you’re assigning a project that has a steep learning curve on a short timeline, would you consider me for it?”

Managers in my training sessions tell me that they’d love it if they knew what kind of projects their team members want to be considered for. A simple “please consider me …” request increases the chances that when they’re making decisions in the future, they’ll think of you.

Flavor 3: I Will Be Applying Self-Development To A Project And Would Love Feedback

“This has been a year of big development for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to amp up the contributions I make to the team. One talent I’ve decided to consciously leverage more is my [talent or thing you want to build a reputation around]. It’s different from the way I’ve approached my projects in the past, so wanted to mention it to you for feedback purposes. If you see or hear comments (both good or bad) about me, I’d love to hear them. I’m going in thinking that it will be well received, yet it’s different from how we normally do it so wanted to get your antennae up for it.”

So an example might sound like, “This has been a year of big development for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to amp up the contributions I make to the team. One talent I’ve decided to consciously leverage more is my [natural ability to build an use a network]. It’s different from the way I’ve approached my projects in the past because we’ve stayed pretty siloed on this project, so wanted to mention it to you for feedback purposes. If you see or hear comments (both good or bad) about the new collaborations, I’d love to hear them. I’m going in thinking that it will be well received, yet it’s different from how we normally do it so wanted to get your antennae up for it.”

Three steps for bringing awareness to your awesomeness without sounding braggadocios. And if you’re a people manager, as many listeners are, you can see why these strengths-focused conversations are so tough. They’re awkward for people. Yet if you initiate the conversations, you give them permission to unleash their talents. Ask them what puts them at their best. Ask them what their most favorite and least favorite elements of the job are. Ask them what they would love more of. 

Extra Help For Managers

Remember to grab the strengths-focused 1x1 and team meeting series. You’ll get 12 weeks of conversation starters for strengths-focused 1x1s and team meetings. It’s super simple in format. It opens up topics like recognition, motivation, and their favorite elements of the job. Each week, it gives you one question to ask in a 1x1 and one question for the team. That way, you can focus on learning more about them rather than spending a bunch of time coming up with new strengths conversations.

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 056-awesomeness-without-arrogance.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

 

In this episode, Mike Ganino joins Lisa to answer the question: How can team culture be shaped by strengths?

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you’ll notice what works, you’ll get more of what works because people can replicate what they’ve already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

How Can Team Culture Be Shaped By Strengths?

055-how-can-team-culture-be-shaped-by-strengths

If It Is So Important For Managers To Build Culture, Why Can I Only Find Articles About Offering Stand Up Desks And Pinball Machines - Perks That Hr Offers?

Ohhhhh, culture, we love to talk about it, write about it, read about it, and even watch the 2,000,000 videos on Youtube about it. We love to blame it, leverage it, and try to change it. We spend billions of dollars and a whole bunch of hours on employee engagement and culture improvement initiatives to try to improve it and yet we keep coming up empty.

Is it really all about office fun slides, cold brew coffee on tap, and nap rooms? Do the rest of us have a chance at dipping into the power of culture without the budget of a tech giant who seems to print their own cash?

If you're only managing a project, a team or a division in a bigger organization, do you have any chance of fixing things if the culture and the wider organization isn't promoting the kind of vibe you're looking for? Before I answer all of those questions, let's get clear on exactly what culture is and what it isn't.

Does The Physical Environment Create Culture?

So culture is not about the stated values written in the handbook or hanging on a wall somewhere. It's not about the mission that adorns the company website or the funky design of the open office floor plan. It's not even about how often you get together for happy hours. It isn't about making everyone happy all the time or being a pet-friendly workplace.

Yeah, I get it. I love the idea of an office full of cuddly little Corgis as much as the next guy, but I know it won't help improve the business or the working conditions for the team. It's possible to have a great culture even when the perks are best in class. Yes, even when there aren't fancy modern Norwegian looking desks all around.

Manufacturing plants and ships in the ocean and military bases can have great cultures. Sorry to break it to all those fun committees out there, but we don't need another group picnic to have a great culture.

Now I'm not saying that all of those things aren't useful and aren't helpful. I mean, the point of them should be in getting people to connect with each other. So if you are one of these fun committee folks out there, don't despair — but I do want you to change your objectives a little bit.

Instead of getting people to sign up to go have fun together outside of work, make sure that the events are helping people build relationships — helping them connect with people they don't normally talk to — because if we all go to happy hour and we all just talk to the normal people we talk to, it isn't improving your culture.

So if you are doing fun stuff, make sure you're getting the best out of it by making sure that you're encouraging people to talk to people they don't normally interact with.

Culture = The Existing Beliefs On The Team

OK, back to the topic at hand. See, culture is actually the collection of beliefs on your team and don't worry, I'm not going to go all hippy dippy here and ask you to start meditating or saying namaste day to each other.

But culture is still the beliefs that your team has about what it's like to work there. The beliefs they about leadership, about what matters. It's the beliefs about how they act, how they work, how they build relationships. Those shape the way we treat each other.

If I were to meet you and I thought, hey, this is someone pretty awesome. If my belief about you was that you were a good person and I thought I wanted to get to know you, I would act a certain way. If my belief about you was that you were out to get me or that you were somebody who was ... you know, not so fun to be around, then I would treat you a different way.

To Get More Practical, Think Of The Beliefs As Stories Or Examples That Get Passed Around

I like to think of those beliefs as stories. The stories we tell at work, the stories we tell ourselves (and sometimes we tell each other at work) are our beliefs. They impact the way we choose to act, the way we choose to work and the relationships we commit to at work. The stories that we tell each other become the culture of the company.

Every company has stories that are unspoken expectations about things like:

  • The way things get done
  • When it’s a good idea to speak up (or stay quiet)
  • What kind of people and behaviors wins or lose (and how the game of work is played)

That becomes your culture. The stories your employees tell is where your culture lives. Think of what they say. What is their story about their first day at work or their first week?

What are their beliefs about performance reviews? What are their beliefs about speaking up in meetings and contributing their best ideas to projects? Do you know what they're telling each other? Do you know what you're telling your new hires or even what they’re telling themselves? Because all of those things are being played out.

When it comes time to sit down in a meeting and contribute, when it comes to showing up for a performance conversation and saying, "I'm invested in this because this is about making me better." All of those stories are ultimately what shape and drive your culture.

Now, I'm not saying that you need to just basically go and create a whole new world of storytelling at work. There are a lot of storytelling folks out there who focus on brand and marketing storytelling, which is really about controlling the narrative. No, no.

Is It Effective To Try To Guide Or Control The Stories That Get Passed Around?

I'm not telling you to control your culture or control your narrative. In fact, I don't think you can. What I'm saying is, as a leader, as a manager, as somebody who wants to make a difference, you have the power and the ability to fuel a different kind of story, and when you fuel that different kind of story, you create a different set of beliefs which creates a different set of actions from your team and those sorts of actions. You probably guessed it. Those create your culture.

The way we decide how to show up every day is the culture and some of that is based on how we see leaders responding. A lot of it is based on what the expectations are every day. So what do you do if you're a leader and you say, "Hey, I want to start thinking about culture in a different way. But we can't get the insurance to do a slip and slide through the grass in the grassy area outside of the office.”

Well, you don't need to do any of that and in fact I wouldn't recommend it. It sounds weird and creepy, but what you can do is start to source the stories that your team is telling.

How often do you ask and listen to and document what's really going on with them outside of an annual employee engagement survey? How often do you look for the common variables and the stories they tell?

Are you collecting long form survey data more than just a score on a piece of paper? Are you asking questions like, "What do you believe leadership cares about here? What do you think matters most? Or how do you think people get ahead in this organization?"

Uncover The Stories That Highlight What You Already Do Well As A Team

You can use the stories that you hear to start to uncover common trends in your culture. Then I've got a maybe not so surprising thing for you — you'll start to recognize the strengths from your team. You'll start to see what your culture is strong at. You'll start to see what your leaders are strong at and I'd imagine that those start to look like things that you would have found in a StrengthsFinder assessment. You'll start to see ideas and words resonating.

If your team is all about taking action, you're going to notice that your team is all about moving forward and not stopping to consider lots of options. You're going to see that and you're going to recognize that as one of the strengths that people have.

What's interesting is that you can also use those to start to develop a clearer story for your culture. Once you understand what the strengths of your team and the strengths of your culture are, then you can start to get specific about telling more stories like that. You can start to use that in the way that you interview people and the way that you talk to people.

Leveraging your strengths gives you a really interesting opportunity to create a new kind of culture. So let's go back to culture for just a minute.

If You Work For A Large Company, Create A Culture Pocket

When you think about culture, a lot of times what happens is that we think of this big, big culture of the entire organization. That might be true if you're working for a small company where there's only 20 of you. Then yes, the culture of the team is probably the culture of the company and I would argue that the culture of a 20-employee team probably matches up pretty closely with how the leader believes and the stories the leader creates.

As a company gets bigger and bigger and you start to go into national and global territory with the hundreds or thousands of employees. You start to see that cultures gets pocketed almost. There's a chapter in the book where I talk about cultural pockets and I show how even in a huge organization there are all of these little cultures that exist.

You have the ability to create a culture pocket for the way that your team interacts. You don't have to worry about having perks and happy hours and food trucks outside of your office every day in order to get top talent and be known as a great place to work. You know, Lisa always says that differences are differentiators and I can't agree more when it comes to culture.

Notice What Already Works - What Already Attracts People To Your Team

If you start to use the stories and the strengths of your team, you'll start to see the differences on your team. You know, Apple is a very different place to work than Google. Both are interesting companies creating cool new products and services, but it feels very different to work there. They both have cool offices and perks and benefits, but it feels different to work there. The digital component of Disney feels very different than working at Netflix. Why? Because of culture.

At the end of the day, the three weeks of vacation, the ping pong tables, the catered lunches — those don't necessarily drive the experience with each other. These perks don't change the relationships or the stories that we have about our coworkers, our manager, or the work we do. These perks are easy to copy and if all that it took to build a great culture was having the perks, then everyone could do it.

By leveraging your strengths to tell new kinds of stories about your team and the way you work, you can start to find the thread of your culture and then you can leverage it, communicate it and double down on it so that you can get the kind of people on your team who can help it grow. Whether you're a team of 10 or you're a company of thousands, leveraging those parts of your strengths to create new stories will drive your culture.

Don’t Worry - You Don’t Have To Create A Circus Of Entertainment At The Office

Look, you don't have to treat people like preschoolers who need to be tickled, entertained, and fed every hour to have a great culture. It's about diving in, listening to the stories, promoting those stories, and creating new ones.

As a leader, your job is to create the culture on your team that creates the kinds of stories based on the strengths of your team and the group. So go out there and start thinking about culture in a new way. You don't need 5 tips, 7 Hacks, 9 habits — you don't need any of that. What you need to do is start listening to the stories and changing the way your team works.

Get More Culture Learning From Mike

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 055-how-can-team-culture-be-shaped-by-strengths.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

 

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: What should you do when two talents contradict each other? Don’t worry — you’ll be fine if you work on situational fluency and communication.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you’ll notice what works, you’ll get more of what works because people can replicate what they’ve already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

What Should You Do When Two Talents Contradict Each Other?

This question came in when someone in a virtual StrengthsFinder training said, “Uh oh, my Top 5 might be bad news because two of my strengths are opposites.”

I said, “Sounds interesting, tell me more.” He clarified by saying that his Ideation is the opposite of his Consistency talent theme because Ideation makes him come up with constantly new ways of doing things while his Consistency talent theme makes him want to do things the same every time to be efficient and clear.

One of the beautiful things about virtual events is that they’re often big. So with 250 people in the same training room, it was possible to find someone else with those two talent themes.

I asked the other person, “How do these two work on you?” She said, “I’m more into fairness than anything else. So Consistency drives me to treat people the same. Consistency bosses around Ideation and tells it what to work on. So my Ideation’s job is to find more and more ways to be fair in every part of life and work.”

From that conversation, you can see the two important things to explore in your own Top 5 and in the Top 5 of your team members so that you can be extra effective when you work together.  It comes down to (1) Situational Fluency and (2) Communication.

Using Seemingly Opposite Talent Themes For Situational Fluency

By situational fluency, I mean being able to bring your best to a situation or challenge that comes up at work. Let’s use Deliberative and Activator as the example StrengthsFinder talent themes because they’re simple to understand, even if you haven’t done anything yet with CliftonStrengths.

You’ll often hear people using a car metaphor to describe Deliberative as a talent that likes to put on the brakes — to stop or to think carefully about risks before acting. You’ll often hear about Activator as a talent theme that likes to push the accelerator and get going. 

Now think about your own talents in a tough situation at work. You’ve put 20 million dollars into a product launch that failed. Everyone thought it would bring about 100 million dollars in revenue last year, and instead, you lost money.

Half of the team wants to kill the product and cut the losses. Half of the team wants to tweak it and try to fix some issues before doing something so drastic. Meanwhile, you’re bleeding out cash and the board expects a plan by next week. Your team has been spinning in circles. 

Now think about your personal talent themes. Which ones make you feel cautious? Which ones help you feel brave? Which ones put you into high collaboration mode? Which ones make you go into deep thinking? 

Depending on the situation, you might need different things at different times. So, if you think, “Yikes, I have two strengths that can’t really work together well” — then dig into it more because, instead, you can think of it as having more tools for a given situation.

For example, go back to the car metaphor. You have headlights on the exterior and you have dash lights inside of the car. Think of those two as if they're talent themes. If it gets dark outside, you turn on the headlights so you can see. And in the dark, you don’t need so much of those interior lights, so they go dim. Otherwise they’re distracting. They’re too much for the situation. 

Your talents are the same. In one situation, you turn it up. In another situation you turn it down. In some cases, both are in use, but one is bright and one is dim. Think of your talents like that. You can control how bright or dim they are. You can bring the right light to the situation. That’s situational fluency. Rather than bringing all of you all the time, you bring the part that serves the situation. 

So watch for this. Next time you face a tricky challenge or debate like the example I gave you about killing the product, do a quick, mental run through of your talent themes to consciously decide which ones (and how much of them) to bring to the situation.

Communicating About Seemingly Opposite Talent Themes So People Understand Your Intent And Actions

After that Ideation + Consistency example came up in the chat box in the virtual StrengthsFinder training, the next comment was, “Don’t worry. My report tells me that I have dual personalities.” 

What’s funny is that this comment comes up in nearly every workshop. It’s because people imagine these paradoxes inside themselves and they realize the outside world may not be able to make sense of it. Most of us have a bunch of these. I can think of lots of personal paradoxes.

  • Sometimes I’m a workaholic. Sometimes I’m a playaholic.
  • Sometimes I’m a foodie food snob. Sometimes I eat green beans out of a can.
  • Sometimes I’m a luxury buyer. Sometimes I go to thrift stores.

You have things like this too. And you can make sense of them. Yet to an outsider, they can be confusing. If you have the Deliberative talent theme and you love to be the one who makes people stop and think before they do something rash, it might be confusing when 25% of the time your Activator is talking and you’re the one in the room saying, “C’mon, we’ve kicked this around enough.  We could have executed on all three possible solutions already. Let’s go.”

So if you fear you might be perceived as “of two minds” or someone who seems to act inconsistently, be sure to bring it up in conversation. This is why I offered this section on communicating your paradoxes. Of course, before you communicate it, you need to be able to understand it yourself.

For example, I talked to a person recently after a strengths-based leadership speech. She said this was insightful because her Activator shows up constantly in meetings. When there’s small talk, she wants it to hurry up and be done. When people schedule three meetings and you have meeting deja vu because the same things keep coming up over and over again, her Activator is going crazy. It’s dying for a little less talk and a lot more action. 

She also has the Deliberative talent. It doesn’t take up many thoughts in her head during meetings. But when she has a big decision to make, it’s prominent. When she needs to consider a complex situation, she leans on Deliberative heavily.

Her takeaway was that her direct reports hear her saying, “Let’s do this” in meetings. And when she writes emails about big decisions, they hear her say “Let’s slow down for a sec.” She realized that’s why they see her as indecisive but she doesn’t see herself that way. And she left that event knowing that the simple act of communicating this seemingly opposite viewpoint is exactly what her team needs in order to make sense of her two modes. 

To bring it all together, here are two action steps for you as you think through your personal paradoxes:

1) Apply Situational Fluency. Pick a talent and think about when it needs to be the bright headlight you lead with and what situation calls for the dimmers. Know this in advance so that you can bring the situation what it needs.

2) Communicate So Your Paradoxes Do Not Confuse People. Spend the week watching for your potential paradox-perceptions. Where might you look like you’re of two minds? How can you make sense of these two things that live in perfect harmony inside of your head so that others around you know what to expect of you and where these two perspectives come from?

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 054-talents-contradict-each-other.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

 

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: What do strengths look like under stress? She shares the three things that will highlight the shadow side of your strengths under stress, and then gives you ways to reframe them from bad to better.

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you’ll notice what works, you’ll get more of what works because people can replicate what they’ve already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team.

What Do Strengths Look Like Under Stress?

Today the question is about whether strengths look or act different when they’re under stress.  

This is such a timely question because I woke up today ... well, not at my best. After an awesome team StrengthsFinder event in NYC last week, I sat next to a prolific cougher and sneezer on the plane. I’m pretty sure he’s the one that passed me this horrible funk that has taken over my body.

Today, I woke up out of sleeping hard. My head hurts. My throat hurts. My ears ring. I coughed all night — as you can probably hear in my voice. And to top it off, my comforter was covered in puke. Not my puke. My dog’s. Apparently, my dog Monkey is also sick today and she jumped in the bed to get me to let her out. I slept through that.

So, why are you hearing this gross story right now? It’s because, no matter how great your life is — no matter how much you love your job, you’ll still have bad days. And you need to know how your talents show up when you’re under stress, when you’re sick, and when you’re burned out. It’s good to know what do to with them on the days that you want to hide under the covers and do nothing. 

Like me, you probably have client meetings, deadlines, and commitments that lead you to get out of bed anyway — even on a really bad day. You tough it out. I know you’ve had days like this — where it all seems to be going wrong before the alarm even goes off.

Well, those days can definitely bring out the shadow sides of your strengths. Those days can expose ugly sides of your talents — the side that doesn’t normally show up, even though you haven’t invested fully in that talent. The ugly side doesn’t show up day to day, yet it will rear its ugly head when you’re having a terrible week at work. 

For example, if you lead with Activator, you might snap at someone because you’re feeling exceptionally impatient with her lack of movement. If you lead with Consistency, you might throw the rule book at someone who constantly asks for exceptions and today, you’re so done with it. If you lead through Intellection, you might “hole up” in your cave and isolate yourself from the team.

You get the idea here. Now that you have a couple of examples in mind, here are three stressful situations that might expose the dark side of your talent themes.

Three Things That Will Highlight Your Strengths Under Stress (And How To Reframe From Bad To Better)

Three things that will highlight the shadow side of your strengths when under stress are:

  1. Having A Bad Day 
  2. A Person (or Team) Who Frustrates You
  3. An Environment Where You Feel Mismatched

1: Having A Bad Day Or Week —> Your Strengths Can Strengthen You

When things are frustrating, what’s your typical response? For example, maybe you lead through Restorative and you resent the very problem that gave you the bad day. Maybe your Learner talent is annoyed because your team moves too fast to give you a chance to become the deep subject matter expert you want to become to put you at your best.

Think of yours. You probably have a thing you get frustrated about or have a typical reaction, regardless of the cause of the bad day. 

One way to use your strengths in this situation is to rely on old faithful. Of your Top 5 talent themes, you probably have one that’s easy to call on in tough times.

Maybe your Strategic talent allows you to see simplicity through the overwhelm. So turn up the dial on your Strategic talent today. Maybe your Empathy theme gives you unlimited doses of patience. Or your Focus talent allows you to feel some calm in knowing that you’ll knock out today’s list one item at a time, and that it can keep you on task even with the urgent issues exploding all around you.

So that’s it. When you’re having a bad day or week, rely on one that’s easy to call on. Crank up the volume on a different virtue that can shine through despite the craziness around you.

2: A Person (Or Team) Who Frustrates You —> You’ll Make Partners

Think of someone at work who you don’t love working with. If you lead through Responsibility, maybe it’s someone who constantly misses deadlines. For me, I remember feeling eternally frustrated with a woman who treated our sales team poorly.

If you lead through Context, maybe it’s a person on the team who refuses to acknowledge and learn from the failures the team already experienced and you feel that they put the vision out to the organization foolishly because that same vision has failed four times, the only difference is that they called it by a different name each time.

Think about that person for you. Try to concretely imagine a specific person who has been tough for you during your career.

So what do you do about it? One is to identify where, specifically, you think the person is different from you. Even if you don’t know their StrengthsFinder talent themes, just think about what they seem to value and where they’re coming from. As tough as it might seem, assume they have positive intent and imagine a possible positive thing they could bring to the situation.

For example, the person who is frustrated because her teammate misses deadlines could notice (when she looks carefully) that it’s because her colleague wanted to be absolutely sure that the data is correct. He delayed because new information became available, and because he leads through Analytical, there’s no way he would put out misleading data. He’d rather be late than wrong.

In my personal example, think back to the woman who treated the sales team with constant snarky and dismissive comments. Well, when I looked carefully and open-mindedly (and assumed positive intent), I noticed that my team member had an operational focus. She was great at standardizing processes and making us efficient.

So rather than coming at the angle with the frustration about how she treated sales people, we could first find common value in the fact that she made those rules in order to create a good customer experience. We both valued that. When it came time to solve her problem of the sales people not filling out her forms (which is why she was rude to them), we could use the customer experience to keep our conversation aligned to something we both wanted.

The idea here is that even when someone drives you crazy, there’s a thread of something good that they bring to the team. Look for that thread rather than the irritant.

In many ways, you get what you look for. If you see the good that this person brings and you acknowledge it, they’ll bring you more of that good stuff. And you’ll notice that their way of bringing good stuff is probably not how you love to operate. So you should be celebrating it. You can think, “Wow, I’m so happy someone wants to obsess over the data because I’d rather brush over that and get to the customer messaging” or “Wow, I’m thrilled that someone likes to deliver presentations to customers because I’d rather be off in my R&D think tank, speccing out the next product.”

This is the ultimate case of how one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. You probably have a few tasks or responsibilities that you’d like to throw in the trash. And you probably have a few that you treasure.

And amazingly, these are different for each person, so it’s possible to literally swap out your trash tasks for treasured ones. Or you can partner up with someone where you divide out the parts of a project or task so that you each take the part that lights you up rather than the one that highlights your dark side.

3: An Environment Where You Feel Mismatched —> Your Differences Are Your Differentiators

Think of one of your talent themes that you didn’t want to own when you first saw your Top 5 StrengthsFinder talent themes. I often hear things like, “This description of Input makes me sound like a hoarder” or “This description of Competition makes me sound super judge-y with all of these notes about how I love comparison.”

Or someone tells me they don’t think their talent is good for them in their environment. For example, a woman recently told me that she gets negative feedback about her Communication talent theme. Her manager told her she talks too much and that she’s coming on too strong for her teammates.

Looking at the team DNA charts, we saw how that could be an easy place for her to feel mismatched because her team was exceptionally high in Relator and Intellection. Most people on the team were academics who were used to communicating formally, and only after having thought deeply on a topic. On the other hand, she likes to talk things out. She actually does her thinking through the act of talking. And she felt like a fish out of water.

When you feel mismatched, think about how the team needs the diversity of thought. Think about how the team could benefit from other ways of solving problems and interacting with the world. In the case of the woman with the Communication talent we just talked about, she was able to use this as a differentiator.

She became the go-to on the team for PR and customer communications because her teammates preferred to stay behind the scenes. It was a way for her create value for the organization rather than deciding she should squash it or hide it. As she put it, “Now they like it when I talk a lot because it means they don’t have to talk to customers as often."

Another women with the Competition talent decided to use her constant comparison to become a cheerleader for the team. She would dig into the metrics, both inside and outside the company, to highlight where other people were their best in their roles or in their industry.

She helped people see that they were good at something that they didn’t even know about. And it showed the team that Competition didn’t mean she wanted to beat them, it meant that she gets a charge out of winning. And that includes helping the company win and helping other team members win in their roles.

Strengths Resources

To take the “Under Stress” exercise further, explore your talents at the Yucks page. Ask yourself which 1-2 of the words or phrases are big hot buttons for you. Then consider what situations call on that “Yuck” often.

It will give you clues about how to avoid it, get less of it, or to reframe it like you did in this episode. Very often, you can address that same situation through another one of your talent themes. Or you can partner with someone who doesn’t see it as a Yuck at all. 

Enjoyed The Podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 053-strengths-under-stress.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: Would StrengthsFinder make a great hiring tool? Although it might seem logical, once you dig a little deeper you realize it might not be a great idea. But don’t despair — Lisa also gives you tips on how to use your team’s natural Strengths to compensate for the ones it is lacking.

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you’ll notice what works, you’ll get more of what works because people can replicate what they’ve already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team..

Would StrengthsFinder Make A Great Hiring Tool?

Today the question is about StrengthsFinder as a hiring tool. This usually comes up when one of my StrengthsFinder training clients happens to also have an open position while we’re doing a team-building event. Or, this question comes up when a leader sees a visual map of their team’s natural talents. They spot holes. They want a well-rounded team. And the logical next thought is, “Oooh, this would be the perfect tool to help me find new hires who have these talents we don’t naturally have on the team.”

I’m with you. That feels totally logical, yet there are at least 5 reasons that this idea is flawed. Yup, I’m telling you that StrengthsFinder isn’t a hiring tool. Whahhhn. Wahhhn. So hang on. If you’re thinking that you want to use it to vet your candidates, slow down juuuuuuust a sec while you consider the whole picture.

Reason 1: StrengthsFinder Shows A Stack Rank, Not An Intensity or Maturity

Take two candidates: Madison and Abraham. Madison’s #2 talent theme is Focus. You’re psyched because that’s the talent you’re missing on your team DNA charts. Abraham has Focus at #10. So on the surface, Madison wins because she has that elusive talent you’re looking for.

But wait! One thing you need to know about the tool is that it tells you each person’s top talents ... for them. But it doesn’t give you a measure of how well developed that talent is. And it doesn’t give you an intensity level for that talent theme. So Abraham’s #10 Focus could be stronger and better developed than Madison’s #2 Focus talent. 

Reason 2: CliftonStrengths Was Designed As Development Tool, Not A Hiring Tool

CliftonStrengths (or StrengthsFinder as many of us know it by), is a tool offered by Gallup. Gallup is well known for their research, and they take their tools seriously. They designed the assessment as a professional development tool, not as a hiring tool. They recommend offering it to new hires when they join your company on the first day.

Imagine what a cool change-up that would be: being a new hire, coming in for your first day, and spending your onboarding experience learning more about what will put you at your best. That sounds so much better than filling out paperwork all day!

Gallup does, in addition to CliftonStrengths, have a consulting practice around Analytics Based Hiring. They have a whole segment of their business focused on employment, predictive analytics for a role, and custom assessments for hiring.

Most listeners will be saying, “Thanks Lisa, but I don’t have a five or six figure budget for that kind of consulting.” No worries. Of course, the main thing is to know how the research scientists designed the tool so that you don’t get yourself into liability hot water.

Reason 3: You Might Make Your Search Tougher Than It Already Is

Here’s a reaction I get constantly. It’s something like, “Oh my gosh. Not a single person on the team has the Command talent theme. We need to add some bold, decisive people because we have tough client base, and we need people who can hang. The next new hire absolutely has to have Command.”

Here’s the thing. If you tried to act on that thought, you would be creating a search for a needle in a haystack. See, the Command theme is the least commonly seen talent in the entire database. A small percentage of people will have that theme. And once you find this elusive person, they may not be qualified for the job.

Imagine that Madison has Command at #1, and she has spent her entire career as an accountant. Abraham has Command at #19, and he has spent his entire career nerding out on rare coding languages. If you’re filling a role for a software developer — and you need one of those critical and tough to find skills — you would be absolutely silly to prioritize Madison’s Command talent over Abraham’s rare skills. Not to mention, you would be dipping into reasons #4 and #5 …  

Reason 4: Searching By Strengths Might Distract You From Outcomes

When you look at a strengths DNA chart for your team and you see that your team has no one with Focus or Discipline, you might think, “Oh no, we’re doomed. We’ll never be able to make a plan and follow it to completion.”

You could take this deficit mentality and start obsessing over how your current team doesn’t do well with written plans. But don’t lose sight of the bigger goals. Ask yourself: What are the outcomes your team is responsible for? Do you currently meet them? If you do, you probably use the existing talents you have in a way that acts like (or gets the same results of) a talent theme you’re missing.

So maybe you have a person on the team with Activator who gets projects off of the starting blocks. And another guy with Arranger and Adaptability who shuffles things around seamlessly during your mid-project madness. And another team member with Achiever drives you to get-it-done status by keeping an eye on the finish line for each milestone.

As long as you’re meeting the outcomes, it doesn’t matter which talent gets you there. And finally, here’s reason #5.

Reason 5: If You Prioritize Natural Talents, You Might Diminish Critical Hiring Factors

This one is, in my opinion, the most powerful of all. It’s that your hiring decisions take into account a lot of factors about a candidate. You interview someone to vet their Knowledge, Skills, Experiences, and Talents.

A lot of times, you have critical timing factors as well. So for example, say you landed a big contract with a client. Your marketing team is creating a piece of cutting edge geo-targeted advertising software. You need this person yesterday (isn’t that always what it feels like?).

If you hired by talent themes, Madison’s Command and Focus would tell you she’s the one. But if you consider Abraham’s specialized coding languages, his experience with the client’s specialized urban agriculture industry, and the knowledge and skills he built in the last 10 years in marketing, it sounds like a no-brainer that Abraham will be a top candidate.

So remember: even though talent is important, it’s one of many factors.

Leverage Strengths To Build The Team

With all of that, you’ll want a takeaway beyond a list of watch-outs. What do you do if you are still thinking that your team is hurting because you’re missing a couple of talents? Three things:

1: On your existing team, have a conversation about how to partner up the talents you already have. In combination, they can act like the ones you’re missing.

2: On your existing team, remember to focus on your team’s strengths and easy buttons. Your talent gaps can stand out on a chart like a sore thumb and lead you to obsess over what you’re missing, yet if you’re building a strengths-based team, you’ll want to focus on leveraging what you do have.

