The Value of a Strengths-First Approach

The Value of a Strengths-First Approach, by Michael Beaulieu

One of my favorite programs I am involved in at The University of Nebraska is working as a Student Strengths Coach in the College of Business. I use my knowledge of the Gallup StrengthsFinder to coach freshmen on how to use their Top 5 Clifton Strengths in their daily lives. Between my experience working for Alloy and as a Student Strengths Coach, a few key lessons have distinguished themselves. Here are a few:

1. Focus on Improving Your Strengths, not "Fixing" Your Weaknesses

In high school, I would look at my report and typically see all A's and B's. Except for math, which typically sat at a C or C+. At the time I thought I needed to boost my math grade for scholarships and other applications. However, while my math grade went up to a B, I saw my A's fall down to B's. When I focused my energy on improving a weakness, I saw my strengths decline. I always tell my students not to think of the StrengthsFinder as a progress report, but as a test that highlights their best qualities. When you look at it that way, you will learn to embrace these qualities to win going forward. In this day and age, every industry has become so specialized. Remember the invention of the assembly line? Every person had one job that they were really good at, and once they each contributed their part, production became significantly faster than when each product was individually manufactured. Think of a team or a business like an assembly line, each person is using their specialized combination of strengths to bring something different to the table. The hard part is combining those different strengths to produce a result. However, if you focus on your individual strengths, you will be able to do your job much better, and someone else on your team can pick up for your lesser strengths. You can also do the same for them. Knowing your team members' strengths can help you know who to go to in certain situations, especially the ones that may be hard for you but fun for them. Think of how fun your job could be if you only did the parts you like and are good at. Understanding your team's strengths can help achieve that.

2. There are No Bad Strengths

In one coaching session, when I was explaining a student's Relator strength, I talked about the Woo strength for contrast. Relator and Woo are opposites: high Woo is the tendency to meet TONS of friends, whereas Relator is the tendency to have 4 or 5 close relationships. This student told me "I don't want to be a Woo" and "I don't like people with Woo." It turns out he had always tried to use that woo strength without having it, and was, therefore, using it wrong. As a strong Relator, he is energized by deepening his relationships, not necessarily going out and making tons of friends. He felt like even though he had a lot of friends, they were fake friendships because they lacked the depth he sought. He found himself burning bridges and bouncing from friend to friend without any stability outside of his family. Any strength can be used wrong, but whenever they are used correctly they will always be positive. Another good example of this is Activator or Command. People strong in these areas are often the ones that can take control of any situation and elicit action. With that, they can also be seen as pushy and a little intense. You might not choose to hang out with them on the weekends, but once Monday morning comes and you need a game plan for a struggling account, you are going to hope they are around. Often you have to understand what environments your strengths work the best in, and that comes with more learning.

3. Know Your Weaknesses, and Use Your Strengths to Compensate

A big thing we like to tell our students is that strengths don't determine your major. Likewise, they won't determine your career either. Think of your Clifton Strengths as tools your mind uses to help you lead in your daily life. If you are a salesperson, Woo would be a strength that will definitely assist you in your career. However, you can still be a salesperson and make up for a lack of Woo. The most important thing to know is that all 34 strengths fall under 4 domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. If you are particularly low in one domain, you can use your strengths (or even a combination of strengths) from other domains to make up for it. To use myself as an example: I have one Influencing strength in my top 10. Now, it's harder for me to Influence than it is for others, but that doesn't mean I can't influence at all. Instead of trying to develop those influencing strengths and risk using them wrong, I use my plethora of Relationship Building strengths to influence people. I use strengths like Individualization, Relator, or Developer to get to know and build trust with others. Once I have that trust I am able to use it to influence them.

When you use your strengths to overcome your weaknesses, those strengths become stronger themselves. That way, going back to my opening example, your Report Card A's won't fall to B's to make room for your lagging C's. This way, your A's can become A+'s, and your B's can become B+'s. Soon, you will forget you had any C's in the first place.

Have you assessed your strengths lately? No matter how long it's been, the Alloy Solutions Team would love to help you better know your strengths and apply them - at work and at home. For more details, visit www.alloystrong.com or call Alloy Solutions today at 402-779-5846!

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