Organizations develop people; it either forms them or deforms them. Wise organizations build on strengths; not on weaknesses. This can be achieved by focusing on your talent’s strengths, and then placing high demands on them. Therefore, it is imperative that each person understands his/her strengths, so that s/he can apply them to areas within the organization where s/he can make the most impactful contribution. One tool that enables talent to recognize his/her strengths is Gallup’s tool StrengthsFinder ().
I recently delivered a workshop on StrengthsFinder for umpteen executives. They were all high-potentials (Hi-Po’s) from the most prominent organizations within the city of Nashville. At the beginning of the session one participant asked me how they were selected, and it became evident to them from the tool results as to why they were selected by their supervisors: They all know how to make things happen; they execute.
The question begs: What else may be considered as Hi-Po qualities? According to StrengthsFinder, there are three other domains of excellence, aside from Executing; namely:
- Influencing– Selling ideas and the team inside/outside of the organization
- Relationship Building– The essential glue which holds teams together
- Strategic Thinking– What keeps teams focused on what could be possible
Thirty-four strengths fall into these four domains.
|EXECUTING||INFLUENCING||RELATIONSHIP BUILDING||STRATEGIC THINKING|
A series of exercises are conducted typically on the highest ranking 5-10 strengths. Here is a sampling of a Top 5, with a short synopsis:
Strategic: It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?” This is your Strategic theme at work: “What if?” Select. Strike.
Connectedness: Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. We must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. You are a bridge builder for people of different cultures.
Learner: You love to learn. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the “getting there.”
Input: You are inquisitive. You might collect information—words, facts, books, and quotations—or you might collect tangible objects. Yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts.
Maximizer: Transforming something strong into something superb takes just as much effort but is much more thrilling. Strengths, whether yours or someone else’s, fascinate you. Like a diver after pearls, you search them out, watching for the telltale signs of a strength. And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence. You polish the pearl until it shines. This natural sorting of strengths means that others see you as discriminating.
Business Management Guru Peter Drucker said a great deal about strengths. Below is one of his quotes:
“A (person) should never be appointed to a managerial position if his/her vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. The manager who always knows what people cannot do, but never sees what they can do, will undermine the spirit of the organization. Of course, a manager should have a clear grasp of the limitations of his/her people, but s/he should see these as limitations on what they can do, and as a challenge to them to do better.”
Organization Development Guru Peter Block also contributes a great deal about leveraging strengths from your group(s). Block describes the small group as “the unit of transformation and the container for the experience of belonging.” His questions stem from “gift mindedness,” which is what Drucker references to as the Biblical parable of talents: What gifts can we share with each other? This is how communities and organizations need to assess in order to maintain and develop efficiencies.
Leadership Succession and Development experts Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel agree that effective leaders must learn to value all functions – which can be considered as strengths within a system:
“As managers step out of their traditional functional role and become responsible for a full spectrum of activities, they need to take the time to learn about the key ingredients of individual disciplines and how they integrate from a total business viewpoint to produce results. On the surface, this isn’t a particularly difficult task; it just takes some time, intelligence, and perseverance. What becomes difficult is learning to value all functions appropriately. From this leadership point on, functional prejudice becomes a serious problem. It can result in everything from overreliance on a particular function to failing to maximize the contribution of one or more functions.”
We can determine where organizations place their subjective frame of reference by using tools such as StrengthsFinder. If an organization only promotes Executors, it may be setting itself up for failure if there is little to no recognition for the value brought by those who excel in Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. These qualities must not be overlooked in order to have a thriving, dynamic, and diverse system.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is an inquisitive, pearl-diving Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. We increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.
Block, Peter. Community.
Charan, Ram; Drotter, Stephen; Noel, James. The Leadership Pipeline, pp 86-87.
Drucker, Peter. The Practice of Management.
Rath, Tom. StrengthsFinder 2.0
This blog originally appeared on The Good Men Project, 6/2/2015: