Leveraging Individual Strengths

The internet has made it so easy to get insights into your personality – you can take free MBTI-type tests, tests to find out what your communication style is, how you like to prioritize, what inspires you to work, what kind of work place you will thrive in, your emotional intelligence.  It’s like Cosmo – the list is endless. But all this insight means nothing if you don’t apply it.

One of the insight tools that I’m most familiar with is Strengthsfinder, which tells you what your top 5 work strengths are. For example, my top 5 include Arranger (when I was a kid, my dad called The Lone Arranger), Achiever (I have to do something important every day), Positivity (I know there’s a pony under there somewhere!), Connector (my husband says I’ve never met a party I don’t want to have), and Input (I collect information and ideas). But how do I use those strengths to get things done?

When we first started using Strengthsfinder, my colleagues wondered how to apply it. Some people thought that you should use it when interviewing to determine whether someone would be a good fit for a job (bad idea, by the way, strengths talk about how people will succeed, not what they will succeed at). When I figured out how to leverage strengths, it transformed the way that my team operated.

Around the time that we first started using Strengthsfinder, my team really needed to generate change quickly, especially with one department — but one of my employees was a real impediment to this change. Every time I introduced a new concept, he fought it. When I asked him to come up with ideas, he demanded to know why anything needed to change. As much as I wanted to believe, I was getting awfully tired of digging for that pony! Then we all did Strengthsfinder and imagine my surprise when his top strength turned out to be… Adaptability.

Adaptability!?!  Him?!?

Discussing his results with him gave me a new angle on the conversation it felt like we’d been having more and more often. I told him how his results surprised me because he was always fighting me on change. He thought for a split second, then pointed out that his second strength was Empathy. I asked him to tell me more and he explained that he knew that every change we made stressed out the department that most needed to change. His Empathy for the pain that the changes were causing them was overpowering his Adaptability.

So I made a deal with him: we would continue to adapt and change, and he was in charge of figuring out how this could be painful for that department, and how to make it less painful.

The results surprised even me! Not only did our change efforts become easier for our partners in the other department, not only did he stop fighting the changes we needed to make, but the next week he was in my office with a dozen more ways we could make things better. And his ideation kept right on going and he was promoted into that other department a couple of years later. Kazinga! He went from being an impediment to a rock star!

The power of understanding the people on your team and the people around you is key to helping them feel great about what they do – and it’s essential to achieving your goals. Tests are great, but only if you figure out how to apply them.

What are some ways that leveraging the individual strengths of others has worked for you?

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