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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Strengths-Based Leadership - from the developers of StrengthsFinder

Years ago I discovered StrengthsFinder and shared it with the important people in my life - J, and my volunteers. Today I re-did my assessment test, to generate a new report, one that is specific to my leadership skills based on the top 5 out of 34 strengths. The site gives the option to use your previous test's results, but I opted to do it again. I reckon the 5 strengths identified now would be different, just like how my DISC profile also does, depending on my life-stage and career path.

What remained the same were my Strategic and Communication strengths. Advice for the Strategic side of me includes:

Make sure that you are involved on the front end of new initiatives or enterprises. Your innovative yet methodical approach will be critical to the genesis of a venture because it will keep its creators from developing counterproductive tunnel vision. Broaden their view and increase their chances for success.

As for my Communication strength:

You have the power to capture people’s emotions and put words to what they feel — sometimes words they cannot find themselves. This naturally draws others to you. So ask questions. Try to pinpoint the key issues people are trying to communicate, what joys or struggles they want to convey. Then give voice to those feelings. Helping people find the words to describe feelings is a powerful way to get them to express and process their own emotions, and it can support them on the way to making a plan of action.

Here are the descriptions of the other 3 strengths now on the top of the list for me:

By nature, you might admit that you participate in friendly rivalries for fun. Usually you are comfortable letting people know what you do and do not value. Because of your strengths, you are comfortable telling others stories about your personal habits, qualities, experiences, or background. Your forthcoming nature probably enables others to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Driven by your talents, you now and then notice that certain people feel you are a bit threatening. You may use this trait to your advantage when you are trying to influence a particular person to move into action or see things the way you do. Perhaps in your dealings with some individuals, you tone down or moderate your forcefulness. Chances are good that you empower people with your air of certitude — that is, confidence. Your very presence reassures them that they indeed are quite ready and capable of tackling assignments, spearheading projects, or playing key positions on a team. It’s very likely that you occasionally tell yourself that you can make choices with ease. Perhaps your sense of urgency compels you to produce results more swiftly than less decisive individuals can. 

Driven by your talents, you sometimes enjoy life a bit more when you are speaking to people who understand your complicated or technical vocabulary. Perhaps you can quickly describe theories or processes to these individuals without having to explain the meanings of most terms. Chances are good that you might equate language with power. Sometimes you intersperse complicated or difficult-to-understand words in your speech. Not content to use everyday terminology, you attempt to add sophisticated words to your vocabulary. When you translate an esoteric term — that is, a word understood by a limited group — you may discover subtle distinctions between its various meanings. Perhaps this knowledge amplifies the forceful effect some of your words have on others. By nature, you yearn to increase your knowledge by being kept in the information loop. This explains why you gravitate to people who converse about ideas at a deeper and more thoughtful level than most individuals are capable of doing. “Making small talk” — that is, engaging in idle conversation — probably seems like a waste of time to you. Because of your strengths, you notice that you choose to spend time with particularly intelligent adults. Besides enjoying their company and mature thinking, you welcome the opportunity to engage in sophisticated, knowledgeable, and thoughtful conversation. You amass numerous ideas, theories, or concepts from these encounters. Often the insights you gain have proved to be quite useful days, weeks, months, or even years later. Instinctively, you may insert intricate or theoretical words into your academic or professional conversations and writings. Your interest in language partially explains why you enjoy mastering specific types of words and their definitions. While some individuals are required to memorize new terms in classes or seminars, perhaps you automatically commit specific words to memory. Occasionally you describe this experience as pleasurable.

Instinctively, you periodically establish performance targets for the week. Once in a while, you think about what your life could be like in the future. Some of these forward-looking images may motivate or energize you to meet your weekly goals. Perhaps you do better work when you can concentrate on your near-term objectives. Driven by your talents, you are energized by your plans for the coming months, years, or decades. Bringing your ideas to life is an exciting proposition for you. You sense you have the power to transform whatever you think is possible into tangible outcomes. Because of your strengths, you are sometimes filled with hope as you think about the good things you might accomplish in the coming months, years, or decades. Perhaps this reinforces your sense of personal well-being. When you are forced to concentrate solely on current situations, you may become less enthusiastic about life. Chances are good that you channel your mental and physical energies toward what you can accomplish in the months, years, or decades ahead. The question you must answer is this: “How far into the future can I think before my ideas start becoming vague or uninspiring?” By nature, you are a visionary thinker. Your vivid mental images of the coming months, years, or decades often impel you to move into action.

I like how this book focuses on the whats and hows of leaderships based on your natural strengths. The prequels to this book were great for understanding how it makes sense to learn and capitalise on your strengths instead of over-investing in correcting weaknesses. But the contexts were more narrow as they spoke about the impacts of these strengths on our work in general. I have always enjoyed reading books about leadership, since my first one by John C. Maxwell when I was 17 - Developing the Leader Within You. Trying to make StrengthsFinder work for me in the way I lead organisations and projects was less clear from the original books when compared to Strengths Based Leadership.

The book also helps reframe the concept of teams. Building the right team with the necessary diversity of strengths, needs to be more about architecture, than of circumstance. I have just started on Part 2 of 3 in the book - Maximizing Your Team - and I am already whirling in introspection and strategies for action.

Another thing about this book so far, is that it appreciates the people who aren't what were classically known as leadership traits. These members of an organisation who may not be great communicators, but have strengths in creating harmony in groups or meaning interactions with people, are just as important as the ones who always seem to know the right words to use to evoke response. This makes me think of J, who has Harmony as one of this top 5 strengths, and is the invisible glue that holds the organisation together.

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