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CliftonStrengths Focus Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Focus Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Theme Thursday Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Focus
  • "Strong themes, stronger teams": Learn how your team can own its Focus talents and become stronger, resulting in improved performance, organic growth and better wellbeing.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

We discover how the Focus talent theme relates to your manager and your team in this Season 6 episode of Theme Thursday. When we improve teams through owning our CliftonStrengths, we improve performance. When we improve performance, that's how we get to the kind of organic growth that allows us to have stronger economies, a stronger world and better wellbeing. And great managers hold the key: As they move from boss to coach, they help team members understand who they are already and hold them accountable for being even better, maximizing the team's engagement and impact. You might even be a manager in ways you never thought of! So join Jim Collison and Maika Leibbrandt for Season 6, as we focus on teams and managers -- including a new talent-mindfulness challenge at the end of each webcast. Strong themes, stronger teams.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

We've created the ultimate guide to improving teamwork in the workplace!

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from the Gallup Studios here in Omaha, Nebraska, this is Gallup's Theme Thursday, Season 6, recorded on February 20, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:21

Theme Thursday is a Gallup webcast series that dives deep into the CliftonStrengths themes, one theme at a time. And today's theme is Focus. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. If you're on our live page right above us there, there's a link to the YouTube instance -- that's got the chat room in it. By the way, the chat stays with the video, even after the fact. So if you're watching this recorded, find the chat room. You can't type in it. But you can follow along with us there as well. If you have questions after the fact, send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe. If you're on YouTube, any of our YouTube instances, just subscribe so you get notified whenever we do something new. And if you're a podcast listener, you can find us by just searching "Gallup Webcasts" in any podcast app. Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a workplace consultant here at Gallup with me. Maika, always great to see you. And welcome back to this Theme Thursday!

Maika Leibbrandt 1:10

Thanks, Jim. This is a fun one. So this season, we're exploring each theme -- theme -- through the lens of team. Say that 12 times fast; I dare you! But the reason we're doing it is, well, I think it's twofold. One, teams and themes and what to do with strengths and teams is one of the most searched things that we, that we find. It's one of the most common asks we get of, How do I use CliftonStrengths within a team? Another reason we're doing this is because we actually know quite a bit about what makes organizations work and what makes team really strong.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:41

And we know that there are 5 things that strong teams have in common [from Strengths Based Leadership]. So I'm not, there's not science that attaches each of those 5 truths to every theme, but we are using them this season as a jumping point to explore every single theme. So as you listen to each theme within the domain today -- we're almost finishing that Executing Domain -- I hope it gives you more insight into what your people need if you are a manager, or what your peers can do in order to thrive more intentionally if you're part of a team, beyond just, Hey, they're a "doer" because it's an Executing theme. So today we explore the theme of Focus. Let's do the quick definition. If you have Focus, you can take a direction, follow through and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. You prioritize, then act. So the first truth of a strong team that we'll use to explore Focus today is, "Conflict does not destroy that strong team, because strong teams focus instead on results."

Jim Collison 2:42

Yeah, and I think it's -- this is really an important point, even though No. 5 is my favorite. This one is important because I think sometimes we shy away from conflict on teams, when it actually makes us stronger. So when we think about -- and this is the important part, right? When we think about focus on results, and I know we have the word "focus" in the definition here. But what does that mean?

Maika Leibbrandt 3:03

So for Focus, there's this, there's this piece of it that -- there's a piece of the definition of Focus that spans our different articles. Every time you define Focus, you see these 3 words, whether it's in first person or second person or in your Theme Insight Report, or just in the brief, and I think they might be the three most important words to understand Focus. And it's prioritize, then act. So the setting of the target is really important for somebody with Focus. There's a different kind of highly concentrated energy for someone with Focus, once they know for sure what they're aiming for.

Maika Leibbrandt 3:40

So the results need to be pretty clear. What -- what do we mean when we say that this is going to be complete? What does success look like? What will be done when it is complete? How will we know? How close are we right now? So really being able to understand, first, where are we thinking about prioritizing and then have that moment where we "click in." Then Focus can really run fast.

Jim Collison 4:02

As an Arranger/Activator, I like to just move and see where the targets come from, as opposed to setting the targets and then moving. So when we think about Focus and tracking progress, what type of results might matter most for that?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:13

So, yeah, you know, within that Executing Domain, I think all those themes have slightly different relationships with other themes or other people or how much they like to compare. With Focus, it is less about comparison and more about what's happening within your own swim lane or your own productivity. Progress is always in relation to the end goal. And I find with Focus, it's less about counting up how much has been done. We mentioned with Achiever, they start every day at zero. Focus, what they're really looking at is the end.