3: For the role you’re hiring for, come up with questions that get to the thing you need. So, if you’re lamenting the lack of planning on the team, rather than only considering candidates with the Focus or Discipline talent, ask questions and open conversations that get to similar outcomes.

Things like: 

  • Tell me about a time when you took a complicated project from start to finish.
  • What’s your process for creating project timelines and communications? How do you keep yourself accountable to your commitments?
  • Tell me about a situation when you were given an unrealistic deadline for a product launch.

You get the idea here. Think of the things that you want from the talent theme you don’t have. And then ask about those things. You’ll find that people can get to those same outcomes through many different talent themes — and the label doesn’t matter as much as the result.

Strengths Resources

To get more of these strengths-focused conversation starters, check out our resources page — there are a bunch of tools related to StrengthsFinder, strengths-focused leadership, and on noticing what works so you can get more of what works.

Enjoyed the podcast?

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 52-strengthsfinder-hiring-tool.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

In this episode, Lisa explains how knowing your strengths, and the strengths of others, can help you get along better at work. You’ll also find out what grizzly bears have to do with the workplace!

Have You Downloaded Your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you'll notice what works, you'll get more of what works because people can replicate what they've already done well. Get started by downloading this awesome tool that offers you 127 Easy Ways to Recognize Strengths on your team. Look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works."

Prevent Conflict by Knowing Your Talent's Needs, Expectations, and Assumptions

In this episode, you’ll get a conversation guide you can use in your one-on-ones as a way to prevent conflict at work. The root of most conflict and consternation at work is missed expectations. As a leader, you have expectations of your team and they have expectations of you.

Interestingly, built into each of the 34 StrengthsFinder talent themes, you’ll find some inherent needs and assumptions. For example, imagine an employee named Connor. He’s on your team and he leads through the Includer talent. He needs to know there’s room for everyone’s opinion — including his. No surprise, since it feels good for an Includer to be included.

Each talent also often comes with the assumption and expectation that others might notice or value the same thing they do. It’s natural for all of us to not realize how unique each person’s assumptions and expectations are.

So in that example, Connor would notice that someone’s ideas are being ignored. And he’d probably expect you, as the manager of the team, to rectify the situation. And then when you don’t, he might wonder why you’re such a jerk to flagrantly ignore the situation. Meanwhile, you lead through Analytical, Activator, and Command and it never occurred to you that someone has an issue. After all, if you had an issue, you’d say something quickly and directly.

The source of most conflict in the workplace is missed expectations. Usually these expectations are never spoken of. It’s like we keep secrets in our minds. Well, not exactly. But we often assume others think the way we think or instantly understand what we expect from them. Our natural way of thinking and acting is so innate that we often don’t notice we’re doing it or that it’s different from anyone else’s perspective.

What a Vacation Taught Me About Leadership

Here’s an example to illustrate how conflict comes from missed expectations. I went to Glacier National Park for vacation. The most exciting hiking trail is called the Highline Trail. It’s one of those trails that is only the width of the footpath. Teeny. There is a rail attached to the face of the mountain so that you can hang on because if you are the least bit afraid of heights you will think you are about to fall off the mountain to your death. So of course that is the trail I wanted to go on! We showed up at the visitor center ready to go, but there was a sign that said the Highline Trail is closed. Boo! Written on the whiteboard, it said they closed the trail because there’s a carcass in the way. I was so bummed because it was THE attraction I wanted to experience at Glacier.hiking trail is closed

From the View of the Manager. Now let’s break this example down in the context of expectations. Let’s take the person who closed the trail. Imagine they are the manager on the team. They had to look out for the best interest of the team. They were afraid that hikers would be attacked because wildlife were trying to eat the carcass and we might be in danger if we got anywhere near the carcass. This is quite similar to what happens to managers at work. As a leader, you have to consider the broadest perspective. Without fail, you have conflicting demands — the things people want from you. And those things are rarely in alignment. A team member wants something different from you than your peer. And that request is different from what your leader is asking for. And that’s different from what your customer has been requesting. And … inevitably you have to make tough decisions that disappoint people, in the same way that the park ranger's decision disappointed me at first.

From the View of the Team. Now, imagine grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions on the team. Where else do you hear a business show that tells you to get in the mind of a grizzly bear. Ha!  If they see a carcass on the trail they ar

e going to get it. If a tourist comes by, they will see the tourist as a food thief. They see someone who threatens their survival. They will assume that I want to eat that carcass and they will attack me. It is an incorrect assumption, but if you get in the mind of a mountain lion or grizzly bear you can absolutely understand. Likewise, you have seen this at the office before. This is why silos exist inside of companies. People are protecting information or status quo in order to ensure they can survive or thrive in their environment.

bear on trail

From the View of a Colleague in Another Department. And then there’s me as a character in the example story from the hiking trail. I represent your disappointed colleague, visiting from another department. When I got the news that the trail was closed, I pouted for a minute (only in my mind, not out loud). I lamented the fact that the mountain lion and grizzly bear cannot understand me and just let me pass by. This is very much what happens on the job when you imagine people in other departments at the office. You wonder if they are blocking your progress on purpose. You wonder if they are ignoring your request or failing to trust you for any good reason. You know all you’re trying to do is get your project further down the hiking trail.

Now to bring this (sort of silly) hiking metaphor into action, take a look at how StrengthsFinder can help you overcome these assumptions and expectations that lead to disappointment and conflict.

Three Tips to Help Overcome Unmet Expectations

Assume positive intent.

Each party is probably doing the best they can with what they have or what they know. Very few people come to work intending to sabotage. If you are lucky enough to know each other‘s StrengthsFinder talent themes, consider that person‘s top five themes to give you perspective on where they might be coming from. It will help you look for the good they are attempting to bring to the situation.

Get further into the psyche of the person you’re working with.

Understand what their talent themes need at the office. At leadthroughstrengths.com/resources I posted a conversation guide to help you prevent conflict by using StrengthsFinder. Look for a thumbnail image that says "strengths tips for teams" at the top and "prevent conflict" in the middle.

This document outlines the inherent needs that every one of the 34 talent themes has. If you can have an open conversation with the person on your team about these, you can prevent these missed expectations before they happen. If possible, you will want to have this conversation in a one-on-one meeting when you’re not in the middle of a conflict. Knowing these things in advance will help you not assume things and will help you understand your team members' natural assumptions. If you use this guide during a conversation, here’s what you do: Have the person look at their top five talent themes on the document. See if the Needs listed for their top five resonate with them. For those that do, ask them about what they would naturally assume or expect based on that need.

For example, if you have a new team member who leads through Consistency, he might expect that you have documented processes. That’s one of his needs listed in the conversation guide. Then, when you ask about Assumptions, he tells you that he assumes he can and should enforce policies related to these processes. Imagine how good it would be for you to know that if he’s replacing someone who was willy-nilly about things. Your new team member will likely be frustrated by the cobbled-together mess he’s inheriting. And people from other departments will be surprised by his policing efforts. Yet if you know these things before conflicts happen, you can turn it around into a celebration of how he’s going to get an efficient operation established.

Know thyself.

If you want to make this Expectations and Assumptions one-on-one ultra–effective, come to that conversation having already prepared your own document. Of course, it’s always good to be self-aware. It also allows you to show them an example so that they know what you’re getting at. It keeps them from raising the skeptical eyebrow wondering why you’re asking these things. Most of all, the reason to look inward first is that you have your own assumptions and expectations that you naturally view the world with. It’s important to know these because it affects the way you lead.

For example, I expect that if someone sees something broken, misspelled, or incorrect, that they will fix it in the moment, regardless of whether it is their job description or not. This expectation comes from my Maximizer talent. And if you look at the document I made for you to download, you’ll see that there’s an inherent need that talent has — it’s to respect quality as much as speed and quantity. On the other hand, It’s perfectly reasonable for someone on the team to take a note of something broken and plan to fix that thing they noticed ... later. Well, reasonable to them. See, this is exactly why it’s helpful for you to know how your expectations might be different from your team members. And, it’s critical that you get comfortable verbalizing them to each other so that it’s not only about you making demands of them. It’s about an open conversation so you understand where each person is coming from and you can avoid the conflicts before they happen. In all directions.

To close out, here’s one more example using the Connor with the Includer talent and the manager with the Analytical talent. Imagine you’re the manager and you assigned a research project to Connor. He starts by collecting information from peers who are in a similar role. He gathers feedback from customers, from peers, and from end-users. Meanwhile, you are waiting for a spreadsheet to help you make a Go vs. No Go decision by using charts and graphs and data. Both are natural assumptions. Connor, the Includer, uses relationships to inform decisions through people‘s past experiences and feedback. You, leading with Analytical, find truth in data. One is qualitative. One is quantitative. Both are valuable. And if you don’t know this about each other, you’ll drive each other crazy! And of course, if you do know this about each other, you can make a powerful partnership.

Data On Strengths Helping With Alignment Of Expectations

Speaking of data, I’ll end this episode with a bit of data for you. This is from Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement research. They found that Employees who regularly apply strengths at work are 5.1x more likely to strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. Interesting, isn’t it? That makes a direct and unexpected connection between the application of strengths and clear expectations.

Resources of the Episode

Remember, if you want to use the document I made for you to explore Assumptions and Expectations according to their StrengthsFinder talent theme, get it at leadthroughstrengths.com/resources. Look for the “Preventing Conflict” image. Remember, the root of most disappointment and conflict at work is unmet expectations. You can get ahead of that by using StrengthsFinder to explore these default assumptions and expectations with each person on your team.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 051-prevent-conflict-strengthsfinder.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

050: What do StrengthsFinder Colors Mean?

In this episode, Lisa answers the question: What do the StrengthsFinder colors mean? She describes the three things you need to consider when looking at your colors: your thoughts, your demands, and your filters.

Have you downloaded your Strengths Tools?

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer appreciation of strengths in action. If you'll notice what works, you'll get more of what works because people can replicate what they've already done well. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

What do StrengthsFinder Colors Mean?

Today’s question is: What do the StrengthsFinder colors mean? This question comes up straight away because smart people see the DNA icons on the Gallup Strength Center dashboard, or they notice there are some colors on their Signature Theme Reports or their Insight Report.

 

There are four of these potential categories, which Gallup calls Leadership Domains. The blue ones are Relationship talent themes, yellow are Influencing talent themes, red are Strategic Thinking themes, and purple are are Executing themes. Those words make the acronym RISE, so it makes it easier to remember: R-I-S-E for relationship, influence, strategic thinking, and executing.

 

Once you have that information, then what? I’ll give you three ways to think about your color lineups or the StrengthsFinder colors you see for the people on your team.

One thing that’s important to mention is that getting into the real detailed nitty-gritty of how to use these domains, or as I call them demands, is a more useful exercise once you have explored a lot of other elements related to StrengthsFinder. But, the question often comes up right away, so I’ll give you three quick things to think about:

  1. Your thoughts
  2. Your demands
  3. Your filters

Your Thoughts

Number one: your thoughts. These are your thoughts and reactions to actually seeing these colors. And the major point here is don’t panic if you’re looking at your own, and don’t stereotype if you’re looking at someone else’s.

 

So, for example, you have no red in your lineup? No worries. Everybody still thinks, even if they don’t have Strategic Thinking talents in their top five. Have no blue? You might say, “Oh, no, I can’t even build a relationship? I’m a people manager. That sounds terrible.” Well, everyone has relationships, unless you’re a hermit living in the woods.

 

There’s a concept that came up from a senior practice consultant at Gallup, I think it might’ve been Jacque Merritt. The idea is that there’s not a brick wall that separates these four categories, it’s more like a chain link fence.

 

You might have one category that is highly present in your top five that makes you think, “Oh look, I’m missing one.” So, for example, I personally have no Executing talents on my top five, but I don’t say, “Oh no, I’m doomed. I don’t get anything done.” My company would go out of business if that was the case, so we know that’s not true. With this idea of it being more like a chain link fence, you can see how the concepts can flow into each other and you can make one color act like the other.

 

So that’s the first one. Don’t panic. Your strengths look the way they look and they are perfect for you. And if you see something on a teammate, don’t stereotype them and assume they’re going to be a certain way, because they are going to combine their whole 34-strength lineup to create who they are. Don’t oversimplify things.

Your Demands

 

Number two: your demands.

Gallup calls these colors the Four Domains of Leadership because they originated from Gallup’s study of team leadership. Their research found that the most cohesive and most successful teams had clusters of strengths.

There are 34 potential StrengthsFinder talent themes, but there are specific clusters in four areas. These clusters are useful for thinking about how each person might naturally contribute to a team and how a leader’s personal lineup of talent will impact their leadership approach. Those four domains (and the four colors) are relationship, influencing, strategic thinking, and executing.

 

I actually call them the four demands, because most performers at work have to do all these things, not just those of you who are people managers.

So, rather than limiting them to be leadership domains, I like to call them demands because it includes people in team sessions in a way they can understand. And they can relate to them personally because they, too, have reports that have colors all over them and they also need to make sense of them.

 

Even when you don’t have a given color in your top five, you likely have that demand on you in your workplace. What you can do with this is ask yourself what talent you have that can act in a way that compensates for the missing color.

I mentioned earlier that I don’t have any Executing talents in my top five, but I definitely do execute. If I ran through my top five, I could think, “Well, how do these help me execute?”

My Strategic Talent helps me sort out options really quickly so I can decide how I’m going to do things and how I’m going to take action. I can do that quickly, rather than getting bogged down in analysis or holding more meetings about meetings. It helps me take fast and decisive action. So, it helps me execute, but it’s actually a Strategic Thinking talent.

 

Let’s look at some others. I have Positivity, Individualization, and Woo in my top five. Those three really combine as a lineup to make me a person with a lot of relationships in my life, relationships that I’ve nurtured over a long period of time.

So, when something needs to get done, they me find smart people who can get a given task done better than I can. Or, if I need to call on help from people, I inevitably have someone in my network where I can get a question answered easily. These are based on my Relationship and Influencing talents, but they still are helping me execute.

 

In the last example, I would use my Maximizer talent. That’s an Influencing talent by category, but it also makes me want things to be better all the time. It creates a strong drive in me to get things done, to realize the latent potential that I see all over the place — the things and people and processes that could be better if we just put a little more execution effort into them.

Even though Maximizer is not an Execution talent, it’s like an Execution motivator. You might not have a given color that represents that domain or that demand, but you can certainly apply it in that way.

Your Filters

 

Number 3: your filters. These four colors are also like a first filter — they define how you see and approach the world when something happens to you. They are your initial reaction.

Let’s use an example of a big reorganization at a company, and I’ll run through each of the four colors and talk about what it might look like if you were really heavy in that domain.

 

Relationship talents: Maybe you had a lot of blue Relationship talents, and a big reorganization gets announced. Let’s say you work for a very large Fortune 500 company and you’re going to have a merger or acquisition that will make your company double in size. You’re going to go from huge to gigantic, and you know that’s going to bring a lot of reorganization and questions about what is going to happen to different elements of work, who does what, what teams you’ll be on, or whether you’ll be redundant.

 

If you get that announcement and you have three or four Relationship talents in your top five, most likely you’re going to be thinking first — your first filter — “Who is this going to affect? How are they going to react to the change?” Especially if you’re a people leader, you’ll be thinking of each person on your team who reports to you and how they’re going to take this news and what they might be thinking about it.

 

Influencing talents: Let’s take the example of Influencing talents. If you hear about a big reorganization and you’re a people leader, you might be thinking, “Okay, how am I going to communicate this to the team? What is it going to sound like? How can I cast a vision that will make people want to come along? How can I make this exciting? How can I get momentum for the change going?”

 

Strategic Thinking talents: If you had four or five red Strategic Thinking themes, your first reaction to something like that might be to go do some deep pondering. Or it might be to crunch some numbers and really consider what this is going to do. You might learn all you can, collecting tons of information. It’s a cerebral exercise. When something big happens, you go inside your head.

 

Executing talents: If you had three or four Executing talents, instead of thinking of this big picture merger, you would likely go straight from that 30,000-foot view of a merger down to the 3-foot view. How is it going to affect the operations? Who is going to do what? What will it look like at a task-level and a man-hours level? How will it affect the operations? What about redundant systems? How are we going to approach this great idea of what these two companies can become? And how do you make it practical and work for the everyday?

 

What if you’re heavy in one color?

 

You can see how all four of those filters are really important for people to have in an organization., and it’s great for all four to be represented on a team. But I also want to make sure that you don’t feel like it’s a bad thing if you are heavy in one color. This is a reaction I get often where people think, “Oh my gosh. I’m just a one-dimensional person. I have four or five in one color.”

 

Remember that Strengths-based development is all about what comes naturally to you. Your natural talents are how you think and feel and behave at your natural best. They are your easy buttons for great performance. If you start lamenting what you’re not, you’re doing the opposite of Strengths-based development. You don’t have to covet the people that have the Skittles mix with all sorts of colors in their top five.

 

What if you have all the colors?

 

Now, if you do have all four of the colors presented in your top five, you may have a hard time relating to the concept of the first filter — your first filter may not be strong in one of those areas like it would be if you had three, four, or five in one color. If you have the Skittles mix of colors, I would suggest you just consider which of your top five talents speaks loudest when there’s a big change.

 

For example, for me, it’s probably Woo because I’m instantly thinking, “How are we going to message this? How can I make this change palatable or likeable to people on the team? How can I make this exciting?” I also might be thinking things like, “Who else do I need to meet and learn from to become who I need to become to reach this next goal?” So, I would say that Woo is the loudest and my first filter. You might recognize one talent as the strongest, even if you have a big mix of colors.

 

Conclusion

 

So that’s it. If you just took the StrengthsFinder assessment for the first time and noticed these colors and are wondering what they mean, you’re smart and you picked up on something very nuanced.

 

Just remember these three ideas:

  1. Your thoughts: Manage your thoughts and your reactions to seeing the colors. Don’t panic, don’t stereotype.
  2. Your demands: You actually have the four demands on your personal leadership, or the four domains if you want to refer to them that way.
  3. Your filters: Think of your Talent Themes and see if they offer you a first filter when major things happen to you.

If you want some other Strengths-focused tools to use with your team at work, check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources. There you’ll find at least one handout that references these four demands, plus a lot of other tools related to StrengthsFinder and Strengths-focused leadership.

 

I look forward to hearing how you and your team members will claim your talents and share them with the world!

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

 

Direct download: lts-050.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

 

In this episode, Lisa tackles the topic of managing employee burnout. She uses the example of an overwatered plant: if you see the leaves turning yellow, your first thought is to add more water. But sometimes yellow leaves are a sign that the plant is overwatered—by adding more, you’re just drowning it. In the same way, many actions managers take to help their employees actually make things worse. In this episode, Lisa shows you how to discern the true causes of burnout and teaches you how to help in the right ways.

Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths-based culture is to offer an appreciation of strengths in action. If you'll notice what works, you'll get more of what works because people can replicate what they've already done well. On our homepage, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Can Working In Your Weakness Zone Lead To Burnout?

I made a comment in a team StrengthsFinder session the other day. It was that when you find yourself procrastinating on the same task over and over again, it might be a sign that it’s in your weakness zone.

A few faces in the crowd made the lightbulb look. A few had this look of, “Whoa, I never even considered that.” Pretty quickly, they started asking about what signs and symptoms to look out for.

There are three important symptoms that are clues you’re frequently working in your weakness zone:

  1. You’re frustrated.
  2. You feel soul-sucked.
  3. You’re burned out.

As a regular listener, you hear me say all the time that using your strengths at work will strengthen your performance. So wouldn’t it also hold true that using your weaknesses at work would weaken your performance?

When you think about yourself, it’s easy to notice these symptoms: You know when you’re personally in a state of burnout or frustration. You know when work is feeling like soul-sucking drudgery, even if you’re trying to not show it on the outside. Sometimes these symptoms can sneak up on you over time, yet once they hit you hard, you know they’re there. Now you simply have to figure out what’s causing it and do something about it.

If you’re a people manager or a talent management professional, this gets tougher. That’s because often the same symptoms show up in people who are disengaged out of boredom or lack of care are the symptoms that show up when someone is giving every ounce of energy to the job … only it’s in a weak area, so it sucks the life out of them.

People are kind of like plants in this way. You know how the leaves turn yellow if your plant needs water and is unhealthy? They show the same symptom when they’re overwatered. So you might have a plant that is drowning and you think, “This plant is yellow. It must need water.” So you water it. And it drowns more. It gets worse.

People are the same. They might be soul-sucked from working in their weakness zone. Rather than turning yellow, they turn disengaged. They appear bored or detached. They have less fire and zeal in their attitude. So you try to find them more work to offer them a challenge. And oops … you were over-watering their weakness zone already. Things only get worse.

My mother in law helped me fix this with my plants — she gave me a moisture meter. If a leaf is yellow, I can stick a probe in the ground and see if it’s too wet or too dry. Yessss! I stopped killing plants. An easy fix. But what about humans? They’re not that easy. There’s no strengths-zone probe. You have to have conversations to dig deeper.

Let’s look at an example for each of the three symptoms so you can explore the kind of conversations you might have as a team to uncover these draining weakness-zone responsibilities.

1. Frustration

What to do about it: If you have a team member who is mature and highly accountable, they’re not going to complain and kvetch. So be on the lookout for the tiniest comments about a project that’s eating them up. For example, they may make light of banging their head against the wall.

Even if you can’t assign them fast-moving projects without red tape because you’re in a culture with a lot of bureaucracy, think about things like assigning them to the front end of a project and then handing it off to a partner who thinks it’s fun to get to the finish line and use persistence to solve problems. Or, you can keep an eye out for projects that create something new versus maintaining or changing long-standing traditions.

2. Feeling soul-sucked

What to do about it: If you have someone calling on talents that run counter to their values, it is going to suck their soul. You can often see this one on people’s faces. When people are performing regular job duties that insult their personal values, they will procrastinate. They will resist. They will roll their eyes. Even if they’re mature and they wouldn’t literally roll their eyes, you can usually see subtle signs show up in offhand comments or in how they act.

Be on watch so you can open up a conversation that helps them reframe it by approaching the situation through another talent. Or, help them address the conflict constructively so that they can have a productive conversation with the person or team who hold the conflicting value.

3. Burnout

What to do about it: This one is easy to spot in yourself, yet tougher to spot in high performers. When top performers are burned out, they try to keep going. They often use brute force to keep performing. They’ll stay up later. They’ll skip workouts. They’ll push through. There will often be few signs of trouble, at least for a while. For other employees, burnout is easier to spot because they appear and act disengaged. That’s easy to see and address — it’s your top performers that you need to check in with more deliberately because they often won’t say anything for months.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard way too many stories where burnout led top performers to start a job search in the background because they don’t want to ask for help or appear like a weak performer by bringing up their burnout.

Now you have three symptoms to look for in yourself or on your team, four if you count procrastination as a bonus symptom. Of course, there are many actions you can take to get out of your weakness zone.

Action steps to take after you see symptoms

  • Swap tasks around on the team.
  • Partner up with someone who loves doing that thing you loathe.
  • Use one of your Top 5 StrengthsFinder talent themes to get the same outcome in a new way.
  • Name the situation, because simply knowing that it’s driving you crazy will often diffuse a lot of the stress from it.
  • Make a Stop Doing list — ask stakeholders, managers, peers, and customers more questions about how they use the results of the work that you’re doing (the work that’s sucking the life out of you). Often, participants from my training events tell me that the task isn’t even required any longer.
  • Reframe the situation. For example, a recent virtual training attendee told me that he was late on his expense reports 100% of the time. He got scolded for it every month and didn’t care. That is, until his colleague in the accounting department told him that he was killing her — she was staying late and missing her deadlines for closing out the books every month. He quickly mended his ways by tapping into his Relator talent, which made him care about the outcome because he cared about her.

Questions To Ponder

What’s going on with you at work? What makes you feel frustrated regularly? What happens in the weeks and months when you feel burned out? What responsibilities feel soul-sucking?

Then apply this to people around you. If you supervise people, this is important to watch for. Open up the conversation. Talk to your direct reports in one-on-ones about what responsibilities and projects make them feel alive and excited and which ones make them feel consistent dread and stress?

Since your team members will have stronger performance by working in their strengths, what can you do to align their work and their thinking with their natural talents?

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are the links to iTunes and Stitcher . You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode — just let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

 

Direct download: weakness-zone-burnout.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Strengths Focus For This Episode

In this episode Lisa answers the question, "If every person has unique gifts, shouldn't they be easier to spot?" She uses the example of her trip to Bratislava, Slovakia, to explain that it's hard to see what's going on in our own heads every day. To help us learn what our strengths are, and the strengths of others, Lisa provides individual and team exercises that are easy to follow. She points out that it's extremely important that you bring out the talents on the team. You can do it by noticing what’s working so that you can get more of what’s already working for you. This notice-and-say-something approach allows you to leverage areas of team potential that bring out your top performance in life and in work.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Here's the video of Lisa telling the Bratislava story as an example of not being able to see things in yourself that stand out to others.

Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths based culture is to offer appreciation of strengths in action. If you'll notice what works, you'll get more of what works because people can replicate what they've already done well. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Here's a Full Transcript of The Show

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 I’m here to help you answer this episode’s question, “Hey, if everyone has unique gifts, wouldn’t they be easy to see?”

This is such an important question. It came from someone at a recent StrengthsFinder training event. She felt totally competent on the job, but she didn’t feel “gifted” in any way. Now, if you’re listening as a people leader or a Strengths champion this is doubly important to tune in to, because it makes your role in strengths-spotting that much more important.

People often can’t see their own strengths. One of the most important roles you have as a manager, or as a leader of a strengths movement, is to develop the talent on your team. There’s so much power in you seeing and unleashing their talents. You can change the course of your team and whether it meets its goals. You can even change the course of your team members’ entire careers - just by being able to tap into their potential.

So let’s back up and get to the why of the original question.

Why Are Talents So Tough To Spot?

The essence of the original question is, “Why are talents so tough to spot?” I experienced an example on a business trip that explains it really well. I went to Bratislava, Slovakia to deliver a training event, and on the way, I needed to pick something up from the store, and I’m noticing, as I’m driving through the city, that cars were double parked and they were blocking each other in. This was something I noticed at first and didn’t think a whole lot of. I just thought, “Oh, maybe someone blocked someone in.”

Then I noticed it was everywhere around the city, or at least everywhere to me. Everywhere I looked, I saw cars blocking each other in. They were stacked two deep all over the place. Pretty quickly I thought, “There’s no way this is an accident, because this is not one rude person blocking another person in. There’s something going on here.”

So, the next morning I go to the event and I asked my host, “Hey, tell me about this thing. I noticed these cars parked this way. How does this work? What if you go into the store to do something fast, like buy a loaf of bread, and then someone blocks you in, but they wanted to shop for one hour? Are you stuck waiting for them for that hour?”

He laughed, because he knew where I was going with that, and he said, “No, no, we have a parking shortage here in Bratislava (and we all drive cars that are standards) so you can leave it in neutral, so that it can roll." Luckily it’s a very flat there so cars won’t roll down a hill. If you were the person who bought the loaf of bread and you came out and you wanted to leave, you would literally go to the car that’s blocking you in...and you would push it with your hands.

Okay, guys, if you’re listening to this, you’re imagining, “Cars are really heavy.” Most of the cars there are pretty small, so you can literally push it with your hands. And, in fact, if you’re being courteous, you might even turn your wheel so that, as it pushes out, the car rolls out nicely into the aisle-way behind it. Isn’t it crazy or what? I love this so much.

This is how they fixed the parking shortage. After you get your car out, you take the car that you pushed out, and you push back into the front slot. Now, as a side note, some of my clients who live in Bratislava, Slovakia today (we have fast-forwarded a few years later) - they said they’re having fewer problems with parking, so you don’t see much of that any longer.

What was so great about that moment is that he said, “Huh, this is funny that you asked me this question because the first time I visited Austin, Texas, where you live, I went to Target. I parked in the parking lot, and I was stunned at how far apart, side to side, the cars would park from each other.” He thought, at first, that it looked rude, because if only they would squish in tighter to each other they could fit so many more cars in the parking lot.

Of course, you know where it’s going here. In Austin, Texas, with this giant expanse of land, we can park far apart. The lines in the parking lot are even designed way further apart than the would be in Bratislava, Slovakia, because we’re trying to be polite and not door-ding each other, because we don’t have the same shortage in parking.

If you’re listening and you’ve been to any other country in the world, you’ve experienced some thing like this where you go somewhere else, and you realize, “Oh, wow, this is really different here. I wonder what’s behind it.” Then you can really see the contrast. You can really see the differences, because it’s something you’re not used to.

Look At Your Talents From Another Point Of View

Well, likewise, this all gets back to the original question of why talents are so tough to spot. It’s because you live in your brain every day. You have to get out, as though you’re in another talent country, to see how different your talents are from theirs. I hear every single day examples of people saying, “Well, yeah, I’m pretty good at that but it’s not anything special. Yeah, that’s just kind-of naturally how I think.”

Catch yourself, and catch people on your team, when they’re making comments like this so that you can make notes that, you know what, that probably is something very special that you have. In fact, it likely doesn’t come easily to other people.

Just like in those moments when I was in Bratislava and I was noticing, “Oh, wow, this is so different here,” and then he was able to show me how Austin, Texas, looked so different, I thought, “Oh, yeah, I can totally see that now but I wouldn’t have noticed it without the contrast.” This is how you, as a team, can get really good at spotting what your greatest talents are, and application on the job if you start spotting them as a team, and you start talking about them with each other. You can really bring out those contrasts that you couldn’t see if you hadn’t been doing it together.

What do you do with all this information? Show this Bratislava video to your team as an example, and then talk about what talents you can see in each other that they can’t see in themselves.

Personal Strengths Scavenger Hunt: You

In the "Self" part of the exercise, go on a personal scavenger hunt and you look for five things this week. Each one is described in more detail below.

