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Welcome to JoyPowered Workspace Podcast, where we talk about putting the humanity back into HR. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of JoyPowered, a workspace game changing book. I’m here with Susan White, a national HR consultant. Our topic today is StrengthsFinder. I was first introduced to the concept of StrengthsFinder when I read the book “Now Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham. Although I use the word fascinated, I admit I was intrigued. But I took the assessment and then I moved on to the next book and the newest philosophy. In 2014, though I read another StrengthsFinder book, and there are many out there, and this one really stuck this time. I decided to get Gallup certified at the Gallup headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska about two years ago, and it has made a positive impact in all aspects of my life. Personally, professionally, and spiritually. We regularly talk about it as a family and Purple Ink has a Strength based culture, and I even teach a class at my church. My strengths are Maximizer, Arranger, Positivity, Futuristic, and Strategic. Susan, what are your top five signature themes? And what is your experience with StrengthsFinder?
JoDee, you know what I love about StrengthsFinder is the fact that it focuses on, you know, what are you good at? What are your natural strengths? And I feel like that is just a really positive place to really start any type of conversation about your life. Your… as you mentioned, your church, your work. I love the whole concept. So my top signature strengths are Woo, which is winning others over, Positivity, which I think is why I enjoy working with you JoDee and working with Purple Ink many times, Maximizer, Significance, and Individualization.
StrengthsFinder is a positive philosophy, it helps us to focus on what we do well, what energizes us, and what drives us to get things done, be productive, and to just enjoy our lives. For many, it’s a bit counterintuitive, as most of us were taught to focus on what we didn’t do well, so that we could improve on those areas.
I wish I could get back all of the hours and the days and the weeks that I have spent in corporate America, where we would evaluate people and figure out okay, where are they falling short? Let’s put together an action plan and development plan to help them get better at these things they’re no good at, wouldn’t it be fun to stop and say “Okay, what are the things that you are really good at? And how do we leverage those?
Exactly. I think the same thing, it’s so natural for us. Even when I teach StrengthsFinder as a class, I still continue to get so many questions around people’s weaknesses and how they can be better. It seems people grasp the concept of StrengthsFinder yet still can’t get away from focusing on the areas that are not as strong for them.
I had a chance to use StrengthsFinder actually in the world of work that I found to be really effective. One of them was for a company that I was the chief HR officer for. We put together a leadership development program for our high potentials, and what we did is we pulled them from all over the organization, and we divided them into three teams and each of them had a project that they were going to have to over a 12 week period. Take a look at the problem and come together as a team and make a recommendation at the end to the executive management team about how do we solve this problem as a business. So as we pull them all together, they didn’t know each other. And we had been through we put almost all of our leaders through disc and through Myers Briggs and, and the all the ones that were typical, but we’d never put them through StrengthsFinder. So we decided that that was where we were going to launch the the leadership program. We did a StrengthsFinder and they just ate it up. It was so helpful because as they built their teams, and as they worked through solving this problem, they knew who in their group had various strengths and who they can rely on. And it just turned out really, really successful. Nice.
I’m a big fan of all assessments. And I think typically when we take assessments, we learn a little bit more about ourselves and that can always be helpful to us. But I think the power of Strength Finders which allows it to maybe stick a little bit more, maybe this one With your team is that people view it as being a little less judgmental, that you’re not just maybe falling into one of four quadrants, or grouped into one of those four, where it seems that everyone in that quadrant has the same, the same type of personality. So I like that StrengthsFinder come up with 34 different themes that people feel it’s a little more individual to them, that they can focus on those top five strengths for them, and partner with people who have similar or totally dissimilar strengths than what they have.
I do. I do believe people find it less threatening to talk about their strengths than it is to talk about what quadrant Am I in the good, the bad and the ugly of that quadrant. I’m with you.