Maika Leibbrandt 4:45

So it might be more practical for somebody with Focus, instead of gathering the tally marks for what you've completed, to think about how much farther do we have yet to go? People with high Focus might do especially well under time pressure, because they, again, they can lock in and really be zeroed in on what they're doing. In previous seasons, I've discussed Focus as being "beneficial tunnel vision."

Maika Leibbrandt 5:09

So don't worry if it doesn't look like their progress toward a goal is steady. They are capable of extreme bursts of productivity. If you're their manager, don't prescribe or project your own cadence onto them. Leave them freedom to pace themselves and ask how they'd like to be checked in with, how often and what does progress mean to them? You know, it might be more about gathering resources or feeding other themes first, and then really buckling down, maybe even at the 11th hour. And that doesn't mean they're not engaged with the entire process. It just means that their efficiency is going to come in waves.

Jim Collison 5:48

And, if you ask, they may even give you your cadence in that as well; give you some direction on that. What's the second truth that we look at, Maika?

Maika Leibbrandt 5:55

"Strong teams prioritize what's best for the organization and then they move forward." You know, with these first two, I think -- I think it helps us understand that, as coaches or influencers within teams or people who are working with managers, that very often what, what, what makes somebody pick up the phone and call us is not the target in the end.

Maika Leibbrandt 6:16

So, I often hear people say, "How can you use CliftonStrengths with conflict?" or "How can you use CliftonStrengths to prove to somebody that they're doing something important?" And I think if the target becomes conflict, then you've missed the aim already. What we already know is true about teams is that's not what they're centering on. And because the, the entire energy isn't absorbed by that, it allows them to focus on results. With the second truth, it's not necessarily about what does the team want to accomplish? You don't have to start a strategic plan from scratch within a team, because strong teams are already building -- building routes and sort of taking hold, based on what's best for the organization.

Jim Collison 6:55

So it sounds like a little bit, you know, we've been focusing on this "We versus me," right. Sometimes the focus is, when we think about that, what's the benefit for me? As we move to teams, it's more about the "We"; the larger purpose. So talk a little bit more. Like how else can someone with high Focus really benefit a team? Again, this one seems like it's a lot about the individual, but I think it can be a lot about the team as well.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:18

So I think about ways that somebody with Focus can focus on something that's about not just themselves. It might just be different creative ways to talk about priorities, discuss the "if all else fails" option, or the "Hey, when the chips are down, our team still does XYZ." They're likely to respond pretty well to this idea of essentialism or streamlined or simplified priorities. Talk about what the organization stands for, or what the most important takeaway or point of an interaction with a client is.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:52

And you might also realize that, in attempting to do this, what you're trying to do is speak Focus' language. So you could just ask for their help from the very beginning; be able to say, "Hey, could somebody with our team who's got high Focus really summarize what you think the most important thing we heard there was?" And it'll probably be more, more about what's the most important next step that we take?

Jim Collison 8:12

I think sometimes Focus gets misunderstood incorrectly as being something where it would, in a creative moment, would slow things down or it would get people to stop inaction. But when we think about this, from an Executing standpoint, it is action-oriented. So how does someone inspire -- what, what inspires someone with Focus to take action?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:32

I -- the image I have right now, and I hadn't planned this, but I'm thinking about old cartoon dynamite sticks. Because I've got this image of once you light the fuse, Focus is the fuse that gets you all the way to that end goal, the explosion. And so I think it's not necessarily, Let's slow things down. It's more about maybe Let's be cautious and careful about when we're going to light that fuse. Because once we go, Focus is a single track. It is let's -- let's get to where we're going.

Maika Leibbrandt 9:02

They might need space and place to run full force toward a goal. Maybe that means from you as a manager, that you're creating the ability for them to really do one thing at a time. How can they sort their priorities and not have to deliver on multiple things at exactly the same pace or exactly the same deadline? Sometimes it also means leave them alone, and let them get their stuff done. There's a lot of self-drive and sort of isolated motivation to Focus. An environment that rewards productivity is going to be important, knowing for them that their energy has been well-invested and that people have noticed how hard they worked.

Jim Collison 9:41

And I think Focus can even be one where the environment matters a lot in setting up, you know, the way the environment is set up for them may really benefit or take away from the action they're trying to take. So just as we think through workspaces or we think through you know, what, what, what can they use or how can we keep them focused? Or how can they get away from distractions? If all those things matter to them, that may be one where environment matters.

