Building A Strengths-Based Organization One Shift at a Time

For over two decades now, organizations around the world have embraced strengths-based leadership.

This has ranged from:

The Good ability to truly align and maximize talent to deliver results
The Bad believing that the strengths themes alone deliver results by the grace of your profile
To the Downright Ugly wittingly labelling and pigeonholing people as a result of their profile

For the astute practitioner, leader or coach (take your pick) understanding the report is only the beginning of the journey, but critical to understanding strengths-based leadership. Only then can the impact be realized and appreciated.

Take for instance a city map in the hands of a tourist. Pre-Google maps, and affordable data-roaming packages, this tool was nothing more than a 2-Dimensional layout with a spaghetti-grid and an added sprinkle of interesting, but hard to pronounce landmarks. In the hands of an enthusiast, historian, tour guide or even the town mayor; the value of this map becomes far more tangible. Here is where humility, curiosity and ongoing familiarization can elevate your strengths from a report to reality.

We have worked with numerous leaders and teams building strengths-based organizations… “so what is the best approach?” you may inquisitively ask? Well, in true consultant form, “it all depends” is our fence-sitting retort. In our defence, how can a control-driven leader instantly spring to life with eagerness and authenticity and have a strengths-based conversation with his/her team? On the other hand, for the development-focused leader who places a premium on growing others, this will be a more natural occurrence.

For the control-freak in you, don’t lose hope, there is always a starting point. It may just be your endeavour and drive to deliver results through your Achiever and/or Responsibility. Yet, akin to Jekyll and Hyde the same strengths that have helped deliver you results in the past, may also be getting in your way. So how can you maybe adopt an ‘eyes-on, hands-off’ method that is more enabling and leverages the talents of others more effectively?

This is just one example of strengths regulation we have witnessed from the corporate front-lines.  In building your strengths-based organization, here are some key actions to consider:

  • As an organization, look for an opportunity to socialize your strengths themes in a way befitting your culture (no need for t-shirts with your ‘Top 5’ if this doesn’t fit the pulse of your Law Firm).
  • Authentically, bring strengths into your collective conversations with Good Intentions vs Writing People/ Behaviours Off (e.g. “I have high Command so you better do what I say”, or “She leads with no Relationship themes so don’t expect her to be interactive”).
  • Ask yourself and those around you open-ended and explorative questions around: “How does this strength work for you? When does it work for you and when does it get in the way?”
  • Owning your strengths means there will be some vulnerabilities with what makes you unique. You need not be afraid of these, rather seek to understand how these consciously or subconsciously undermine your leadership, holding you or others back.
  • Keep your strengths report nearby and make it a habit to check-in with it at least once a day: maybe before a shift or meeting, or even at the end of the day. Identify one or two strengths you would like to focus on for a given interaction with your colleagues or a deliverable. You pick the scenario and the rules – but do keep an open mind and willingness to become strengths-fit.