Right and interesting thing about streaming Except most people think of your top five signature themes as being what you do best. So therefore, your five that are at the bottom of the list or your numbers 29 to 34 must be your biggest weaknesses. But ironically, Gallup has done a lot of studies on this to say it’s actually our top five strengths, that can also create the most Nxe for us, or the most trouble with us, because we’re not using them as maturely or productively. For Susan, I don’t know if this happens to you, but with my positivity, sometimes I people will say, Well, what could go wrong with positivity, it always seems to be helpful to to be positive, but I find myself being naive at times, then I’m a bit overly optimistic or overly positive, that things will always be happen the way I wish them to be or think they will be, do you have a strength that possibly works is what we might call your dark side,
shadow side. You know, I think individualization for me, I sometimes run the risk of it being kind of a weakness. One of the things I’ve read in the Gallup book that I read about it is individualization. It means when I walk into a large room with full of people, I actually look around that room. And if there’s 50 people in the room, I see 50 individuals, and I immediately start thinking about each one of those individuals. Whereas I’m just not good at clumping people together or grouping. Or I guess it’s a good thing and that I don’t stereotype by but I truly see 50 different challenges in that room of 50 different people that I want to Whoo, I want to want to each and every one I’m over, but I’m not really good at, you know, being able to do things in generalities. I just, I am really about the individual
Gallup has a lot of statistics on people utilizing their strengths and how they have a higher quality of life and that they’re more productive in the work, that they’re more positive in their interactions with customers and clients and co workers, that they feel better about the company they work for. So it’s not just a an individual philosophy of focusing on what you do well, but when we have groups of people working in teams or at companies, we can actually work better as a team and see the success through profits and productivity in the company as a whole.
You know, it’s interesting, you bring that up because I was a HR director for a business, and it was a really large leadership team. I’m going to say, you know, more than 15 people and we were looking a few years into Running as our operation as a team of ways that we could strengthen the communication with everyone, and really the collaboration, because things were starting to get kind of siloed. And so we did a StrengthsFinder workshop. And everyone, of course, before they came, had an opportunity to complete the self assessment. And then we brought the results. And first of all, it’s fun, because we’re talking about strengths. And so people really did enjoy that. And it caused people to look at each other just a little bit differently. And from that point on, I wouldn’t say that, you know, we talked about in every meeting, but periodically we talk about, well, you know, you know, so and so is good at such a such way we ought to ask them to take the lead on this, or maybe we ought to draw upon the person who’s an ideation person, because we know they’re going to come up with really broader thinking then, you know, if we don’t really pull it out of them, so we found it to be very effective and teamwork, right.
Donald Clifton once said, What would happen if we could focus on what is right with people versus fixating on what is wrong with them? And that simple quote really has given me such a new perspective on on other people, and even myself as well. It’s easy for us to look in the mirror and think about what is wrong with us. But if we can spend more time focusing on what is going right, not just with ourselves, but with our peers, and then it’s a perfect example, you said, of thinking about what are people doing well, and how can we utilize them or think about them in exhibiting that behavior more often? How can we create opportunities for them to do more of what they do best?
So Jody, if someone listening today really likes the concept of StrengthsFinder, how do they Get started with it. How can you bring it into your organization? What are the steps that you would suggest?
Yes, so anyone can take the assessment online at gallop strength center calm, or certainly you can buy any one of the many strength finder books out there which have a code included in them to go online and take the assessment. It costs $15 if you go out online and take it yourself, and then we’ve worked with companies a number of different ways some organizations got started because we train the leadership team first. But in some organizations, we’ve worked with a specific department or a team or a couple of small teams that work together. So I think it can start at any place in the organization. I don’t think it has to start with the leadership. Certainly if the leadership team buys in to it, and then can help spread and support the concept and others that can be most effective. But we’ve seen it work a number of different ways. We offer an initial two hour workshop to just introduce people to the philosophy of StrengthsFinder to help people understand their individual strengths. And for them to start learning about the strengths of those around them or other people in the organization. A second session then would focus a little bit more on the concept of team and partnering with others and creating powerful partnerships where people can really thrive in a team by utilizing not only their own strengths but incorporating the strengths of others as well. I also have had My children take StrengthsFinder and is just been, I believe is really helped me become a better parent, as I understood the strengths of both my husband and my kids, and we consistently talk about StrengthsFinder at home and how we’re able to utilize our strengths or sometimes not. Yeah, that’s wonderful. I think one of the biggest questions I hear from organizations about any kind of assessment is how they keep it alive in their organization. It’s I personally and it sounds like you to Susan have have taken lots of assessments. And I found it powerful in the moment, but then the information sort of slips into her drawer or in the trash can, and we forget about it. We don’t talk about it. We’re we’re excited in the moment and then it slips away from us. Have you had similar experiences? Susan? Yes, absolutely. I, I think about all the binders from all that training programs that I’d attended that were great in the moment, but they’d get dust on the shelf. And eventually, a couple years down the road, I think, oh, that was interesting. And then I throw it away, which hasn’t been true for me with Strength Finders, good dead. And as I mentioned in the intro, it it was a little bit for me in the beginning, and then I was introduced to it again and made it work.