Maika Leibbrandt 10:07

Yeah. And I think in my experience, when I've coached people with high Focus or worked with people with high Focus, it's almost as if they don't need as many artificial walls as other people do. Because they can create their own imaginary cubicle wherever they go. There's a magic to Focus of being able to drown out all the other noise and just be with what you're with.

Jim Collison 10:28

No, that's a really, really good point. OK, No. 3.

Maika Leibbrandt 10:30

No. 3 is "Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work."

Jim Collison 10:36

And how does this show up for -- how does Focus show up for someone in their personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:40

When they're with you, they can really be all with you. That -- there's this experience, I think, of being completely immersed in what you're doing. And think about taking somebody with Focus out to lunch. You can be in the busiest restaurant in the world and they're with you. It feels pretty good. They can, I think, look distracted or an interested at times, but -- by other things -- but it's because they're the opposite. They are so interested, they are so engaged just in what they're doing. So I think about Hess Dyas. So I used to work him in my very first Gallup office in Omaha, who would walk in and he had high Focus. And he would tell other people, "Hey, you might walk past my office and I might not say 'Hello!' It's not because I'm uninterested; it's because I'm in Focus mode.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:28

So get their attention on purpose. If you -- don't, don't expect them just to make connections through osmosis. Simply being around someone is not the same as building that intention -- that connection intentionally, especially for people with high Focus.

Jim Collison 11:45

Yeah, and I'm kind of a Focus destroyer in a lot of ways. I mean, I can be a -- I can be a force to come in and kind of ruin that. I've actually been learning, especially as a manager, to recognize that Focus a little bit better and then just avoid it. Like let it be. Let it live. Let it continue. As we think about things managers can do to tap into that, what else -- when we think about the personal side -- what else can, what questions could managers ask?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:08

You might ask, "Hey, what are you aiming for? What is an important goal? What do you want to be known for?" Or even just "Hey, what are you into lately?" And I also think just -- it's important, when you're thinking about the balance between a personal life and a professional life for somebody with focus, just to make it intentionally. Allow that space to happen on purpose.

Jim Collison 12:27

Okay, No. 4.

Maika Leibbrandt 12:28

No. 4: "Strong teams embrace diversity." This is true in so many ways, and diversity is a huge topic. I'm not trying to say that a diversity of your CliftonStrengths themes is the same as exploring the importance of diversity of, you know, lots of different other ways that we talk about that. But it is a great jumping point for us to explore what is it that somebody brings to the team that's different from other people, based even just on their talent?

Jim Collison 12:55

What kind of words can we ascribe to this -- if we're just boiling it down to a single word?

Maika Leibbrandt 13:00

The person with focus on your team might be your prioritizer; a minimizer of distraction; a driver, they're powerful. They tend to be pretty on target or focused. I try not to say focused, but it's true. Intentional. they bring a level of sophistication to the Executing, because they'll thoughtfully prioritize first before they start running toward something.

Jim Collison 13:24

And what kind of unique perspective can someone with Focus bring to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 13:28

I think about the consistent awareness of the team's priorities and the available resources we have to get them done. They probably do well when they can own a task, or own the execution toward an important milestone within a task. Let them get on with it.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:46

So we talk about some of these other Executing themes being particularly contagious or better when they're around other hard workers. Focus might not even notice others who are around them. So it's OK just to say, "Here's exactly what I need you to do," or "Here's what it looks like in the end when it's done," and then trust them to do it. And because of that, it's also something they bring to the team. They can define what does a completed goal look like? They can offer a little bit of refinement to how we're determining whether we've done what we said we were going to do. They can keep the group on track, just keep everybody talking, not necessarily about what we've already accomplished. But again, what is it that we have left to do?

Jim Collison 14:27

My favorite, No. 5, I think mostly because I'm so influence-driven. But what's No. 5?

Maika Leibbrandt 14:31

No. 5: "Strong teams are magnets for talent." We've talked about it being both of our favorite, and I wonder if it's just because it's the most colorful wording of all these sentences. The rest of them aren't a picture, but I like the idea of magnets for talent. It's about strong teams, or it's really how do you indicate a strong team? I think it's kind of hard to build toward No. 5 compared to the other 4. But it's the team everybody wants to be a part of.

Jim Collison 14:55

And what -- what is it attracting? I mean, what's -- what is that force that attracts?

Maika Leibbrandt 14:58

What's magnetic?

