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Proactively Approaching Your Manager Role via Strengths

Proactively Approaching Your Manager Role via Strengths

by Maika Leibbrandt

After she read her full 34, it all made sense. No wonder this new role was killing her. She just didn't have the right strengths to manage people … or so she thought.

Layla was a successful engineer. Leading with Intellection, Strategic and Responsibility, she could think deeply about a problem and work tirelessly toward a solution. But her recent promotion to people manager left her feeling directionless. Discovering Discipline and Command to be lesser themes gave her a language to describe what she felt she lacked, but desperately needed.

"I don't drive people," she told me, "and I lack structure. How am I ever going to be a manager with strengths like this?" A strengths-based approach tells us that we do not have to be someone else in order to be successful. Clearly, Layla needed a shift in her paradigm of great management if it was ever going to be something within her grasp.

Through our coaching conversation, my first priority was to clarify the problem. What she called a lack of structure turned out to be fear and uncertainty when confrontation was involved. Inquiring about her successes as an individual contributor taught us more about her dominant themes. She was at her best when she could get lost with her thoughts, absorbing potential ideas and building greater awareness about challenges. She felt most confident after allowing her mind to wander.

Together, we explored ways she could apply this approach to the people she manages. Rather than live in the daily anxiety that she may be cornered by confrontation, she came up with a proactive approach to think deeply about the personal and performance goals of each of her team members. She set aside specific, regular meetings to get to know them better, creating the structure on the calendar but leaving the appointment open for wherever the conversation would take them. After meeting with each individual, she scheduled time to capture what she had learned. Prepared with this new framework, Layla now had something she could commit to and deliver. More importantly, it opened her up to imagine herself as successful in a manager role, without having to be someone she was not.

Capitalizing on this clarity, we closed with an assignment. Knowing her Intellection would likely do best if given time to reflect, I challenged her with a provocative question: If no one had ever managed anyone before, and there were no rules, how would she go about managing people? I could not offer the answer for her. The answer does not come in a CliftonStrengths report. It comes from accepting that we can be -- and must be -- true to our own talents. It comes from awareness, and it lives through expression.

Great managers make or break a workplace. And while the most successful managers do have a few things in common, their specific strengths are as varied as their fingerprints. To gain a better picture of yourself as a great manager, consider the following:

  • Clearly identify the challenge. What moments are most stressful for you? How do you feel in these moments, and how are you currently reacting?
  • Picture your paradigm. How do you think you need to behave? What evidence do you have of this need? Consider at least three great managers you have had -- how were they similar or different from each other? How are you different from them?
  • Study your strengths. When faced with a challenge as an individual contributor, how did you handle it best? What habits or structures did you rely upon most often?
  • Plan for what's possible. How can your strengths benefit the people on your team? What habits or structures can you put in place as a manager, while still meeting your new responsibilities? What can you do more of? What can you let go? What does success look like in the near future?
  • Prepare for the best. What opportunities do you have to express who you are as a manager? Consider touchpoints where you can explicitly tell people what to expect from you, as well as daily actions that display the unique promise of your natural talents in this role.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:


Maika Leibbrandt's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Positivity, Woo, Ideation and Adaptability.

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