The first time I took StrengthsFinder, I was on a team with Gosh, I’m gonna say about 25 people. And in the room, there was only two of us who were Woo, winning others over, the head of sales and me. And so it really was a great epiphany that when we needed to pull people in or recruit people in or build sales or whatever, that the two of us really needed to step up and do the work because it was our natural strength
right? We’ve invited another StrengthsFinder fan to join us today. Denise from Indianapolis has been successful utilizing StrengthsFinder in her current role and in a previous role she thanks for joining us today, Denise.
Oh, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
And tell us your top five signature themes and about your experiences with StrengthsFinder.
Okay, well my top five are achiever, arranger, learner, connectedness, and responsibility. And I brought StrengthsFinder into my former place of employment about three years ago. And it has been so helpful for me personally and for the place of employment as a group. So I’ve had many, many revelations for myself, through StrengthsFinder. And I think that the stuff that I worked with has really come to work in a more Strengths based way, I guess you would basically say, because they come to be able to understand one another better, and be able to figure out why their colleagues do what they do, and how they do it well, and what they can expect from one another based on their Strengths.
Can you tell us a specific example, Denise, about you personally or in working with the organization?
For instance, there was one of my co workers and to be honest with you, it was the person that I guess for lack of a better way of putting it. I clashed with the most. It was never terribly unpleasant, but it was just the individual that I came realized I misunderstood the most regarding his Strengths. And so we had the most disagreements, as far as our staff is concerned. And what I came to understand is that one of his Signature Strengths was… because I’m a person who actually presents StrengthsFinder, I have all 34 of my Strengths and I learned that one of his Signature Strengths is my very Strength, it’s my 34th. It’s a Strength I just don’t have, it’s not in my DNA, it’s not in my makeup. So my problem was, I didn’t understand that Strength at all. And so when we would have disagreements, I actually took it personally and thought that this person was disagreeing with me to get under my skin, when actually, I was the one with the challenge, because he was using one of his Strengths. I just didn’t understand it, because it’s not in my repertoire. So once I came to discover that it was a Signature Strength that we actually needed for the betterment and cohesiveness of our whole team, I came to respect it rather than resent. And so I think I think my big lesson from that was that just in general, with my relationship, I became far less judgmental of the way people behave, and far more inquisitive about where their behavior was coming from with regard to their strengths and was able to more appreciate who they are and what they brought to the table, rather than criticize or resent it. Kind of learned how to celebrate one another’s Strengths as a gift that was brought to the table. So it brought far greater understanding to the group.
So much healthier.
So much healthier!
Do you feel like it impacted the entire organization or many people in the group as much as it did you?
Well, that’s a good question. I think it is something that continues to develop. And I think the more you delve into it, the more you make StrengthsFinder a part of your everyday conversations and kind of develop a StrengthsFinder language, the more it sinks into a group, so I can’t say that they’re there yet. I can say that. Oh, yes, it is definitely a Strengths based organization. It is an organization that hopes to be Strengths based. And it’s getting better at it. But you have to practice it. It’s like any language, you have to develop the language and practice the language. And they’re getting better at it. And certain areas of the group, this group has a school attached to it, and the school is doing a great job at developing a Strengths based culture. But, you know, it’s a work in progress, but it’s certainly doing better.
What are some ways that you in your organization, or that you’ve seen in others that are good things to encourage companies and employees to keep that conversation going? What can we recommend to our listeners? I think Susan and I were talking before you called in about other assessments and how they can die after the initial excitement. What are some things that our listeners can do to keep that alive?
I think that meeting that you have… I’m going to use a staff meeting, because that’s my direct experience with it. But I think that one of the questions that should be constantly asked, like in a staff meeting, one of the first questions should be tell us about one of your Signature Strengths that you saw in operation, or that you aimed this past week in any particular, you know, project that you were on, or activity that you led, or teamwork that you engaged in, you know, how did you be your Strengths operating? And then, in planning for the week, let’s say you have a staff meeting on Monday, then the question is, what are the projects that are coming up this week? Which of your Strengths do you intend to aim with regard to that project? And how can we help you? How can other people on this staff or on this team or in this company, help you to make up for what you don’t quite have that this particular project or activity requires. So I think when you when you ask those kinds of questions on a daily basis, and then when you’re evaluating something that you’ve done, what Strengths did we use? Where could we have used help? What Strengths could we have used and we didn’t? And next time, where can we find that? Who has this that we need on our team so that we can do a better job?
