Moving Beyond an Individual Understanding of StrengthsFinder Results
If you think about a river, it’s always changing… over time, a river will carve out it’s surroundings to make water flow where it most naturally wants to go… I wonder, if Strengths are the same way?
Now, imagine sitting in the back of a classroom. The speakers are mingling in the front as the participants trickle in and find their seats. There is a tension in the room – a mix of nervous energy and uncertainty of what is to come. Then it all goes quiet as a welcome is given. And the day is off and running.
This is something we see repeated at Leadership Vision. And I, in many cases, have the privilege of sitting in the back of the room observing it all. Part of my role as Client Services Manager is to create the materials that end up in the hands of our participants and help facilitate the environment that leads to the nervous excitement in those classrooms (Arranger).
This particular day was the first time I had seen our updated set of materials living with participants in our Strengths Based Leadership training. I was ready to take notes, looking for gaps in our communication and places our materials could be reformatted and improved (Communication). What I wasn’t prepared for was the internal shift that would take place as I sat and absorbed what was being taught (Input).
From Self to Others
As Brian framed the start of that day, he made a statement that caught my attention. He said, “Strengths Based Leadership… turns the focus of Strengths from self to focusing Strengths on meeting the needs of others.”
I think time stood still for a fraction of a second.
I can still hear that little voice inside my head saying,
StrengthsFinder has always been about me – what I do well, how people can partner with me. But he is saying, my Strengths are not about me…but someone else?!
In preparing all of those materials, I was working with the faulty assumption that Strengths Based Leadership was about my leadership, and how others could/should get in line with me. In fact, a Strengths Based Leadership style of leadership had nothing to do with me. The purpose of this training awoke my thinking as a leader and made me realize my influence needs to meet the basic needs of followers, in four categories: trust, compassion, stability and hope.
Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope
Gallup realized that truly influential leaders provided trust, compassion, stability and hope for their followers. To summarize:
- Trust is about having honest communication with integrity, to followers.
- Compassion is having an expression of my Strengths that are representative of me, but with an urge to help followers.
- Stability is allowing followers the safe space to teeter totter or even lose their balance, but then be able to provide security.
- Hope is having future optimism and being able to cast a vision to be able to move together in that direction.
At Leadership Vision, we also strongly believe the following:
- Everyone has Strength.
- Everyone has influence.
- Everyone has followers.
- Everyone is a leader.
While you may not be a leader by title, we believe individuals function at one time or another in a leadership capacity – perhaps within a team or a project. Learning to see your Strengths through the lens of a leader will add an additional layer to your understanding of your own Strengths and deepen your growth within your Strengths.
One portion of our Strengths Based Leadership training, is for all participants to complete worksheets, specific to their Top 5 Themes of Strength. We ask them to think into each of the four categories (trust, compassion, stability and hope) as it relates to their results. We then ask them to answer one of two questions in relationship to 16 statements for each Strength:
“I need to do.”
For example, within my StrengthsFinder theme of Strategic, under the “Trust” category, I needed to reflect on the following statement: I discuss options candidly and thoroughly with others when making a decision,” and then determine whether “I do” or “I need to do.” I came to the conclusion that this is an area of growth that I need to pay attention to.
The purpose behind this exercise is to celebrate areas where leadership is already taking place and highlight the areas where additional growth can emerge.
As I completed my own worksheets, I felt really affirmed in how I use my Communication Strength to build trust by, “being careful not to use language to ‘spin’ and manipulate others.”
I also found within my Theme of Responsibility, I need to give more focus on creating hope by “proactively guiding others through an opportunity to experience the challenges of ownership.”
Now of course we are all our own worst critic. But after reading through and doing some self-evaluation, a few of my Strengths have been operating from a Strengths Based Leadership approach. And a few others, could use some more focus to ensure I am providing trust, compassion, stability and hope for those who follow me.
And since sitting in on that day of training, I find myself taking a pause to think into what others need and how I can help them achieve it. Always remembering that my Strengths are not always about me.
As I have reflected back on that day I have realized that I would not have been able to dig in deeply without the foundational work of understanding my own Strengths and having them be generative – giving life to myself and others. Without arriving at that basic level of understanding, I could not have moved into the more difficult work of making my Strengths work for other people.
I started with an image of a river. A river flows, moves and changes its surroundings with more impact as it gets further down stream. Strengths Based Leadership can be viewed in much the same way. We all start as a trickle; new in our understanding of Strengths within ourselves. As we allow our understanding of Strengths to deepen and grow (or get farther downstream), we realize the true purpose of Strengths is in fact focusing on the needs of others, and carving out a place for their Strengths to naturally come alive.
Your Understanding of StrengthsFinder Results
How do you allow your Strengths to work for other people?