YOU 2.0 ~ That’s You … but Stronger!

I recently spent five incredible days being trained by some wonderful people from The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC.)  I was immersed in the world of strengths, which is clearly their area of expertise.  Funny thing is that for the past several years, I thought I knew my strengths.  As it turns out, I had much to learn…

Simply Strengths

Buckingham’s Simply Strengths workshop is really a well-designed multi-media journey that takes you through a powerful process to identify the specific activities that strengthen you.  Now, I have to pause here to tell you that I, like millions of others, have done the StrengthsFinder assessment.  I walk around with my ‘Top Five’ in my planner, so I can be sure to leverage them whenever possible…and it’s been empowering! 

But, what I learned is that StrengthsFinder makes an excellent compass, and Simply Strengths provides a highly detailed road map.  Both are valuable in their own way, as long as you understand how to leverage them appropriately.  One provides great direction, the other guides you much more specifically to get you where you want to go.

The Process

After literally “busting” several myths that keep most of us from leveraging our strengths more intentionally and more often, the workshop guides you in coach-like fashion to dig a whole lot deeper than you’ve likely done before.  By digging deeper, through Buckingham’s process, you clearly identify the specific activities that strengthen you.

Here’s a total sidebar (but weirdly-related) comment… I had to giggle during this part, because of an impression I do for my four-year-old daughter, who is knee-deep in her Disney princess obsession.  I conjure the voice of one of my favorite characters from “The Princess and the Frog” — a wise-old woman, known as Mama Odie.  She exclaims to the main character, Tiana, “Girl, you’ve got to dig deeper!!”  She then goes on to explain, through a great song, that “you’ve got to dig a little deeper to find out who you are….when you find out who you are, you find out what you need.”

Funny that somehow in my mind I made a connection between a Disney character and one of the most highly-valuable business exercises that I’ve learned to date…but the concept is SO true!  It’s only through detailed awareness that we discover what will truly energize us and therefore maximize our productivity and effectiveness.

Again, I’ll reiterate that I *thought* I was there – I completely thought I had great awareness….yet this process still let me to some clear “a-ha!” moments with regard to my strengths; what they are, specifically, and how I can spend more of my time using them.

Weaknesses

And then, we went to the dark side (cue the Star Wars music when Darth Vader enters!)  We went to the place that all the strengths critics have been wanting to go…we talked about our weaknesses!  And if anyone thought the strengths identification was powerfully effective, I’ll bet you’re at least as affected by the process to discover your weaknesses (because we don’t often like to talk about them!!)

But we do like to STOP our weakness, or at least minimize them and their negative effects.  And Simply Strengths again hits a home-run in teaching participants the process to do just that!  Did I mention that this was powerful?!?!

Keep the Change!

After identifying strengths and weaknesses and learning how to change behaviors, participants are then provided with tools and resources to help them have important conversations with teams and further develop their new behaviors with new habits.  This is the sustainability piece, and it’s highly impactful because any training is rather meaningless unless it “sticks” with the participant.  Changed behaviors must be a piece of the puzzle, and Buckingham again nails it with simple but effective tools to help people do this.

So…bottom line? 

I walked into the two-day training as one person, and I left the training as another.  I left there as me…only stronger, more confident, more energized, more purposeful, better equipped and with a greater hope for my future and the positive impact I can have.  (For those that know me, you know that I’m already motivated and optimistic, so when I say “more” here, I’m talking big-time!)

Marcus Buckingham is truly the master of our generation as it relates to strengths.  I’m not aware of anyone else who has written more or knows more about the topic.  All the years of research from his days at Gallup, as well as the additional research and talents from his staff at TMBC have culminated into this workshop.  It is meaningful.  It is powerful.  It is potentially life-changing, and the impact it could have on an organization that sends its leadership team through this?  Well, I would have to believe it would be nothing short of transformational.

Because I’m so passionate about this, I feel strongly that I need to include a few disclaimers.  First, I am in no way being paid or asked by TMBC to endorse the Simply Strengths workshop or to write a review of any kind.  I am doing this because I believe so strongly in the power of its potential on people and organizations.

Second, I was trained and certified by TMBC to facilitate the Simply Strengths workshop for any company that would feel they would benefit from me delivering the content.  This is also NOT a reason why I am writing this.  I’m writing it because, if you know me, you know I am passionate about leadership and the positive impact that leaders can have on people.  Simply Strengths is the best tool I’ve found for leaders to engage in truly meaningful discussion with their people to engage them, motivate them and increase their productivity.  It provides the greatest opportunity for a personal and organizational WIN-WIN that I’ve seen.  And that, my friends, is why I feel obligated to write this!

I encourage you to leave a comment below or e-mail me at eschreyer@sagestone-partners.com if you’d like to talk more about Simply Strengths…or you can feel free to call me out for making a Disney reference, or for gushing about Marcus Buckingham (yes, I do think he’s brilliant and cute too!) or for wearing my heart on my sleeve like I always do!  Whatever – bring it on.  I’d love to talk more about it!!