Jim Collison 14:59


Maika Leibbrandt 15:00

I think somebody with Focus -- their intensity can uncover details that other people may miss. Not because they're combing for small details, but because they're so fully present in what they're doing. And in a world where so many people, brands, groups are constantly vying for your attention, it's settling. It's calming to be purposefully "all in" on one thing at a time.

Jim Collison 15:25

Yeah. And then how else would you describe it, using some describing words, that others are really looking and wanting more of in a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 15:34

I think it's hard work. And it's a different kind of hard work. It's intense work, progress toward a goal. "Identify your goals and slay them!" is something I saw online the other day. And for Focus, it's the "and slay them" part. It's, it's, yeah, we need to identify them first, but it's also that intensity that they bring toward what they're running to. It's a helpful nudge toward identifying and clarifying that end goal; helping define success; and the ability to stay the course. It's hard to distract somebody with Focus once they're really on track. And that's a pretty attractive quality.

Jim Collison 16:09

Yeah, I think for someone who knows and understands that in a setting, and can set that up really well for the team, so that it becomes that understanding of, this is the way I work; this is the way I operate. I think that is the -- that's the other attractive part, too, is when we understand those, right? When they're just in their raw form and we're kind of just spewing them out there.

Maika Leibbrandt 16:30

We understand them. And when we can start to paint with the others that we have right next to them. I mean, Focus is about locking into something and then moving it forward. Imagine how that's amplified by a number of other themes. It's got some similarities and some crossover to Discipline that we talked about. It's got some similarities, I think, to Achiever and that, that internal drive. So I'm just so happy that we're exploring these domain by domain because it helps us really see the intricacy of, of an Executing theme, in this case, that can be amplified and modified and changed by the others that also show up alongside it.

Jim Collison 17:04

You know, I'm glad you said that because this has been the first time we've done it domain -- within the domains. And it's been really helpful for me to remember, hey, we're in the Executing Domain. And Focus is an Executing theme. Like it's, it's so important to remember those things, I think, And you know, those can slide across and there can be other -- there can be other manifestations of it, but it's just -- it's been a good reminder to me as we've been going through each one of these, you know,

Maika Leibbrandt 17:28

Yeah, it has, and I think maybe what we're answering is, yes, it's Executing, but how does somebody with this theme execute? So it's a lot about filling in that how and that personalization.

Jim Collison 17:38

OK, review those 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:40

Yep, those 5 again: 1) Results, not conflict; 2) Do what's best for the organization and then do it or move forward; 3) Equally, work and personal lives are important; 4) They embrace diversity; and 5) They're magnets for talent.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:53

You don't have to remember those 5; you don't have to memorize them. I think they give us a good starting point -- a good scaffolding to really explore the power of the strengths that are within your team. Do not go into working with CliftonStrengths with a team with the eye of needing to have an equal balance across the 4 Domains. We don't -- we don't have anything that explicitly says that equals a strong team. That's why we're using these 5 instead. Because we do know they're present within strong teams. So there's certainly something you could use as a, as an evaluator to say, How close or how far are we to these? And what is it that we can do, more importantly, to move toward that idea of strengthening our team?

Jim Collison 18:28

All right, I talked too much. Let's just dive right in to talent-mindfulness.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:31

Not at all! Thanks, Jim. We're going to end today as we do every episode lately, with a little talent-mindfulness. There is great power in your talent, whether or not you have Focus. It's not the same version of power of anyone else that you likely know. So today, for the next 3 to 5 minutes, we're gonna focus less on Focus and more on you. So this practice will close our podcast (if you're joining live, there's another one, but) it'll close out the podcast. And it's meant to be different from what we've explored so far. So I invite you to take the next 3 to 5 minutes, turn your attention away from the success of others, away from the science of strengths, and turn your energy toward yourself just for a really short time.

Maika Leibbrandt 19:17

Now today, I am going to ask you to make two lists. And I fully believe that you're capable of making these lists in your brain. But if this is something you feel like you might want to write down, you can grab materials to do that now. And you can press "Pause"; I'm not going to know if you need to press "Pause" and come back; you can do that.

Maika Leibbrandt 19:40

Let's let go, first, of all the breath that you're holding in your lungs. Really push all your air out; empty your lungs. And now, take a deep, filling breath in through your nose. Feel that fresh air really help you expand your torso. Hold that breath at the top, and the nice audible exhale out through your lips. Here we are.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:09

I'd like you to think of the time most recently that you were very productive. When, in recent memory, would you say you were exceptionally efficient? Think about a real time. Don't think too far back. When was the time that you, you got a lot done? You experienced sort of that Executing version of flow? ... Now I'm going to invite you to make a list of everything that was present in that moment. You can go ahead and populate that list in your brain. You can write; you can type. I'm going to give you some additional prompts just in case you need them.

