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CliftonStrengths
Human Development Turns a Profit, Even in Difficult Times
CliftonStrengths

Human Development Turns a Profit, Even in Difficult Times

by Dean Jones and Jennifer Robison

Story Highlights

  • Leaders must lay the groundwork for a strengths-based organization today.
  • Executives and managers are vital for a successful strengths initiative.
  • Don't know your CliftonStrengths? Start here.

There is no perfect time to introduce a CliftonStrengths initiative. Any time leaders want to speed up development and improve performance is the right time for CliftonStrengths.

But if there's a particularly strategic time -- it's when times are tough.

And Gallup confirmed that during the Great Recession. Then, as now, companies were struggling against dire economic headwinds. And then, as now, strengths-based cultures enabled businesses to ramp up productivity, hedge against employee burnout and increase profitability without much, if any, capital investment. As a result, strengths-based companies came out of the Great Recession able to capitalize on opportunities their competitors couldn't reach.

Leaders who want to be in that position ASAP need to lay the groundwork today. And while there's no wrong way to do it (aside from trying to use CliftonStrengths to select candidates or fix people's weaknesses), Gallup's client experience shows that the way leaders architect their strengths-based culture can maximize -- or undermine -- the quality of their plan.

First, Begin With Leaders

The approval process starts with leaders, naturally, but it's smart to launch learning initiatives from the C-suite too. It provides due diligence -- strengths are transformative, and leaders need to know the implications for their organization -- and gives executives the time they need to examine the impact of their strengths on the company.

For that reason, leaders should have a one-on-one with a strengths coach who specializes in executive development to get an organizational, professional and personal perspective.

That individual conversation should be followed by an executive team session. Execs need to see how the dynamic works in a team and have a chance to ask questions. And just as importantly -- for the individual, team and company -- leaders deserve a real opportunity to witness how their innate talents influence the group's behavior and decisions, and how their strengths can be used to achieve better outcomes.

At this stage, companies tend to see an inflection point. Energy for and interest in CliftonStrengths quickly ramps up -- leaders want their direct reports to experience what they just did, so word gets out quickly -- and it's best for the organization to prepare leadership with the resources they need to guide others.

Leaders deserve a real opportunity to witness how their innate talents influence the group's behavior and decisions, and how their strengths can be used to achieve better outcomes.

Next, Managers Must Know Their Strengths and Receive Coaching

Managers are instrumental to a strengths initiative, and strengths are instrumental to managers. Indeed, some CHROs introduce CliftonStrengths as a development mechanism for performance management, making CliftonStrengths the language and context for setting expectations and ongoing coaching.

So, the way managers learn to operationalize CliftonStrengths has a huge effect on every employee's performance and development, and ultimately the entire organization. Gallup recommends that managers begin their learning with their own CliftonStrengths assessment and receive one-on-one coaching, just like leaders should.

That facilitates managers' understanding of their own strengths -- which makes them more effective managers, of course -- and gives them insight into the employee experience.

The way managers learn to operationalize CliftonStrengths has a huge effect on every employee's performance and development, and ultimately the entire organization.

Very shortly after that, managers should receive coaching specific to the highly influential role of manager. Helping employees apply their innate patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving to their work is serious business, and managers need quality development to do it with excellence.

Then, Explore the Strengths of Individual Contributors

When managers have coaching expertise, it's time to roll CliftonStrengths out to individual contributors. That way, managers can socialize the concept and confidently answer questions about the assessment.

However, in most cases, managers shouldn't start coaching an employee's strengths until the employee gets one-on-one feedback with a certified coach.

Otherwise, the one-on-one feedback session can become more of a general introduction to strengths, not an exploration of each worker's unique strengths profile.

When that's complete, the real work -- and the real joy -- of strengths begins. As managers and employees get better at putting talents where they do the most good, people find more opportunities to leverage them and more fulfillment in their work.

As managers marshal individuals' talents toward a collective whole, teams get stronger and more agile, and their relationships deepen. Over time, goals get easier to reach and new possibilities appear.

And that's when you'll know you've launched a CliftonStrengths initiative the right way -- your way.

As managers marshal individuals' talents toward a collective whole, teams get stronger and more agile, and their relationships deepen.

Your Approach May Happen Organically, and That's OK

Realistically, your way may not be feasible in the order described above. Some CHROs need a proving ground to demonstrate the value of strengths to the organization and identify best practices. For example, narrowing the focus to a business division, functional area or team allows CHROs to stage implementation while building momentum.

And sometimes strengths take hold organically -- a leader or manager implements strengths within a team or division, and it catches on. Though it makes standardization difficult, grassroots approaches have an energy all their own.

Either way, Gallup recommends keeping CliftonStrengths education, coaching, tools and resources readily available for managers and teams. CliftonStrengths discovery is a great start, but coaching makes CliftonStrengths a development powerhouse.

It's the Outcome That Matters

The downside to the approaches listed above is that they take time. This business climate is changing at breakneck speeds, and time is a scarce resource. But talent is far scarcer. Profit too, in some companies.

Therefore, it's incumbent on leaders to invest what little time they have where it will get the best returns, improving performance. Workers who consistently perform at the top of their game optimize their talent and maximize your profit. Talent and profit are always indispensable resources -- but they're exponentially more valuable in a down economy. Talent and profit deployed strategically save companies.

Talent and profit are always indispensable resources -- but they're exponentially more valuable in a down economy. Talent and profit deployed strategically save companies.

And strategic deployment of a CliftonStrengths initiative will amplify its impact. When time is of the essence, it's worth shepherding every bit of impact toward performance development. With any luck, we won't see years of economic fallout like we did during the Great Recession. But if we do, leaders who get strategic about strengths now will have employees capable of capitalizing on opportunities no one else can.

Lay the groundwork for a strengths-based culture today:

Author(s)

Dean Jones is a Global Talent Development Architect at Gallup.

Jennifer Robison is a Senior Editor at Gallup.


Gallup https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/287486/human-development-turns-profit-even-during-difficult-times.aspx
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