Our Approach to Building Strengths Based Organizational Culture

Creating and sustaining a strong internal culture is one of the best things you can do to help your organization grow. Having team members and employees who are engaged at a high level is something that benefits everyone.

This is why we take a behavior based approach to the understanding and application of StrengthsFinder. We create a relational and intentional connection with those we work with. Awareness of the behaviors behind strengths help better identify how you will make a significant and unique contribution to the team.

When a team is armed with this knowledge, they understand their place in the larger organization. When several teams are operating out of places of strength, the culture is one that can leverage and cultivate what makes everyone strong.

Our approach to building strengths based organizational culture is focused on strengths as being descriptive, generative, environmental and transformational.

Descriptive not Prescriptive

We believe that your StrengthsFinder results do not put you in a box, but rather, place you on top of a box to elevate your influence.

A prescriptive approach is a one size fits all model. It says, “Oh, you have Achiever… everyone with Achiever acts this exact same way. You should do…” This is a static, closed interpretation that fails to understand the variation of each individual person.

A descriptive approach is one that is dynamic and open to multiple interpretations. Your strengths results describe possible behaviors (talents) that make up your theme. The words alone do not define you as a person. They are great tools we use to help you better understand why you do what you do, and how that impacts your team.

We believe a descriptive approach is most helpful because it doesn’t assume all people are the same. If you have ever tried to pick out colors when painting a room, you know there are seemingly unlimited options. In fact, the people at the paint store can further customize any of them to match exactly what you need.

My wife and I recently painted a room in our house, and made several adjustments to the color once we saw it on the walls in various lighting. There was still a foundational color present (in this case gray), but it was much more nuanced.

Your strengths results simply describe a base color. It is only after going through our process that we can begin to draw helpful conclusions.

Generative not General

We believe that strengths only exist when they bring life to you and others.

A general approach to using strengths suggests your top five “signature themes”, are automatically strengths and can be used to excuse or encourage certain behaviors. Like a prescriptive approach, it assumes that all themes are the same.

When you get your results back, we do not have a clue if they are actually strengths. Your top five signature themes report is just that – a report that measures five areas (themes) of your greatest potential for strength.

A generative approach looks for the way the behaviors in those themes are giving life to you and others. Think of it like the water spout on the outside of your house. That is a theme of strength.

When the water is not turned on, it’s like a strength that is not being used. It isn’t hurting anyone, but there is much potential just sitting there.

When water is flowing out, perhaps into a sprinkler system, or to wash a car, it is doing what it was designed to do and giving life to things around it. This is what it means to be generative.

A degenerative example would be if the water coming out was simply splashing to the ground, or worse yet, drowning those around it.

I have the strength of Maximizer. Sometimes, when I’m not using it as a strength, I can turn into a never satisfied perfectionist, and end up driving those around me away in my pursuit of excellence. When my Maximizer is acting as a strength, I’m helping everyone on our team raise the level of our work in ways that utilize all of our strengths.

Environment not just an Event

We believe in engaging our clients over time, because personal and organizational change doesn’t happen quickly.

We often get asked to come in and do a “strengths presentation.” An event. Clients would like us to come to their team off-site and run through the 34 themes, and talk to them about areas of strength and weakness. While we can and do do that in 60 – 90 minutes, it is not something that’s going to make a long term impact on your culture.

Think of it like fresh cut flowers. They smell great and brighten up a room while making you feel good. However, in a few days, or maybe  a week, they’re dead and need to be thrown away. You can continue to buy fresh flowers, or you can invest in a plant.

Plants are considerably more work. You must water them, tend the soil and prune them. Sometimes you even have to re-pot them, or put them in the ground outside. They don’t have the same short term impact of brightening up a room, BUT the long term impact is immeasurable.

People with a positive experience with strengths are SIX TIMES more likely to engage in their work. Those with a positive experience with strengths AND an environment where strengths are expected, encouraged, leveraged and cultivated are reported to be 30 – 60% more engaged.

Positive, sustainable change can only happen through intentionally building an environment to support it.

Transformational not Transactional

We believe operating from strengths can have a transformational impact on peoples lives.

We’ve seen it time and time again. It changes the way you see yourself, the way you relate to those around you and the way you influence those in your community.

Most car mechanics are the quintessential example of something transactional. You give them money, they fix your car. There are times I would take my car to my mechanic and he wouldn’t charge me, because it was something simple. He was able to help me understand what I could do fix it myself. We have gone beyond a simple transaction.

Over the years, he has saved me a lot of money. This has required me to learn a little something about my car. Both of us have benefited from this type of relationship.

Strengths become transformational when they give you a platform to understand yourself. They become transformational when they help you create an environment for growth and give life to you and to others.

Our approach is not a simple transaction because working with strengths isn’t a quick process. It takes investment of all people connected to the organization for it to have it’s full impact.

Is your organization one that allows this type of transformation to happen? What have you seen that works when attempting to build strengths based organizational culture?