Maika Leibbrandt 21:01

What was in your physical space? What did someone else do to feed this moment? Again, this list is what was present in that efficiency moment. What'd you do to prepare? What time of day was it? What led up to that moment? What expectations were present? What kind of permission did you have? What sort of clarity did you have on, on what was happening? These are just prompts. There's not a right or researched answer to this, and chances are, your answers to these prompts are different than someone else's.

Maika Leibbrandt 21:52

Now, let's continue this by making a second list. Again, you can just think about this or you can write. If I'm going too fast, press "Pause." It's a podcast. It's -- I'm not actually here with you. I won't care or know if you pause me. This time, in the second list, I want you to list all the things that were NOT present during your efficient moment. Again, I'm going to give you a few prompts, because on your own, this might be a little bit harder than listing what was there -- listing what was NOT there. What distractions were missing? Think about your physical space; what physical things were not there? Here's the big one: Who was not involved that mattered?

Maika Leibbrandt 22:59

So at this point, in our reflection, you've thought about a time that you crushed it. And then you thought about what, what was there in that time. And you thought about what was not there. If you were to zoom out and take a look, either in your imagination or on your actual piece of paper, take a look at all those things that you just reflected upon and pick 2 or 3 that are the most important ingredients you'll want to bring with you the next time you need to be especially efficient. What are the two or three most important things you notice? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 23:47

You can say it this way to yourself: I can get stuff done. I can execute. I can do hard things. I am efficient and effective. And in order to stack the deck a little bit more in my own favor, I need these things. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 24:25

It's fun to think about this entire domain, not just being about Executing, but being about How do you execute? Today, we even blew away the model of the domain and just said, What about you? How do you execute? And this practice should help you start to think more mindfully about that. So that's your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 24:49

I don't do this often, but, but I think if you've got -- if you went through that exercise for a second, just smile, and maybe give yourself a hand. Like, create that space, whether you can or you can't, you know, if you're driving, please keep your hands on the wheels, those kinds of things. But I think it's important that in those moments, we -- of those celebrations, Maika, as you're going through this -- that we just celebrate some of those things that we have got done. And we got to kind of do it for ourselves. Like we, you know, we can't always depend on that happening around us -- although lately, that's been different for me. But sometimes we need to celebrate ourselves. So I'd encourage you to do that now. Just smile, let your -- let everybody know around you what's going on inside and then -- and give yourself a hand.

Jim Collison 25:33

We'll remind everyone, with that take full advantages of all the resources we have available for you now on that new Gallup Access. Easiest way to get there: Again, Really best place to login; takes you right to your, your strengths dashboard. So if you want to go in there and get access to that, great way to do it. We have lots of resources on that page that are available. You can sign up for the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter while you're there, which just, I think, came out today. I think we got a copy of that that is out there. You can also search "CliftonStrengths" and find us on the YouTube channel. So we have that out there. Subscribe while you're out there so you never miss an episode. You can find us in any podcast player just by searching "Gallup Webcasts." We have a bunch out there that's available for you. And it's one of our favorite ways of communicating with you. So get those subscribed to and downloaded on a regular basis so you don't miss. If you have any questions about anything, you can send us an email: You can see a complete list of all our courses -- maybe you're a learning junkie and you want to get some more learning -- By the way, courses, Maika, 15% off at the Summit, which is coming up June 1, 2 or 3 of 2020. If it's after that, we're probably doing another summit and head out to gallup ...

Maika Leibbrandt 26:41

Man, that 2020 summit was amazing!

Jim Collison 26:43

It was awesome! We had such a great time with people -- the people who came.

Maika Leibbrandt 26:47

The thing that you said still sticks with me.

Jim Collison 26:49

Amazing -- it was amazing! [for the summit] -- register before April 4 to get the maximum discount that's going on right now, and courses are 15% off if you get there. If you want to join us live -- and that's really the best way to do these -- come out (or and listen to them on the podcast player too), come out to, and follow us there. You'll get a notification every time. And I'm pretty good about just doing one a day and 3 during the week. So if you want to follow us there, you'll get notifications. Join us on Facebook: Or, if you're not Facebooker, go to LinkedIn, search Gallup, no, CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches. There we go. And you don't have to be a trained coach from us to be there. We'll let you in. But let me know, and we'll let you in that group as well. Want to thank you for joining us. Quick turnaround for the live audience on this. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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