Why Starting is the Best Way to Build a Strengths Based Culture

Can you think of an organization that is operating in a strengths based way?

If it is like any of the organizations we have worked with, it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it has been a long, ongoing journey for those organizations, that is never really done and takes consistent attention.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

Many people we talk to ask about the work of sustaining strengths in an organization long term. That is important, but really the first question should be, “How do we START building a strengths based culture?”

The first step towards building a strengths based culture is to simply start!

The Importance of Starting

Sometimes the first step is the most difficult when looking to undertake something new. We get bogged down by the thought of what is to come and simply fail to jump in. For example, perhaps someone with the strength of Analytical, Intellection or Deliberative, may want to know all of the details and have a fully formulated plan, and find the “jumping in” process particularly hindering.  Since often it’s difficult to know everything upfront, this can stall a project.

To be sure, you need to consider the end in mind before you being a project like this. I’m not advocating a caviler, throw caution to the wind approach. When you are investing resources into your people, it shouldn’t be done without a plan. That being said, nothing can happen if you don’t get the ball rolling.

The Courage of One

There is a very old story called “Stone Soup” I have been reading to my son lately. There are many different editions, but in our copy, three monks find themselves seeking shelter in an isolated village. Due to a variety of circumstances, the people of the village initially refuse to help the monks and as the book continues, the reader learns the villagers actually refuse to help each other too.

So, the monks decide to make stone soup. They start by boiling a small pot of water in the middle of the village. Curious, villagers peeking out windows, but none of them are daring enough to approach the monks. Eventually, a small girl ventures out and asks what they are doing.

Making stone soup of course! Says one of the monks. Will you help? Of course! she says, but we are going to need a larger pot. My mother has one…

and off she goes to get the pot.

The rest of the story is about how the villagers, one by one, bring different ingredients to add to the soup. Those without ingredients, play music, or help in other ways to create a wonderful festival, one where the villagers realize they miss being in community with each other.

For a long time, I thought the moral of the story was simply that when we work together, we create things far greater than we could on our own. Which is a good lesson to be sure.

Recently however, I’ve started thinking about what the little girl did to get the ball rolling.

What is Stopping You?

Sometimes I wonder what caused that little girl to venture out when others didn’t. She was willing to take a risk and her single act of bravery provided the opportunity for others to feel safe enough to share their “gifts” for the benefit of the whole community. I like to think that her curiosity ushered in a new way of behaving as a village.

It opened the gates to building a strengths based organization.

She didn’t have all of the answers, but knew enough to know the first step was important, and something she could help with. Much like in your organization, all you may know is something needs to change. Being brave enough to take the first step and allow others to join the process, can create an opportunity to build a strengths based organization.

How often do we stick to our areas of influence in our jobs? How often do we miss experiencing the greatness others have to offer?

How to Start a Strengths Based Culture

If you are in a position of authority, you can simply decide to allocate budget money and begin the work of creating a strengths based culture. If you’re not, you may need to get a little creative. Like the little girl, maybe you need to stick your neck out a bit and be willing to take the first step. Find a group of people you manage, your peers, or others you have influence over, and first learn what your own strengths are, then learn the strengths of the other groups or team members. You can figure out together how to sustain it out long term (or ask us of course).

Buy others a copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0, and share your results at your next team meeting. Pitch it as a way to get to know each other on a deeper, professional level.

Building and sustaining a strengths based organizational culture takes a lot of hard work, but nothing can happen until you start!

What are your biggest obstacles to begin the journey towards a strengths based culture?