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CliftonStrengths Activator Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Activator Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Theme Thursday Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Activator
  • Strong themes, stronger teams": Learn how your team can own its Activator 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 Activator 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 our home studios here, Maika, this is Gallup's Theme Thursday, Season 6, recorded on March 19, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:21

Theme Thursday is a Gallup webcast series that dives deep into the CliftonStrengths themes, one theme at a time -- this season based on developing teams and managers. We focus on one theme at a time, and today's theme is Activator. If you're listening live, we'd love to have you join us in our chat room. There's actually a link right up there, right above me, available for you. Head over to our YouTube page and there's a chat room that is there. We'd love to take your live comments, and we have a bunch of people today out in the chat room, so we appreciate you guys coming out. If you have questions after the fact or you want to send us an email on anything send that to: and I'll route that to us. Don't forget, if you're on YouTube right below Maika -- actually, Maika, if you point down -- right down there's a subscribe button. Smash that thing and hit the notification bell so you get notified every time we go live, and you won't miss one of these things. If you want to listen to it as a podcast, and it's never been more -- there's never been a more appropriate time to listen to podcasts, all the cool kids are doing it -- go to and search "Gallup Webcasts" in any podcast player and we'd love to have you join us there as well. Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a Workplace Consultant here with me -- here at Gallup and Maika, great to see you! Welcome back to Theme Thursday.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:22

Thanks, Jim. Best day of the whole week!

Jim Collison 1:24

For sure. We -- we're spending some time today on Activator. Why don't you -- why don't you bring us in?

Maika Leibbrandt 1:29

So this season, we're exploring every one of our 34 themes through the lens of team. And that's really because it tends to be, I think, a "front door" for a lot of people as they say, How do I, how do I manage my team? And then as coaches or strengths enthusiasts, sometimes we back up and say, well, it really is about the individual. But we know from our studies in leadership that strong teams have a couple things in common. We're going to use these 5 Truths of Strong Teams, which, if you are new to this podcast, you can find those 5 truths in Gallup's book, Strengths Based Leadership. We're going to dive into every single one of our 34 themes through those 5 strengths.

Maika Leibbrandt 2:06

It's not meant to be a scientific look at each of these themes; it really is just the opportunity to say, How does this theme play out in response to, to the team or the team members around them? So as you listen today, and as you explore within the domain of Influencing today, I hope it gives you more insight into, today, the Activator theme. So I think this will be a "win" if you walk away knowing a little bit more about, not just it's an Influencing theme, but what's unique and powerful about Activator and its ability to influence.

Maika Leibbrandt 2:39

So let's get started. The short definition of Activator, if you've got this as a dominant theme: You can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. You want to do things now rather than simply talking about them. And our first truth of strong teams is about conflict. So the truth of strong teams here is that "Conflict doesn't destroy strong teams, because strong teams focus on results."

Jim Collison 3:04

Yeah, never been more important than what's going on right now as we think about conflict. What does it mean, focus on results? What does that mean for Activator?

Maika Leibbrandt 3:11

For Activator, I call it the "Let's get going" theme. It's about a confidence to start, even if you don't know where, where the end result is going to take you. It's also, remember, it's in that Influencing category, which is about, I think, advocacy and promotion and affecting the emotions of other people. So with Activator, it's the ability to bring others along with them. A focus on results for Activator might be more alive when the challenge is new. They have the ability to create excitement around getting people on board -- that sort of initial "Let's do this!"

Jim Collison 3:48

When we were in the Executing Domain, all those made sense when we came to this "tracking progress" question and with Activator, like I ...

Maika Leibbrandt 3:55

You want to talk about how fun it is to write notes now for Influencing on tracking progress?

Jim Collison 3:59

So when we think about Activator, we think about "Go, go, go"; not "Track, track, track." So how does Activator track progress?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:05

Activator's looking for the action that's being taken. You're going to notice a stark difference between how I answer these and how we answered those Executing themes. But you're going to also notice that there's other elements of strong teams that show up more easily, more quickly, more, I think, conceptually direct to, to the questions that we're asking. But specifically around progress, I think Activator's probably going to track decisions that have been made, people who have contributed or opportunities to quickly tackle something next. So asking that question of, What can we -- how or how quickly can we transform an idea into reality? And how quickly can we get going?

Jim Collison 4:46

Yeah, and Activators can track progress. I'm just saying it. OK, so Maika, what's our second truth?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:51

"Strong teams prioritize what's best for the organization, and then they move forward." So this truth is really about what one of my favorite leaders in my, in my world has has called a three-legged stool, about strong teams understanding 1) what's right for the team; 2) what's right for the organization, and 3) what's right for them as individuals. Not necessarily prioritizing one over the other, but really strong teams align what they're doing, and they align their priorities to really what's best for others.

Jim Collison 5:22

So what inspires someone with Activator -- sounds kind of crazy -- to take action? Like, but there is a motivation behind it. What inspires them?

Maika Leibbrandt 5:30

Well, Activator listens for steps that can be taken. So they're probably ready to take action even faster than other people might be. When you think about how does that connect to a larger organizational goal, if you're going to help them, if you're their manager, translate those bigger organizational desires. What do we want to be? How do we want to contribute? What is it that we need to do? Translate those to what it means they can offer, or translate it to how that Activator can inspire people to be involved. If you're a manager of somebody with an Activator, position them to get the group going when they're paralyzed by inaction or hesitant; when they're scared, when they're stuck, or when they can't always even see or understand ways to join or ways to be involved.

