In order to live our Core Value to Keep Smart, our team does company-wide training each year (in addition to the department-specific training we do on an ongoing basis). This year, we all took Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment and had a day of learning together about our strengths. Our partner at Gallup, Patrick Mieritz, kicked us off with a great introduction to strengths, and our team spent the rest of the day learning about each other’s strengths and how we prefer to work. It was an incredibly valuable day full of insights about our team, and I wanted to share some of the “ah-ha! moments” I had from this day of learning.
What is StrengthsFinder?
Let me start by clarifying Gallup’s definition of a strength: “the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance in a specific activity” (from the book, StrengthsFinder 2.0.) This differs from a talent in that a talent is innate, something you are born with, and a strength is something you cultivate through experiences. The concept of StrengthsFinder came about when Don Clifton, Ph.D., began focusing on what is right with people instead of fixating on what is wrong with them, as most psychologists of his time were doing.
Gallup has found that focusing on weaknesses or remediation for areas that need improvement may prevent failure but almost never lead to exceptional performance. For example, I could practice every day, all day, for the rest of my life, but I will never be able to play basketball like LeBron James. It just won’t happen because that’s not where my talents and strengths lie. Rather than the old maxim, “you can be anything you want to be,” Gallup emphasizes that “you cannot be anything you want to be - but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”
Clifton and his team identified 34 themes that describe distinct talents (that can become strengths with the investment of time and effort to develop the skills and knowledge needed). The StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment helps you find the areas where you have the greatest potential to develop strengths.
The Business Case for Focusing on Strengths
Even members of our team were a bit skeptical of this assessment at first. What is the business value of determining and focusing on our strengths? At first blush, it seems like a “feel-good” exercise, “soft stuff.”
However, in their extensive research, Gallup has found that strengths-based workplaces and managers who intentionally match team members with projects that fit their talents and strengths are able to have a more engaged and productive workforce and significantly improve their Return on Payroll.
According to the meta-analysis Gallup conducted to understand the relationship between strengths-based employee development and business performance, the results are impressive. Individual employees who receive strengths-based development showed 20-73% higher employee engagement. At the business unit level, work groups that received strengths-based development had 14-29% increased profit. Other results included increased performance, higher customer metrics, lower attrition, fewer safety incidents, and increased sales.
These numbers were quite surprising to me - and this data shows that emphasizing strengths in your leadership and team development is far from “soft stuff."
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