Five questions to answer this week:

  1. I've always nerded out on these topics and types of activities:

  2. This comes easily to me, yet not to others (things you do or the way you think):

  3. I get a jolt of energy when I'm:

  4. I lost track of time last time I was:

  5. Someone told me I'm good at:

1) Something you’ve always been into. When you’re noticing these things at work this week, you start to see, “Oh, yeah, this is something that I’ve always had a penchant for.” This item description is a bit informal compared with the rest (in the way that I ask the question). So as an example, I notice that I’ve always been into doing something physical. My first couple of jobs were 100% physical and active. I was a lifeguard and an aerobics instructor in my late teen years. Both were active jobs where I was moving a lot. It’s no surprise that I got into the training field. It’s up, it’s active, and it’s moving around. It’s no surprise that inside of that I like to do a lot of StrengthsFinder activities that get people up and moving around and experiencing something physically. It’s no surprise that when I work, I’m often at a standup desk, or that I’m a drummer in my spare time. So for this first scavenger hunt item, watch yourself in action and go, “Yeah, this is something that I’ve always been into. No wonder it’s showing up like this today.”

2) Something that’s easy for you, but not to others. This is the time when someone goes, “Oh, yeah, you’re so good at that.” Someone makes the comment. Or you notice it in yourself. Even if you notice it in a negative way, give yourself some forgiveness. Even if you notice something really obvious and think, “Okay, what is up with these dum-dums? They can’t think of this thing that was so easy.” Well, that’s something that was probably really easy for you, yet not for others so take note of that. And, of course, don’t tell them that you thought they were dum-dums.

3) Something that energizes you at work. If you get a jolt of, “Oh, yeah, that was a cool moment,” note that. If you feel good after completing a task, or something makes you feel alive and alert, write it down. That’s one of the items in your scavenger hunt.

5-clues-to-talent

4) A moment this week when you lose track of time. You’re in the middle of a project and you have no idea what time it is, or you could get lost in that for eight more hours if you didn’t have a meeting coming up.

5) When someone notices you’re good at something. Now, this one can be really hard because you think, “Well, gosh. What if I work from home, and I don’t have a lot of feedback like that? And I don’t have in-person moments for someone to say that I'm great at something?” Make this as easy as possible, so it can be the slightest comment. Don’t wait for a trophy or an award or something really formal and big.

This can be a tiny moment where someone sends you an email to thank you for a spot-on response to a customer. Or you’re having a phone conversation and someone goes, “Oh, duh, that was so obvious after you brought it to light.” Take that as a clue to your greatness. Someone noticed you’re good at something. They noticed that you had an easy way of thinking about something that they couldn’t see, so take that as a sign that someone noticed something that you’re good at.

These five things align with Gallup’s work on the Five Major Clues to Talent. In the "5 Clues To Talent" image, you're seeing Gallup's version of them. I offered ours in the same order so that each number 1-5 corresponds with theirs.

The Three Things Exercise: Others

The other part of this exercise is getting "Others" focused input. It’s hard to spot talents because they’re right under your nose. It's exactly like the Bratislava example, where you have trouble seeing what's in the "easy-everyday-obvious" category to you. This exercise will help you see things that stand out to others. It's called the Three Things Exercise. This is something that was originally inspired by Dorie Clark. Check out this Dorie Clark episode to get a deeper look at your personal brand. The Three Things Exercise is to get a group of trusted advisors.

This can be something that you do in person with a group of people. Or you can do a few quick phone interviews. Or you can literally post the question in social media. Ask people:

“When you think of me, what are the three words you think of?”

That’s it. “What are the first three words you think of, when you think of me?” You’re going to get adjectives that tell you whether your personal brand and your experience with your talents is the same as how they show up in the world. Now don’t be scared of this exercise. A lot of times I mention it and people say, “Oh, my gosh, I don’t know if I want to hear what people have to say.” So far, to the person, I have had zero people tell me that anyone has ever come back and said anything but positive things. So expect positive words to come back. These are people who care about you and they’re going to share three words that are virtues.

What’s interesting is the trends, so make sure you ask enough people that you can see patterns in their answers. Ten is a great number. If you do it on social media, who knows...you might get 50 answers. But you start to see words that reemerge, and you think, “Aha! You know, this is really part of how I show up in the world, and this might be one of my gifts. I haven't been giving it any credit, because I don’t even notice it’s a thing.”

The bottom line is, it is difficult to see something that comes so naturally and so easily to you. Yet it’s extremely important that you bring these out, that you notice what’s working so that you can get more of what’s working for you. Do this so that you can leverage those areas of your greatest potential. They bring out your top strengths, and your best performance, in life and in work.

The Three Things Exercise: Team

If you’re a leader, I encourage you to do a version of the scavenger hunt or Three Things Exercise with your team. Spotting talents (and telling each other) can be one of the most meaningful, memorable experiences that people have together.

Step 1: Pass out one sheet of printer paper per person. Have each person write his or her name on it (really big in the center with a marker) so that it’ll stand out. After that, you'll be passing them around, and everyone will use a pen on everyone else's sheet. So be sure to have paper, markers, and pens on hand. This works most easily if you're in a big circle around a conference table.

Alternate method: If you don't have tables, you can attach a string and wear your sign on your back. That sounds a little strange to people because wearing a sign on their back often has them associating bad memories from 3rd grade when someone wrote "kick me" on their back, so you'll have to do a strong reframe of what it means to have a sign on your back. As you can guess, if you use that variation, you rotate by walking to the next person rather than passing the paper around.

The rest of the description assumes you're doing this with the standard set up at a conference table.

Step 2: Pass the sheet to the right one time. Have each person write 1-3 words about the person whose name they have in front of them. Write adjectives that describe what you appreciate about that person. Then (this is important), all together...at the same time...all synchronized at once, you pass the paper to the right. Tell them up front that you will do the passing at the same time. Using a timer with a dinging sound can be effective.

Make sure you give people enough time to think of a few words. If you’re asking them to do three words and not just one, you might even tell them in advance so that they can begin thinking of words that describe people that they work with. I mentioned how important it is to pass at the same time, and to set this expectation up front. If you don't, you will have a pile up. A few people will be really fast at this, and they will process people's papers by writing their words and sending them to the next person like it's a speed competition. Then it stresses out the slower people, who stop being thoughtful about what they write because the person beside them is giving them a pile of work.

I’ve seen teams do this activity and then keep the sheets so proudly. In fact, it’s an exercise that I did with a team over 10 years ago, and I still have a piece of paper. The example you see in this post was from about 15 years ago. It still means a lot to me to see the words that people wrote, and they really were great clues to my talents. Also it becomes a memoir for the team and helps you understand what is valued about you as an individual. As a leader, it’s a really great gift you can offer the team.

With that, I hope you’ll take this inspiration and will do some level of this exercise personally or with your team, so that you can help them claim their talents and share them with the world.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

 

Direct download: gifts-tough-to-spot.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Strengths Focus For This Episode

In this episode Lisa answers the question, "Is StrengthsFinder a personality test?" She uses proof from both research data and real-life examples. She shows that StrengthsFinder is actually not a personality test, but instead a performance-based tool.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

To find proof points and stats that can help you make the case for focusing on Strengths at your organization, check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/stats.

Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths based culture is to offer appreciation of strengths in action. If you'll notice what works, you'll get more of what works because people can replicate what they've already done well. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Here's a Full Transcript of The Show

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’ve gotta tell ya: using your strengths at work is one of the most energizing things you can do for your workplace.

Today, the question is whether StrengthsFinder is a personality test. I get this question often. It comes in many forms. Usually, it comes from managers or strengths champions who are asking me a question because they were trying to get strengths to be implemented in a bigger way in their organization, and they got stymied.

It sounds something like this, “Oh, no, not another personality test,” or they take it to get approved and they hear, “Oh, we already had a personality test last year.” Or, somebody says something like, “I’m not sure I’m into these personality tests.”

What Is StrengthsFinder?

It surprises many people to learn that StrengthsFinder is actually not a personality test at all. So, if you’re making a case for rolling out StrengthsFinder or Strengths-focused culture tools, it is nice to know that it is something totally different. It’s actually a performance-based tool.

I’ll give you an explanation of how it’s different from the typical personality test. Then I’ll give you a proof point or two you can use in your workplace. I'll also offer you a way of thinking about this topic to explain the difference between what people do on the job, and how they get it done on the job.

I think this is an important thing to explore when you’re rolling out StrengthsFinder because some workplaces are really focused on the knowledge and skills someone needs to do the job – that’s the what part – but they don’t spend very much time focusing on how people can show up at their very best.

Focusing On Strengths Every Day Increases Productivity

Let’s start with a proof point. If you’re going to do an initiative like StrengthsFinder in your organization, you want proof points like Gallup’s research that shows teams that focus on Strengths every day have 12.5% greater productivity than those who don’t. And, at the end of the show, I’ll give you a bunch more of those, a place where you can find the proof points that are most relevant to your organization and to your situation.

Personality Tests (Assessments) Are Usually Based On The 5-Factor Model

On the personality test question, the thing I think is most important for you to understand is that most of these personality assessments that exist are actually based on the five-factor model that you can learn about when you study psychology. If you have industrial organizational psychologists in your organization, they’ll know all about the five-factor model. Even if you’re not an I/O psychologist, you probably know about these because you’ve heard of DiSC, or Myers Briggs (MBTI), Insights, or Hogan. These are different assessments that are based on the five-factor model. Those 5 factors are things like Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness. Most of those, although not all, throw out the Neuroticism category.

Your CliftonStrengths Are Your Areas Of Greatest Potential

How is this different from StrengthsFinder? The answer is in the study of performance excellence. StrengthsFinder researchers at Gallup studied performance for decades. They discovered Themes that people use to deliver their best performance.

In Gallup’s words, Talent Themes “are the areas in which an individual has the greatest potential for building strength.”

There are 34 of these Talent Themes. When you get your Clifton StrengthsFinder results, you’ll actually see that they’re actually called Talent Themes. To put it in layman’s terms, think of them like easy buttons...easy buttons that people use to approach their goals.

The "What" Part: Knowledge, Skills, Experience

For example, say you lead a marketing department. There’s what you do and then there’s how you do it. In the “what” category, you have things like knowledge and skills and past experiences. Inside of a greater marketing department you have high-level knowledge and skill areas: things like marketing communication, product marketing, demand generation, pricing, etc. Of course, each area can go really deep into sub-level skills.

If you take something like a creative team inside of marketing, they’re going to have really specific knowledge and skill areas: graphic design, color, Adobe InDesign, buyer psychology, all sorts of layers like that.

In those “what” categories (like the ones mentioned above), people are pretty good at understanding what they need to know. Those are easy enough to identify. You can tell when they are present or when they’re not. And you can figure out how to go get those knowledge and skill areas.

The "How" Part: Your Talents - How You Naturally Think, Feel, And Act

The trickier part is “how” every unique human being approaches that job at their very best. This is why, of course, we’re humans and not robots, so we’re a little more complicated. Each person can’t just approach the job in the exact same way and get the same results. As a manager, StrengthsFinder can help you tap into each person’s best performance because it tells you what their easy buttons are, or “how” they can uniquely get that job done at their best.

If you manage that same team of creative pros, you’ll see they’re reaching their best output when you can get it done through their talents. For example, someone who leads through the Futuristic Talent Theme will want to know where that specific marketing campaign is going to take the company and the customer so that they can align to that.

If you contrast that with somebody who has the Maximizer Talent, they’re on the same creative team and they have to get the same job done, but you may find that they’re totally focused on something else. They’re over there trying to reuse some video footage so that you can get more out of something that already exists. Or they’re off creating actions in your Adobe InDesign software to save time on repetitive tasks - to free them up to get more time in their creative headspace.

You can see that within this same job, you can have two people who are off in their own worlds doing very different things, but those very different things are the things that put them at their best. This is how your StrengthsFinder Talent Themes, once you know them, can really help you unleash their easy buttons to perform at your best. Of course, as a people manager, this is like magic once you learn each of these things about your team members, because you can understand how to put them in that environment to get them at their very best.

StrengthsFinder Is An Assessment Built On Performance and Potential

To bring this episode all together, StrengthsFinder, in fact, is not a personality test. It is an assessment that was built on the study of performance and potential. If you want to look up, specifically for you and your organization, proof points that will be most supportive of the objectives you have in your organization, check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/stats. You’ll see a page that has dozens of proof points and stats that can help you make the case for this in your organization.

A final note, if you’re listening as a people manager or a strengths champion, one of the reasons I think it’s important to answer this question about personality test is that I also see, when people take personality tests or surveys or assessments, (whatever you choose to call them), on the receiving end of them, your employees are often guarded about the conversations that follow.

They are nervous that you’re going to come up with labels for them. They might have had some experiences in the past where they’ve been put into a box about how they are, or who they are as people.

Depending on who you have on your team, you might have to do some work in explaining how StrengthsFinder is framed: that it is focused on those areas of their greatest potential. Usually they see it very quickly and they’re super psyched because you’re talking about what makes them great.

When I do StrengthsFinder training programs, I don’t find many resistors to the process (like I did when I facilitated programs based on personality assessments). It’s one reason why I love StrengthsFinder so much. But coming into it, many people don’t know this, and they don’t know how it is all going to be framed up or applied on the job.

Depending on how they’ve been used in your organization in the past, or if you sense that somebody is a little hesitant about all of this kind of stuff, it’s helpful to share how the point of going through the process with StrengthsFinder is to find their greatest area of potential so that you can unleash their strengths at work.

If you do this in a way that shows you, as a leader, are being supportive of them, and putting them at their best and that, in fact, when you’re using your strengths at work you feel more ease and energy and enjoyment on the job, most people pretty quickly go, “Okay. I’ll give this thing a chance.”

Luckily, in my experience, the hesitant people have been a very small slice of the population. I would say, anecdotally, more than 95% of people in any given room or organization come in pretty excited about the future when we do StrengthsFinder or Strengths-based process.

In fact, one guy recently said,

“Oh, my gosh, that StrengthsFinder report was full of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me.”

I thought he summed up really well - people’s reaction to it when they first get exposed to StrengthsFinder, and how it can explain what puts you at your very best.

With that, I hope this helps you as you make the case to bring a Strengths-focused culture to your organization. From here, I hope you’ll take this information and use it to help people in your company claim their talents and share them with the world.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

 

Direct download: 047-personality-test.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Austin, TX StrengthsFinder Training for Leaders

Strengths Focus For This Episode

In this episode Lisa answers the question, "Should you stop using natural talents that cause you trouble at work?" The short answer is no. The talent, or combination of talents, that's causing you trouble is your natural talent. No matter what you do to squash it, it will pop out somehow and scare people. It's much better to work to find other ways to utilize that troublesome talent. Lisa provides two different exercises for you: one for you as an individual, and one for your team.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

If you or your team hasn't completed the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment, you will find the list of adjectives on our website useful for the exercises in this episode.

Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths based culture is to offer appreciation of strengths in action. If you'll notice what works, you'll get more of what works because people can replicate what they've already done well. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Here's a Full Transcript of The Show

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 ya, using your strengths is one of the most energizing things you can do on the job. Today's question and topic is about what to do when your strengths are making trouble for you. I know it sounds completely backwards, but there's this concept I call troublemaker talents. What happens is that sometimes your greatest strengths, your talent themes, if you will, (if you're doing this from a strengths finder lens), they can sometimes be overused, underused, misapplied. They can be unrefined if you've been ignoring them, or squashing them down. Let me give you an example. You have someone with the Includer talent and he says, “You know, I don't like my Includer. When I saw that on the list, I wanted to give it back because it makes me too slow.”

It makes me miss deadlines because I'm always getting everyone's opinion and I put the word out. I ask the question, I go one on one. People ask me for more time, and by the time I get everyone's input on something, I'm already behind schedule. Another one I've heard recently in a big corporate training was a woman with the Communication talent who said, “you know, I don't see this one as a strength at all. I get told I talk too much.” I can also give you my personal example. It's my Maximizer and Strategic. They come in together like a one-two troublemaking punch, and it's me always tweaking things. I'm always trying to make them better, but this concept of me never being done, also sometimes means me never sleeping. On the surface, all of those things I just mentioned, yes, they are real troubles.

The thing is though, you can't just get the effect you're having on the surface and decide to squash it down, and stamp it out and say, “Oh, that one's not serving me. I don't want it anymore,” because remember, your natural talents are patterns in you. They’re how you think, feel, behave at your natural default so they're gonna come out. It's like the jack in the box. Do you remember that toy that you might have had when you were a little kid, and you push this toy down into the box, close the lid, and you start turning the crank and you hear that “Du, De, Du, Du, Du, Du, Du, Du, Du, Du Du Du Du Du Du to BAM! Then that thing jumps out and scares you when you least expect it. Your talents are really just like that. If you squash them down because you think, “ah, my boss doesn't seem to like that one.”

“Ooh, I got bad feedback on that one once, so I don't want that one. I'll just put that one away.” Or you stamp it down, because you don't perceive that the culture you work in is appreciative of that talent, so you decide, “I'll just use that one at home. I’ll use that one at work.” These are all things I hear in training constantly, but the thing is it's kinda like the jack in the box. If you try to squash out those talents, they are going to jump out and scare people, because they're your natural default ways of thinking and feeling and acting, so they're going to come out. Since they're going to come out, what you want to do is spend more time refining it, nurturing it, putting it to work, send it to the gym, get others aware. Think about how that talent shows up on other people.

It really will help you invest in it, in a targeted way. For example, you take that person who mentioned that about the Communication talent. Imagine how refined it would be, if she knows who is willing to talk it out loud. She likes to talk it out. She knows the audience of people who love to talk it out with her. She can do that. But she also needs to be aware of those peers who perceive it like a waste of time because they don't like ideas that aren't well thought out. So part of it is knowing your audience. Another thing she could do is really think about different modes where she could practice her Communications talent - email, spoken word, written word. Maybe she's getting this feedback because she was taking over in meetings, and not letting anyone else have a voice. So we're taking one situation (meetings) and one mode of communication (the spoken word) and she just decided, oh, I don't want this talent at all. It’s not serving me.

Actually, she has all these other ways of applying it and refining it. You take the other example that I brought up with a guy who has the Includer talent. It was making him slow; it was making him miss deadlines,because in his way of applying it naturally, he was asking people for their opinion, but he wasn't giving them any time binding around his question. He would throw something out there in person or in an email and tell them he wanted to hear their voice, but he didn't give them a deadline. Something really specific here when he asks, now that he's refining it, he's still noticing people. He's still getting the unheard voices to be heard. He's still making people feel seen and heard and appreciated, but now he gives them deadlines, so he can also meet his commitments.

The other thing that he's been doing is running experiments for in-the-moment Includer. When he's in a meeting and he notices, everyone's spoken up except these two people, now he can say, “you know, John, we haven't heard from you, what do you think?” He started to give himself some script items that we haven't heard from you. What do you think? It's a great way to be able to feed the talent, without discarding it altogether. Don't squash them; refine them. Action item for you to apply. Now you're listening. You of course have your own personal set of talent themes, or natural strengths, that you bring to this world.

StrengthsFinder Activity: Experiment With New Ways To Use Your Talents

What's your troublemaker talent, or what is your combination of talents that kind of team up to create trouble, like I mentioned, my Maximizer and Strategic? Then, once you think of your personal answer, what experiments can you run to try them on in new ways? Remember, it's not an either/or. It's not that your strengths, or your talents, need to be turned on or off. Keep giving them new environments to play in, because the more you nurture them and experiment with them, and try them on and aim them to specific performance, the more refined they're going to be.

StrengthsFinder Activity: Work As A Team To Use Talents

Now, if you want to apply this at a team level because you're a strengths champion or you're a people manager who is awesome, here's an activity that you can do with the team.

Give everyone around the table a blank sheet of paper and then write down their troublemaker talent on that piece of paper at the top, like a title. If you've done StrengthsFinder, that would be one of your StrengthsFinder talent themes. If you haven't done StrengthsFinder then one resource on our website, you could use LeadThroughStrengths.com/adjectives, and that page gives you a bunch of words that might describe you as a person, and you can have people go through an additional exercise before you come to the meeting, where they get two or three words that define them most strongly, and usually each of those words, even though there are positively framed, they're going to have the great side of them, and they also might bring a shadow side with them.

It'll take a little extra work if you haven't done StrengthsFinder, but you can get there by reframing it into the troublemaker, out of that adjective list. Back to the sheet of paper, where you have your thing written at the top. For example, it might say Responsibility is the troublemaker talent for this person on your team. Then, they write one sentence about the trouble it's causing them; what is the pain? For example, if you had the responsibility talent, it might say, “I can't say no.” If you're leading this exercise, be sure you've thought of your own in advance so that you can model for them what yours sounds like. You can use the example I just used, and then you give your own as well, and then they'll see how to make a nice crisp problem statement.

Then what you do, just pass it to the right one time. Of course they know who it came from, because it came from the person sitting right next to them, and as it gets passed you asked for the person who receives it to come up with one way you could address the situation while still honoring the talent That part, while still honoring the talent, is important because if you pass the Responsibility paper over and the person writes, “just say the word NO,” that's not going to work for someone with the Responsibility talent, but maybe the person next to them writes something like “next time you feel yourself needing to set a boundary and having a tough time with it, imagine the other commitments this will put at risk if you say YES.”

That's more of a thinking exercise. The next person might give a different tip, but it still honors the Responsibility talent and they give them a script, some words that they might use, that would feel comfortable for someone with the Responsibility talent. So they might say something like, “next time you feel like you want to say no, but you can't find the words. Tell them, ‘Ooh, that project sounds really valuable. Let me look at my calendar and review all of my commitments and I'll get back to you by tomorrow.’” Essentially they're offering a stalling tactic, so that they can get their head together and find the right words and the right approach instead of just saying yes in the moment, so you get where I'm going here. The idea is to give the person ideas that can solve this challenge while still honoring the talent.

If you know all of your talent themes, what can be really cool with StrengthsFinder, to make this even more layered and get people learning the StrengthsFinder talent themes and get them to really honor the person, is to write all five of their talent themes in a corner and then do the same thing I already mentioned, so that when you see the person with Responsibility also has Command, also has Includer, also has Connectedness, also has Individualization. Then, you can give an answer that is, Ooh, look, this person has Individualization, so in this way the person with Responsibility would probably find it important to give a custom answer to every person who asks for something from them, so you could give them something like a formula for finding the words we're saying no, but that also allows it to be customized to the person who's receiving it, so that's the exercise. I like passing it to the right three times because you get three different layers of answers and then you send it back to the original person, and it just gives them a way of thinking about the world that isn't in their typical mind-frame. It's a nice way to help them brainstorm some potential solutions and see how other people view the same situation at work.

A final thought on troublemaker talents is to remember there's not an on and off switch as the right answer here because something's not serving you today. Don't shut it off, squash it down, stamp it out. The idea is to refine what you have. It's gonna come out anyway, like a jack in the box. It will jump out and scare people if you choose to not invest in it. So with that, I'll see you next time and I can't wait to hear how you've claimed that talent invested in it and shared it with the world.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

 

Direct download: 046-talents-causing-trouble.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Strengths Focus For This Episode

In this episode Lisa clearly answers the question, "Is there proof that strengths focused development works?" First, she presents a case study. It's research from the University of Nebraska that proves focusing on strengths yields better ROI than training yourself in your weakness zone. Second, she offers the metaphor of a fish and a cat to bring the point alive.

Resources of the Episode

You'll find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Lisa also mentions this classic book by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson, Soar with Your Strengths: A Simple Yet Revolutionary Philosophy of Business and Management

Strengths Tools

One of the best ways leaders can build a strengths based culture is to offer appreciation of strengths in action. If you'll notice what works, you'll get more of what works because people can replicate what they've already done well. On our home page, you can download this awesome tool that offers you 127 easy ideas for recognizing your team. Scroll down and look for the box that says "Great Managers Notice What Works".

Here's a Full Transcript of The Show

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 cover the question, “Is there proof that strengths-based development works?” If you're considering StrengthsFinder or strengths-based development, strengths based culture in your organization. This comes up pretty often. People say, “Hey, if I'm going to move away from this thing that you call a lopsided obsession with weakness fixing, I want to know is it actually going to work?” What I have for you today is 1) a proof point through a case study...some actual research...and then 2) the other is a metaphor because it's a really clear way of thinking and making it obvious that strengths-based development is the way to amplify performance on the job. First, for your proof point, some researchers at the University of Nebraska did a study to quantify the effects of what it is like when you invest in your strengths, versus when you invest in something that you're just average in.

They did this test with the topic of speed-reading. They brought people in off the streets and subjected them to this speed-reading test, and at the end of the speed-reading test, they divided the subjects into two groups. Group 1: they were naturally talented at it. Group 2: they were average at the skill. The average people read 90 words per minute and the naturally talented people read 350 words per minute in this is the first round with no training. Just imagine bringing you in off the street and testing you on how fast you can read. Next, after that first round: they offered the same training to all subject. What they were going to look for, of course, is the answer to the question: "Can the naturally talented people use the same training to amplify their performance at a better pace than those who didn't have the natural talent?"

Well imagine this is very much like work. You see people come in to the same job, but they have different background, skills, talents, knowledge, experience. You see that one person really takes to the job easily. And another person - they don't ramp up as fast, and the work is not intuitive to them. They're slower at it and it never feels quite right for them.

045-proof-point

Now, back to the study. All the subjects were given the same training and in the second round, after this training, those average participants, who started out only being able to read 90 words per minute, made some improvements. They went up to a 150 words per minute. This is very much like what you see on the job. You bring in people from off the street. You say, “Hey, you're going to go through the phone rep training and everybody's going to go through the same thing, and everybody who tries hard is going to improve.”

So, as expected, these subjects got better. They made a 66% improvement in their performance. That's great. It did something, yet the first piece of insight here is if you remember back to a minute ago...I said the naturally talented group already read 350 words per minute in their first round. So they already beat the trained (average) people right there. That's an interesting insight because you see how your natural talents can help you perform, even when you've never been trained in something. Now, the real magic in this story, in this case study is what happened to the people who were naturally talented. That group improved 828%. So if you ever hear me talk about your triple-digit-performance-improvement-shortcut being strengths, this is what I'm talking about. They went from 350 words per minute to 2900 words per minute with the same training as the other people.

One group of people improved to get to 150. The other group of people improved to get to 2900. You've seen this in the workplace, if you've looked around. You have the same people with the same training exposure, and you see very different performance levels. With those performance levels, you can see high performers who try really hard, but you can also see low performers who try really hard and they're just not getting it because it's not in their zone of genius, so there's the proof point for you: 828% performance improvement for that group of people who focused on what they were already naturally talented in. Now I mentioned that I would give you a proof point and then I would also offer you a metaphor that demonstrates it I think had a real guttural kind of level like, yes, this is how we should be thinking.

So there is a book put out by Donald Clifton and the Gallup organization called Soar With Your Strengths. Now this is an older book and it's actually a fable. It has a really good metaphor in there about taking an animal and sending it to training in something that it’s not good at. I'm going to extend the metaphor and do the Lisa version of it. It's a little bit silly, but this way if you read the book, you can still get something out of it, so imagine this. Imagine you're going to work and at work you have a fish, and at work you have a cat, and it's been a year into their experience at work and you say,

“Fish, it's time for the performance review and I’ve gotta tell ya, we've had you on that responsibility of mouse catching and you've been doing a really cruddy job at catching mice. We're going to really focus in, we're behind you, we want you to be successful, so we're going to spend the next year putting you through a training program so you can be really good at mouse catching. Fish, you're going to go to mouse-catching school."

"Now, Cat, time for your performance review. Gotta tell ya, you did great at mouse catching, but you've also had that responsibility of swimming and you know every time we put you near the pool...you scream...you scratch. You’ve got people in the HR office because their faces are all cut up when they're trying to throw you in the pool. It's been a real nightmare. We want you to be successful though. We're going to send you through a year long training program to make you a great swimmer."

soar with your strengths metaphor - try to get a fish to climb a tree

Ok, so got my weird HR conversation here and you can imagine how ridiculous it would be to spend a year trying to teach a fish to catch a mouse and how ridiculous it would be to get a cat to swim. But if you flip that around and send that fish to swimming school and make it the best fish on the planet, you can see what would happen. Oh yeah! That's its natural tendency and that's what it was made to do. Same thing with a cat. It's made to catch a mouse.

This is something that of course it's not as easy and clear with human beings what they were born to do and we're a lot more complicated because we've probably been squashing a lot of those things out of ourselves and hiding them and it's more difficult to make them apparent. But even the notion that you as yourself or that you as a people manager are looking for the genius in that other person that is exactly the path that's going to unleash performance in the organization. So get your fish in fish school. That's the big lesson.

StrengthsFinder Activity: Conversation With Your Team

Now let's talk application. As you listen to this audio and think about yourself personally, think of a time when you learned something new and it came really easily to you...more easily than that same thing would come to most people. If you make yourself think of 5 or 10 of these types of things, you're going to see some trends. You can extend those trends into your current role and think, “all right, if this stuff comes naturally to me, then how can I extend that into my current job?” If you want to apply the same question at a team level because you're a people manager or you're a strength champion (and awesomely) you are bringing this to a bigger conversation, then you can answer the question by going around the table and having a chat about it.

For example, somebody says, “OK, you know, every time we have to learn new software, it is just so easy for me. I don't even know why user manuals exist. I don't know why help screens exists. I can't believe they have to be built out in such detail, because it's just obvious to me how it's going to work.”

Maybe another person in a sales role says, “you know, you're doing a new initiative on storytelling,” and when that gets launched, the person is like, “Yeah! That seems easy and fun. This is how you want me to sell. Okay, no problem. Forget those other models we've been talking about. This is what I've been wishing for all along.”

Or, maybe you have someone in a project management role and they say, “you know, I can really spot the dependent tasks, I mean like nobody's business...even when the rest of the team can't see the connections. They're oblivious to some of these things that are really connected to each other and are going to make the critical path, and others have to experience the whole thing to realize that some of those steps were connected and that they matter.

That's the start of the question as a team, and then of course the magic isn't just knowing that something in the past happened. Then, the next part of the question is:

“How do we amplify this talent? If this is something you're naturally gifted in, how do we get you more of that? How can we get more of your genius on display at work?”

That makes a great team conversation. Based on the size of your team, you can spend however much or little time you have for this. I'd recommend allocating about 5 minutes a person, so it might be a 30 minute conversation, but if you only have 5 total minutes to spare at the beginning of a team meeting, ask people to submit the answer to you in advance. Put it in a spreadsheet. Collect it before you show up in the meeting so that you've done the first-level work in advance.

Then when you get in the room, it's 5 minutes of, "Here we go. Rapid fire. How can we amplify this stuff?" And then you can take it further in the time that you're actually in person together.

Okay, with that, you have a new question. Hopefully you have a newfound appreciation for how strengths based development really does work - how it does amplify your performance more than an obsession with weakness-fixing would. Now you have some questions to discuss as a team, and some things to think about on your own so you can amplify your own performance at work, and the performance of those around you.

