This is the third in a three-part series of articles by Stosh Walsh. In this series, Stosh will offer insights on how coaching can make strengths fully effective. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.
The two words I hear the most from individuals I coach are, "Now what?" It doesn't matter if the person is a recently promoted first-time manager or a C-level executive. It seems this important question lingers in the minds of most leaders who encounter strengths. In part one of this series, I argued that leaders and coaches can address this important and ubiquitous question by answering the following:
- How do these strengths enable success in this role?
- How does the exercising of these strengths affect others?
- What kinds of strengths are complementary?
In Part 1, we explored the intentionality leaders can create by examining previous successes, using specific language from the CliftonStrengths results and mapping strengths to a role's critical functions. In Part 2, we discovered the centrality of outcomes to leveraging strengths, understanding that achieving those outcomes often requires heightened awareness, trust capital, communication and partnership.
The third question helps us to gain specificity in terms of what our strengths require in order to be fully effective. For most leaders, simply showing up and doing a good job, given their natural talents, is not enough. Counterintuitively, being intentional about their talents and carefully honing them into strengths is also not enough. As an individual contributor, this strategy often serves people well. After all, it is always a good idea to invest in ourselves intentionally. As leaders, though, outcomes rarely depend solely on our unique or individual ability to deliver them. Rather, leaders influence and engineer outcomes, which requires a precise understanding not only of the goal to be achieved, but also of the strengths of others that, combined with the leader's strengths, deliver the desired result.
So how can leaders hone this ability? First, they must treat it as an outcome in and of itself. Understanding the strengths of others is not a passive activity, and leaders must leverage their strengths toward it just as they would any other desirable outcome. For example, a leader with Input might collect information about peers and colleagues, recognizing that this cataloging of observation will prove useful when it comes time to collaborate.
Second, leaders must pursue a self-awareness that leads to an understanding of what they need in order to be successful. The more channels for feedback here, the better -- 360 reports, coaching relationships, performance management conversations with a supervisor or board -- as quality feedback helps themes emerge. An important side note here is that in order for complementary partnerships to work, leaders must demonstrate the humility of understanding they are required. Sometimes this comes in the form of recognizing how their strengths might be perceived, as we discussed in Part 2, other times it is merely the starting place that enables insights.
Third, leaders must move proactively toward those whose strengths complement theirs. After recognizing what kinds of strengths help them be most successful and identifying those strengths in others, leaders must elicit those from others and create opportunities for them to use those strengths often. After this, leaders must be quick to compliment and recognize their valued partners in specific ways and encourage them to continue to bring and hone their abilities to mutually beneficial outcomes.
When leaders consider how their strengths and the strengths of others enable success, recognize how the leveraging of these strengths both individually and in concert affects others throughout the enterprise, and actively seek those whose strengths are complementary, they can produce outstanding results.
They will also have answered the question, "Now what?"
Stosh Walsh's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Significance, Command, Achiever and Analytical.