Right? I love that. Most importantly, I think, because we’re not only thinking individually about how we’re using our own Strengths, but we’re hearing other people talk and it reinforces with us what their strengths are, and how they are utilizing their Strengths as well.
Yes! And you know, even if it’s in a meeting, where… I completely agree with that, if you’re in a meeting where you perhaps can’t offer someone to work on your team, but you can use that person as a consultant when you see like, you know, let’s say you’re not strong in communication, and it’s a Signature Strength of someone, and it’s time to get the promo materials out. So a person could just lend expertise for a few minutes to you. Maybe take something that you’ve created that’s good, and make it excellent because they can add their Strengths to it, add their creativity and their gifts to make whatever you’ve done better.
Right. And thanks for using that word excellence. If our listeners don’t know, actually the entire concept of StrengthsFinder came about at the Gallup organization because they were studying the concept of excellence and how performance can be improved. And that that’s how the whole genesis of it began.
Yeah, yes. They studied teams of excellence, they studied individuals who had achieved world class performance in their field, and you know, trying to dissect what is that makes world class performance, and the one of the things, and I love this, one of the things that Gallup says constantly is that weakness fixing is not a strategy for success. It’s not a strategy for excellence. Weakness fixing can prevent failure, but when we concentrate on our strengths, on using our Strengths, that’s when we achieve excellence and world class performance. So I love that concept.
I love that too.
Well said, Well, Denise, thanks so much for calling in to the JoyPowered Podcast today. We appreciate your sharing your thoughts.
Thank you, Denise.
All right. Thank you
Thank you for having me. Bye!
JoDee, we have some listener email. In fact, one of them’s on StrengthsFinder.
Oh, excellent. What’s it say?
Well, it’s from Stephen in Kansas City. And here’s what Stephen says. “My Strengths are strategic, focus, restorative, activator, and belief. I’m an accountant and consider myself successful, because I’ve been promoted many times in my company. Each year though, I receive feedback that I need to work on my communication skills, both verbal and written, since communication is not one of my Strengths, but I know I need to work on it. How do I incorporate the concept of StrengthsFinder to improve?”
So Stephen, if we play off of what Denise just said, your company, your organization, might ask you to work on communication skills, and you could do that and have some improvement, we can ask you to practice your writing skills by writing better emails or by getting feedback on individual emails or presentations to help you be better. But your real power comes only when you focus on your Strength. So if you think of it, even if it’s just thinking of this concept via a different language or a mind game, almost, to think about it as a strategic area for you to use your strategic or your focus, to help you improve without concentrating on the fact that you’re working on your communication skills. Even though that might seem silly, it will energize you more to think of it, so let’s take focus as an example, although we could do it with any of your five Strengths. How might you better focus on your communication skills? And let’s even think specifically about your written communication skills. So each time you are writing something, whether it’s an email or a blog, or instructions or giving someone written feedback on your organization, take more time to focus on what was written, and to consider it not just from your viewpoint, but from the readers viewpoint from the person that’s being directed towards from other people who might be reading what it is you wrote. And if you think of it in terms of working on your focus Strength, versus your communication skills, which might drain you and wear you down and thinking that that has to be your area of focus, or that has to be your area of concentration… by thinking about it in terms of focus and utilizing those skills, it’ll give you a better return on your investment in that area.
Interesting. Well, good. Well, you know what, it’s time in our program to talk about what’s hot in the news. JoDee, I think there’s some things happening perhaps on the minimum wage front.
Yes. So there has been a clear trend in the past few years for state legislatures, not federal, to pass employment laws. As an example, the federal minimum wage is $7 and 25 cents an hour, but the majority of states actually have higher wage thresholds. According to SHRM, 19 states now have raised their minimum wages just this year in the first few months of 2017. And some states and cities are working their way up incrementally to $15 an hour. That’s more than twice the federal minimum wage. The Trump administration seems to be making it clear that they will encourage this trend as well, to let the states make their own decisions regarding that.
I think it’s good for those of you who are managing enterprises that go across state lines to stay very vigilant and make sure you don’t miss any of the increases that are happening, either locally within a, you know, city or county or the state.
Well, thank you for listening today. If you have missed any of our podcasts, you can go to iTunes and download our complete series. Just search JoyPowered. If you have any questions you can reach out to us about any HR topic by reaching out to us on JoyPowered Facebook, or our Twitter account @joypowered. We welcome listener questions. And please tune in next time as we talk about work from home technology.
Looking forward to it. Thank you!