So with that, I'll leave you until next time. Thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths. To find more strengths-focused tools, go out to our website at LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources. There's a whole host of documents and videos and things that you can do to apply this on your team. I'll see you next time.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Direct download: 44-proof-strengthsfinder-works.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:00am CDT

Thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths! Remember, using your strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. If you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents. And share them with the world. 

If you want some strengths-focused tools to use with your team at work, also check out leadthroughstrengths.com/resources - there are a bunch of tools related to StrengthsFinder, strengths-focused leadership, and on noticing what works so you can get more of what works.

Direct download: 044-announcement.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa chats with Cheikh Tall, Maya Tremelling, and a Project Director at FHI 360. Their amazing company is working in 70 countries to find cures for many of the world's deadliest diseases, provide water for villages in Africa, and promote the health and well-being of all people.

In this special episode, you'll hear how FHI 360 has built a strengths-based team, while nurturing a strong company culture. You'll learn about these 10 ideas:

  1. Charity Cube
  2. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
  3. Focus On The People
  4. Offer Awesome Grants
  5. Randomized Coffee Trials
  6. Thank You Cards
  7. Now Awards
  8. Annual Awards
  9. Leaders Set The Tone
  10. Creative Work Schedules

[caption id="attachment_3508" align="alignleft" width="400"] FHI 360's Awesome Mission[/caption]

Meet the interviewees (see photos below):

Cheikh's Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Maximizer, Adaptability, Achiever, Responsibility, Deliberative (such a great fit for getting a financial analyst in the zone!)

Maya's Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Positivity, Includer, Woo, Developer, Harmony (what a beautiful set of relationship talents to bring to a records management role!)

Lisa’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode

You can connect with the FHI 360 team through their website, Twitter, and their interesting and informative blog.

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our ="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://leadthroughstrengths.com/resources&source=gmail&ust=1487264698482000&usg=AFQjCNHUtPcayNXycHfGq_r2Crj5sPIU7w">Strengths Resources page.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa: You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where YOU'LL learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. [music break]

I’m your host, Lisa Cummings—and I gotta tell ya, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself…it’s hard to find something more **ENERGIZING** and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

Today, you’ll hear a special episode, where I’m onsite in the Raleigh Durham area of North Carolina. I’m with an organization called FHI 360. They do work in 70 countries, and wow...talk about bringing out the best in humanity…

I was onsite, delivering a StrengthsFinder program to their Global Leadership Team. They came from all over the world and, man, we got to apply the concept of strengths to [00:01:00] suuuuch a wide range of job responsibilities.

We had research scientists, we had country directors, we had clinical operations leaders, and we had people whose career mission is to cure malaria. We had leaders who devoted their entire lives to getting clean drinking water to villages in Africa.

It was amazing, and their organizational culture really stuck me.

It feels different (in a special way) when you walk in their building. So [00:01:30] I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to chat with some of their team members about what makes this organization so special.

Now, bear with us. The audio on this episode is not as good as our usual standard. We’re on site, in a common space, with four of us on one centralized microphone. The setup was not ideal for your ear buds, yet we made it work on the fly.  And, even with the extra fuzz and distance in your ears, you’ll absolutely benefit by listening to their creative tips and culture-building ideas.

In just a sec, they’ll start giving you 10 specific ideas you can borrow for YOUR work culture. If you find it tough to follow who is talking (because there are 4 of us), take a glance over at leadthroughstrengths.com/listen. When you see the podcast episode art with three faces, you’ll know you found them. We added photos of each person throughout the show notes - so I think you’ll love checking out those visuals (we even have some that show the 10 tips in action). That page also includes each person’s StrengthsFinder talent themes, so it might be fun for you to spot their natural talents as you hear how they describe their ideas.

We kick it off with . She jumps right in with their [00:03:00] Charity Cube idea. Here she is, giving you a cool use for the empty cubicle in your office!

Project Director: Hi,  I'm a project director. My favorite thing about working here or one cool thing I look forward to is an initiative we have called the Charity Cube. It's an empty cube that we use as a mini-thrift store to raise funds [00:03:30] for charities that are nominated by our staff.

Sometimes it will be a charity that our staff cares about, local or national, or sometimes it'll be something thathas personal significance to someone, right? Now for example, this month, the funds raised through the Charity Cube are going to the Leukemia Society because one of our colleagues lost her husband recently to leukemia, so it's raising money in honor of him.

Lisa: I can already tell it's something of meaning here. Tell me a little bit [00:04:00] about what that cube looks like. If you walk up to that cube, what do you see? Because I imagine almost everybody listening has an empty cube somewhere around the office and they want to do this. What does that look like?

Project Director: Sure. We invested in a portable clothing rack. I think a company called Neatfreak makes it. We have clothes hanging there. We ask people to only bring in really nice stuff. We usually have some shoes and purses. There are books, CDs and DVDs [00:04:30]. Knickknacks. People bring in all kinds of things. Some things we wish they didn't, but usually what happens is the good stuff is gone in a second. What's left over is the stuff that nobody wants, so once a month, we get volunteers to come clean it out and to purge it, then we start over. We've raised $5,000 in the Charity Cube.

We've been doing it two years and each month, it's a different charity and [00:05:00] staff nominates it. It's fun. It needs to be placed somewhere strategic. Our Charity Cube is placed right next to the canteen, so everyone who's going to warm up their lunch stops by. It's an honor system. There's a moneybox. People put in the cash and once a month, we add up all the money and send it to a charity.

Lisa: It's like a little retail store in a cube. I wasn't even imagining it at first.

Project Director: Yeah. It manages itself, for the most part.

Lisa: And anybody listening to this could implement something like that. They don't have to be a people [00:05:30] manager to do that. That can be anyone who wants to demonstrate leadership and do something meaningful. Ooh. Maya, this is a lot to live up to. What kind of cool thing do you love here?

Maya: My name is Maya Tremelling [00:05:43]. I'm responsible for record management and I’ve worked for FHI for almost nine years. What I like most about working in this company are the people.

Lisa: Let's talk about relationships for a second and what happens when you're so far away. I talk to more and more people at companies, organizations everywhere that have remote employees all over the place. Your tightest knit team might not be anywhere near you, so how do you ... This answer could be for anyone even though, Cheikh, you haven't been able to introduce yourself yet. How do you stay connected like that relationship-wise when you're not physically seeing each other?

Cheikh: The ERG.

Maya: Yeah, ERG. I don't know if you heard of them [00:06:29].

Lisa: Employee Resource Groups?

Cheikh: Employee [00:06:30] Resource Group. Yes.

Lisa: Yes. Talk about them.

Cheikh: And then people that share…

Project Director: Common interests.

Maya: We have so many groups. Maybe I can talk for “Tapioca” [00:06:38], which is Asian people, but people who care about Asia also can join. You don't need to be Asian to join. We have really good causes too, like fundraising. We celebrate New Year's for all the countries in Asia. We have potlucks. Being away from our countries can feel lonely, but it feels like we are family here. It's just nice.

Lisa: Yeah, so you mentioned Tapioca. You mentioned Young Professionals. Is that an Employee Resource Group?

Maya: Yes.

Lisa: What are some other ones?

Maya: Africa.

Project Director: Working parents.

Cheikh: I think a bicycle group.

Lisa: Bicycle?

Cheikh: They have a bunch of bicycles. Yeah.

Project Director: Yeah. We have a bicycle one, working parents. Oh, Toastmasters, public speaking, Africa, Asia. Military veterans? [00:07:25] Oh, a fitness one that does yoga and meditation.

Lisa: It's as if you find a special connection point, you could make one of these.

Project Director: Sure. You can propose it.

Cheikh: The last one is a women’s group.

Project Director: Oh, yeah. The women's group? Yeah.

Cheikh: I attended that one [smiles].

Project Director: That's awesome. Good for you [cheerful crosstalk].

Lisa: Okay, so now people have sort of met you.

Cheikh: Yes.

Lisa: Tell them who you are and one of the cool things you love about working here.

Cheikh: My name is Cheikh Tall [00:07:52]. I've been with FHI for about a year. The purpose for me to join FHI was the work that FHI was doing. I was just sitting at my old job - just working and I guess it wasn't meaningful to me. It wasn't about the money, it's about what I want to do personally. I think working here - and the work that FHI is doing, that's one of the main things that I like about working here.

Lisa: Yeah. I think people listening to this will almost feel like you [00:08:30] have an advantage because when you're in a company like this, that is so mission driven and so out for humanity and what the world could become, you certainly (on the purpose and meaning part) have something special.

Let's just say you're a manager listening to this and they work in a manufacturing company. They're making widgets and you're trying to figure out - how do you tap into meaning? You've obviously had this experience when you didn't feel that connection. [00:09:00] Do you think that connection can be made when it's a hardware product or something like that?

Cheikh: Yes. I think it's good to take time to understand what somebody's motivation is. It's important to tap into that motivation and keep that person going.

Lisa: If you just asked one question to try to get at somebody's motivation, what would that thing be?

Project Director: Whenever I work with someone that I don't know, I make sure that the very first meeting has nothing to do with work. That it's [00:09:30] just about getting to know each other and understanding. You don't want to make people say things that they're not comfortable sharing, but just opening a dialogue for people to share what they're comfortable with about their life and their family and where they went to school or what books they love, what music they love, what their hobbies are, so that you can build trust. I think in order to be able to be on a team and have healthy conflict about ideas, you have to trust each other. In order to build trust, you have to know something about the person [00:10:00] beyond their name and their title.

Lisa: It doesn't cost any money, either. That's a great one, Project Director, for that.

Project Director: Exactly. You do it over lunch. You go out, "Hey, I'm so glad we're working together. Can we go and grab lunch?" You just talk about life and each other. Also in keeping that feeling going and building that relationship too, a lot of times, we work with people that are overseas.

I had a team that was all in Kenya. We did so much better, we were so much more engaged when we were on video, rather than when we were on the phone. As much as we could, we did Skype and video calls more than just being on the phone. When you're on the phone and someone could be doing something else and it's too passive. When you're on video, you have to really focus.

So yeah, using video and just keeping a personal relationship just when you start meeting like, "How's everything going with you guys? How's your family?" You know what their kids are doing. "How's soccer going?" or something. "How's your garden going? You grow tomatoes. Do you have any tomatoes yet?" Just to have ahuman connection and not be so boring about work, because things can get boring sometimes.

Lisa: [00:11:00] It's big. People say, "Oh, you're not focusing on work", but you're focusing on work by focusing on the people that do the work, so you have to have that piece.

Cheikh: Adding to that, I might be an introvert sometimes. I don't like to talk. I just sometimes just keep it business as usual.

Lisa: Perfect for having someone on a video right now, right? [sarcasm] “Let's do an in public interview with someone to make him feel really uncomfortable.”

Cheikh: I've been working with my manager for a while. She can tell by how I react if I'm excited about something or not. She knows that I like to be challenged. If a new challenge comes up, she can see the excitement in me. I think paying attention to the non-verbal action of people pays a lot. They can't help unless they are 100% sure what motivates that person.

Lisa: I like how practical your ideas are. You were talking about the fact that someone can read you [00:12:00] and know. The same thing applies with anybody that you're working with whether they're your direct report or a colleague who's a peer. If you get to know each other at those informal lunches and they know, "Oh, you want a little more time to think about things" or "Don't put me under pressure to speak in the moment" or "Now I can see that eye twitch means that's a good thing". All those little signs.

Project Director: One of the things that I love about FHI is HR has set aside funds and resources for employees to come up with [00:12:30] ideas. We have the Awesome grant: give us an idea that's awesome that you can do for $1,000 and we'll consider it. Everyone can submit his or her ideas. One of the Awesome grants was to get some bicycles that employees can check out and go for lunch, go ride into downtown and grab a coffee or a lunch.

HR, it's not tons of money, but it's very encouraging to feel like your ideas are valued and for HR to say, "We want to know what ..." [00:13:00] The Awesome grants are about the culture. $1,000 projects to make our culture better. I love that HR is thinking that way because that's creative and it's not expensive. It's pretty easy. The staff is doing all the work. They're coming up with an idea they're implementing.

Lisa: And executing. I hear that and I think if someone said, "Oh, we don't have that. We have $100", you could do an Awesome grant with $100. That's cool.

Paige Winn (cameo appearance): Do you guys know about the randomized coffee trials?

Maya: Yeah. Every [00:13:30] month, people who register to be part of it will get an invite. They match us with other people and we can have talking and it's just having a coffee or tea or even lunch if you want. I meet most of the time with someone new that I never met before. It's really good because we are such a big company. So many new people - we benefit.

Lisa: Yeah. Say more about how this actually works. You're an employee and I'm imagining [00:14:00] it could be something like networking and I just want to meet someone in whatever department?

Maya: Yes.

Lisa: Networking, mostly? Does it happen through software or how does this happen?

Maya: It's just an email.

Project Director: It's part of the Awesome thing. Someone manages it. They get all the names of people and then they use random matching and send out emails.

Cheikh: Usually the people that they match are in the same department.

Project Director: Yeah.

Cheikh: We end up being matched to somebody who is doing something totally different than your area of work, so you can talk about projects you’re working on.

Project Director: The ones that I've been in, we talk about work some and what kind of projects you're doing and what excites you about what's coming down the pike.

Maya: Most of the time. Yeah.

Project Director: "Where did you come from? Who are you?" It's all the employees who schedule it and reschedule it if you need to cancel. That's your gig. They just tell you whom you're matched to and then you can take it and run.

Lisa: You're hitting [00:15:00] on an enormously important concept. I talk a lot with managers about individualizing to each person and what makes them tick.

Project Director: One thing I really appreciate is that we get handed out stationary that is a thank you note. It has a logo and it says 'We are FHI'. You get those and when someone does something that you appreciate or helps you out, you can send them a handwritten thank you note. I have handwritten thank you [00:15:30] notes from people in leadership that mean so much. The power of that is just so real and wonderful. We can do that to each other. We also have an ability to nominate people for awards.

Cheikh: Yeah. The Now Award.

Project Director: On an ongoing basis, we have a Now Award, which is just someone helped you out. It can be a $10 gift card or $20, whatever. Once a year, then we have the big award. They take nominations from around, many, many offices around [00:16:00] the world. It's nice. There's a ceremony and people get to tell their story. You hear why people got this award and they give it to teams. It's not about individual accomplishments, it's about team accomplishment and project accomplishment. That's awesome because then you're really creating a culture that values teamwork.

Cheikh: Also, what I like especially about the Now Award is that it is something that you get from peers. You're working next to each other.

Maya: Right. In the same department.

Cheikh: It doesn't come from the top leader. [00:16:30] My direct manager or my direct coworkers are the ones that can nominate me. Just getting an award from them means a lot because they are the people that you interact with all the time, and they see you putting in the work. The direct manager knows what I'm doing every day. Getting recognition from them sometime means a lot.

Lisa: As I was listening to your answers, I was thinking about how that gave people a [00:17:00] big, bigger, biggest option where thank you cards, recognition cards can be big, Now Awards can be bigger, the team impact thing, the biggest. But that something as simple as a peer recognition getting a handwritten note whether it's from a peer, even an email, that it's big.

It's a big meaning to you even though it's a small easy action to take. Anybody can keep a stack full of blank cards at their desk to recognize peers, even if their company doesn't [00:17:30] provide something. Okay. Closing thought. It's a simple question, yet a deep question. What do you know about team dynamics today that you didn't know five years ago?

Project Director: I don't know if I didn't know it five years ago, but I certainly know now that the leader sets the tone. I'm on a team now where the leader will send out a message [00:18:00] and it's completely heartfelt. "This morning I woke up and there was a beautiful sunrise and I was on my run. I was just thinking about how much we've accomplished in the last month, and how hard you guys have worked, and how much I appreciate it. I'm just thankful that you all are my team."

He's setting the tone. He's setting the tone and then that becomes the tone of the team. I think it goes all the way up to our CEO. We have a CEO suggestion box. You can say anything you want in the suggestion box. Anything. [00:18:30] He will respond publicly unless it's private, if it's an HR issue that is private.

He sets the tone for communication. That would be my nugget: the leader sets the tone. It's your responsibility to set the tone for your team. If there's gnarly-ness going on in your team, you have to not just want to blame it on them but look inward and accept some responsibility. How do I turn this around? What can I do? Instead of just saying, "All those people are hopeless." I [00:19:00] believe it comes from the top.

Lisa: It takes a lot of small interactions to make that openness happen, so that's a really good lesson.

Project Director: You know one thing we didn't talk about, but I think is really great, is that I only work 60% of the time. That's a choice that I made, so that I cannot make my kids eat TV dinner every day, right?

Lisa: Ooh, it is a big one.

Project Director: I work less and I make less money, but I still know, and I think most people here know, that you don't get all this [00:19:30] stuff. Culture is not going to just ... someone else is going to create it. You have to put the time in even though I'm only working 60%, but I put the time in for the Charity Cube. We put the time in for the ERGs. We do it because we know that it's our responsibility. We get to own whether this place is awesome to work at or not. It's everybody's responsibility and we all chip in, don't we?

Maya: Yeah. [00:19:53].

Project Director: People chip in. We're not getting compensated for these things that we're doing. We shouldn't be. We're doing them because we want to work at an awesome place [00:20:00] and that's what it takes to work somewhere awesome. If you're not willing to give a couple of hours a month or one hour a month to make this place awesome, then it's not going to be awesome. That's why it's awesome. If you think everyone else is going to create the culture and then you get to benefit from it? No. That's not how it works.

Lisa: It's so uncommon to see any fractional work schedule.

Project Director: Yeah. It has to be that your project, it meshes with your project needs, but yeah. If you can justify in how it will work and it works [00:20:30] for your group, then you can do it.

Lisa: The Project Director ended it so perfectly, didn't she? You know what, if you want your workplace to be great, it's built from the inside out. A culture's not an HR initiative, it's not a vision from one single leader. It's actually a reflection of the past and the present and all of those actions, habits, preferences, commitments and trusts that are going on in your organization.

Building a strengths-based culture takes [00:21:00] some time, effort, and ongoing communication. They did such a great job of showing how yes, it does take an effort by many people over a long period of time to shape a culture yet at the same time, they demonstrate really beautifully that these 10 ideas can be executed by anyone at any level and really with any budget level.

To do a quick recap, here are the 10 ideas. I hope you will take some inspiration [00:21:30] and implement a spark that you got from this episode in your company.

  1. Turn an empty cube into a Charity Cube.Use it to give to causes that employees select and care about.
  2. Form Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and don’t limit them to ethnic diversity groups. Allow team members to find connection points and create groups, like their cyclist group or veterans group.
  3. Focus on the work by focusing on the people doing the work. Build human connections by being willing to chat about non-work topics. Get on video for remote team members. Going deeper builds trust that translates into results.
  4. Offer Awesome Grants. Give people the opportunity to apply for grants that build a great workplace. They implemented everything from a sharable bike program to buying StrengthsFinder assessments - all from their Awesome Grants.
  5. Create a program like their Randomized Coffee Trials.They literally get matched up with a random person from another department to have coffee and try on a conversation. It has been awesome for cross-functional networking and collaboration.
  6. Provide an inventory of Thank You cards. They provide stationery to each employee so that offering appreciation is convenient. This removes cost barriers and convenience barriers that would otherwise keep people from doing it. I know, that sounds like a lame excuse to not say thank you…yet I don’t see fat stacks of thank you cards on people’s desks, so this idea rocks. Make it easy.
  7. Now Awards.Start a peer-nomination system. Get rid of the bureaucracy and approvals. Allow people to give something simple, like a $10 gift card to a peer.
  8. Annual Awards.This is their big team award, so it’s different from peer awards. This one recognizes project level success. They go all out with stories that describe the team’s experience together. And they pump up the pomp and circumstance to really make a celebration out of it.
  9. Set the tone.As a leader, FHI leaders are comfortable with a heartfelt tone. They are willing to listen and help each person feel important. They see from their results and loyalty that it's a big deal. Whether it’s a meaningful team message or their CEO suggestion box, they’re out to show people that they matter.
  10. Get creative with work schedules.FHI offers what they call “Reduced LOE” where any professional on their team can work fractional hours and get prorated benefits. What a creative way to keep your best employees through different seasons of their lives. It makes team members feel accountable to keeping the amazing culture train going - what a brilliant way to build a feeling of ownership all the way through. At its simplest level, consider offering a job sharing program or part time roles. The important differentiator here is that it’s not just for entry-level jobs. When you show people they have a career path with flexibility, you can keep your top talent rather than having them opt out of the workforce entirely.

It makes the team members feel accountable to keeping the amazing culture train going, you heard that from Project Director, and what a brilliant way to build a feeling of ownership all the way through the organization. If you offered this at its simplest level, just consider doing a job-sharing program where two employees can share a job 50/50 or maybe you offer part-time roles.

The important differentiator is that it's not just for entry-level jobs. I do see people experimenting with part-time offerings, yet they stop at the entry-level jobs. The magic here is that when you show people they have a career path with flexibility, you can keep your top talent rather than having them opt out of the workforce entirely. All right. With that, I'd love to hear what this episode inspires you to put into practice.

If you've done the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment with your team, it's a great [00:27:00] spark. I say this often. It's a great start, it's a great spark, but it needs the continued conversation and execution to have the deep impact on an organization. First, I'm virtually high fiving you if you've gotten the conversation started already and the examples in this episode are a great way to support talents and put them into action.

Just think about this for a second. If someone on your team leads through the Discipline or Focus talent themes, maybe they create the calendaring process for something like those randomized coffee trials because they really dig the organizational skills and the follow through part. If someone leads through restorative, maybe they institute their own ERG.

They create an employee resource group called the Fix It Amigos, I don't know, to tinker on electronics or solve business issues that people submit. If someone leads through the developer talent, maybe they propose a mentoring program or they offer to be someone's mentor so they can take them through those small steps of development and have someone who they can celebrate the success of.

If someone leads through Includer, they might offer to become the onboarding welcome wagon and offer tour guides to ensure that new hires feel totally comfortable and grounded in their first week on the job. You get the idea here. I'm just spit balling. The idea though is take your talents and the talents of people on your team and aim them at culture building conversations. Aim them at specific company programs.

Get people involved in ways [00:28:30] that light them up. Encourage people to contribute in ways that bring them ease and energy and enjoyment about the workplace and about their culture and about their roles. After all, if they're obsessed with fixing their weaknesses, you know what I'm about to say here. They are performing on the road of most resistance. So help them claim their talents and share them with your culture.

 

Direct download: FHI-360-Culture-Building-Tips.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

Should You Stay Or Should You Go Now? With Scott Barlow

This Episode's Question
Ingrid says she's pretty close to knowing what she wants to do with her career. And she even has a list of potential employers collected. These are companies where she could put these new ideas to use. Yet she's just not sure of the timing.  She's afraid once she actually gets into the career change...will she still be happy? Will she have picked the right thing?

She asked, "Is it okay to go after what I think (at least right now) my dream job is...simply because I need to have the experience of it to know what it is all about? Or do I need to know exactly what my dream job is before I go after it."

 

What You'll Learn In The Audio
- Whether to take the risk of the grass not being greener in a new job. Sometimes you worry that you might be romanticizing the role or the company. Or you worry that the interview process is not what the "real" day-in-a-life will be like.

- How you can Happen To Your Career rather than slugging through your work days by letting career "happenings" get imposed upon you. Note: you'll get some super special Scott Anthony Barlow wisdom in this department. And you'll leave wanting to subscribe to his podcast or sign up for his One Stop career shop for getting you where you want to go. This guy rocks.

- Examples of times when a dream job didn't turn out as planned. Yup, even your hosts have experienced these "wrong" turns and came out on a great note. And why you should go for it...even if it turns out to be one of your "not it" roles you're bound to experience in your career.

- Why it's good to go through some career conflict and get outside of your comfort zone. You'll become more self-aware, you'll know better what your strengths are, and you'll get clearer on what you want.

- If you don't try it, you'll miss the chance of knowing whether this is "it" for you. And why not? Because what you want and need today won't be what you want and need in the future. You'll keep changing, growing, and evolving as a person. So go for what feels right today because it will change tomorrow.

- Humans are wired with a survival instinct. You'll tackle pain head on. It's your fight or flight response. You'll take risks to avoid pain. Yet when it comes to gain, humans take far less risk. That's why Ingrid's feelings and question are 100% normal. To get massive career happiness, sometimes you have to take risk on the gain side. And it's a lot tougher to muster up the courage on that end.

 

Resource of the Episode
At Happen To Your Career, you can find a  14 day course on how to figure out what you want to do with your career.  There's no charge. What a super resource to get you started.

 

Subscribe to the Career Q&A Podcast
To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher radio. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode - let the app notify you each week when the latest question gets published. 

Ask Your Career Question
Send your question on Twitter @careerpodcast or on the Career Q&A Facebook page.

Even better, leave your question through the audio hotline so we can hear your voice.

Related Episodes to Go Deeper on The Topic
- People who are in a similar career space are often debating about money and happiness...trying to find out if it's possible to have both.

- They also wonder if their current team is the right set of peers and colleagues to keep their game moving upward.

 

Direct download: 014-Scott-Barlow.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 10:48am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa chats with Murray Guest. They focus on embedding strengths into your company culture after StrengthsFinder training. Instead of just participating in a training, then putting your results and notes away, find ways to sustain the use of strengths at work and home.

Using your strengths will improve your company culture, inspire your team to learn and grow, and increase your bottom line (and it will improve your family life too)!

Murray is a consultant who works with companies and leaders to weave StrengthsFinder into their businesses. He shares this list of four things he addresses when helping people build strengths-based cultures: 1. Systems 2. Physical Environment 3. Leadership 4. Attitudes. He and Lisa also give a ton of easy-to-implement ideas to infuse strengths into your everyday life, most of which are free, so listen in.

Murray's Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Relator, Futuristic, Individualization, Communication, Responsibility

Lisa’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode

You can connect with Murray through LinkedInTwitter, Instagram, and his website. Murray also created the Strengths Culture Toolkit to help teams use the Clifton StrengthsFinder beyond their initial team building event.

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our ="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://leadthroughstrengths.com/resources&source=gmail&ust=1487264698482000&usg=AFQjCNHUtPcayNXycHfGq_r2Crj5sPIU7w">Strengths Resources page.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:10] 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, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:27] Today your guest is a Strengths expert who I wanted to bring on the show because of a conversation we originally had about sustaining Strengths on your team over the long haul. So both of us had too many experience where we sparked an interest in Strengths in organization with a speech, or the training, or some coaching, but the company didn’t have the infrastructure or resources behind it to make it part of the everyday culture. And we’re both making it part of our personal mission and our business models to support leaders in a way that helps them embed Strengths into the fabric of the company and to the everyday culture at work.

[00:01:04] A fun fact about your guest’s uniqueness, we shared a crush on Lita Ford in the 1980s and we’re both drummers. How fun is that? So, Murray Guest, let’s rock this show. Welcome!

Murray Guest: [00:01:17] Woo-hoo. Lisa, so good to be with you today. I’m excited to talk about Strengths, but also, yeah, we’ve got a bit of a love of rock drumming. I’m learning. I’m behind you in my skills. I know it’s all about practice, and I’m loving when we connect and you just encourage me to keep going and keep practicing.

[00:01:34] And, yeah, I’ve a crush on Lita Ford and I got to see her recently play live. And to see someone that was so excited and so happy on stage doing what she loves, and I’m sure she was tapping to her Strengths while she was doing it too.

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:46] Such a good metaphor for what Strengths do for you when you’re in flow and you’re just totally in your groove at work or on stage, because you love it and it shines through and it makes people want to work with you. It’s a good reason to embed Strengths into your culture, because you get to experience people like that at work.

[caption id="attachment_3365" align="alignleft" width="400"] Murray In Action - Inspiring Someone's Business Growth[/caption]

Murray Guest: [00:02:01] Yeah, I’m so passionate about the idea of people being in the state of flow. Unfortunately, not everyone’s in that place, and I think Strengths is such a perfect vehicle for people to get in that state where it’s energizing and it’s not, “Thank God it’s Friday,” it’s, “Thank God it’s Monday.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:18:] I saw that in your Instagram, TGIM, and I thought, “Yes, that is the kind of movement I want.” So, okay, let’s talk about that from the perspective of loading up listeners with ideas for vetting Strengths into their culture because they take the StrengthsFinder assessment, maybe they do it as a team, and then they don’t mean to go back to work and put it in a file and forget about it, but it does happen. We know it does, and it’s sad because we see the spark and they know they’re going to find their flow with it, and then sometimes it can wane.

[00:02:47] So I want to get into a whole bunch of actionable tips and viewpoints about how people can use this, but I do want to start everyone off by being able to hear your Strengths, so kick us off with your top five first.

Murray Guest: [00:03:00] My top five: Relator, Futuristic, Individualization, Communication and Responsibility. I completed my Strengths assessment back in 2012 so it’s been five years that I’ve really known my Strengths and everyday thinking about how they sharpen and how they apply. But actually, Lisa, so like a bit of a path or a bit of a structure in my top five I just want to quickly explain that. So, for me, Relator is all about building these relationships. Number two, Futuristic, where you want to go as a team or as an organization or a leader and how can we get there.

[00:03:32] Individualization, how can we connect and specifically what it is for you? Communication then is about how we communicate that out for you as a leader or within your business, or if it’s someone running their business, how they market themselves. And the Responsibility, that’s me and it’s a foundation of how I can continue to serve you as a coach. And it’s a process, I think, that’s showing up and working for me really well as a coach.

Lisa Cummings: [00:03:56] Just last week, I did a training session and we had cards where they were representing each person’s talent, and this people manager called me over and he said, “I think my Strengths in this order are like a process that I use for how I handle situations or how I think about things.” So as you were saying that I was having a flashback to this guy, and I thought, “Wow, that would be really interesting to ask people to see, ‘Does this represent like a thought flow or almost like how you operationalize how you work through challenges or situations or something new?’” Because I bet your talents do reflect an order, not necessarily the order of the Talent Themes number one through five, but an order in how they work in your brain. You might be onto something cool there.

Murray Guest: [00:04:37] Yeah. Well, I love that he identified that in your course last week because I think that’s such a great awareness and a claiming of his dominant Themes. If there’s a way that we can think about a lot of what you’re saying about the thought process, or the way we might problem solve, or the way we might organize ourselves, any way that we can connect and really claim those Strengths that we have is part of the process.