Erin Schreyer is the President of Sagestone Partners and Founder of the non-profit group, Authentic Leadership Cincinnati.  She is passionate about helping leaders (even great ones!) maximize their effectiveness, as well as their positive impact on both people and business results.

You Are One of a Kind, and I’ll Lead You that Way!

This past weekend, I went to the History and Science Museum with my family.  My kids paused at the exhibit that explained, “You Are One of a Kind!”  The display showed graphical images of DNA structures and genetics.  It also included a large hand with the detailed patterns of its fingerprints.  My kids were amazed that no two are alike; that every single person is unique.

This fact of nature can provide quite the challenge for leaders.  How could you possibly treat everyone as unique?  After all, you may have a large team that reports to you.  Then, of course, there are corporate policies and procedures.  Let’s face it, they exist to ensure that you treat everyone the same – no preferential treatment and no discrimination. 

So, should a leader even consider “individualizing” their people?  How can it be done in a way that keeps your HR team happy at the same time it increases the effectiveness of your team?

I’d like to offer four ways that leaders can further motivate their teams by better understanding them as individuals:

Discover Their Strengths

There’s a reason why StrengthsFinder 2.0 has been a consistently best-selling book.  We all want to better understand our strengths, and we want to use them!  Of course we do!  By using our strengths, it allows us to have a posture of confidence, which further promotes our motivation and desire to be engaged.

Gallup research shows that organizations offering strengths intervention are 12.5% more productive, 9% more profitable, with 15% less turnover than organizations offering no strengths intervention.

Leaders, this is great news!  By understanding individual strengths, you can empower each person to use them more consistently and more effectively.  You can build better teams knowing there is great strength in a particular area or complementing strengths across the board.  You can challenge your people in a way that motivates them instead of frustrating them, and you can also discover when you should be following your people instead of leading them – it may turn out that someone has a strength where you have a weakness, and that can be a rewarding win-win!

Understand Communication Styles

We all process information differently in our own heads, and like most things that come in…they also come out.  Some people speak with an excruciating amount of detail; others prefer the ten thousand foot view.  Some want to provide constant updates; others just want to let you know a milestone has been achieved.  Some people like to provide feedback; others won’t offer an opinion unless prodded.

Leaders need to understand their own communication style, as well as that of their people.  Nobody wants to be misunderstood or unnecessarily frustrated, and we all know that choosing the wrong words, tone or frequency can cause this.

Explain to your team how you would like them to communicate with you.  How often do you want updates, in what form, with what level of detail?  Help them understand how to meet your expectations, so it doesn’t become a stressor for them.

Likewise, you should try to understand their needs.  Does someone need more direction, feedback or a higher level of detail to produce the results you’re looking for?  Does someone else’s personality suggest that you’re better off honing your listening skills, versus your speaking skills?  Is someone prone to getting their feelings hurt, or do they just want to be spoken to with logic?

By better understanding what your people want to hear, as well as how they naturally express themselves, you can become far more effective in building relationships and accomplishing common goals.

Be Flexible

Not many people enjoy the feeling of being handcuffed, with no freedom or flexibility.  Nor do many enjoy being droids – simple task-masters, following detailed direction with no need to think creatively or leverage their own skills and talents.

Leaders, work with your team to create a vision.  Be sure they have the necessary tools and support to be successful.  Be sure they’re focused and motivated.  Then, let them do their jobs the best way they know how.

Be sure that your team understands the milestones and deadlines  – in fact, work together with them to set these dates!  Empower them to get there, but don’t micro-manage the process.  Let them know they are trusted, and they will want to show you that trust was appropriately placed.

Again, if they’re leveraging their strengths and you’ve agreed upon the necessary communication, it shouldn’t be too difficult to be flexible with their approach.

Show Your Appreciation

It’s so important for people to feel appreciated.  It’s a large part of what keeps them motivated.  That’s why it’s critical to understand how people feel rewarded and accomplished; what do they value?

While a financial bonus may work well for one, an unexpected day off might be more highly valued for another.  Some may appreciate a big fuss and an award recognition for their contributions; others may prefer a quiet donation to their favorite charity.

Leaders, if you don’t know the answer, then ask your people what they value.  Tell them you think they’re doing great and ask them how you can best demonstrate that.  Your appreciation is no reward, if they don’t get the message.

What other strategies can help leaders more closely connect with their people?  What additional benefits can be achieved by these and other approaches?  How can you become a more personal leader that values the thumbprint of each person on their team?

Erin Schreyer is the President of Sagestone Partners and the Founder of Authentic Leadership in Cincinnati.  She is passionate about helping leaders and organizations reach their greatest potential.  Feel free to contact Erin directly at eschreyer@sagestone-partners.com.