The two words I hear the most from individuals I coach is, "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 exercise 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 CliftonStrengths assessment results, and mapping strengths to a role's critical functions.
The second question helps us turn the corner by considering, "How does the exercise of these strengths affect others?" Leaders, by definition, have constituencies, and understanding how each of those constituencies will respond to the leader's strengths is paramount. For this reason, leaders must cultivate a three-pronged sophisticated approach. First, understand his or her own strengths, then the strengths of others, and finally, understand how to leverage these strengths for the intended outcomes. A simple self-check proves valuable here: What do I want the result of this encounter to be, and how confident am I that the strengths I am choosing to leverage will yield that result?
Another way to evaluate how a leader's strengths might affect others is to consider the broader domains in which they reside. For example, if a leader has a high concentration of strengths in the Influencing domain, and his/her team is more relationship building in nature, it will be important to consider how the leader wields that influence, and what trust capital he or she has accrued (and must spend) when a more direct or intense approach is warranted. Conversely, leaders who impact others primarily through their strengths in Relationship Building or Strategic Thinking domains must take care that their messages land clearly, and that others view them as decisive when the situation calls for that. Doing so might require partnership, the use of other themes as a filter or foil, or preparing the group in advance so they know what to expect.
Ultimately, a leader's use of strengths and a thorough knowledge of how they might affect others is a prerequisite for success. Perception impacts not only morale, but also performance.
Stosh Walsh's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Responsibility, Belief, Achiever, Input and Learner.