[00:05:02] In my previous life, I worked for an organization where what we did was psychology-based safety training. So it’s all about building a culture where people go home safe every day. So when we talk about embedding Strengths, I’m transferring a lot from what I learned from embedding what we call a safe culture where people go home safe, where leaders think about the way they communicate and they lead, and the way that people have an environment where it’s safe to speak up.

[00:05:35] In that organization, I worked with a whole range of companies and about 10,000 people across some very large high-risk organizations, and one of them was a mining organization which employed about 2,000 people. This company had bought from us a couple of million dollars’ worth of training, of programs and coaching and different sorts of initiatives to develop their culture.

[00:05:58] There was a maintenance team, and you would go into that maintenance team and you would swear that we’d been there only yesterday with our programs. The language, the posters, the way that they would discuss things in their meetings and look after each other, and you would actually see the results of their safety and their performance and their attitudes was actually indicative of that because of how well they were going.

[00:06:23] There was another part, which is the main part of this mining operation, where you would think that we had never been there, we had never run a program, never had a coaching session with the leader, never introduced these models and tools and concepts.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:37] Same company.

Murray Guest: [00:06:38] Same company. Same site. Quite a large mining operation but same company, same site. Here’s the thing. The maintenance team, we hadn’t actually done any work with them for nearly seven years. The mining operation, we’d actually been there only in the weeks before, and it was critical to how much the leaders were actually living and breathing and embedding and, I would say, just adopting the language in their everyday conversations which kept this concept or these concepts alive.

[00:07:10] In the maintenance team, you had frontline leaders that are there managing these teams, day in and day out, and they had embraced it, and they didn’t need us as coaches and facilitators to come back, and you could see then that was keeping alive, day in, day out. And, like I said, we haven’t been there for seven years in that part of the business.

[00:07:27] In this other main operation, being there in the weeks before, yet it wasn’t being embedded and sustained because the leaders didn’t believe in it, and they weren’t bringing into their language, they were sending people to the training courses, saying, “You have to go,” but they weren’t having, where I would say, the critical conversations before and after the programs.

[00:07:49] So if there was a key insight out of all that that I really want to share is to get the value from, say, building a Strengths culture and thinking about how we actually just make it part of the way we work. We really need to engage our leaders and support them in how they just bring it into part of their everyday language and the conversations they’re having with their teams.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:11] And we’ve all seen the difference between the compliance training, where the person in the session is rolling their eyes, and saying, “Yeah, yeah.” We’re talking safety, but in reality they just want it faster and cheaper, and out in the field it’s not really going to go down like this. How do you do this with Strengths?

[00:08:08:27] If you translate that, and you’re a manager who is just experiencing StrengthsFinder for the first time yourself, and you don’t know the jargon, and you don’t know the language, can you help simplify that and just give people an idea of a few things, “Hey, you’re an everyday people manager, you’re used to being an ops guy, or a finance person, or a marketing person, or something like that”? How do you start embedding this in your daily talk and conversation when you don’t know the language yet?

Murray Guest: [00:08:55] I break up the culture into four areas, the culture within organizations: systems, environment, the leadership and their attitudes. To help us have those conversations and make it easy, I think one of the little things we can start to bring into those four areas so it’s really easy to have those conversations. For example, if I’ve got a diary and I’m going to meetings with my people, what are the Strengths references I can put in there?

[00:09:20] If I’ve got a notice board or a whiteboard in my office or somewhere in that team area, what can we stick up there to remind us of Strengths and the Strengths language? As a leader, how am I investing my time when I’m not talking to my people to learn about Strengths? So this podcast, you’ve got a fantastic podcast, and also things like the Called to Coach that Gallup put out. They are resources that, as leaders, tapping into those when I’m not in front of my people, traveling to and from work, they’re great to actually start to learn and get some deep insights around Strengths.

[00:09:52] I also think asking people questions is one of the most powerful tools in a leader’s toolkit. Asking people about their Strengths, how they’re showing up, what do they want to get out of knowing about their Strengths? And then once people are starting to experience Strengths, whether it’s through workshops or coaching, ask them how actually it’s helped them, what’s come up for them, how have their Strengths shown up for them in the past?

[00:10:16] I’m a big believer, Lisa, that the 10-minute conversation a manager has before a coaching or a workshop event and the 10 minutes after, might be a cup of coffee, it’s those little informal conversations which show that, as a leader, “I care about you, and I want to know what you got out of that training, or that coaching session. How can I help you apply that

[caption id="attachment_3366" align="alignright" width="400"] Murray Guest with Paul Allen - Top Strengths Evangelists[/caption]

more?”

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:36] And you’re breaking down those four categories and talking about things like systems. Instantly I thought of things like the HR systems where I’ve seen some people in their HRIS where they do performance reviews and where they have their talent information or talent management system, where they actually put in top five talents or they put in some of the career aspirations related to Strengths, or they link the Strengths conversation into the development plans, and they’re building it into stuff that already happens in the organization.

[00:11:06] You know, when you said the diary, my ears perked up. And I know some Americans who are listening their ears perked up because they were thinking of a journal kind of diary, so you’re talking calendar kind of diary, right?

Murray Guest: [00:11:17] Yes, that’s right. [laughs] I’m still a writer in, let’s call it, my day-to-day diary or planner, yeah. Not my deep, deep diary, “Today my Strengths showed up like this.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:28] [laughs] I had to call that out because I know it’s fun language barrier we have.

Murray Guest: [00:11:31] If you’re doing that and write in your journal that’s fantastic.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:33] Could be. A lot of “Dear, Diary,” good stuff about Strengths for sure. But even in the calendar, making that part of the system where if you can’t remember this stuff as a manager and it seems like it’s just such a heavy load because you’re busy, just having a quarterly meeting that you put on a recurring cycle that is a Strengths one-on-one, and you just had the language showing up on someone’s calendar that’s a Strengths one-on-one, that alone holds you accountable to think of a couple of questions, I’m going to ask them about their Strengths in this meeting.

Murray Guest: [00:12:00] Yeah, and your link to the HRIS, I totally agree. I was with a client earlier this week and we’re talking about their annual performance reviews. I said to him, “How about we put a question in there which says, ‘How have you used your Strengths to achieve your goals?’ or, ‘How have you applied your Strengths to develop this year? How will you apply your Strengths in the coming year to achieve our strategic plan?’” Those little prompts in that performance review and those planning guides are just keeping Strengths alive and will get people thinking about it, and not just in that discussion but the preparation and the follow-on as well.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:35] And maybe help people not dread the performance review season and just think of an outgoing conversation.

Murray Guest: [00:12:40] I bet that’s a whole lot of conversation.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:43] I know. That could really derail us into a whole separate interview. We’ll do that one next time. So give me a couple more for managers, because I think, as you mentioned, they are a linchpin in all of this to keep it going. So you mentioned environment, say a little about what you can do to have Strengths around your environment and keep the thought of Strengths alive in people’s minds.

Murray Guest: [00:13:08] One of the best things I’ve seen, and I love this as an initiative, is building a Strengths wall in your team environment. What I’ve seen, Lisa, is the very simple one where it’s just pieces of paper. And I’ve seen some very elaborate ones where people are getting photos taken, they’ve got a board that goes into a frame, and on that board next to their photo they’ve written their top five Strengths and how they’re applying their Strengths to achieve their goals, or how they’re using their Strengths to be more successful in their roles or to serve the team.

[00:13:39] And so these Strengths walls have been led by leaders who’ve said, “Right, let’s just keep this alive in our area.” And so whenever anyone new joins the team, they get put up on the wall. If anyone thinks, “How am I going to work on a project, or who am I going to collaborate with and draw on their strengths?” Here’s this great wall, the pictures of our team members and their top five and how they can really use them to be successful.

[00:14:06] In the environment, when I say that I mean it’s the physical environment, things you can touch. We can do certificates on the wall, and we can do top five on our desks and things like that, but I think this next level with the Strengths wall provides that deeper understanding about the individuals that make up the team.

Lisa Cummings: [00:14:24] Mm-hmm. I like that a lot. And the deeper understanding point, I’ve seen some of my clients go deeper in a way that was really cool. Like I’ll provide in a training these four-by-six frames that have people’s talents so that, beyond the training event, they’re on their desk and they look nice and they can filter their thinking through them. But then they take it further, and one of my clients, I think it’s really cool, they have started to essentially hashtag their talents when they see it in action.

[00:14:54] For example, this woman had Positivity talent. She needs to put her headphones on and go into her kind of crank it out mode and not be disrupted, but she hates making people feel like she’s shutting them down, and so she’s really interruptible because she has Positivity, and it’s fun to have fun at work. And so she made this really clever sign that goes on the back of her chair about how she has her headphones on.

[00:15:17] And then at the bottom of this note about how she’s in her cave working, it was #Positivity. And then people can remember back to the conversation they had as a team, and that keeps deepening it as well. So it’s kind of like a mix of your ongoing conversations in support of leadership and the physical environment, seeing them around you and going, “Oh, yeah, that’s that one.”

Murray Guest: [00:15:39] I love the #Talent so I think that’s great. I’m going to borrow that one. There’s assumptions that we make as humans, and here’s an assumption that I might make that, “Oh, because one of my team members had their headphones in that it means X, Y or Z.” But with this little message, and the #Positivity, it’s taking me back to Strengths, but it’s also removing these assumptions. I love it. And I love these little things that we can do in organizations which actually don’t costs a lot of money, or it don’t costs anything, and they can have such value and such impact in developing the Strengths culture.

[00:16:12] Speaking of leaders, Lisa, one that I really want to share, too, is what I called a Strengths leadership commitment. Leaders taking that time to write down what’s their commitment to keep Strengths alive, to acknowledge and embrace the Strengths in their team members, and actually signing that and then putting on display.

[00:16:30] But not just putting on display but also communicating that to their team and talking about it, and saying, “How am I going to live and breathe this and asking the team to hold them accountable for it?” Because when we sign something we make that commitment. That’s real. That’s like signing a check or signing a contract. So here’s this contract that I’m signing now that, “Hey, I’m making my Strengths leadership commitment to you as a team.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:53] I love how it speaks to the accountability that you’re putting out there. I’ve never seen anyone do that, and I haven’t suggested that one yet, so cool. Thanks. We’re borrowing all sorts of good ideas from each other. Because, once you put that onto them, of course, then they’re going to hold you to it, and that’s why you’re telling them, and putting it out there.

[00:17:09] I have had situations where managers are starting in a way different place, and I would say a lesser way of showing support, where they almost didn’t, has come up recently several times, where a company will bring me in and they want a leadership session and they want a session for all. And they’ll say, “Okay, we think all of the people who manage people are going to go to leadership session, and then everyone else will go to this other event.”

[00:17:38] And they’re not doing it to be unsupportive, they just kind of think, “Oh, there’s this version and that version.” And really talking through the message that sends to someone who is an individual contributor on the team, thinking, “My manager doesn’t even care to hear what I have to say about my Strengths in here. They don’t even want to understand what we do when we’re at our best when we’re in the session.” All those assumptions and things that are going on in their head.

[00:18:01] So that’s been a really useful conversation about embedding them with the message that you’re sending about the interest you’re showing in it. This had no mal intent in the times that it’s come up recently but it does keep coming up and it’s just as a practical “we’re busy” kind of thought. And they really miss that key point which somebody would think, “Oh, gosh, well, they don’t even care.”

Murray Guest: [00:18:22] Yeah, and I’d like to think, Lisa, everyone has good intent. So, as a leader, “I have good intent. I’m busy. I want my team to do this. I think it’s great. I believe in it. But, hey, I’m too busy. I want to do other things or I’ve got somebody else, and we’ll go to a different program.” So there’s good intent. However, the way it’s communicated, or the assumptions team members might make might be, like you’re saying, “We’re not part of the greater team, or they don’t really care.” And so breaking down those assumptions is so important.

[00:18:49] Something that I’ve actually found that’s really helped is when we do need to do that because the leader might have lots of teams, is having a leader open the sessions, so come in and explain, “These are my top five Strengths. This is what I got out of knowing my Strengths. This is what I hope you get out of it, and I look forward to hearing about it, please come tell me.” And having that sort of 10-minute opening has also been really powerful.

Lisa Cummings: [00:19:13] And it’s so practical. It’s easy for them to take the time. I’ve had a few sessions like that where that company leader, or department leader, or that manager, they kick off and say, “I went through this process. That’s why we’re doing it because I believe it’s that powerful. I want to know this about you. Here’s what I got out of it, and I can’t wait to see what you’ll get out of it too.”

[00:19:32] Wow! Then people come in with a really open mind and excitement about it, they’ve said it in their company’s language, and then they take down all those barriers about, “Oh, what’s this? What’s this outsider going to tell us about our careers or about our Strengths?”

Murray Guest: [00:19:45] Yes, yes, totally. The other one that, I think, leaders can do is how they’re integrating Strengths into their meetings. Meetings are such an interesting topic. I think, Lisa, so many people I talk to say, “Oh, we have so many meetings, and we have meetings about meetings, and we don’t make decisions but we have more meetings, and all of that sort of stuff going on.”

[00:20:06] Yet organizations are going to continue have meetings, it’s just we need to get more effective at them, and I fundamentally believe we need to meet more regularly, for less time, more effectively. But what it would like if every time a team met they started their meeting with a Strengths share, “How have I seen the Strengths show up in one of my team members? How have I used them on the weekend with my friends or family? How am I using my Strengths currently to solve a problem? Or how are we using them currently to collaborate on a project?”

[00:20:38] And it’s only a very short discussion, but it sets these habits, and once we form these habits that’s just going to be part of the way we work. So what if that was a standing agenda or item at the start 1of every team meeting?

Lisa Cummings: [00:20:52] Beautiful. And it could five minutes or three minutes, it could even be one person’s one Strengths share and that’s it.

Murray Guest: [00:20:57] Yeah, that’s right.

Lisa Cummings: [00:20:59] Oh. I’ve had a client recently do this where they were passing around the responsibility of the opener. They were doing something very similar to a Strengths share but it was more like a, “What is the question related to Strengths we’re going to open the meeting with?” And it’s something that would take like 30 seconds to report out each person so that it only took up a few minutes at the beginning.

[00:21:19] And they assigned a new person who would come up with that question each time. So it wasn’t just on the manager, and it got everybody really involved in it, and it made each person think about Strengths in a deeper way. I thought that was a clever way to do it, and involve everyone and really embed it further.

Murray Guest: [00:21:36] Again it’s another great example and I love that. It’s just simple, it’s short, it’s effective, it’s building habits, and it’s setting the tone, I think, also for the rest of the meeting. Then, as we talk about other topics or things that we may need to discuss, it sets this tone that Strengths is going to be part of the way we do that as well.

[00:21:55] A team I worked with, Lisa, the culture prior to the team and the leader knowing Strengths, was, well, this person, let’s call her Jane, is always seeing the bad, always seeing the wrong. And then the assumption of, “Hey, guess what? Jane is not on board.” So then, after Strengths workshops and some coaching with the leader, it’s actually Jane’s number one Strengths is, guess what, Restorative. She just wanted to fix problems and she had this, “Straight away what could go wrong? And I want to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

[00:22:25] So what that turned around in their meetings was, “Actually, here’s the next initiative we’re doing. Hey, Jane, can you tell us what you think could be some of our possible pitfalls and how we can address them?” It just changed the whole dynamics of the meeting and actually how engaged she was in the conversations.

Lisa Cummings: [00:22:43] See Jane run after that. [laughs]

Murray Guest: [00:22:45] I love it. Yes.

Lisa Cummings: [00:22:47] Hey, I think it would be fun if we could do the last two minutes of this episode trying to kind of lighting round out some cheap or free things that we’ve seen people use to keep Strengths alive in an ongoing way. What do you think?

Murray Guest: [00:23:01] Yeah, great. Let’s go.

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:02] How about you do one, I do one. You do one, I do one. We’ll just go as fast as we can.

Murray Guest: [00:23:06] Fast as we can. Okay, let’s do this. So I actually think one of the key things is Strengths report swapping. Here’s just going, “Okay, here’s mine, here’s yours. And then catch up at the end of the week for a coffee. What did you think? What did you get to know about me? And let’s chat.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:21] Hmm, neat idea. How about virtual meet-ups for remote teams who don’t get to see each other in person, once a quarter, totally dedicated to a Strengths chat for one hour, Brady Bunch style show in your camera?

Murray Guest: [00:23:33] Love it. And there are so many remote teams these days. It’s a great one. Strengths stories in company newsletters. So it’s powerful internally, but it’s also powerful externally about how we’re a Strengths-based culture, how we’re embracing Strengths, and it doesn’t just need to be about work. It can be about how I’ve seen this done around other cultural initiatives where people go, “Wow! That’s absolutely something we’re really living and breathing.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:56] And then they start using metaphors like you do about mountain biking, how it’s related to Strengths, yes.

Murray Guest: [00:24:00] Yes!

Lisa Cummings: [00:24:01] Let’s say on-boarding someone new. Assign someone, a Strengths champion or a success coach, so somebody else who’s already in the company feels accountable to help that person unleash their Strengths at the company.

Murray Guest: [00:24:16] Nice. Love it. Here’s one that one of my clients did recently where they actually asked everyone in their team to send to a neutral person a song that they love and how it reflects one of their Strengths. Then, at their monthly team meeting, they had a playlist and they played the songs, and people had to guess whose song it was and what Strength it was related to. And they all had a dance in the meeting and then they just went through them quite quickly and had this huge energy.

Lisa Cummings: [00:24:45] Wow! This is going to be good. So now you’re going to challenge me to end on something really fun like that because that would be awesome. Okay. A costume party, so this could be if the Halloween time is near, or a kickoff meeting, or something where people might have an occasion to dress up. So it would have to be an event, and you dress up representing one of your talents.

Murray Guest: [00:25:09] Love it. So what would you be dressed up as, Lisa?

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:12] Hmm, I think what just immediately comes to mind is probably like a big old giant full-body costume sunshine that would represent positivity talent. That’s kind of the give-me obvious one. So I might get a little more cerebral and think of something more clever. How about you?

Murray Guest: [00:25:29] Responsibility comes to mind, it’s like a foundation talent of who I am. How I dress up as Responsibility, I’m not too sure. Maybe goody-two-shoes school student or something doing the right thing, maybe something like that.

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:44] Goody-two-shoes. [laughs] So that would be so fun and you’d be trying to look at the other person and go, “Okay, I’m sort of getting this vibe. I don’t know.” Yeah, that would be a lot of fun if you had to mix and mingle where you could talk about that.

[00:25:58] Well, this is pretty cool. Man, there are so many more ideas, and I know that you have a Strengths toolkit that actually takes people through way more than just these tools and tactics but the whole process for working at a company level, how you would walk someone through embedding Strengths into your culture. Tell them where they can find your Strengths toolkit and where they can connect with you when they want to see more of your content.

Murray Guest: [00:26:24] Thanks, Lisa, and I loved chatting with you today. So, yeah, I’ve created a toolkit because I, like you, am passionate about people getting the most from any training or intervention and definitely about Strengths. That’s been such a powerful thing in my life the last five years and continues to be every day. So if you go to StrengthsCultureToolkit.com there’s a toolkit of resources you can get there which includes guidelines, templates, facilitator guides, activities, there’s a conversation template, posters. And the idea is to have that toolkit of resources to help keep Strengths alive in those areas of culture we discussed earlier.

[00:27:03] If people want to connect with me, my business is InspireMyBusiness.com, and you can send me an email there or check me out on LinkedIn, and definitely I think that if we can all live an inspired life through our Strengths every day it’s a very good place we live in.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:18] Thanks, Murray. Man, you guys, Murray is the real deal. He’s born to be a guest on the show because his last name is Guest. I mean, how perfect is that? So check out his toolkit. He really knows this stuff inside and out, and is so great on the consultancy side, and has done it. Now, I even get the deeper layer, seeing that you did it for the safety consultancy as well, so wow. Yeah, with that, you guys, go check out the Strengths toolkit.

[00:27:43] Also, if you want some Strengths-focused tools to use with your team at work in addition, check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/Resources. There are some other tools there to sustain Strengths – this is the freebie version – to help you with some easy conversation starters, because you’re busy, and the big barriers are often like that, “I just don’t know what to say. I don’t know these one-on-one conversation starters.”

[00:28:05] So with that, thanks everyone for listening to Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your Strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. And if you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, and fixing your team members’ weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents and share them with the world

 

 

Direct download: 042-Murray-Guest.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths
This week Lisa chats with Dave Stachowiak. They focus on using your strengths to fuel your leadership journey. If you have ever compared yourself to someone else in the business world (which is probably most of us), or if you've had a career path that has zigged and zagged, then this podcast is for you.

Dave is a consultant who works with top-level managers to build their leadership capabilities and amplify their strengths. So, tune into his examples and tips to improve your personal leadership skills as you listen.

Dave's Top 5 CliftonStrengths StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Futuristic, Relator, Intellection, Learner, Responsibility

Lisa’s Top 5CliftonStrengths StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode
To find out more about Dave and listen to his Top 10 iTunes Careers Podcast, visit Coaching For Leaders.

Strengths Tools
You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast
To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview
Lisa Cummings: [00:00:09] 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’ve gotta tell ya, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:27] Today, you’ll get an episode filled with an exploration of leadership as a journey. You know how on social media you compare your everyday life with everyone else’s highlight reel? Well, I believe the same thing happens with careers. People compare themselves to successful leaders, and they forget that those successful people they’re looking at went through a process to get there, and often a long process.

[00:00:52] Your guest today is a perfect picture that he has a windy career path from being in a junior police academy in high school, thinking he was going into law enforcement, all the way through working as an executive at Dale Carnegie. So, some very different twists and turns along the way, both in expectations and in achievements.

[00:01:14] For those of you who worry that you can’t make huge career shifts or that you have to pick right now what you’re going to be for the rest of your life, it’s proof right there from our guest that you surely can change your mind.

[00:01:26] Your guest has also failed along the way. He got passed over for some promotions. He ran his first business that he owned into the ground. Yet, if you learned about him today and you only compared yourself to his highlight reel, that he has a top 10 careers podcast called Coaching for Leaders that has 150,000 monthly listeners, including me, you’d think, “Man, what a thought leader.” Or, if you knew that he’s been highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes, and Inc. Magazine, and US News and World Report you might think, “Whoa, only the special and elite can ever get there so I’m not going to compare myself.”

[00:02:08] I’ll tell you your guest today is one of the most humble guys you’ll ever meet, and he makes leadership success attainable. Today you’ll hear how you too can have a career path that does some zigging and zagging, and that you can have plenty of bumps in the road. Yet if you focus on your personal leadership journey over the long haul, you can really live a successful life.

[00:02:33] So, Dave Stachowiak, welcome to the show.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:02:37] Lisa, I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for the wonderful introduction, and it got me thinking that I had seven majors officially in college, too, so we can just throw that in there as far as a windy road things I’ve done in my life.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:49] Oh, that is such a good one, too. I just did a speech the other day for a university group and I was asking them what’s stressing them out right now about their careers, and that was it. They were like, “We have to pick not only the major, but we feel like this is the biggest decision of our life, because if picked the wrong one we set forward this decision that will create a ripple forever. And it feels like this is it. And if I pick wrong, I’m screwed.” So I think it’s a beautiful picture that, yeah, you can change your major, and you can change your career, and it all works out just fine.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:03:18] Yeah, it seems so stressful at the time, and I remember just being so, I mean, it’s such a difficult time in my college years. I’m trying to figure out what I was going to do and what I was going to major in. And I look back now and I realize that because, ironically, I went through seven different majors and did all these different fields of study in school, I’m way better at my job than I would’ve been if I had focused in one area, because with my career in training and coaching, I work with all kinds of clients in all kinds of industries, and I know a little bit about a lot of different areas. And that’s turned out to be a huge benefit actually. So it’s kind of ironic.

[00:03:58] Well, and there is the mark too, and I tell this to clients all the time, is you create your story. You tell the story of your career. If you let someone else tell the story of your career, and define it for you, then they’re going to define it however they’re going to define it, and it may or may not be the story you want told. And so, on a serious note, I really do think that we all need to think about what is our career story going to be, and how does our journey align with that, and the things that happen along the way.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:26] I think that’s the perfect setup for this concept of personal brand and how, when you and I have talked in the past, you’ve talked about how you made a conscious decision that your strengths would support your success, and that you were going to brand yourself around those. So let’s start off, since we do so much with StrengthsFinder and strengths-based development, let’s start off by just getting the listeners your top five Talent Themes, and then how you see them showing up on you at work, and then we’ll use those to segue into the story part.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:04:58] Certainly. So my five themes are Futuristic, Relator, Intellection, Learner and Responsibility. And I’ve taken StrengthsFinder a few times over the years and they’ve always been fairly similar, maybe one difference, but as I look at those today they very much speak to me in the kinds of strengths that I feel like I’m better at than the others.

Lisa Cummings: [00:05:18] Which one do you think resonates with you the most right now, that you see showing up on you all the time at work?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:05:24] Relator is a big one right now because of the work that I’m doing both in my work at Dale Carnegie, and in my work running the Coaching for Leaders Academy, which is a membership organization that’s part of my listening community. It is really important and critical for me to develop really strong relationships with clients, and particularly clients who are part of our Academy, that I’m with for at least a year if not longer.

[00:05:50] Those relationships really come down to how well do I relate to my clients, but in addition to that, and perhaps even more importantly, how well do they relate to each other. So I need to not only be really good at doing that myself, and thankfully that’s a strength, and so it’s something that I feel like I’m pretty good at, but I also need this to set the bar and expectation for modeling that for the entire membership community, and to encourage the members to be doing that for each other. And that’s the part for me that’s really exciting when I see that happen in a pretty substantial way.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:30] Yeah, I love how you made the double duty out of it, using it for yourself and then using it to model so others can see how the interactions can look. That’s really cool. Now, you seem pretty ninja with your awareness of your strengths and being able to use them the way you just described, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t start like that fresh out of school.

[00:06:49] So take us back a little bit. Tell us about your career journey and how it has evolved, and how your strengths uncovered through that process.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:06:58] I really did struggle a lot in school and I felt like I didn’t know what my path was going to be, and I felt like I had talents in a few different areas. I actually hired a coach when I was a junior in college. I was working for someone at the time who had a colleague who was doing coaching on the side, and she was coaching students at the university. And the boss I had at the time said, “You know you may want to talk to her, and just kind of see if she would help out.”

[00:07:21] I was really stressed, I was overwhelmed with time management, I was over-committed like a lot of people go through when they’re going through school. I started working with her, so I’ve always been conscious of the importance of investing in one’s self and recent awareness of one’s self. I took things like the NBTI and StrengthsFinder at the time, and by the time I was done with school and in the first few years of my career I’d probably taken Myers-Briggs half a dozen times and I’d taken other assessments.

[00:07:49] One of the interesting things that happened to me that was, it’s a cautionary note for utilizing assessments, and you and I are big fan of assessments, Lisa, is that I took Myers-Briggs a bunch of times, and I always came out as an extrovert. And so I really thought of myself as an extrovert and I made career choices that an extrovert would make. I really tried to do the things that extroverted people I think should be doing.

[00:08:16] It wasn’t until I went through certification myself on how to administer NBTI assessments that I discovered, in a pretty jolting way, that I wasn’t really an extrovert at all, because they can just give the assessment and take you through a whole series of exercises over a course of days and really did a lot of self-reflection. And it became apparent that my core strengths weren’t really as an extrovert but they were really much more aligned, and my preferences were much more aligned as an introvert.

[00:08:41] And that was really surprising to me at the time because, one, I thought all this time I was more extroverted and, secondly, I had a belief at the time that in order to be successful in business that you have to be extroverted. I didn’t think an introvert could be successful in the career that I was in and the industry that I was in. So it was really a difficult thing for me to process once it became apparent that, yeah, I was probably more introverted. And, of course, as I told this to people, they’re like, “Well, of course you’re an introvert. We’ve all known that for years.” [laughs]

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:11] [laughs] There’s a lesson from the show right there. Just ask people around you. Sometimes they know a lot more than you do.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:09:17] Totally. Totally. In fact, I had a colleague for years who’d be like, “Oh, yeah, you’re such an extrovert. Ha, ha. Like how could that happen?” because they all knew but I didn’t know. I had to kind of reframe my identity of like, “Okay, I’m in this business in the training industry, and the people of this business, where I have to interact with people a lot where I’m an instructor or I’m a coach or I’m a salesperson. I’m required to, and need to, interact a lot with people in order to do my job well. How am I going to do this as an introvert? If truly I’m an introvert, what can I do?”

[00:09:47] And it also sort of made sense, too, because I always felt like I was kind of a square peg in a round hole in the industry, and in my position, because it seemed like the things that came naturally to everyone else, like cold calling, and going and making lots of sales connections every day, those are things I really struggled with early on in my career. And I couldn’t figure out, “Why am I not good at this? What am I missing?” And it turned one of the big things I was missing is I had an incorrect view of myself from an assessment that didn’t come out accurately. It took some time to unpack that and really to realize also that whatever strength you bring, you can leverage. It’s just I wasn’t leveraging them at the time.

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:32] Yeah, that’s really interesting. And now, looking back, thinking about the StrengthsFinder results, like some of your potential success factors, seeing a preference with your Intellection. People I meet with Intellection are usually totally fine being alone for long periods of time, and want to do the deep thinking, and so it doesn’t lend itself often to the kind of extroversion scale. It’s based on different things. It’s not personality typing – StrengthsFinder. But if I saw Relator and Intellection, I would not assume you were an extrovert. I would think you might like that smaller close circle of friends and some healthy dose of time by yourself.

[00:11:10] So, that all sounds good from an academic level. So you figured that out. Great. But now let’s get back to the real part. You had to make cold calls, you had to do sales, and you had to deliver training and coaching to people. So you know this now. What did you do?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:11:27] Well, I was so bad at my job the first year at Dale Carnegie that I went into our president’s office after the first year was complete, and I offered my resignation; that’s how bad it was. I mean, from a results standpoint, I got along well with everyone, people liked me. That wasn’t an issue, but it’s from a result standpoint I was not doing well.

