Category Archives: Strengths

Da Vinci on building a team with strengths and weaknesses

“An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning one against the other, make a strength.” — Leonardo da Vinci The ideal team recognizes that each person has peaks and valleys, highs and lows, strengths and weaknesses.  Taken individually, a person might try to fix those weaknesses, obsess over them, or hide them. Our brains are wired to look for flaws. It’s old survival behavior. The new way individually is to stop obsessing over weaknesses and focus on strengths more.  And the best way to build a team is to look at that team as three-dimensional. There are peaks and valleys based on individual strengths. And interestingly, those peaks and valleys overlap and cancel each other out. One person might be horrible at follow-up, another one is brilliant at it. One person might excel at winning suspicious people over, another person might consider that a worst nightmare scenario.  The ideal team forms a series of Da Vinci’s arches. People with a weakness in an area lean on other people on the team that have that strength – whether to shift work responsibility, energy support or tactical suggestions. These pairings take away the weakness from the team. The vulnerability shown and interdependence explored with those mini-collaborations is what the team trust is built on – arches.

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What’s better than producing?

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi   I wrote recently that if you want to produce, stop consuming as much – information, news, Facebook, stuff, drama. Even better than producing? Simply…being. Just simple enjoyment of this moment. Awake. Alive. At ease. Engaged in NOW. Here’s our order of priority: Fully alive Producing Consuming Where are you giving your time and your attention? Where do you want to instead? What needs to change?   “If you have time to chatter, Read books.   If you have time to read, Walk into mountain, desert and ocean.   If you have time to walk, Sing songs and dance.   If you have time to dance, Sit quietly, you happy, lucky idiot.” – Nanao Sakaki

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Is your world changing? Use your strengths

I walked over the bridge and looked out on the river. The water was low and flowing fast. The tree leaves on the riverbank had been green just a week ago. Now they were orange and gold. I climbed onto the rocks, put on my wet suit, took a deep breath and jumped in. Involuntary gasp as the shock of the cold hit me. I swam upstream, trying to get used to it, thrilled and miserable in the same moment. My body adjusted eventually and the misery melted away, leaving just a weird delight. The original change guru Heraclitus (born in 535 BC) essentially stated that you can’t step in the same river twice. Apparently you can’t even swim in the same river twice! It’s always changing. A few short weeks ago that water was lazily warm. And the demands of work are always changing. Just like the cold water of the river those demands are getting harder to handle, not easier. In a cold, changing world, use your strengths. They are a refuge that will never change and are always there for you. You were born with them. Your passion (strength + what you love) is as unique to you as your fingerprints and your signature. Then help your people use their strengths. If your team is faced with changing, increasing demands, as always I’m here to help you find and use your changeless strengths to do your best work together.

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The strengths Interview four-step process from ‘First, Break All the Rules’

Here’s ‘The Art of Interviewing for Talent’ four-step process from First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Make sure the talent interview stands alone. The purpose is to see if the candidate’s recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior match the job. Ask a few open-ended questions and then keep quiet. Let him reveal himself by the choices he makes. What does he enjoy most about selling? How closely does he think people should be supervised? Listen for specifics. Ask him to tell you about the time when he closed a major deal. If the behavior is recurring, he can answer specifically off the top of his head. Clues to talent. There may be an inclination towards certain activities. Two things to notice: – Rapid learning. Does she take to public speaking like a born leader? – Satisfaction. Does he get his kicks from balancing the balance sheet? Know what to listen for. “I love it when…” Take note of what the employee says and after hiring, return to see if that person performed consistently with their original statements. Learn more: StrengthsFinder – Gallup’s online assessment of unique top five strengths. Learn your team’s strengths and learn how to put them into action.

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The three best ways to use the StrengthsFinder assessment for hiring

Q: If I were recruiting for sales, could I use StrengthsFinder as a source to be sure a possible candidate would be a good fit? A: Yes. I do recommend using the StrengthsFinder strengths as part of the hiring process. Here’s how: 1. First in the job description Pick the strengths you’d like to add to the team. Look at the definitions of them and pick descriptive parts of the strength that are ideal. Don’t use the StrengthsFinder words; use the words in the description. For example, if you want WOO, don’t use that word. Use ‘loves the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over.’ People have no idea what the word ‘woo’ means in the StrengthsFinder context. 2. Second in the interview Don’t trust the planned. Trust the spontaneous. The strengths part of recruiting and hiring is best done in the interview when you can see how they spontaneously answer questions. Imagine taking an assessment trying to second-guess what you imagine a potential employer is looking for and tweaking your answers so you get the results you hope. However, in the interview process, you can see what the poet Alan Ginsburg called, ‘first thought best thought’ come into play. If you’re looking for someone with WOO ask them for an example of when they were able to win a skeptical person or a group over even though they didn’t know them. If you’re looking for someone with RELATOR to develop deep-ties to select long-standing clients, ask them for an example of them doing just that. They will either have an example easily come to mind that is vivid, specific and true. Or they’ll fumble and genericize. Either way you’ll get your answer. 3. Once the person is hired Have them take the StrengthsFinder assessment once they’ve been hired, making sure you tell them so you can best help them be their best sales self. They’ll self-assess more honestly now that a job isn’t on the line. Then have a discussion with them about how they can best use their top 5 strengths in the sales role they were hired for.

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What strengths are useful for a salesperson?

