StrengthsFinder Series, Part 4: StrengthsFinder Assessment Benefits
Most organizations barely scratch the surface when it comes to effectively leveraging the StrengthsFinder tool to achieve optimum value. Typically employees are asked to take the assessment, after which the results are discussed in private or group settings. In some cases, the results may be referenced down the road, but more as fleeting comments versus beneficial data points that lead to action and results. That’s where tool usage generally concludes.
There are a myriad of ways, however, in which the tool can be practically applied on a regular basis:
Introducing New Team Members
When forming a new team whose members are not familiar with each other, sharing and discussing each member’s “top 5” strengths not only serves as an effective ice-breaker, but the exercise can quickly provide insights into each team member’s talents, passions, values and potential “hot buttons”. This approach jumpstarts psychologist, professor and author Dr. Bruce Tuckman’s “forming – storming – norming – performing” process, which is necessary and inevitable for teams to grow, face challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work and deliver results.
Developing Relationships with New Colleagues
One of the first steps in developing genuine relationships is to find common ground. The StrengthsFinder tool can be that conduit. By discussing your and your colleague’s strengths, you can not only gain quick insights into your colleague’s potential talents, including what makes them tick, but you can also identify areas in which you both align or share complementary strengths. Leveraging StrengthsFinder results is a quick, effective, easy and non threatening way to begin exploring new collegial relationships.
Becoming a Mentor or Coach to a New Mentee or New Coachee
Congratulations! You will be meeting your new mentee or coachee. One of your out-of-the-gate objectives is to initially learn as much as you can about the person in the shortest timeframe possible in order to co-develop a realistic game plan that will assist the person in achieving his or her goals. StrengthsFinder insights are invaluable in this regard. The initial discovery process is shortened from weeks to several discussions, so the Mentor or Coach can provide guidance specific to the person’s strengths and challenges. Side note: while StrengthsFinder does not focus on challenges, I’ve worked with my third party organizational performance specialist (www.TechEdgeLLC.com) to identify the potential liabilities per theme if the strength is used in excess, which can and does occur. Refer to Part III’s The StrengthsFinder Assessment Approach Plus Key Assertions to review my recommendations specific to talent challenges and gaps.
Raising Self and Others’ Awareness
Joe may think that his “top strength” is “X”, but may find out that his top talent is actually “Y”. How can this conceivably happen? One possibility is that Joe may admire what he sees in Louis, who happens to excel in “X”. Joe wants to be more like Louis because Joe perceives Louis as “having his act together”. Before you know it, Joe has erroneously convinced himself that he’s a carbon copy of Louis. Oddly enough, this actually happens. Another possibility is that Christine, who desperately wants to be promoted, has conveniently convinced herself that her top strength is “Z”, even though it isn’t, because “Z” is a key job description qualification. Then there’s the case of Larry who would like to become self-aware, but doesn’t know where to start. Of course there are more real-life possibilities than those just described. In summary, StrengthsFinder can help us pinpoint our talents if we’re unsure, re-calibrate our thinking if we’ve improperly assessed our talents and, of course, reinforce our thinking if we are self-aware.
Developing Self and Others
Once we know our strengths and the strengths of others, we can:
- Identify how to best leverage those strengths within the organization; and
- Review the potential challenges associated with each strength to determine our and others’ Achilles Heel. While numerous potential challenges are identified per strength, it doesn’t mean that they all apply to each and every person. In fact, only a few may apply per person. We recommend that the most prevalent challenges be selected for action (usually this equates to only one or two challenges).
At this point we are armed with the information we need to develop meaningful, action-driven, results-oriented Professional Development Plans that both optimize our strengths plus address our challenges.
Engaging Others in Meaningful, Motivating Ways
Are you or have you had the pleasure of managing a top performer who wanted to be promoted, but at the time, there were no current openings? The StrengthsFinder book includes, by theme, possible stretch assignments that play up to each strength. This is a great way to keep yourself or others challenged since top performers can become quickly disenfranchised if they’re not given the “right fit” opportunities to further grow develop.
Evaluating Candidates for Promotion, Hire and Transfer
The StrengthsFinder Assessment is a valuable hiring manager tool. The results can be leveraged to create powerful, targeted, in-depth information gathering questions designed to either “rule in” or “rule out” candidates during initial phone screenings and in-person interviews — whether the candidate is being considered for promotion, transfer or hire. As an example, if you’re seeking a candidate who is talented in “Y”, and you see “Y” on the candidate’s resume, yet their StrengthsFinder report indicates otherwise, you can ask probing questions to determine the nature of the discrepancy, e.g., is the candidate accurately representing him or herself? To be clear, the StrengthsFinder Report augments the candidate search process. The report does not forecast nor guarantee the success of the chosen candidate given the many non StrengthsFinder related variables that may impact the person’s performance.
Providing Career Guidance
Have you ever initiated a conversation with an employee where you have asked the person “what are your career aspirations” and the employee has responded “I have no idea”? While organizational leaders can’t take a deep dive into career counseling given everything else on their plates, leaders can discuss the person’s strengths and offer internal job posting suggestions or ways for the employee to gather more information to determine those roles that would best align with the person’s talents. At least the leader is genuinely showing interest plus pointing the employee in the right direction. Of course, if the leader has more time available for and is passionate about career counseling, further assistance may be provided.
Identifying and Mitigating Team Talent Gaps
To be an effective team, it’s best that each of the 4 domains (Influencing, Executing, Strategic Thinking, Relationship Building) be represented. As previously stated in Part III, too many “like strengths” on any one team can result in groupthink, significant talent gaps and ultimately irrational or dysfunctional decision-making practices plus outcomes. If your team is currently out-of-balance, you may want to consider tapping into other resources to close the gaps until you’re able to fill open positions with the strengths that you’re currently lacking.
Hopefully the picture has been painted that the StrengthsFinder Assessment is an incredibly value-add tool that can be effectively leveraged on a fairly frequent basis versus becoming a tool that is “one and done” — where it’s reviewed and discussed one-time then stored in a file folder for years to come. Part V of this multi-part series will focus on what to consider when developing your organization’s StrengthsFinder Strategy.