[00:11:45] He, quite brilliantly, which was not what I was expecting, but he said, “How can we rework this job to honor your talents and your strengths?” And I was expecting him to say, “Okay. Thanks. I appreciate it. See you soon. Good luck with your future endeavors.” So like, “Wait a minute. You were supposed to let me off easy on this.” All of a sudden I had to think about, “Okay, what do I do differently?”

[00:12:14] And I started thinking about like what were the things I was already doing that I’d done successfully. So I had actually started writing an email newsletter a few years back even before I worked for Carnegie. And so I started thinking, “Well, what if I tapped into my talents more in writing? What if I did some more one-on-one coaching?” which we weren’t doing at the time, at least not in our office at Carnegie.

[00:12:41] I ended up putting together a coaching program and doing one-on-one coaching. I ended up starting to do a lot of writing and doing things like, over time evolving that into things like webinars and doing more things online. And it turned out, not only was I pretty good at that, but a lot of other people in the organization weren’t, because we didn’t tend to attract people who were as good as writers or doing things one-on-one. We tended to be more of an extroverted business, and still are today.

[00:13:06] In addition to that, being a really a fantastic listener. All of a sudden were things that people were connecting with, and I was doing it so differently than everyone else that it was very unusual. Within a year or so I’d really found a place where I was a lot more comfortable in my own skin, and I was doing it in a way that made sense to me, where I actually enjoyed putting things together versus when I tried to cold call on my first year was just kind of a disaster.

[00:13:34] I remember this one day, Lisa. I built up all this momentum and I was like, “Okay, I’m going to go to this one office building. I’m going to knock on people’s doors, knock on businesses’ doors. And I went. I drove all the way up there. I drove up to Los Angeles, parked the car, had all my brochures, everything, and I walked in the building and I couldn’t do it, and I walked out back to the office.

[00:13:59] I was like, “I’ve got to figure out a better way to do this, that is not so hard.” So that’s what I started doing. And today that has turned into so many wonderful talents and experience, now being able to leverage in so many different ways, and Coaching for Leaders in a lot of ways came out of that.

Lisa Cummings: [00:14:16] What a good example of job shaping. I’m talking about this with people all the time in training sessions about how you think your job description is fixed, but you just gave a perfect example of how a sales job, then got turned into a one-on-one coaching job, but you reframed it and thought about how you could apply the talents you have to be awesome at it, and you were doing something innovative for the company in bringing them new business at the same time, and basically letting your hidden talents out of the closet.

[00:14:44] Let’s say that a listener is experiencing what you were experiencing there where they know, “I’m not the typical model for this job,” and they’re not brave enough to go quit it yet. If somebody feels like they’re not the typical mold, what next step would you recommend to somebody who’s experiencing what you were?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:15:05] Well, I think a lot about leadership, of course, and so one of the things that really worked for me, I don’t know if I would’ve done that on my own, Lisa. My president at the time really challenged me on that, and he was the one who took the lead initially on that. I think it’s really cool when people do that for themselves, and I’m also conscious of the fact that not every organization, not every leader is supportive of that, so I’m a big believer in testing things, trying things out.

[00:15:27] So if you’re doing something one way, let’s just use sales as an example since that’s the world I grew up in and going to Carnegie. If you’re doing one sales activity and it’s not working, certainly if your organization has that as a requirement and that’s the way they need to do business, keep doing it. But test something else out. So take a half hour a day and try something out differently.

[00:15:50] If you want to write, take a half hour to write. And if your organization isn’t going to like you do that, put in an extra half hour of work off the clock, and try something that’s a little bit different that’s a little bit more innovative. I think anytime we’re trying to challenge the status quo or do something different in our careers, we’ve gotta be willing to put in a little extra effort.

[00:16:07] Worst case scenario, the organization is supportive of it. Spend a little extra time outside of work hours and try something a little bit different that you think could work. You’ll find out one of two things: either it doesn’t work then you don’t do it and try something else, or it does work. And I have yet to see a situation with a client or an organization I’ve worked with, where an employee has brought a new idea to the leadership team or to the customer, and said, “Oh, look, I tried this new thing and I’m getting really good results. Can I keep doing it?”

[00:16:40] Of course, every time, someone says, “Well, yeah. Oh, you’re getting good results? Good.” Now the challenge is a lot of times people don’t think to do that. What they do is they say, “Well, I’d like to do this differently,” but they don’t have any evidence to support it, so I think that it’s incumbent upon us, if we’re trying to do something different, if we’re trying to be creative, you go try it first. Get some results that show that what you’re doing is going to make sense for the company to invest time into doing. That is a strong case for being able to do it more, and then you present it, get approval from the people you need to. But I think we have to take that step first, if we want to do something different in our career.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:16] I love that. And on the other side of your example you mentioned the selling part and how you came about that with an innovative way. And in the other example you gave was coming up with the one-on-one model that didn’t even exist. And so the way I look at this through a job shaping is if you’re coming up with something the company has never even done, and you’re going to put in extra hours to do it, I’m totally with you, sometimes you have to put in the extra time.

[00:17:43] But you do it and you’re doing it thinking about, “What’s going to put me in my zone of genius?” then you’re going to be pretty energized by that thing you’re creating. So it’s not like it’s going to be the last slog of the day. You’re going to be pretty excited about that 30 minutes, and you’re not going to want to switch over to the other way because you’re so psyched about what you’re about to create, so I like the energizing part of it, too.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:18:04] Yeah, indeed. I remember I spent a lot of time on that at the time, and we actually don’t do it anymore which is sort of another interesting part of the story. I developed talents in doing other areas so well that I actually went back to doing more the traditional parts of our business eventually, but it wasn’t like work. It was, “How can I do this in such a way that’s going to really leverage my talents, help the organization be successful, get everyone else on board, because we got a team of people that didn’t know about coaching at the time.” And so it was really fun.

Lisa Cummings: [00:18:30] Well, you used that today. I know using your Relator talent, and you had these really deep relationships with your Leadership Academy members. Given that, if we switched gears and fast forward to today, I would love the listeners to learn from what you hear because you have these really deep one-on-one relationships with a bunch of senior leaders, and you get to have those interactions every day. So, just in general, what have you learned by marinating constantly in these interactions with senior leaders?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:18:59] How much we all want to be noticed. That’s one of the biggest things I see again and again. How much I want to be noticed, how much so many of us are alike as different as we looked, as different as our experiences are, as different industries that many leaders are in, the situations that we find ourselves in.

[00:19:19] We get in Academy sessions a couple of times a month with our members, and it’s so surprising, I mean, it’s not surprising to me anymore. But initially we’d have someone who was in Paris, who was telling us about a situation, and we’ve got someone else in Texas and someone else in Toronto who’s literally dealing with the same thing or had the same thing come up last week, or is about to run into this same thing. We’re so much alike.

[00:19:40] And also I keep getting hit smack in the face with the reality that leadership is a really lonely pursuit in a lot of ways. If you’re a leader in an organization, even if you’re not the top person, you’re responsible for making a lot of decisions, you have to navigate the internal politics of the organization. So it’s not like you can sit around and talk with a bunch of people internally in the organization, and talk through all the things you might do or might not do.

[00:20:02] You can do that with some people, sometimes, and I think it’s really helpful to have those relationships internally. But it is, it is a lonely pursuit in a lot of ways, especially the higher up you go in an organization. That’s something I hear again and again and again from our Academy members. That’s one of the reasons the Academy is there, is to create the space where leaders be able to develop relationships with each other, where they can support each other, give confidence and give encouragement, because it is really a difficult thing to be an effective leader.

Lisa Cummings: [00:20:29] I totally echo that experience when I do leadership development programs. I’m constantly hearing in training. And sometimes it’s just a virtual session, in chat, they’ve met each other three times, and someone drops a thing that they’re struggling with in a two-sentence description in the chat box. And you just see a stream of, “Oh, you’re dealing with that, too. Oh, I thought I was the only one. Oh, I’m glad I’m not alone.”

[00:20:54] And, wow, that really backs up what you’re saying because you’re not, as a leader, going to model that behavior and go bellyache about the things you’re struggling with in front of other people, so you keep it to yourself, and it can make it lonely.

[00:21:07] I feel two really strong angles here. So, one, I’m hearing it’s lonely, and the leader is going to want to be seen and needs that tribe or those relationships so that it’s not such a lonely endeavor because you don’t have to sow all this on your own. And then the very first part of the answer that people just want to be seen. Instantly my mind went to the almost desperation in people to be seen, be heard, be appreciated, be listened to, even if you don’t have the answer they want to hear, but just knowing that you care enough to hear them out, or listen deeply.

[00:21:42] So if you take that angle, I’m talking all the time to people about notice what works to get more of what works because if you can notice and recognize someone it’s a repeatable behavior, they know how to do that again. But I think you’re going beyond recognition and you’re talking about really helping people feel seen and heard. What do you find as one or two things that leaders end up doing to help people feel totally seen, heard, appreciated?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:22:09] It’s one of those things that they care about doing a really good job as a leader so they’re already thinking about those things. What they run into is, “How do I get it all done in a day, where I’ve not only need to do that but I have to answer to an organization that has very aggressive timelines and schedules, and metrics that I need to hit, and keep customers happy, keep suppliers happy, executive team and all those important stakeholders.

[00:22:35] The leaders that I think of in our Academy who are really, really talented at doing this, meet twice a month for an hour and a half, to give feedback and to coach each other within their teams. They are very diligent about making the space for that to happen. And those weekly one-on-ones happen, or maybe it’s a monthly one-on-one’s, or whatever is appropriate for them and their team. All of the sudden, some really great things start to come out of those conversations and relationships.

[00:23:01] And I think that’s something that I’ve seen again and again is often the difference-maker between leaders that are doing the things you’re talking about, which is making that time and giving recognition and understanding what’s happening with people. And those that maybe intend well to do those things, but in practice aren’t doing those things nearly as much as they’d like to be.

Lisa Cummings: [00:23:23] What a bookend, where you start off the show with your dual use of things, and now we’re ending with a dual use of openness, because it’s not just openness in your calendar for your team. It’s openness in your heart and mind as well, and I love that dual unraveling that happens for them where they realize, “Oh, gosh, it’s not just making openness in my own time so I can grow as a leader, but I have to open this up so the team can get the same from me.” That’s big stuff. That really does reflect the leadership journey so well. Just when you think, “Oh, yes, I hit the next step. I’m doing something great,” then you realize, “Oh, so much more reveals itself that I need to learn.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:24:03] You get to this point where it’s like, “Okay, I figured this out. I’ve arrived.” And then, of course, later that day you realize something like, “Oh, I haven’t even started to figure this out.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:24:16] That is so it. Okay, on that theme, that’s the perfect ending question which is the question I’m borrowing from you, because it was my all-time favorite one I’ve been asked in an interview, which is, “What do you know to be true about leadership today that you didn’t know personally five years ago?”

Dave Stachowiak: [00:24:34] The importance of starting. So let me say more about that. My natural tendency as a person is to have things really figured out. I tend to be very attention to detail oriented, I’m very much a planner, the Futuristic talent that I have works against me sometimes because I like to think about, “How should it work and how should it be?” and have it all planned out perfectly.

[00:24:58] I have found that the thing that often holds me back, or at least in the past have held me back from staring something new or trying something new. I have really learned the importance of starting. And I think about a quote, I actually pulled it up here, from Colin Powell. Colin Powell said, “Use the formula P= 40 to 70 in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information you’ve acquired. Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range go with your gut.”

[00:25:32] And that quote, for me, very much captures what I think is really important not only for leadership, but being successful in your career, is if you’d wait until you got things 80 or 90 or 100% figured out, which is what I used to do, I found that I never started anything. Or if I’d start things I get very quickly caught up in the, “Oh, this isn’t perfect. That isn’t perfect,” and I miss the big picture of things that I really should’ve been focused on.

[00:25:55] Today, I really work on letting go of some of that control. I find something that I think will be valuable or I test an idea and I go with it. And with our Academy, a lot of times we’ll test things, we’ll try something, we’ll go with it. If it works, great we’ll keep doing it, we’ll make it better. If it doesn’t work we set it aside and it’s a lesson learned.

[00:26:13] For me, it’s been very much a process of just getting used to starting a lot, continually starting, continually refining, continually making things better, but not getting hung up on getting it all figured out at the beginning, because you’ll never have it all figured out.

Lisa Cummings: [00:26:26] Oh so true. And what a good metaphor for how life works. You just start and then you adjust along the way, and I think people are going to want to start listening to your show. If you don’t already, you’ll want to, I’m telling you. It’s called Coaching for Leaders. So I know you’re a podcast listener because you’re hearing this, so go to your player and check out Coaching for Leaders. And where else should they go, Dave, to check out more of your content?

Dave Stachowiak: [00:26:50] Oh, that’s a great place to start. Probably the other place to start is to just go to CoachingforLeaders.com. There’s a free membership setup there that gives access to our whole library of episodes for the last six years now that the shows been going on. And, in addition, there’s a free membership there where you can setup access to a free course that I offer, that’s called Ten Ways to Empower the People You Lead. It’s a 10-minute a day audio course, and it’ll give you a lot of the tips and lessons that I’ve learned myself, and from the expert guests over the last six years on the show.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:23] And thanks for making it bite-sized, yes.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:27:27] I love bite size.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:28] Me too.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:27:29] Start it, right? Rather than four hours, 10 minutes. Makes it easy.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:33] Exactly. And a combination of both of us spending a lot of years in the learning and development field, if you make it too big and hairy, people are going to go do it.

Dave Stachowiak: [00:27:40] Indeed.

Lisa Cummings: [00:27:41] So for all of you out there, if you want some more strengths-focused tools to use with your team at work, also check out LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources. So, between Coaching For Leaders and those resources, you’ll get so many ideas for helping your team feel seen, and helping you extend along your leadership journey.

[00:28:04] With that, thanks everyone for listening to Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your strengths, your personal natural talents, makes you a stronger performer at work. If you’ve been putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents and share them with the world.

Direct download: 041-Dave-Stachowiak.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa chats with Strother Gaines, where they talk about using your strengths to maximize the authentic "you" at work.  Strother works with a lot of clients who feel trapped in other people's expectations. This interview will help you look at your innate talents and focus on who you are at your natural best. By doing that, you'll make stronger connections in your career because you're not working so hard at showing up like you think you're supposed to at the office.

Strother and Lisa met a few years ago at a public speaking conference while talking about the “yes cat” Vine video that Lisa had not heard of. Since then, Strother keeps Lisa up on the latest viral videos like Yassss Cat, awesome texting abbreviations like TL;DR (too long didn’t read), and awesome made up words like Screlting.

Strother's Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Individualization, Strategic, Significance, Communication, Activator

Lisa’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode

Check out Strother’s get-to-know-him video and the full TEDx talk on Storytelling. Connect with him on his business site, But I’m A Unicorn Dammit, and his LinkedIn page.

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Subscribe To The Lead Through Strengths Podcast

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:09] 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’ve gotta tell you, whether you’re leading your team or leading yourself, it's hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:26] And today, you’ll get to learn from my coach. He’s a TEDx speaker, he facilitates StrengthsFinder training, he specializes in authenticity, connection and storytelling. If you check out his coaching business at UnicornDammit.com – and, yes, you heard me right – he has this crazy name because he helps people make some giant integrations between different parts of their lives, like lawyers who just want to dance, programmers who wish they were potters, CFOs who are undercover yogis. So fun already, right?

This is a silly and playful photo of strother gaines. He is in a dessert with a vast open field. He's standing in dried grasses, wearing a nice suit, throwing a stuffed unicorn.
Strother out on his quest to find the unicorn qualities in people

[00:01:02] I also love that he brings a million and one perspectives to the workplace scene. He’s done everything from professional speaking to sales management to segue tour guiding. His favorite hobby is directing theater, and he even integrates these amazing theatrical experiences into corporate events. I could gush on and on, yet you’re totally waiting for us to get on with the interview section of the show.

[00:01:28] So, Strother Gaines, welcome.

Strother Gaines: [00:01:30] Thank you so much for having me, Lisa.

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:32] Let’s start with that by telling everyone your top five and which one you felt most authentically like you, when you first read your results.

Strother Gaines: [00:01:41] Sure, yeah. My top five StrengthsFinder talent themes are Individualization, Strategic, Significance, Communication and Activator. And as far as the – if you’d ask me – pick one before I took the test, I would’ve said Communication would’ve been at the top somewhere. And there it is; it’s number four. Communication has always been such a huge part of my world personally, and professionally I majored in theater so you get trained in how to be a communicator.

[00:02:06] I sang for a long time, both opera, musical theater, pop, things like that, so you get the diction and the different styles there. Communication’s always just been a huge part of my life and I would not be surprised to see it in the top five.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:19] So cool. I didn’t know about the opera part.

Strother Gaines: [00:02:22] You know what, I didn’t love it. My undergrad asked me to sing opera because I was awarded a music scholarship because I had kind of a rare-ish vocal part. I was a lyric Italian tenor and opera was not my favorite thing, but if you’re going to give me a scholarship to do it, I suppose I will try. So I would do it and I’d sing the solo, and then I’d jump back into musical theater-land right on afterwards.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:47] When you said musical theater, you made me get back to thinking of dancing lawyers, and that sounds really fun and appealing. One question for you is, if we’re so attracted to these kind of ideas – dancing lawyers and CFOs who want to be yogis and people probably identify with parts of them that feel like that – why do you think it’s so hard then to just be our authentic selves at work?

Strother Gaines: [00:03:10] In my experience there are lawyers who love what they do, and mazel tov to them, and I wish them all the happiness in the world. Oftentimes, though, when I interact with lawyers they often end up being English majors, who did it because it seemed like a good stable thing to do, but it wasn’t really the thing that they were super passionate about. However, you’re investing all of this time into cultivating a career in law that, once you make it into it, you go, “Well, I’m in it. Here we are and this is what we do now.”

[00:03:36] And so you’re in this place where you’ve invested so much time and it’s sort of the sunk-cost fallacy, “I’d made it this far. I can’t really turn around now and open my yogurt stand like I would really like to.” So lawyers or high-ranking CFO, CTO, that type of group, they’ve spend so much time getting where they are that they feel they can’t turn and pivot at all.

Lisa Cummings: [00:03:57] It makes me think about how even young in my career I used to show up at work with my librarian glasses on and put my hair back in a bun and make sure that I look like I should be taken seriously. And there was some disconnect about who I really was and who I thought I needed to show up as.

[00:04:15] And that reminds me of your concept of connection at work as well, because I think those kind of behaviors make some sort of disconnection or wall between you and people, where they go, “Oh, that’s my work environment, and that’s my home environment.” And I remember you saying something about like, “I don’t want to have coffee with you with your work voice on. I just don’t want you to have a work voice.”

Strother Gaines: [00:04:32] Totally.

Lisa Cummings: [0:04:34] Say something about how you could apply natural talents and the natural you to the concept of being connected at work.

Strother Gaines: [00:04:41] Yeah, so I think this is one of the reasons that I was so drawn to StrengthsFinder when you and I started; I’ve been guilty of it as well. I used to manage a spa, and when someone would call I had my normal, like, “Thank you for calling. This is Strother. How can I help you?” kind of voice that drops in that’s not really me, but is what you assume you’d like to hear when you hop on the phone with a spa. It needs to be a very specific style.

[00:05:05] As an actor, I’m able to throw that type of thing up into the world and it still seem authentic, but it’s not actually who I am. So we just get really good at playing these roles for what you expect a lawyer to be, a dog walker to be, “What is the type of voice or persona that I should adopt for that role?” And when you adopt those personas you ignore so

fitness-pizza-dog
This meme makes Strother belly laugh!

me of the unique things that make you you.

[00:05:33] When I look at my top five, there were elements in the spa world that I could utilize but there are others that I sort of hid or just didn’t accentuate. And so I find that StrengthsFinder is such an interesting lens to look at things through because rather than trying to conform to a certain role, or the expectations of a certain role, you take who you are at your core, and make the role conform to you.

[00:05:58] And if you have the flexibility of that, and you don’t have a boss who’s really concerned with making sure you fit that square peg into that round hole, then you actually end up being better and more engaging, and that connection with people is so much more genuine. I find that connection has been sort of the basis for me of all good professional things in my life, and I find that those are more impactful when that person is connecting with me as an actual person as opposed to a put-on version.

[00:06:27] You kind of mentioned when you first started, and this is oftentimes for people when they first start a new career, they put their hair up, they put on the suit in the right way, they try and make sure that they puff up their chest just big enough that they seem impressive. And at the end of the day, that actually makes us tougher to connect with and so people just sort of fall off the back and aren’t as engaged with you. It’s a challenge though because it is sort of a cultural thing for us to try and put on the role as opposed to be ourselves within it.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:57] I wonder, how do you know when you’re not allowing people to connect with you and you’re giving off some vibe to them that they probably shouldn’t want to get to know you more? So how do you know when this is happening? What if you’re doing this and you’re not noticing?

Strother Gaines: [00:07:14] Yeah, that’s a really good question. Sometimes we get so deep into the character. I’m going to diverge a little bit, and if I go too far off, just reel me back because it made me think of some backstory in theater that I’ve used a couple times.

[00:07:29] So in theater I am not the best actor. I’m okay. I’m a better director, I’m a better producer, but on stage I’m okay. I have a couple of ticks that I’m not great at, and I’m not super great at inhabiting a character so that it feels real. It’s very clear that, “That’s Strother being a character,” as opposed to, “Well, that’s just the character.”

[00:07:51] When I was training as a performer, I was even worse, as you can imagine, because I had no training, and one of my professors told me that I had penguin arms. And, basically, what that means is you cannot lift your elbow away from the side of your body. You’re gesticulating with your hands, they’re all over the place, you feel like you’re being big and broad – too bad there’s no visual, maybe I’ll send a little clip of me doing that – but your elbows are basically…

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:18] Is it like your elbows are glued?

Strother Gaines: [00:08:20] Yeah, exactly. They’re locked down to the side, and to you it feels like you’re being big but to an audience it looks like you’re just totally cramped into this little space. I could not get rid of that habit no matter how big I thought I was being, no matter how much I tried to push further, I was always in penguin arms, until I took a mask class.

this is an image of a man wearing a commedia mask - it is brown, intricately carved wood that covers the face down to the nose and cheeks. It has holes for the eyes and little breathing holes for the nose.
Example of commedia mask you'd wear in the mask class that Strother took in college

[00:08:41] In mask class you get to put on – my favorite were Commedia masks which are Italian masks that are half of your face. So your mouth is still exposed but the top of your face is covered and stagnant in that one particular pose.

[00:08:53] As soon as the mask goes on, you have this ability, or I found I had this ability, to finally lift my arms out because suddenly it wasn’t me. I was playing a character and it was super obvious for everyone who was watching that I was being Arlecchino, it’s one of the stock characters names. That was who that was on stage, and Arlecchino moves with these really big arms, and I could finally do it.

[00:09:15] And then as I took that mask off, later, I had gained the ability to take my elbows away from my side. So through this mark work when I get to kind of play in this world where I am definitely putting something on, I developed the ability to finally step out of that box and be a little more authentic and a little bigger.

[00:09:37] And so I find that people – a lot of people always especially when we talk about authenticity or being your best self, or things that, that are a little buzz worthy right now, they’re like, “Take off all your masks and make sure they go away,” I see this as, “If you’re going to use a mask use it intentionally to forward yourself and get comfortable.”

[00:09:55] I think that one of the ways to start – here we are cycling back finally, we’ve made it back to your question originally – if you can notice that there’s a mask, even like a tiny disconnect that you have at work, and most of the time even if it’s embedded in yourself, you’ll start to catch it usually in a vocal pattern. You’ll find it in something that is just not what you do.

[00:10:15] And sometimes it’s actually really helpful to get somebody who does know you. If you do answer a phone, can you have somebody call you and see? Does it sound like you? Are you able to catch it? Can you get somebody in your life who does know you are more authentically, to be around, or to look at some of your writing or things like that?

[00:10:33] Most of the time, though, it will be just sort of a sudden revelation on your own part where you’re like, “Oh, God, I’ve got this mask on right now, and it’s my professional mask. It’s my let-me-be-really-important mask. It’s my here’s-this-thing-that-I-did mask. You judge that and not me.” You make a really good point because it can be really challenging to see when it’s happening.

[00:10:54] But I always look for little elements of things that are just off of who you normally would be, and it’s really as kind of on you to catch it. And it can be challenging sometimes that’s why you have a coach or that’s why you have a teacher, or an instructor, or a mentor. They’re often the ones who will be able to see things on us that we miss.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:14] Such a good one. And I love using the people who really do know you well. I’ve certainly had that kind of feedback from, I know my sister, in seeing some early speaking videos, it’s like, oh, my God, I just crack up when I see that because it’s you being the formal you, or my husband in the pool last year saying something like, “I’m right here. You don’t have to do your training projection voice.”

Strother Gaines: [00:11:35] Oh, God, I get that too, and they’re like, “We’re literally in the room with you.” And I’m like, “I’m so sorry.”

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:40] [laughs] I just blame it on drumming too much and having hearing problems.

Strother Gaines: [00:11:45] I think that’s fair. That’s fair, yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:47] Yeah, it’s a good one. Now, all of this is making me think of personal career branding kind of topic as well, and I know you do a lot of work on the concept of storytelling. And so if we put that in the context of personal career branding, I wonder how someone in the audience could use their Strengths to consciously tell a story about who they are at their best?

Strother Gaines: [00:12:08] I find that personal branding to be really fascinating. And there’s a personal and a professional benefit, I think, to knowing what your personal brand is, and being able to own it. When I look at mine, to pop out for me that helped me in my branding, Individualization and Significance. Having those pieces as context for the story, being able to say, “Okay, if these are my individual talents, these are the things that are easiest for me to call upon, how do I take that and accentuate them? How do I amplify these Strengths?”

[00:12:43] For clients of mine, that is really one of my bigger things is to, once we’ve got the concept of who you are, what your Strengths are, I do prefer to focus on the Strengths I know that you’re on board with that methodology. It’s good to be aware of your weaknesses or the opportunities you have to overcome certain things.

[00:12:59] But I feel like, especially when it comes to storytelling, you want to cater your story to those Strengths. So whether you are an entrepreneur, or an employee, or you’re working on a side hustle, it’s important to know, “These are the things that I want to lead with.” And if you can craft your story around the Strengths then it’s a more compelling story, and I’m more willing to come along with you on that story, than if you’re in the middle, or sort of muddling around, or, even worse, with some of the weaknesses or things you have to overcome.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:29] As you were talking about what you’re going to start with, I just couldn’t help but be sitting there with you at a networking event and how often people have to tell some story of who they are, “Who are you? What are you about?” Usually it’s, “What do you do?” I’m curious about these mini-storytelling moments that happen at work events or networking events.

[00:13:53] And I know you do your Networking Under 40 and you lead these big events. So, gosh, I think I remember you saying something about a terrible story about your first networking event. So tell us about how storytelling plays in there. Give us the storytelling personal branding mixed up with networking.

Strother Gaines: [00:14:11] It’s interesting because in networking we have this concept now, and, oh, if I could just kill it that would be wonderful, but everyone is like, “Well, what’s your elevator pitch? Or how do we squeeze you into 60 seconds?” And I just think that that’s such a terrible exercise. In a networking event, when you come up and you give me that pre-rehearsed little piece I am gone in the first three seconds because I know you’re not actually connecting with me: your story is boring, your story is contrived, and it has nothing to do with me, and it’s you pitching yourself to me.

[00:14:40] Maybe if we are a perfect match business-wise I’m engaged, but realistically as soon as I hear someone switch into the elevator pitch mode I’m gone. Networking for me it’s a bit like Improv in that you have to just be super present with the person. I’m always more concerned with them than myself, and trying to drag stories out of them, that might be a little bit of my just natural Strengths coming out too.

[00:15:06] I like to get people to tell me things about themselves and then I can take that and relate to something that I’ve had going on in my world, and then it’s an easier thing for them to connect with. If we can find places where the Venn diagram of our stories connect at a networking event, that’s when I actually care, and that’s when I’m going to continue to follow up with you.

[00:15:25] The thing that I learned is everyone is terrible at it. If you go to a networking event and you look around, I guarantee nine out of ten people are terrified, or doing a really terrible job at hiding that they’re terrified. And so if you go into it and you go, “Oh, my God, everyone is terrible at this because nobody knows what they’re doing,” and you kind of acknowledge the elephant in the room, then it’s way easier.

[00:15:47] If you go with no expectation and you’re just there to like connect and see and talk and experience, it’s so much easier than if you put all of this pressure on yourself to be the most impressive person in the room, or make sure you get 20 clients before you leave, or 10 business cards that you can follow up with.

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:03] It sounds like this is one of the magic tips, is to find interesting things about other people to ask them about, be curious about, talk to them about. Can you give us some examples of things that others who are listening might look for? Like, I’ll just give you the example of if I see you – and for those of you listening, Strother wears this wooden bowties and they’re so unique. I’ve never even heard of them before, seeing it on Strother.

Lisa wearing wooden bow tie
Lisa's ode to Strother's wooden bow tie. It was fun to find in a little San Diego shop, but it won't be her go-to "approachability doodad."

[00:16:34] So that is something where I think you just gave, I call it an approachability doodad. Now, so you wear this thing that makes it easy for other people to find you approachable and ask you about it, and those are the things I look out for in other people as well, because it just opens up and breaks the ice. So how about for you? What are a couple of things that you look for that you can be curious about and ask people about?

Strother Gaines: [00:16:57] Yeah, totally. It’s funny you mentioned the bowtie because anytime I speak about networking I have three things that I feel – what did you call it? What was the doodad? I love that.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:08] The approachability doodad.

Strother Gaines: [00:17:09] The approachability doodad. Love it. I’m going to take that. So my approachability doodads that I have, I always say it’s my beard, bowtie, and bracelet. And so I have my three Bs that I wear to any networking event, it’s a Miansai. It’s this beautiful little anchor. You have one, you’ve got a hook. I’ve got an anchor, you’ve got a hook.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:25] Right.

Strother Gaines: [00:17:26] And people seems to really like it, and they’re like, “Oh, I really like your bracelet,” and that’s such a super easy in. The bowtie is really great because I can dramatically yank. It’s by a guy, the artist is SwitchWood here in D.C. You can rip the bowtie weighing out because you switch them in and out, they’re on magnets, and people are like, “Oh, my God, that’s so interesting.” And then my beard is just a big one and people are like, “Oh, it’s a cool beard. How long did that take?” So anything to make yourself approachable.

[00:17:51] I think that there’s a fine line for people when do this, because sometimes it gets into the creepy territory of like, “Oh, your hair looks really pretty.” Like, “Hmm, now that’s not a good way to start this.” Start with something usually like the glasses, or an accessory, or shirt color, or the dress color, or something like that. Those are fine.

[00:18:11] But as far as everything else goes, I do the access-ability doodads are wonderful. If you want to wear something like that out, I think that’s a really easy way for you to get responsible for giving people an in. Other ways, take the low-hanging fruit. If there is the one person sitting off by themselves, like almost certainly that person is dying for someone to come talk to them because they’re at a networking event. They came to talk to people but they’re feeling awkward, they’re not sure how to approach, so if you approach them, they’re like, “Oh, thank God.” So find the singular person, and that one is an easy one.

[00:18:45] And then another tip that actually works, that people shake their heads when I say this, but it genuinely does, if you want to break into a group, stepping in and saying, “Mind if I join you?” It actually totally works because people are like, “Yeah, sure,” and they’ll step aside. It’s way better than doing that awkward hover where you’re standing like two feet behind the person to the side and trying to wiggle in.

Lisa Cummings: [00:19:04] And kind of creepy.

Strother Gaines: [00:19:05] Yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [00:19:06] Two things you mentioned that sounded creepy – the standing off to the side, and I was imagining like the elevator eyes looking up to them, “Is there anything interesting that they’re wearing?”

Strother Gaines: [00:19:16] Exactly. Where they’re like, “Let me see. Is this a thing? Oh, yeah, absolutely.” Networking, let’s own it, can feel creepy. It is a forced environment. We’re all thrown to this weird situation. The quicker you just knowledge that the better you are in it.

Lisa Cummings: [00:19:30] Such good stuff. Now, speaking of the power to have big habits as an adult, I want to go to the total other end of the continuum. Yeah, it’s like networking at the more surface-level, first intros. Now let’s get into the real deep kind of human interactions that you experience when you’re coaching people. So you guys heard me mentioned in the intro that Strother is my coach. And I’m curious overall what is your favorite question when you’re going deep with people, that you ask of your coachees? Like what conversation topics really seem to move people the most?

Strother Gaines: [00:20:06] I feel like if you took a cross section of all of my clients and anyone that I’ve ever done a facilitation with, the one thing that they sort of pair it back to me in almost like a mocking way but because I’d say it all the time and it works, is, “What’s that in service of?” And so if someone says, “Well, this is what I’m doing and this is what I think I’m going to do and here’s what my next plans.” And my follow-up question almost always is, “What’s that in service of?”

[00:20:31] And that could easily be, “Well, why are you doing that?” But as a coach, one of the things that I try and avoid is something that comes along with the need to explain or justify. And when I say, “Well, why?” that makes somebody go, “Well, I have to defend that choice. I’m going to defend it. Like here’s what I will because I think that it’s a really good idea and I’ve done all this research and we’re kind of off the topic anyway.” But when I say, “What’s that in service of?” they have to tell me what they hope to gain from choosing that choice.

[00:20:59] And so to make it very personal for you, you have a calendaring thing where you like to over-schedule quite a bit, and the question I ask is, “Well, what’s it in service of?” And you can answer right now, and I can say like most people would say something like, “Oh, to fit it all in because I know I have to get out there and always be a presence and always make sure that people know who I am and keep those relationships alive,” and whatever their reasoning is.

[00:21:24] And then we ask, “Well, if that’s what that’s in service of, is that in line with your larger goals that we’re working on?” And usually with clients we’ll sort of address anywhere from one on a short end, to up to five or so primary goals that we’re working on, and we can take that action and see if it’s actually in service of the larger pieces.

Lisa Cummings: [00:21:43] I love that you brought up calendaring because I hear it all the time from listeners as well, and because I’m totally happy to be transparent on the show because I’m always telling people to get as much time as possible in their Strengths zone. But even an overload of that, my calendar is overloaded with stuff in my Strength zone at times.

Strother Gaines: [00:22:03] [laughs] At times.

Lisa Cummings: [00:22:05] At times. [laughs] Many times. Not as much as last year though because I’ll tell you, you know, right, we know there are 24 maximum hours in a day, and Strother is not capable of giving you 36 or 38, but he did save me 266 hours of work in one calendar-related conversation last year. Because I remember you were challenging me in order to get some calendar time back, and when you asked me what it was in service of, I remember that I had said yes to too many things and one in particular was a gigantic contractual obligation.

[00:22:42] I felt like it was in service of my integrity to follow up with what I had agreed to do, but once I got in, I was like, “Ugh, what did I do to myself?” And you challenged me to use my Strengths to get some massive calendar time back by not assuming I had to go about that work in a specific way, and you gave me some things to try doing that required less preparation, because I’m kind of an over-preparer, for those listening, and it saved me sooo many hours.

[00:23:13] I think this is a great way to end on your concept of your Big C, Little C, and then I think they could apply it to themselves because you fill your calendar with things but you may not be fully aware of how you’re vetting those things. So let’s end with that.

Strother Gaines: [00:23:30] Yeah, sure. So Big C, Little C is basically your big commitments and your little commitments. And your big commitments are those things that you would feel those high-minded ideals that you would hope that people would look at you and be like, “Oh, I bet Lisa is committed to music and her husband and the growth of the universe,” and all of these things that you would hope someone would look at and say, “Yes, that’s their big things.”

[00:23:53] And your Little C is what you would actually see if we followed you around and you didn’t know for about 48 hours what would I, as an impartial observer, think your commitments were? And so is that Netflix? Is that the dog? Is that iPhone games? That used to be mine. I have since overcome some of those addictions, but nobody tell me any good games, because I will immediately jump right back in to them.

[00:24:15] But when you’re being trailed anonymously for 48 hours, and this is an exercise you can do on your own, like look back at the past 48 hours, look at your calendar, look at the things you did, look at how you spent the time in between, big projects as well, and see, “Is this something that I seem committed to that’s actually taking up most of my time? Or am I actually living into my big commitments that I have?”

[00:24:36] And so one of my commitments is the growth of my business. Did the things that I did today actually reflect that? And that’s your call to make. You get to decide if yes or no. But I find that that Big C, Little C is a nice way to sort of contextualize all of the things you’re doing and to tie it back to calendar time or fitting it all in why do we spend all of this time doing things that don’t actually move forward our larger goals. Sometimes it’s just we aren’t aware that we’re doing them.

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:01] Some of the conversations, I think, that when we’re not looking in the mirror and it just feels like, “Well, this is an outside force, versus an inside force,” it makes it feel like the Big C is impossible. So the to-be-continued is follow up with the coach and go deep on this kind of stuff.

Strother Gaines: [00:25:17] Yeah. Well, hello there.

Lisa Cummings: [00:25:19] [laughs] Well, Strother, this has been so fun. So if they do want to reply to your, “Hello, there,” then where should they go find you?

Strother Gaines: [00:25:28] Perfect. You can find me at UnicornDammit.com, you can email me at Strother, which you probably can’t say. It’ll be on your show notes, I’m sure. But it’s S-T-R-other, Strother@UnicornDammit.com. I’m happy to chat over there. Yeah, those are my primary spots. Also, if you happen to be in the D.C. area, I’m not an aegis here. We’re just a young professionals group under 40. We don’t check your ID, so come wherever I could be but we’d love to see you at one of our monthly events. It’s every third Thursday and you can check that out at NetworkUnder40.com.

Lisa Cummings: [00:26:04] All right. If you can’t connect in D.C. then come on over to LeadThroughStrengths.com and we have some resources at LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources so you can connect with your team at work, and bring out your authentic best, and their authentic best. There are a bunch of tools there related to StrengthsFinder, strengths-focused leadership and on noticing what works about you and others so you can get more of what works in the workplace.

[00:26:30] Thanks, everyone, for listening to Lead Through Strengths. Remember, using your strengths at work makes you a stronger performer at work. And if you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your authentic talents and share them with the world.

Direct download: 040-Strother-Gaines.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa speaks with Bruce Ge and Neil Davis, who join us to talk about what it's like to create an amazing culture at your company. They both give specific examples of ideas you can implement.

Bruce Ge, the CEO at Jobs2Careers, gives insight into the most important functions of executives. Neil Davis, the Director of HR, offers ways to integrate company culture into the hiring process. Unlike our usual audio-only interviews, this one was onsite at the Jobs2Careers headquarters in Austin, Texas. If you prefer to watch the full video versions of the interview, they are embedded below.

Neil’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes: Responsibility, Competition, Adaptability, Learner, Strategic

Lisa’s Top 5 Clifton StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo

Resources of the Episode

If you go to the J2C homepage for job seekers you'll see roles in tons of industries, locations, and companies. Check out their careers page to explore their open positions inside of Jobs2Careers in Austin, TX. Keep in mind, even though they're a software company, their workforce is onsite in Central Texas. Working together in the same location is actually part of their secret-culture-sauce. Finally, if you're a hiring manager, you might be interested in the J2C For Employers page to check out their unique Pay Per Application model.

Here's the live interview with Bruce and Neil on camera.

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Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

 

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:09] 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, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:28] And today you’ll get one of several episodes I’ve recorded that gives you specific examples straight from leaders who have built awesome company cultures, and there are so many direct ties between strengths and employee engagement on your team. So this peek behind the curtain at workplace culture will be a neat way to inspire ideas you can use at your company.

[00:00:51] Most of today’s episode was recorded on site at a company in Austin, Texas, called Jobs2Careers, which you’ll hear us refer to as J2C. of course, we’ll link to them in the show notes so that you can check them out all the way.

[00:01:05] Now, this show features Neil Davis, their head of HR, and Bruce Ge, their CEO, who also joins us in the second half. In this episode, you’ll hear specific strategies that you can put your own spin on. One of my favorites is an example of how they live out their company values. So one of their top values is providing phenomenal experiences.

Bruce Ge (Left) and Neil Davis (Right) at Jobs2Careers Headquarters in Austin, TX [image at front desk]Bruce Ge (Left) and Neil Davis (Right) at Jobs2Careers Headquarters in Austin, TX
[00:01:32] So one way they live this out is by literally rolling out the red carpet to welcome new hires and make them feel like superstars. Can you imagine how that would make you feel as a new teammate? Wow, I love that one, and there are several nuggets like that as you listen through.[00:01:50] If you would like to see the full impact of this interview with video, you can watch the interview portion of the show on the show notes page at LeadThroughStrengths.com/listen. And one note for this episode is that you’ll hear the tone of the audio change a bit as we move over to the on-site recording because we’re not in a regular studio environment.[00:02:13] So, with that, let’s jump over to the interview where I start with Neil, asking him, from the HR perspective, to tell us about their hiring process and how they use that to build their company culture.

Neil Davis: [00:02:28] Our selection process, as you may have guessed already, is very different. We look for more than just technical skill or functional capacity; we look for how someone will be able to interact and work on a team on a daily basis. So we look for those interpersonal traits and skills like teamwork, communication, collaboration, and how people generally interact with people on the team. That has equal weight to the technical skill.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:56] Hmm, I love it. So I’m always talking about, anybody who’s a regular listener knows that I talk about the “what” and “how” all the time. So the “what” being the knowledge and the skills and the experiences, and the “how” being all the stuff that you just talked about. Now, how do you do it? Because you have to figure out really quickly how this is going to show up. How do you even get to that?

Neil Davis: [00:03:17] It literally starts from the very first interaction with the candidate. We look at how they communicate with us, how they respond, even, sometimes, how quickly they respond, because it gives you an indicator of how they might be able to interact with folks, or communicate with folks, if they came on board here.

[00:03:35] And then, when they come in face-to-face for an on-campus interview, we get feedback from every point of contact that that candidate had while they were there, and we take that feedback, we combine it with what we learned of their technical skill. If they’re a cultural fit and they have the technical aptitude, then they’re a great candidate for us to consider moving forward.

[00:03:54] I, myself, take each candidate through a pretty extensive and, I’ve been told, pretty fun and unique value alignment assessment where we really assess situational attitude, reactionary communication, behavioral traits, and skills that are really important to preserving our culture here.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:12] I just want to talk about behavioral interviews for one second. I would give people the shortcut of, “Tell me about a time when this…” when you get them to give you examples. How would you shortcut what behavioral interviewing is?

Neil Davis: [00:04:23] Very similar to that. We want to know how someone has demonstrated these skills or how their interpersonal traits manifest themselves in the workplace. So we ask about recent situations that they’ve gone through, and some of the questions are very unique, some of them are dead on straight to the point, and they all are very strategic in their format, and that’s to help us gain a better idea of the candidate. One of the ancillary benefits is the candidate gets to know a lot more about our culture and our value system by going through this process with us.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:54] So let’s talk values. Okay, when I first met you guys and we did a little bit of Strengths work, you told me that one of the ways you bring these things alive is every person – get this if you’re listening – every person gets asked the same question every day for one month. So ours would’ve been, “How did you use your Strengths yesterday, or today on the job?” Something to that effect?

Neil Davis: [00:05:18] Something to that effect, right. Every time we have management training or professional development classes or training courses, all staff are invited not just people managers. And at the end of the training we institute a post-training question related to the concepts or the techniques that were taught in that course, and we add those to our daily status report, or our weekly status report templates, that managers actually give to each of their staff, the manager gets to direct feedback and it stays in that status report template for about a month, depending on when the next training class is.

[00:05:53] The reason we do that is because: a) we know it takes longer than just a day or two for a concept to transform itself into a habit; b) we know that as that employee is focused on this post-training question every day or every week, you could see how their answers go from short to targeted and specific, and that’s when we know it works because it’s now a newly-developed habit, and then, of course, it supports one of our core company values.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:20] And we’re onto values, right.

Neil Davis: [00:06:21] And that is the crux of why we do this. It’s “always grow” is the core value that it directly supports. We believe, whether it’s at an individual contributor level or as an organization, one of our core values has been, and will continue to be, to always grow. Push our boundaries, encourage ourselves to learn, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and become better.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:45] And it’s such a practical tip for anybody listening, that you can just take a deep question like that, ask it every day, and you start to see the depth. What are the other values at Jobs2Careers?

Neil Davis: [00:06:57] Sure. We have five company values, and they truly all start with “do the right thing.” That, of course, reflects on the integrity piece. And then, of course, creating phenomenal experiences not just for our clients and our partners but also for our internal customers and teammates. That starts truly with new hires on board day one. We roll out this long orange carpet, they’re literally walking across this carpet, we have their favorite drink in hand waiting for them.

Lisa Cummings: [00:07:27] And how do you know their favorite drink?

Neil Davis: [00:07:29] We ask that in the interview process, and it’s shocking to see their response when they realize we’ve paid attention and they forgot that they’ve told us what their favorite drink was, and then we had it for them on their first day. So that’s a way that we create phenomenal experiences even for our new hires. And, of course, I mentioned “always grow” and how that is one of our core company values.

[00:07:50] We also go the extra mile. Go the extra mile is important for us because it is truly a part of teamwork, which is our fifth core company value. So those are our five core company values, and we live them every day.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:04] Yeah, I really see people living them out. And for anybody who’s listening and thought, “Orange carpet?” If you haven’t seen the video on Jobs2Careers, or you haven’t looked at their website, it’s one of their two company colors. It’s the primary color, right?

Neil Davis: [00:08:19] Correct. Orange and teal blue. Right.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:22] Right. And then, something I thought was cool that, as I got to know the team, I kept hearing more and more examples of small things that might represent a phenomenal experience that someone else would need. So someone in the customer-facing customer service kind of team said something about how when they saw that their energy was waning, and they needed a little boost on the phone, they would do planks together as a team and it’s one of those ways to support teamwork.

[00:08:49] So it seems like, wow, that’s a really deep way of looking at it. It looks just like fun or someone taking an energy break but it was a really cool way to take the values and say, “These things get demonstrated in the smallest ways.”

Neil Davis: [00:09:02] Absolutely. Another way we do that, and it might seem small but it really is impactful, we have created values cards. And on these values cards it list each of our five core values individually, but it also list a section where you can fill in what this employee did, and who it’s from, and you check what value you saw them represent, or you saw them personified, and you give them that values card as a way to individually recognize their effort, and also a way to inspire them to continue living our values.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:31] They mean something to them. They receive something that said, “Hey, you meant something to me as a teammate. You did something for me.”

Neil Davis: [00:09:38] Right. Right. It’s a point of pride here for sure.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:41] Well, Neil, thank you for giving us a peek of what it’s like here.

Neil Davis: [00:09:45] Thank you for talking to me. Appreciate it.

Glimpse of Fun Culture at Jobs2Careers [image of people in costumes, having fun, and moving on hover board]Glimpse of Fun Culture at Jobs2Careers
Lisa Cummings: [00:09:47] It was a good time.[00:09:50] So, are you filled up with ideas yet? I know I am. My favorite top five from Neil were: one, rolling out the red or orange carpet for new hires; two, surprising a new hire by greeting them with their favorite drink; three, having pre-printed values cards to make it easy to give recognition to each other; four, doing planks together as a team as a quick energizer; and, five, deepening the application of a training class by asking a question from that month’s training in their daily status report documents.[00:10:22] This one, after getting inspired by J2C’s follow-up questions to our Strengths training with their company, my team decided to experiment with this as well, and we started with the question, “How did you use your Strengths at work today?” It was really interesting to me to see the difference in responses. I got everything from detailed and thoughtful answers, all the way through a rushed, “I used my Learner talent today.”

[00:10:48] So play around with it to complement your work styles. And the biggest learning for me was to properly introduce the question and what’s behind it rather than just writing it and not explaining because when I did that the answers were way more generic.

[00:11:04] So, okay, in the next section of the on-site interview you get to learn from Bruce Ge, the CEO of Jobs2Careers. I thought you’d enjoy hearing about leadership from a founder perspective as well.

[00:11:17] Now, he has led this company through extreme growth and he gives you a viewpoint on the most important functions of executives. And some of his opinions might even surprise you, like the fact that he offers management training to every employee, regardless of their current role, because he wants to prepare each person for leadership positions, even if that means they need to leave the company to live into their potential.

Lisa Cummings facilitating management training on using your strengths and natural talents at Jobs2Careers [image of class interaction]Lisa Cummings facilitating management training on using your strengths and natural talents at Jobs2Careers
[00:11:44] So here’s my interview with Bruce where we pick up a conversation about their company value called “always grow,” and how one way they execute it is this monthly training.

Bruce Ge: [00:11:58] Oftentimes we’ll ask employees, “What is your ambition?” They would say, “I want to become a manager. I want to become an executive.” And a lot of them are never presented an opportunity. They don’t even know what are the expectations from them, and how they’re judged. So, in order to be fair, I want to provide an opportunity at least for them to know what a high-level manager should be like.[00:12:24] So the main point is to grow the employees, which is adding value to what Jobs2Careers can provide to their career growth. I also get a side benefit of getting jobs done more efficiently. Ultimately, the education I give to the employees will go with the employees. Well, to be honest, I don’t need all of my people to become managers. But that’s fine, I will be proud if one day my employees become managers or executives of other companies.

[00:12:53] So I set a high bar for most of my people and I push them to grow. Eventually, a lot of them will make to the management or executive level in other companies, I’ll be proud of it. So the point is, I’m trying to make a good deal with my employees.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:08] It’s a very mature way of looking at leadership. A lot of times people feel like they want to be talent hoarders.

Bruce Ge: [00:13:14] I think you have a very good point. Trying to stop talent from growing is going to hurt both sides. Eventually, if I grow my people to a very high level, they will leave me because there are some opportunities outside of Jobs2Careers and I should be happy for them. It’s a win-win deal.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:32] It is win-win. One thing that I think of when I think of a company like yours is I have a lot of clients who are tech companies or they’re in the Bay Area or they’re fast-growth, and the founder has had a major impact on the culture. What are you doing? Because I can tell you’re doing something to ensure that there’s a culture that’s on purpose and it’s not just your personal personality. How are you doing this?

Bruce Ge: [00:13:59] I think the most important value a CEO needs to keep in mind is integrity, especially accountability. Let me take an example of what we do differently from other companies. Jobs2Careers do not impose regular overtime. We require efficient eight hours work, but we do not expect people to work unless there’s an emergency or something really important.

[00:14:21] So people can find a good balance of life and work. And this is very well-received because you do see companies who try to push people to work 10, 12 hours a day. I think it tarnishes the image of the employer. It makes your people trust your employer less. So that’s the things I’m trying to avoid. I want to behave with a high integrity, and I also hold other people accountable for high integrity. So those are the small things we do that make a difference. But it’s important that we hold ourselves, employers hold ourselves to a very high level of integrity, and that sets a very good example for the employees.

Lisa Cummings: [00:15:01] I think modeling what you expect of people is critical. If you said one thing and then you didn’t hold yourself to it, it would not become part of the culture.

Bruce Ge: [00:15:10] It damages credibility and everything will go south from there.

Lisa Cummings: [00:15:16] I went back out and peeked at your LinkedIn profile again the other day, and I noticed that you mentioned how important recruiting is in your role as CEO, and I think that’s a rare thing to say, “As CEO, recruiting is one of my top job responsibilities,” and it certainly tells me a lot about why the culture here is what it is. Can you talk about what led you to make that one of your most important job responsibilities?

Bruce Ge: [00:15:46] Acquiring and retaining talent is probably the most important function of my job. We have been very selective in who we will bring on board. Not only executives, also we have a very high bar for entry-level people. Why develop so much attention for me? Because one is very hard. It takes so much time to know people and it requires patience.

[00:16:13] We have like less than 1% hiring rate from resumes to employees. It also requires a lot of people knowledge. We need good sense to identify the talent. So, ultimately, what matters to an organization is your people. That’s probably the most important element that requires me to invest my time on.

Lisa Cummings at J2C management training with the 1% that got hired [image: group photo]Lisa Cummings at J2C management training with the 1% that got hired
Lisa Cummings: [00:16:35] It’s a key thing when I talk to listeners, when I talk to my clients, and their leaders are struggling. A lot of times it’s because they’re focusing on the work, but not the people doing the work, so you’re really onto something that is a differentiator I see in the marketplace also.

Bruce Ge: [00:16:54] Thank you. Yes, I am very clear on what a CEO should focus on. I’m not focused on any detail-level work. I only focus on people. So once I have the talent, I put them in charge of product, sales, marketing, they handle everything. I need to make sure they’re happy, and I need to make sure they are doing the right management job. My job becomes easy and my organization becomes efficient at the same time.Lisa Cummings: [00:17:19] Gives you some time to play ping pong?

Bruce Ge: [00:17:21] I have enough time to spend with my family. I golf every week, play ping pong sometimes. It’s a good life.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:30] Love it. Bruce Ge, thank you.

Bruce Ge: [00:17:32] Thank you, Lisa.

Lisa Cummings: [00:17:33:] We appreciate it. I know the listeners will love so much hearing all these angles, being able to see a marketing leader, a CEO, an HR person at such a fast-growing company with such a fun culture.

[00:17:47] Boy, what a treat to hear from a leader who is growing a thriving company. All his team members are thriving too.

[00:17:54] My top five ideas from Bruce were: one, offer leadership training to everyone because it’s a win for everyone; number two, model the behaviors you want to see because you can only be credible as a manager if you’re leading through the accountability and the integrity that you expect from everyone else; number three, the number one role of a leader is finding the right people for the team and developing them; number four, if you make a culture of accountability, you don’t have to create a culture of working 12 hour days, even at a software company; and number five – that’s my favorite one – and that is to never hoard talent, to help everyone grow even if that means some people have to leave the company to live into their highest potential.

[00:18:43] And that, my friends, is a wrap.

[00:18:46] Neil and Bruce, thank you for the backstage pass. What a cool set of ideas to get the outcomes of the work by focusing on the people doing the work. I feel like that’s such an important statement. They gave us such a cool set of ideas to get the outcomes of the work by focusing on the people doing the work. So big. And now you have at least 10 more inspirations you can use to ramp up your culture, so just pick one. Do one thing this week.

[00:19:16] If you’re using our RAMP model to build your culture, remember R is to nurture relationships, A is to create an environment where people can experience regular accomplishment, M is for meaning and purpose, and P is for positive interactions. And this is in perfect alignment with building a strengths-based culture.

[00:19:40] If you’re noticing what works at work, you’re going to get more of what works at work. So if you want to recognize people on your team, we made a resource for you. Go to LeadThroughStrengths.com/resources, and one of the documents there gives you 127 ways to offer recognition this week. And it really is possible to nurture all four of those areas of the RAMP model with one sincere recognition, so imagine what you can do if you put that on repeat.

[00:20:13] Like we always say, by nurturing Strengths, you’re nurturing performance at work. If you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your new work culture, and share the positive results with the world.

 

Direct download: 039-Bruce-Neil-J2C.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa speaks with Samantha Smith, who joins us to talk about what it's like to create an amazing culture at your company. She gives very specific examples of ideas you can implement, no matter what your current title is. Unlike our usual audio-only interviews, this one was onsite at the Jobs2Careers headquarters in Austin, Texas.

You also get a bonus interview with Suong Luu. She gives the cultural overview from the employee perspective. Her first job out of college was with Jobs2Careers. She has already progressed through several roles from intern to marketing coordinator. And she has been able to experiment in functions from IT to marketing.

Resources of the Episode

If you go to the J2C homepage for job seekers you'll see roles in tons of industries, locations, and companies. Check out their careers page to explore their open positions inside of Jobs2Careers in Austin, TX. Keep in mind, even though they're a software company, their workforce is onsite in Central Texas. Working together in the same location is actually part of their secret-culture-sauce. Finally, if you're a hiring manager, you might be interested in the J2C For Employers page to check out their unique Pay Per Application model.

Here's the live interview with Sam and Suong on camera.

 

Strengths Tools

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our Strengths Resources page.

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

Here's a Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:08] You’re listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you’ll apply your greatest strengths at work. I’m your host, Lisa Cummings, and I gotta tell you, whether you’re leading your team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

[00:00:27] And, just the other day I got a new idea for the show. I got in the mail this magazine that had the best places to work. And even though it’s an Austin, Texas publication, I’m thinking, “Oh, cool. Strengths and great company cultures and employee engagement, they’re all so intertwined so it’d be really cool to get some great ideas to share with listeners.”

[00:00:50] And, you know, I was so disappointed. I opened this thing up and, as it describes each of these award-winning companies, it gives some bullet points on what they do to make their culture great. And do you know what the answers are? Oh, gosh, let me give you a sampling. Number one: generous retirement plan. Number two: charity involvement. Number three: rewards program. And number four of your sample: a health and wellness program.

[00:01:19] Oh, my gosh, I was so bummed out when I read those, because I thought it would be full of inspiration and ideas, and although those bullet points are fine enough words, it’s just like when you see on a resume when someone says they’re a motivated team player. It’s like, “Well, yeah, that’s the same thing everyone else is saying. Give me something different. Give me something specific and inspirational.” It was lacking all of the telling details. And that led me to the idea of what the next couple of interviews are going to be about.

[00:01:48] Today you’ll get one of several episodes I’ve recorded that gives you specific examples straight from leaders who have built an awesome company culture. There are so many direct ties between strengths and employee engagement on your team, so you’ll get this peak behind the curtain at workplace cultures that can give you an inspiration to come up with your own ideas that are riffing off of the one you’ll hear here.

[00:02:14] The bulk of today’s interview was recorded on site at a company in Austin, Texas called Jobs2Careers. So you’ll hear us also refer to this company as J2C. Of course we’ll link J2C in the show notes so you can check them out all the way.

[00:02:32] Now this show highlights Samantha Smith who runs their marketing team. And then in the next episode you’ll hear from their CEO and from their Head of HR. That way you’ll get specific examples that are unique from each angle inside of the business. And at the end of this episode, you’ll hear a recap about how Sam’s examples fit right into our RAMP model for nurturing team culture.

[00:03:00] So as a quick teaser, the four RAMP factors to always be nurturing on your team are R relationship building, A accomplishment, M meaning and purpose, and P positive interactions. So RAMP makes it an easy acronym to think about your culture.

[00:03:19] You’ll hear the tone of the audio change a bit as we move over because it was an onsite recording, so if you do want to see the full impact, with video, you can also watch this interview portion on the show notes page. Just go to LeadThroughStrengths/SamanthaSmith and it has everything except for that recap at the end.

[00:03:38] So, with that, let’s jump over to the onsite interview.

[00:03:43] We have Samantha Smith, you’ll hear me refer to her as Sam, and she runs their marketing team. And I thought it’d be fun to give you all of these different angles of people and different roles around the company because people start to say, “Oh, yeah. Culture, that’s an HR initiative,” or, “Culture has nothing to do with HR. That’s only what happens out in the business.”

[00:04:07] So, no matter what side of that fence you’re on, you get to see lots of different angles at J2C. And I’ve been Jobs2Careers but J2C. Is that internally your name?

Samantha Smith: [00:04:18] Internally that’s the slang.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:19] Yeah, that’s your slang. And you have to have team slang to have a team culture.

Samantha Smith: [00:04:23] Yeah.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:24] So what’s your favorite thing about culture here?

Samantha Smith: [00:04:26] I would say that we try and do things differently. We’re very opposed to, “Oh, we’ve always done it that way.” And one of the things I like is that Bruce (Ge), our CEO, and management team really want to hear what the employees have to say. I believe that Bruce’s philosophy would be that you hired good people and that the success of your company is mostly dependent on your team.

[00:04:48] And one of the things that I like is Bruce does a CEO Circle program. And what that is, is every quarter he will give us a business challenge that he’s facing. It could be what to name a new product, or it could be how to brand us in a creative way, and it has to be easy to implement and inexpensive and solve a problem.

[00:05:08] And every quarter somebody wins it. Three people, actually. And when you win it, you get to go to a family event with Bruce and his wife and two kids, you get a $1,000 bonus, and you get a chance to implement your program. And one of my favorite examples is our social ambassador program, and that was the answer to a question of, “How do we maintain our culture as we grow?” because we’ve just about doubled employee headcount year-over-year for the past four years. So how do you keep the culture of a small company when you get big?

[00:05:41] And so the social ambassador program is run by one of our client success analysts, and basically when there’s a new person that starts, it’s you get a schedule to have lunch with a new person. So they get to have lunch with somebody from a different department every day so it’s not you’re just going to a lunch. Here’s there’s 80 people like that you don’t know exactly.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:01] It’s like high school again with a tray where you’re walking around going, “Where do I sit?”

