“You Manage Things, You Lead People” Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
As a leader, the most important aspect of your job is leading your team. When I first began leading a team of individuals, each with their own unique gifts, talents, abilities and experiences, I quickly realized that I needed to develop a new set of leadership skills help me become a great leader. What worked when leading one person, did not work when leading others. Without a framework or an effective approach to leading my team with such diverse backgrounds, I found myself fumbling to engage my team as effectively as I desired and envisioned. I knew there had to be a better way to boost my team productivity.
That’s when my friend and co-worker, Jen Slaski, introduced me to Gallup’s CliftonStrengths (formally StrengthsFinders), a powerful personality assessment tool. There are numerous personality trait tests available, including Myers-Briggs, DISC and many more, however, I found CliftonStrengths the best for a number of reasons.
The outcomes CliftonStrengths provides are easily understandable. For example, with Myers-Briggs, I am an INTJ which requires a decoder ring just to understand what that means. StrengthsFinder, on the other hand, uses words like Strategic, Analytical, and Achiever to describe traits easily.
The 34 unique strengths used to describe an individual are many more than other tests. The additional strengths provide a comprehensive view of an individual’s personality. Each strength is also tied to leadership traits such as working smarter vs. working harder which provides excellent detail into the leadership traits of a team.
In this post, along with several others, I will walk through how to compile a comprehensive team strengths audit and develop an action plan to help you and your team tap into one another’s strengths to overcome challenges and grow your business. The data output can help you improve the productivity of your team, reduce conflicts, and simply enjoy working together more.
The first step is to get a copy of the CliftonStrengths test and book. Amazon has the book available for $14.59 however if you are planning to purchase the book for your whole team, Gallup provides a volume discount. Many HR teams will approve employee reimbursement of the tool so be sure to check with your team.
I recommend giving your team at least two weeks to take the test and read up on their results to learn a bit more about who they are and how they tick. If possible consider scheduling a review session to review the results as a team sharing takeaways. It’s ideal if you can hire a 3rd party CliftonStrengths coach to facilitate this session.
Once everyone has taken the test, have them send you their top five strengths. The assessment does not include their strengths and weaknesses, only their personal strengths. This is intentional to focus their efforts on improving their individual strengths. This is all you need to fill out your team strengths analysis template. After you have accessed the template and made a copy of your own, open the ‘Team Input’ page to get started.
Team Inputn VIEW TEMPLATE
The Team Input page is the only page that you will need to enter information. Despite looking daunting, rest assured that this is a very easy template to fill out. Across the top of the sheet, you’ll see various dog names for our fictitious team that works at Cookie Monster, Inc. In this example, Daisy’s top strengths are Achiever, Adaptability, Includer, Input, and Learner. When employees receive their strengths, the order does matter – the top strength is akin to super strength. In this template, we give the top strength a score of 2.
So Daisy’s super strength is Achiever and she has a 2 in the corresponding row and column for her strength. Her remaining four strengths are all given a score of 1. Simply take each of the results from your team’s CliftonStrengths assessment and replace the results in the Team Input sheet directly. Be sure to blank out the results in the current template and replace the names across the top with the names of your employees.
Once you are done, simply enter “TBD” for the remaining names to fill out your entire team and blank out their scores as well. That’s it! You’ve finished the hard part and the template does the rest of the analysis work for you!
This summary is generated from the Team Input and provides a simple and printable snapshot of your entire team’s strengths. This is a handy tool to give each of your employees so they understand each person’s differences and how they should anticipate working with their peers.
The red strengths highlight each person’s super strength and provide a reminder as to each person’s main perspective. Consider doing a group exercise in your next staff meeting where each person talks about their strengths and what it means to them.
Balconies and Basements
CliftonStrengths has two concepts known as Balconies and Basements.
Balcony simply means you are at your best when you tap into your strengths. As leaders, we want to do everything we can do to keep our employees on their balcony where they are constantly tapping into and activating their strengths.
Unfortunately, when employees are overly stressed and feeling like they are spinning their wheels, their strengths move to the basement and corresponding behaviors occur. In my experience as a leader, the conflict between employees is almost always directly from an employee in their basement and the other employee not empathizing with their perspective.
Basement statements are often hard to read as they cut to the heart of who we are when we’re most stressed and overwhelmed. They often describe our worst attributes. By documenting basements, we provide transparency into who we are and recognize that we are not alone in these behaviors. Consider having your team talk about a time when they have exhibited strength and also when they have shown basement behaviors.
Balcony and Basement
CliftonStrengths does not officially have the notion of Triggers, however it stems from my own experience when employees would often find it challenging to overcome a strength deficiency. While CliftonStrengths emphasizes focusing on growing strengths instead of overcoming strength deficiencies, employees often need to overcome an obstacle to complete a task or project.
For example, what should an employee do if they need to complete an analysis to present their solution to a problem but they are very weak in their analytical strength? Using Triggers, they should find someone on the team who can potentially help. The triggers report helps them identify who that person is and gives them permission to seek out the individual.
As a bonus, the employee with a high analytical strength typically LOVES helping on an analytical project. It taps into their balcony and also makes them feel like an expert while helping one of their coworkers. This give and take is crucial in helping foster a collaborative team. It also only works if several employees participate and employees share the responsibility to help one another and do not abuse any single employee’s strength and offer to help.
The phrases for triggers are written in a specific way to highlight the challenge the employee may be feeling. For example, “Currently I find it challenging to… examine a scenario/dataset to determine big picture themes or trends” (analytical) so I should talk with my coworkers Rex, Goofy, and McGruff who all have the analytical strength to see if they can help or provide some advice on how to approach the problem.
As an individual, it’s important to recognize and emphasize your strengths and not try to overcome your deficiencies. That doesn’t mean you simply give up on any analytical project that comes across your desk, but it does mean that you are aware of your strengths and you proactively seek out ways to use those strengths as much as possible.
As a leader, your job is to try to balance the team’s strengths. While one individual may not have analytical skills, it’s important to have someone on the team who does. This rounds out the team’s ability to use Triggers to seek out one another for help on projects.
Included in the team strength analysis template, you’ll be able to produce a Team Strengths chart like the one you see here that gives you a big picture view of where your team fairs in their strength as a team and allows you to evaluate or seek resources to fill the gaps.
Team Strengths Chart
As a hiring manager, it took me several years to begin looking for gaps in my team’s strengths and to begin seeking out individuals to round out the team. While you still need to hire for ability, fit and desire for the candidate to take the job, I found looking for strengths during the job interview process helped ensure I found someone who could elevate the entire team.
Additionally, hiring for these strength gaps is often counter-intuitive. We typically are drawn more towards individuals who share similar strengths to us and that’s precisely the best approach.
If you are a highly analytical manager, then you don’t need lots of analytical employees on your team! You need to fill in your own strengths gaps and those of the collective team. While no team is perfectly balanced, the Team Strengths chart gives you a quick snapshot to gauge your team’s overall strength distribution.
Each of the strengths is also tied to a leadership trait. As a leader on the team, it’s important to recognize how your overall team works.
There are four leadership domains:
- Working smarter
- Working harder
- Working with people
- Influencing people
The leadership domains are not good or bad, but they are vital to understanding what your team’s bias will be. For example, if you have a team that tends to lean more towards working hard versus working smarter, you should seek ways to improve your team’s effective and efficiency – to help them work smarter. Identifying these traits can allow you to make small changes in how your team works and as a result boost your team’s overall productivity.
As you journey through leading your team, I hope you find this team strengths analysis template helpful to elevating your team’s performance.