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Identifying & Defining Strengths

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Maximizer: People with the Maximizer theme focus on others' strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

Are you a Maximizer? Do you know how many people in your team are Maximizers? The definition above is one of 34 groundbreaking strength theme definitions from Gallup and the inspiring Marcus Buckingham. If you are interested in maximizing your own performance and the collective performance of your team members, I highly recommend you identify all the strength themes in your team and start leveraging that information.

I often hear managers and supervisors say "I am playing to the strengths of my team." Unfortunately, I usually find that the supervisor has not partnered with the team to identify or define what team members are naturally good at or what they love to do. It is difficult to play to a team's strengths if the team members' strengths are not defined and understood by all.

I was facilitating a session when the subject of strengths came up. One of the participants was a business owner and I shared the definition of a Maximizer as a way to get into the subject. His eyes opened wide when he realized how his business could benefit from this strength theme. When I mentioned that some of his current employees may have that strength theme, he quickly asked how he could find out. We can all identify with the enthusiasm this man found in the recognition that this potent strength was lying dormant in his team, ready to be unleashed. The even more exciting revelation is that Maximizer is just one of 34 strength themes our teams can benefit from!

Incorporating Strengths into the team culture
So, how do you this? How does a supervisor incorporate the strengths of all staff members into the team’s culture? In my experience,incorporating strengths includes three stages. These are:

Stage 1. Identifying the supervisor’s and the team members’ top 5
Stage 2. Documenting and sharing the top 5 of all team members
Stage 3. Strategically applying strengths through staff performance

Stage 1
The first thing for supervisors to do is to identify their own top 5 strength themes. Once this is done, the supervisor should identify the strengths of all staff members. I recommend that supervisors identify their own top 5 themes first because the supervisors have to walk the walk before they can talk the talk. Knowing their own top 5 will help them learn about themselves and how to use their own strengths to start leading others through the process.

Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Strengthfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath are excellent resources for identifying and defining strength themes. Both books provide a good overview of the strengths model and provide codes to online surveys that will give participants their top 5 strengths themes.

Stage 2
Once all team members' strengths are identified, the supervisor should capture this information and share it with all team members in an easily accessible format. The process of incorporating strengths into a team’s culture is a learning process. Having quick access to the strengths of all team members is critical.

Through the years, my teams have developed websites that contains this information. I call these websites "Strengths Dashboards." Strengths Dashboards are powerful resources for developing strategies and executing tactics based on the team members' strengths.

Stage 3
I find that the best way to strategically use the strengths of all team members is to include strengths in the performance review process of every employee. Adequate performance review documents should include the goals for each employee and the projects or initiatives the employees will be responsible for executing.

The supervisor can work with each staff member to discuss ways in which their strengths can be used specifically to assist the employee achieve the goals outlined in the employee’s performance review documentation.

For example, here are a couple of goals that I could use to leverage my strength themes for common managerial objectives:

- Leverage Al’s strategic strength to finalize and implement the unit’s strategic plan with a cross-functional team from the division.

- Proactively use Al’s empathy and relator strengths to develop an understanding of what the team members are experiencing as we merge two teams together.

Through years of working with my strength themes and those of my staff members, I have learned that while identifying strength themes is an important and critical step, supervisors also need to understand the overall positive and negative personality tendencies of all team members.

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