Samantha Smith: [00:06:06] Yeah, exactly. And so we don’t want anyone to feel that way, and we want them to know us, and we want engineers and marketing and sales and HR to all eat lunch together and not get too cliquey.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:16] Oh, I like. And when you first said it, I’m thinking, “Marketing,” I’m thinking, “Social,” as in social media, so I expected your answer to be about something to the external world. I love hearing that this is an internal, how you get to know each other and work with each other.

Samantha Smith: [00:06:31] Definitely. One thing I thing is cool is that when I started with Jobs2Careers we had 40-some people, and now I think we’re 90 plus. And I think I still pretty much know everybody’s name, which I’ve worked with companies much smaller I can’t say that about.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:48] It says something about people really caring about each other and you can’t make somebody care about each other. What are the things that happen here that allow that environment to happen? Because I could certainly see that in a room of essentially every employee, there are really deep relationships that you can tell it’s different from those who, “Oh, that’s that guy in accounting who I don’t know.” Now how does that happen here?

Samantha Smith: [00:07:14] It does feel different than other places, and I’ve thought about why. And I think a big factor is that we all eat together every day, and every afternoon at 3:30 we have tea time which is a 20-minute break to not let your blood sugar dip too much, and you have to mingle outside if it’s nice with people in other departments.

[00:07:33] And so we really all do know a lot about each other and that helps when you need to ask for someone’s assistance with something, or somebody comes to you. And it also helps that we know what everybody does because sometimes we’ll talk about work at lunch and people know what everyone’s role is. It’s never like, “Oh, I don’t know who you are. What do you do?” That doesn’t really happen.

Lisa Cummings: [00:07:54] “That’s just that lady with brown hair over there. I’ve seen her around but I have no idea.”

Samantha Smith: [00:07:57] Right.

Lisa Cummings: [00:07:58] Right. So when you were talking about the CEO Circle – did I get the terminology right?

Samantha Smith: [00:08:02] Yes.

Lisa Cummings: [00:08:03] Okay. You mentioned the brand as one of the examples of maybe how you bring the brand to life. I looked that there were constraints in it too. It’s cheap to implement those sorts of things, that’s cool. That made me think about branding and how many companies I work with are trying – I’m sure listeners are feeling this way – “Oh, we want to have an employment brand. We want to be known for something to candidates. We want to be an employer of choice. We want to be a place that people want to come work.”

[00:08:31] Then there’s the other side of branding that the typical marketing person would be focused on – your company brand and the brand personality traits. They seem very aligned here. So how does that all come together from your perspective?

Samantha Smith: [00:08:42] Well, our mission statement is, “Innovating the way employers effectively find talent, and the talent effectively find employers.” So, we’re helping both sides of the coin there. And there’s the key word of innovating, which is that we want to do employee branding differently and we also want to do searching for a job and hiring differently.

[00:09:03] This company is only five years old, so it’s not a legacy brand that you have to give a facelift to. We could start something new and it wouldn’t affect any existing business. And even, for a simple example, expense reports, they’re really easy to do. We’ve got software to do them. It’s not a lot of cutting and pasting and it works quickly, and that’s just an example of something that doesn’t get bogged down in red tape.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:30] And if you’re going to make simplicity a key part of your mission statement you want to live it out and model in everything you do, and you really do it.

Samantha Smith: [00:09:38] There is efficiency all the time. Even as simple as dishes are piling up next to the sink. Let’s put a basket there if the dishwasher is full. And it sounds silly but in a big office little things like that help.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:53] And I would imagine they would start to be the small things that create a culture because just like when you walk into a public restroom and you see trash all over the place, similarly if you start to see dishes all over the place then people don’t care about the space as much. And so coming up with solutions for things and being efficient and being simple, it does feel like it’s really built into what you do here.

Samantha Smith: [00:10:16] It does.

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:17] Another thing we’ve talked about outside of the interview is perks. Let’s actually talk about some of the perks you actually have, because this is a typical go-to for culture. People go, “Okay, it’s a tech company. Let’s make some cool company perks. Those do attract people, and it has to go beyond that.” So talk a little bit about what perks you do have. You’ve mentioned lunch every day.

Samantha Smith: [00:10:40] Yeah, that’s pretty good.

Lisa Cummings: [00:10:41] And tea time is pretty cool. What else, and then how do you go beyond that?

Samantha Smith: [00:10:46] Well, we have everything we need here. We have lunch, we have tea time, we have coffee. Its purpose is to make us work more efficiently. So we have everything we need, and we don’t want for anything here. But I would say that beyond the perks, there’s the cultural perks too, like to always learn and to try new ideas and to communicate.

[00:11:08] And one of my favorite things that Bruce says is to allow for interruptions. And so what that means to me is like a C-level officer, you can just go in her office and ask them something. And if somebody comes to you, it’s sort of the same expectation. So really being transparent, I think that says a lot about our culture beyond, you know, we have a ping pong table and we have a beautiful office space in the hill country, and we see rainbows out there.

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:37] That’s a great view.

Samantha Smith: [00:11:38] Yeah, and we grill steaks out there sometimes. And there’s these moments like, “Well, this is…”

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:43] Like every Friday?

Samantha Smith: [00:11:44] Yeah, mainly. And so there’s these moments, like, “Well, we’re really well taken care of.” But I think the part that I feel luckiest about, is that I work with such a smart group of people. I mean, the process is rigorous to be hired here, but it’s worth it because there are no weak links, and it’s really amazing to work that way.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:05] That makes a big difference in culture. Let’s end there with a little more specific look at people and how they come into the role that they’re doing, and even how work is assigned? So something I noticed, for example, working with Callie that she’s just so energetic. It seems like everybody I interact with, they love what they do.

[00:12:28] And it’s not just I want to make the cliché comment about passion because I feel like there’s a lot of explanation that needs to happen beyond that, but the energy that people bring. What happens from you being a people manager when you’re trying to imagine, “How do I take this person, know their skills and interests, and align them to what puts them at their best so that kind of energy connection show up at work?” Because it’s showing up all over the building.

Samantha Smith: [00:12:54] Well, one thing that’s neat about how fast we’re growing is it gives you room to change your job. For instance, we had an account executive who became a sales manager, who then became a sales operations manager; we’ve had people transfer departments. And so because we’re growing so quickly, these new avenues open up, and if you really jump on them and own them, then you can have that and then somebody else will do the other part.

[00:13:20] So everyone is passionate because you’ve kind of get to choose your job to a certain extent. There’s always support from management, but there’s not necessarily, “Okay, this is what you need to do every day.” So when I started my job nobody told me, “Okay, so for marketing materials, we’re going to focus on doing case studies, and doing content marketing, and get our blog redesigned.” No one told me that. It’s just you see a need and you go for it and then you see that there’s value to it. If you go into your manager’s office and have an idea that’s going to bring value, they’ll let you do it.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:52] Yeah, I love it. We have a lot of listeners who are at tech companies and that’s an environment they’ll be able to really touch and feel. And then, I also have a lot of listeners who work for big companies and add maybe a couple or a few zeroes to the headcount. If, for that person, just to go out on an idea of what could they do so it’s going to feel more bureaucratic, a little less able to just say, “Oh, my gosh, I can craft my job”? What advice would you give for somebody who’s a manager at a company where they’re a little more mature in the business so things don’t change as fast and they’re trying to blaze a trail as a manager and create their own team culture?

Samantha Smith: [00:14:34] I would say don’t underestimate the power of going out once a quarter for a department event. We just did that recently with marketing. We did a “Build your own terrarium,” which is a thing in Austin, and there were about 12 of us, and we built our own little plants in this jar. And we thought, “What an interesting idea, what’s that going to be like.” And it was so fun.

[00:14:55] But that something that simple which just shows you care about getting people outside the office, and I think that really says it all, it’s just that you value somebody more than what they’re producing. One of, I think, the best benefits at Jobs2Careers is management training. It started with our CEO Bruce doing a management training session every two weeks and, of course, that’s how we met you. We have guest speakers once a month.

[00:15:20] And there’s something about being in a room with all of your colleagues, during company time, where that’s an hour and a half or two hours where you’re not producing work for the company. There’s something about feeling that value that’s very flattering and very motivating.

Lisa Cummings: [00:15:35] It really intrigued me. It’s the only company that I worked for where they call it management training. You use that terminology because you hear that, and any other company that means people managers only, and it gets referenced a lot by employees, by managers, and it really is like the personal leadership development that everybody here wants for everybody else. I love the tone that it sets, and it says, “This is an exclusive way of thinking. This is how we can all grow the company together.”

Samantha Smith: [00:16:08] I think Bruce sees everybody as future managers.

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:11] That’s a beautiful way of seeing people’s capabilities and then letting those programs start to bring that on people.

Samantha Smith: [00:16:19] Definitely.

Lisa Cummings: [00:16:20] Sam Smith, thank you for the backstage pass. Yes. So to all of you listeners, gosh, wasn’t it great for inspiring ideas that you can use at your company? I promised you a recap to align the interview to the RAMP model, so you can apply Sam’s examples to your company. So let’s jump into that.

[00:16:43] First, the R in RAMP is for relationships. So her first example under the relationship category is her social ambassador program. So when you’re onboarding new employees, formally link them up with someone else from the company, so that there’s a comfortable lunch buddy, some built-in networking right from the very first day. So get inspired from her idea, and think about what your version of the company welcome wagon can be.

[00:17:09] Now in another example, Sam mentioned hiring great people through a rigorous process so there are no weak links in the cultural fit. So find people who will love working at your company. So to apply this in your workplace specifically, be sure you spend as much time on cultural fit, and values fit, as you do on matching their past experiences and their past skills with the role. So usually people obsess over a candidate’s background during the hiring process, yet you can actually make a huge impact on your team culture if you’ll also obsess about the interpersonal fit.

[00:17:50] All right. Next in the RAMP model we have A for accomplishment. So Sam told us about their CEO Circle Awards. That was a great example you could apply at your company by creating a competition for people to come up with an idea that solves a specific business challenge. I love the business relevance of this idea. So J2C gives a monetary award, and a social event out with the CEO, and the ability to actually implement their idea. So, of course, you can come up with your own awards, make them big or small, make them work for you, but that notion of the CEO Circle award is a great one.

[00:18:27] Another example she gave under accomplishment is their monthly management training. So, for them, it’s open to every single employee. I had a great time being part of a delivery team offering this training to their employees and it was highly attended. They want to show that everybody can be a leader, and there’s a dedication there to nurturing that potential and helping people accomplish their big career goals.

[00:18:50] So if you think about your company, you might already have an existing leadership development program that you can just open up to a wider audience as a way to show team members that they have the opportunity to make a big impact, regardless of what their current job title is. If you don’t have the budget or an existing program, you could even setup some sort of panel interviews where you take internal executives and team members who have success stories and case studies so that you can offer some level of inspiration around that future that they might have at your company.

[00:19:28] So we’ve covered R for relationships, A for accomplishment, and now we’re at M for meaning and purpose. Sam’s first example was about simplicity and innovation being part of their company mission. So they live it out in the smallest daily actions and I thought that was great, how connected the big picture and the small picture were. She even mentioned things down to the detail of the basket that would contain messy dishes, or the streamlining of expense report processes so they could live it out.

[00:20:01] So to implement this at your company, think about your mission statement or your vision statement. Then, challenge each person on the team to find one small process; I’m talking tiny. One small process or workflow that seems out of alignment with your mission or vision. Keep it super small so the changes isn’t daunting, it doesn’t require approvals and it doesn’t get all bogged down. And then get it aligned so that you’re modeling your mission through just the tiniest daily actions.

[00:20:31] In her other example on meaning and purpose, I’m thinking she made everyone listening drool. Maybe you feel a little jealous about the fact that at J2C the job that you’re hired to do isn’t necessarily your job for long because if you have an idea, and it’s really using your strengths, you can contribute that to the company, then you can shape your job to make the most of your talents.

[00:20:51] Well, I know not every corporate culture is that flexible, yet apply her idea at work by thinking of a task, or a responsibility, that you’ve really been drawn to, you’ve really been interested in or you thought, “Oh, I would like to try that out. I’d love to spend time doing that.” And then apply that interest by spotting a need in your actual business and filling that need.

[00:21:13] So if you can solve a business problem while you’re also in your zone of genius, I’m talking your personal zone of genius, then you’ll become known for the thing you love working on. So even if it’s an act of voluntarism and it’s an extra duty you’re taking on, what a great thing to build a personal brand around the things you love doing because then they’ll become the core of your job. Even in the most rigid of workplaces I’ve found that people can shape their jobs this way over the long term.

[00:21:44] Finally, in the RAMP model, we have P for positive interactions. You know, Sam said it so beautifully, that notion that if you value people more than the work product, value people more than the product, it will make the work product shine while people are also feeling valued for their contribution, so you actually get both by focusing through the people.

[00:22:09] In her first example she talked about the value of communication. Now they live out their version of communication by just being so transparent and open that you can even interrupt a senior officer at the company just like you do to your buddy in the cube next to you. So, to apply these concepts to your company, think about behaviors or traditions that highlight the hierarchy in your organization, the things that build walls between people. Yes, I know this sounds like opposite world, and it is, because you’re going to do something that tears down those walls.

[00:22:39] So, for example, if you’re a VP with a reserved parking spot, give it to the winner of your new CEO Circle Award for a month. Or if you usually only have one-on-ones with your direct reports, go on a listening tour by holding one-on-ones with every person in your department. It doesn’t cost money, it’s just time and interest and what makes them great. Just go out of your way to connect at a human level. You don’t even have to be a manager to do this.

[00:23:05] So, for example, if you’re a marketing coordinator and you have a new intern on the team, offer your mentorship. Do something that makes the line of communication seem very open and natural regardless of level.

[00:23:17] Now, other examples of positive interactions were just plain sprinkled all over the interview. You heard her talk about the “build your own terrarium day” in Austin. I’m sure those are around, lots of interesting ways to do team building. You heard how they eat lunch together every day. You heard about how they break at 3:00 p.m. for tea time. And this consistent interaction with different people around the company helps them know a lot about what makes the other person tick. That gets them business results because it makes it easier to collaborate when they actually need things from each other.

[00:23:54] So, now, think about your team. Can you add a Taco Monday like Jobs2Careers? Will your team take plank breaks? Yeah, like workout planks. This is something else I learned about J2C later, that their customer support team does planks together so to get an energizer. So pick something that’s small and easy to start with, just something that does break the typical pattern of interaction even if it’s three minutes a day, just something that feels like it really jives with the groove of your team.

[00:24:24] Okay, so with that, you’re off to the races. Now you have at least 10 inspirations for how you can use the idea of RAMP, relationship, accomplishment, meaning or positive interaction on your team. Just pick one. Do one thing this week to nurture your culture. And this is in perfect alignment with building a strengths-based culture or a strengths-focused team. If you’re noticing what works, you’re going to get more of what works.

[00:24:56] So, like what we always say, using your strengths makes you a stronger performer at work. If you’re putting a lopsided focus on fixing your weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your new work culture and share that positive result with the world.

Direct download: 038-Samantha-Smith.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 2:30am CDT

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

This week Lisa speaks with Pete Mockaitis, who joins us in a live example of what it’s like to explore your StrengthsFinder results for the first time.

Pete's Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:  Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Activator, Input, Connectedness, Woo, Communication, Positivity, Individualization

Lisa’s Top 10 StrengthsFinder Talent Themes:   Strategic, Maximizer, Positivity, Individualization, Woo, Futuristic, Focus, Learner, Communication, Significance

Resources of the Episode

You can reach Pete through the Awesome at Your Job website. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn. And you should because he's awesome!

Here's the link to Pete's podcast, and to his interview of Lisa Cummings.

Books, terms, and other websites mentioned in this podcast:

Book: Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Dr. Robert Cialdini

Study: 80/20 Rule, which is also called the Pareto Principle

Term: Leadership Domains as explained by my friends at Leadership Vision Consulting. They're another firm who offers Strengths based leadership training.

And our favorite resource of the episode: evidence of Pete's wicked-awesome talent of one-handed clapping:

 

You'll also find lots of StrengthsFinder, leadership, and team tools on our "https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&q=http://leadthroughstrengths.com/resources&source=gmail&ust=1487264698482000&usg=AFQjCNHUtPcayNXycHfGq_r2Crj5sPIU7w">Strengths Resources page.

 

Subscribe To Lead Through Strengths

To subscribe and review, here are your links for listening in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can also stream any episode right from this website. Subscribing is a great way to never miss an episode. Let the app notify you each week when the latest episode gets published.

 
Here's The Full Transcript of the Interview

Lisa Cummings: [00:00:08] 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’ve got to tell you, whether you’re leading a team or leading yourself, it’s hard to find something more energizing and productive than using your natural talents every day at work.

And today you’re going to get a really unique episode on StrengthsFinder. It’s different from our usual guest interview. Today, your guest joins us in a live example of what it’s like to explore your StrengthsFinder results for the first time. So I think a lot of guests are going to identify with his love of learning and his corporate experiences.

He’s actually a former consultant for Bain so he has that pedigree company thing on his list that many of you. And today he’s the trainer and chief at Awesome At Your Job, so you’ll hear more about that and his show as we dig in.

So, you know, if you’re a regular listener of this show that we’re going to talk about how his differences are his differentiators. So you’ll enjoy hearing a fun fact about him. So, here it goes. This guy has a unique talent of being able to clap with one hand. So, Pete Mockaitis, welcome to the show. Please give yourself a one-handed welcome and demonstrate for us.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:01:34] Oh, Lisa, thank you. That’s such a unique welcome and it’s fun to do, and here we go. [one-handed claps]

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:40] I can’t believe that is really happening with one hand. It is blowing my mind. You’re going to have to make us a video so we can see what that actually looks like. I can’t believe that’s possible.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:01:51] I can do that, yes, and that’s probably my number one strength is one-handed clapping. It opens a lot of doors.

Lisa Cummings: [00:01:58] [laughs] Your hand can open a door in a traditional way...but his hand...watch out.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:02:01] Oh, well-played.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:05] Watch out. Oh, my gosh. We’re going to totally have this video on the show notes, so if you’re listening click on over to that because that’s a serious talent. I love it. [laughs] Okay, let’s get into the serious side of super powers. That’s one, I tell you, parlor tricks though they could fuel the Woo that you have up in there. I think there’s something tied here. Maybe that’s how you discovered it. Maybe we’ll uncover that today.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:02:30] Oh, are folks being won over as we speak, or are they turned off? We’ll see with your emails that come flowing in.

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:35] That’s right. Okay. So, you know in this episode, we’re going to do this like a sample of exploring your StrengthsFinder talents for the first time. Well, we’re going to have to start by telling them what your Talent Themes here. So give them your top five.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:02:50] Okay, can do. With just the words or the descriptions as well?

Lisa Cummings: [00:02:54] Let’s get a little “Meet Pete” moment. So do the word and also the one sentence what this looks like on you.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:03:03] Okay. So, first, I’ll give a quick preview – one, Ideation; two, Strategic; three, Learner; four, Activator; and five, Input.

In terms of the one sentence:

1) Ideation, it’s true I am fascinated by ideas and how they connect together on my podcast with guests. I eat it up when I see “Oh, wait, there’s one thing someone said” can combine with that other thing they said, so I’m going to focus on prioritizing with the one thing but also building some tiny habits and, boom, there’s this combination synergy goodness, and so that resonates.

2) Strategic. I buy that in terms of if I’m always thinking about sort of what’s the optimal path forward, that’s the name of my company – Optimality, LLC – getting the band for the buck and sort of that 80/20 Rule and action, I’m really after that.

3) For Learner, it’s true. Ever since I was a youngster that’s kind of where my trainer and chief story starts. I was always going to the library reading books about goal-setting, success, teamwork, collaboration, influence. I was just into that stuff, and I remain to this day.

4) Activator, it’s true. I am often impatient. I’m excited to put things into action. Just this week I was thinking it’s just too much trying to manage the guests with merely emails and spreadsheets. I need a CRM, customer relationship management piece of software, and five hours later I had tried nine of them and made my decision. So, yeah, I got after it right away. That’s kind of my nature. I’ll wake up and I’ll have an idea and I just want to like run to the computer and implement it.

5) And then, finally, Input. I do, I love to get perspective from wise folks and learn all that they have to offer and collect multiple opinions to really prove or disprove the sort of key facts or assertions that are going to make or break a given decision.

Lisa Cummings: [00:04:59] These are so good. Thanks for adding the Pete color because even for people who don’t understand the basic definition of it and Gallup’s terminology you explained it and then added your individual color. Just seeing as a kid in the library, I’m imagining you going back and training them so it’ll be fun to hear the depth on that. And then Activator, one that just happened the other day. It’s just a really great specific example so we can see what these are like in real life.

So, let’s talk about if we really relate this to career, and you think back on one of your proudest accomplishments, tell us about that snapshot in time.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:05:40] You know, I’m thinking, the first thing that leaps to mind is just getting the job at Bain & Company itself. I’d say it was very meaningful to me because I had been interested in it for some years before it came about, and it was just a vivid moment. I can recall when I was emceeing a date auction event as a fundraiser in college for a student organization, and when I got the call I just handed the microphone to someone, walked off stage, received the call.

It was great news. I was excited. I hugged my friend, Emily, who was wearing a red puffy coat. It’s forever enshrined in my brain as like the moment that this thing I had been after for some years was now mine.

Lisa Cummings: [00:06:31] I love how vivid your imagery is and all of these. Take us through the preparation, what it was like for you getting ready for applying for this job, making it a thing. It sounds like it was a long time coming. So how was that playing out in your life, leading up to that phone call?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:06:49] Oh, sure thing. Well, I was sort of an odd kid in my sort of freshman year of college. I was sort of determined like, “By golly, I want to work in a top strategy consulting firm when I graduate, and so that’s just what I’m going to do.” And so I began exploring different avenues very early on in terms of student organizations and what were the linkages and how I could have sort of a distinctive profile that I would be intriguing to them.

I went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign which is not a hotbed for recruiting into those firms, but there are a few each year who get in, and I wanted to be one. So, I remember I would sort of try to find the right people, and the right organizations, and learn from them and see what I could do. And I remember, talk about vivid experiences, I was chatting guy named Bo who was wearing a Harry Potter wizard hat at a Halloween party.

And he said, “Oh, you should join the student organization.” And I was like, “Oh, I was thinking about that, but isn’t that kind of more technology stuff?” And he’s like, “Oh, no. It’s much broader than that. Yeah, and they’re always chatting with so-and-so and they do case interviews,” which is a key step to get a job in these firms, “to get in and, yeah, I think you’d like it.”

And so I was excited to discover that opportunity and then go after it. Then once I met a real person named Jeff who had the position, I was just having a real lot of fun chatting with him and seeing, “Hey, what’s it like on the inside? Is it really what I’ve built it up to be?” and sort of receiving that reinforcement that it was good.

And then, ultimately, I think the biggest hurdle to get the job is the case interview where you have to sort of solve business problems live before the interviewer’s eyes. And so I did a lot of prep. I got the books, I even recorded myself doing case interviews. I’d listen to them back to see how I was doing and to see how I might tweak it to seem more engaging or succinct and insightful.

I remember I was listening to myself doing case interviews while driving up to the interview the day before. So those are things that leap to mind there.

Lisa Cummings: [00:09:06] Those are so good. Now, if you look at your talents, and then you try to make some linkages, now I’ve made a bunch of linkages and I’ve even, although the listeners can’t see your list beyond your top five, as you would not be surprised if you know a Learner and Input. Pete immediately goes out and wants more input and grabs the full 34 premium version of assessment so he can see the whole lineup.

So I see a bigger lineup and I have some things popping into my head about your number 6, Connectedness, and your number 7, Woo. But when you look at your list and you think back on that experience, what links do you see where you’re using those talents as you’re preparing?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:09:47] Oh, sure thing. Well, it’s interesting, in terms of Activator it’s like, “This is the thing I want and so I’m going to start now.” I was a freshman and I was evaluating opportunities. Not only whether they were fun and I would get to meet people, but if they would take me to where I wanted to go, and then jumping in full force for those things I thought could really do it. So, I guess that’s Activator. I’m getting right to it yet Strategic is that I was kind of being selective, and saying, “You know, while that club sounds kind of interesting, I don’t think it’s going to have as much sort of bang for my buck, in terms of taking me where I want to be.”

And so the interestingness is not quite enough to offset this. And then with Ideation, I think I did take some novel approaches to having distinctive profile, like I authored a book in college about leadership and student organizations, and I saw the opportunity to be the Secretary General of our model United Nations, which I thought, “Well, that’s a really cool leadership opportunity in terms of managing dozens of people and thousands of dollars to put together an event for hundreds of folks. Ooh, that’ll be a real nice concept to make an impression, as well as having a ton of fun.” So I was a pure career-seeking robot along the lines.

But I do see those in learning, yeah, talking to folks, learning what the firms want, how they operate, getting the books. And Input, certainly, talking to numerous people along the way to confirm, “Is this really what I think it is?” and learn, “Well, what needs to be done in order to get there?”

Lisa Cummings: [00:11:30] You’re bringing up what happens for a lot of people where if they heard the descriptors in the StrengthsFinder Talent Themes, and they listen to the thing that you just described, they would probably think, “Achiever” because it seems like the easy way to describe what you accomplished. And although Achiever is middle of the road for you, 13, it’s not extraordinarily high but you found extreme achievement at that age.

So, you’re demonstrating something that’s really cool which is I always tell people. StrengthsFinder doesn’t tell you what you go do in your career. It’s more about how you can go do it, leaning through the talents you have. So you found achievement through totally different talents and it’s dangerous to try to look at the words on the surface.

And I think if I listened to your show, which I do.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:12:21] Oh, thank you.

Lisa Cummings: [00:12:22] Which is called Awesome At Your Job. So, for those of you listening and you want to check it out, we’ll put the link in the show notes. It’s a great show about being awesome at your job overall. I think if listened to that show I may hypothesize that you have an Analytical talent, for example, because I know that you mention research studies very often, you mention proof points, your favorite hobby is Monopoly. So you have some of these things, right, that some people might think, “Oh, that sounds like an Analytical guy.”

And Talent Themes show up more in how you approach what you do not necessarily what those interests are. So, kind of fascinating thing you’re bringing up. So, tell us about yearnings and interests, like Monopoly and research studies and proof points, and things that you talk about in your show and how your Talent Themes speak to those.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:13:14] Oh, that is interesting in terms of just what’s fun. So, on my honeymoon, just a few months ago – Yay.

Lisa Cummings: [00:13:23] Yay.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:13:24] I was reading this book Pre-Suasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini on the beach. And so it’s funny, it’s non-fiction but that was just fascinating and fun for me, I was like, “Oh, wow. Well, here’s an interesting fact. They did study and here’s what happened.” And so I’ll find that all the more thrilling than most works of fiction because I guess Ideation is fuelling that fascination in terms of I’m thinking, “Oh, look at all these implications for how I could go put that to work and make things happen.”

And for Monopoly, it’s so funny. I remember one time I was meeting this guy for the first time, his name is Peter; fine name, fine guy.

Lisa Cummings: [00:14:09] Fine name.

Pete Mockaitis: [00:14:11] [laughs] And so as we were playing Monopoly he kept asking me some questions about my career journey and how I went into Bain and why I left Bain and started my own business and these things. And I’ll tell you what, I was so focused on the strategic options and decisions I had to make in that game Monopoly to win I actually had in my head the idea that this guy is trying to distract me in order to win at Monopoly.

Lisa Cummings: [00:14:40] [laughs]

Pete Mockaitis: [00:14:41] I thought, “Pete, that’s crazy. Most people don’t care. They play games to socialize in fun ways.” [laughs] I was being a little rude in retrospect. I kind of apologized to him. I gave him very short answers, I was like, “Well, ultimately, that’s just something I’ve always loved to do.” You know, just one- or two-sentence responses.

Lisa Cummings: [00:15:01] Let’s get back to the seriousness of Park Place, buddy. [laughs] Okay. So, now what you’re helping me see and raise is this concept of domains. I don’t know if you know this about StrengthsFinder, but they’ve done some studies on leadership, and these four domains of leadership actually came from quite a large study on followers.

So, if I look at your talent lineup, not to get too nerdy and distract from the story of you, I’ll give you the quick version. There are four different domains of leadership that people often find their strength in, and yours, to give you the tell as I lean into it, you come in really hot on the Strategic Thinking Talents, and then second highest your Influencing.

So, there are four categories. You have the Relationship Talents. You have the Influencing Talents. You have the Strategic Thinking talents, the thinker guy that you probably are, and then you have Executing Talents. And so, as I listened to your reaction to the Monopoly thing, I could see you being really in your head about what was going on in the situation.

The way I look at these four domains is that they’re all valuable, and they’re all useful ways that you can demonstrate leadership, but this is kind of, when you have one that comes in heavy in your top five, it’s often the color of glasses you’re wearing. Like yours would be, if you looked at your StrengthsFinder report, the Strategic Thinking Talents are actually colored red. And you could see, “Okay, look, my first view on things, the lens I’m going to see the world through will, first, likely be thinking about it.”

Now you have a lot of fast-thinking talents, so Ideation is fast and Strategic is fast, so it’s not like you’re going to go deep and sit around and ponder things deeply for months. You can boom, boom, boom, react to that guy and have your answer. And I noticed your Influencing Talents are also high on your list. You have Activator, Woo, Communication up in your top 10. It’s interesting to see those two. How does that play into how you’ve seen yourself and your career?

Pete Mockaitis: [00:17:12] Well, that is interesting. And what’s funny is I have a little bit of a hard time switching at times in that I really do like people and building relationships, and connecting and laughing and seeing how we’re similar and how we can help each other and collaborate and all those good things. That’s fun for me. But surprising, or I don’t know, just kind of part of how I go, is that when I get deep into the realm of this Ideation, Strategic, Input, Thinking and I’m trying to crack something, or figure it out, it’s just sort of like Peter in that game of Monopoly.

It’s like, “I’m not in people mode right now. I am in finding an optimal solution given all of my options and constraints mode right now.” And I feel a bit sort of like I’m being pulled away from that which I’m attached to and I’m into at the moment, or I’m just sort of like I’m not really present or there. I think that does show up in that they are different clusters and I feel them differently in terms of my whole headspace and emotional state. It’s like, “I’m not in people mode right now.”

And sometimes my wife will notice and she would like me to enter into people mode as we’re being together, or where she