Q: What strengths are useful for a salesperson? What would you say are the strengths I’d want to see in their StrengthsFinder top 5 if recruiting for sales? A: It depends on what kind of sales person you want. What kind of salesperson do you need – is it WOO or is it RELATOR? These two strengths are two sides of the sales coin. Is it more important for this person to be able to win over new people, especially suspicious people? For example, telemarketing, cold calling requires people to love winning strangers over. That’s the WOO StrengthsFinder theme. And it helps to have POSITIVITY (upbeat enthusiasm) when dealing with meanness, rudeness and rejection. Or is it more important for that person to cultivate deep and long-lasting relationships with key clients? That’s where RELATOR comes into play. This person is adept at cultivating deep and close relationships. WOO is breadth, RELATOR is depth. That’s just two strengths. A case could be made for every one of the 34 StrengthsFinder strengths being perfect for some aspect of sales. It’s up to you to figure out what would be perfect for the type of sales role you’re looking to fill. 34 are a lot to sift through though. There are two different categories of strengths that particularly relate to selling. What strengths category is most important to focus on for the role you’re trying to fill?

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Five strengths-related strategies to use in hiring instead of the StrengthsFinder assessment

  Q: If I were recruiting for sales, could I use StrengthsFinder as a source to be sure a possible candidate would be a good fit? A: The short answer: No. I don’t recommend using the StrengthsFinder assessment formally for hiring. But I do recommend using the StrengthsFinder strengths as part of the hiring process. What to do instead of asking candidates to complete the StrengthsFinder assessment: 1. Hire the person first Would you rather hire a bad candidate that has the WOO StrengthsFinder theme (if that’s what you want on your team) or a great candidate that doesn’t? If you weed out everyone who doesn’t have the strength you’re looking for you may miss out on the ideal candidate. 2. Find out if the person actually uses the strength A StrengthsFinder strength only works if it’s put into action effectively. You have no idea if a person is using that strength, and how they’re using that strength, until the interview process. 3. Don’t trust the planned, trust the spontaneous The strengths part of recruiting and hiring is best done in an interview. That’s when you can see how they spontaneously answer questions. Imagine taking an assessment trying to second-guess what you imagine a potential employer is looking for and tweaking your answers so you get the results you hope. That’s not good data. But ask someone about an example of when they successfully sold and you’ll find out where their strengths are. Or ask open-ended questions and see what direction they head. 4. Don’t be tempted to hire someone like you Don’t do it, unless you make that choice consciously. Usually a team has a culture, a company has a culture and that’s often reflected in the person in charge. Hire someone similar to the person in charge and everyone will get along easily – they’ll think, “this person is like me” – but there’ll be blind spots. Blind spots aren’t helpful. 5. Don’t be tempted to hire for blind spots on the team Wait, didn’t I just say that’s good? It can be, but not if those strengths are simply not needed in that role. And not if it’s the reason you pass up a great candidate that has similar strengths as you in favor of a mediocre or bad candidate that doesn’t.

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A sundial in the shade

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made, What’s a sundial in the shade?” -Benjamin Franklin Who’s to know if you don’t use your passion? No one other than you. It will not be missed in the world because no-one would know what they’re missing. Our strengths are there to be used or not, to be squandered or to flourish. A sundial is great. It can really help when you need it. But only if the sun is shining on it.

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Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the best version of ourselves

As the NBA prepares to begin training camps for the 2018-2019 season, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, ““It’ll be a great opportunity to start afresh with a brand new team, though we do have a lot of guys back, and see if we can be the best version of ourselves.” Teams often ask me after collaborative team building activities, “are we the best?” And I can also sense that they often wonder, “are we really bad?” In other words, how do we rate? How do we compare? How do we stack up? This is one of the amygdala in the brain’s sorting techniques to try to keep us safe. It’s usually not helpful. Better to be who we are. There’s no one like us. There’s no team like us, for better and for worse. Each individual on the team brings strengths and passions unique to that person. And each time is a unique combination of those strengths and passions, and weaknesses and blind spots, whether people on the team are brand new, or they’re veterans. Three helpful steps for any team to be your best Stop comparing with other teams (including teams you used to be on or previous versions of this team) Ask, “who are we, really? What’s unique about our people and our team collectively?” Now we know our identity, what we have to work with. Lastly, let’s be the best version of ourselves. Now we have something real to aim for. Not the best overall, and not avoiding being the worst overall. Let’s see if we can be the best version of ourselves.

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An independence break sparks passion

For Independence Day I went to Lake Sheomet. It’s what I wanted to do. Why is that important? Like previous years, I took the name of this summer holiday at face value. I put away the commitments, To Do lists, business needs, everything. From start to finish, I kept out anything tugging at me, any ‘shoulds’. July 4 was devoted to doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It was a day of listening internally, of asking the question to a more native version of myself, “what do you want to do now?” And, “do you no longer want to do this now or keep going?” And like other past Independence Days, this process was not easy. It’s fascinating to see how much of daily life is boxed in with commitments, external and internal. And also interesting to see that some more civilized part of the self get a little concerned, or momentary panic at not actually knowing what is wanted. We get so used to being told what to do by the brain’s taskmaster that it’s not easy to switch to listening. And like other years, it was richly rewarding. Sitting under the pines and hemlocks, eating breakfast, reading, generating ideas, swimming, paddleboarding, eating lunch, then doing it all again as the sun slowly slid westward. AND I got a major new way to actually succeed at my perpetually undone to-do lists. What a Wednesday! We need moments like this. I do, you do. We especially need them if they seem dangerous or worrisome…or impossible. It doesn’t have to be a day at first. Perhaps it’s an hour. Perhaps five minutes. We were born with certain specific strengths. These talents and passion require attention and space to assert themselves into daily life, just like plants. Checking in with our inner intelligence on the direction of interest realigns us with our unique passions. We’re essentially saying to the best and most talented parts of ourselves, “I hear you, I see you, you’re important. You deserve a place on the decision-making table too.” External situations are no longer pushing us around. When is your next personal Independence Day going to be? Your next Independence Hour? Your next Independence Break? And what passion will it spark? “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

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