How to Focus your Team on Positive Aspects of Strengths

The past few years have been a great time to be involved with StrengthsFinder team training and development. More and more, organizations are making the investment into helping their people live and work out of areas of strength. When I began working with StrengthsFinder in 2002, it was a foreign concept to many, now it is part of over 13 million people’s lives.

One trend we see more and more is people want StrengthsFinder to become a formula or a prescription. Or worse, a label. We have written about some of this before, but I wanted to come back to this concept once again.

Giving Negative Strengths Feedback

Not long ago, we were teaching the 34 themes of strength to a high profile group of leaders. We do this by defining the theme, giving examples of someone we know who uses it as a strength. Then, we ask participants with this theme, to show how it is present in their lives, and provide opportunity for co-workers to feedback.

On this day, people started focusing on the negative aspects, as they saw if, of those strengths. They jumped on their co-workers saying, “Oh, you have Activator, no wonder you can’t sit still in a meeting.” andDeliberative? No wonder you never get anything done and you just want to think about it.”

How to Focus on the Positive

As a consultant, I steer people back to really understanding their own strengths, and take time understanding their co-workers strengths. To foster this, Leadership Vision tends to follow this four part process.

  • Ask the whole group, “With your understanding of the theme of [strength name], what positives do you see in [co-worker name]?” We are trying to turn the conversation to the positive aspects of the theme.
  • Reiterate this is a journey of discovery and we will continue to flesh out these themes throughout the process. Encourage team members to avoid jumping to conclusions.
  • Acknowledge how strengths should bring life. If they don’t, they aren’t strengths. There is a dark side. As much as possible, focus on the life giving aspects of the strength theme and person.
  • Encourage the group to talk about strength themes at upcoming meetings. This allows opportunity to dig into what themes mean for each individual and the team.

Here are four questions that work well for teams to engage the positive aspects of their strengths.

  • How have you seen your strengths at work in the past few weeks? Give specific examples.
  • How have you seen a strength of a co-worker at play the past few weeks? Give a specific example.
  • What common themes for your team do you need to use more/less of to get your job done? Name the strength and give examples.
  • What less frequently represented strengths on your team might you want to tap into more? Name the strength and give examples.

Understanding Everyone is Unique

While we need to understand each strength on its own, we also need to figure out how all the strengths in someone’s top 5 work together. This gets us past labeling based on individual strengths, and is important because every strength looks different based on what other strengths are at play.

My Competition paired with Achiever and Woo looks different than my friend who has Competition paired with Harmony. Are there marks of Competition that are similar for both of us? Yes. Are there huge nuances with how we compete? Yes.

Just because we have seen a few strengths working together, does not mean that becomes a formula or prescription for how they will work together in the future. Just because you have Achiever and Activator does not mean you will always get things done. You may have the potential to get things done, but are you in the right fit? Are you on a great team? Do you have a supervisor who understands who you are and how you work? All of those questions are necessary to answer before we can understand what Achiever and Activator look like in someone we just met.

Personal and team development around StrengthsFinder takes time and must be done in a careful and cautious approach, respecting the uniqueness of each person in the process. It is an honor to be able to work at a company that promotes this with all who they encounter.

Strengths in your Organization

What has been your experience working with StrengthsFinder in your organization and the positive aspects of Strengths? Have you seen any of these things happen? What, if anything has been done to correct this?