Maika Leibbrandt 6:14

Activator sees potential to engage and makes sure that they're doing something to invite others into that experience. Jim, I think your original question was about like, Well, how do they take action? Where does that inspiration come from? It comes naturally just from the definition. But I also think if you're trying to amplify an Activator talent in the setting of a team, offer freedom from red tape; freedom from having to qualify their actions or get permission or have prerequisites. That's not always going to be safe or responsible. So think about offering them places where it is. The more accessible the action is, the more energy that Activator is going to have for themselves or for others.

Maika Leibbrandt 6:55

So if you're leading them or managing them, ask yourself how you can invite the perspectives of everyone. Not though -- not just those who maybe seem like they deserve the seat at the table; ask the, ask the Activator on your team what they think we can get going on, or what our best next steps are. Chances are they see them even before you do. And I would also say shorten the amount of time it takes to go from results to action.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:19

So -- I might have shared the story before, but -- before I was working with Gallup, I was a TV reporter. And before that I was a newspaper reporter -- or, excuse me, I was never a newspaper reporter, my sister is -- I was on the radio. Hence, the gigantic microphone. And I remember realizing real quickly the difference between radio and TV is you can have an idea and turn it into a product on radio about 10 times as fast as you can on TV because TV has images involved. If that picture helps you think about the best way to position an Activator in a business it's -- what I hope that translates to is, Give them the opportunity to find their fastest lane forward and really get into that groove and get into that lane. Anything else that might feel like bells and whistles can come later, but that Activator is going to get a boost of energy the more that they can influence, the more that they can get people going. So get them in a lane where they can get started.

Jim Collison 8:17

OK, what about our, what about our next truth?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:20

The next truth is that "Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work."

Jim Collison 8:26

So what does that mean when we think about How does an Activator show up in somebody's personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:30

I think it's the courage to try; the energy to begin. Activators have probably a variety of interests or hobbies that they have started. Don't think about finishing that as being success or failure; the success is in the starting. It doesn't take a lot for them to jump into things. And I think relationally, they might be quick to make others feel at ease because of their attraction and action and natural ability to invite people along. They can make some -- starting something seem easy and fun. And that's a rare talent.

Jim Collison 9:08

The question I've really enjoyed asking you this season is, like, How can a manager see these and tap into their personal lives to bring this to work? What kind of questions could they ask?

Maika Leibbrandt 9:21

You could ask, What are you starting? What's new? When do you get the most energy? What's your ideal way to begin your day? How do you make people feel involved? What platforms are best for you turning your ideas into action?

Jim Collison 9:37

OK, truth No. 4.

Maika Leibbrandt 9:40

Truth No. 4: "Strong teams embrace diversity." I do have to call out here that diversity is a gigantic issue. But really what we know here is, is not just about having a variety of themes. We know that diversity is bigger than that. What we know is that having a team that's composed of a bunch of people with similar ideas and similar backgrounds and similar talents never gets you as far as having one that embraces people who are, who are different. So what we're looking at within this truth is what's different about Activator.

Maika Leibbrandt 10:11

Let's think about how you might describe an Activator and what they bring that maybe other people bring from other places, but certainly that, that Activator will bring on its own. You could call them fast, quick, intense, inviting. Togetherness is I think something that has to do with Activator -- that ability to not just say, "I'm ready to go," but "I want you to come with me." They're a mobilizing force and a starter.

Jim Collison 10:37

Sorry, I missed that cue there. I was wanting to activate on the chat room and, and blew right past it.

Jim Collison 10:43

Yeah, you did. I appreciate that. What unique -- that's so funny. Nobody would have known, but it's just kind of funny. It's a, it's a great example of both, you know, moving forward, continuing to move, right, not getting hung up on it. So what unique perspective does Activator bring to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:43

We've got you. We've got this.

Maika Leibbrandt 10:48

I think Activator can help the team see the way forward before anybody else does. If you're pairing an Activator with an Executing talent, either in that person's profile or with partnerships, that Activator can tackle things that other people might think are too big to begin. Or maybe things that other people would avoid because they look too complicated to finish. The truth of it is Activator's probably not concerning themselves entirely with with how are we going to finish this? And sometimes you do just need somebody to get in and shake things up.

Jim Collison 11:30

Lisa had put a hashtag in the chat room, about unfinished projects, and I actually think that's a strength, not a weakness, and that sometimes Activators will move on projects that seem impossible at the time but have to be done. And so that's really, really powerful. Sometimes when the lights turn off, you have to just keep moving, right? You need these Activators to help do that. All right, No. 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:50

No. 5: "Strong teams are magnets for talent." My favorite quote around this one in the book is, "Another way to spot a strong team is to look for teams that everyone else wants to be a part of."

Jim Collison 12:01

Can I tell you, this morning I was doing a podcast interview. So somebody called me, "Hey, can I be on your podcast?" And so or "Can, can I interview for your podcast?" And I used that quote. So we were talking about this idea, "Strong teams are a magnet for talent." And it was just so much fun to be able to pull Theme Thursday into that, you know, into an external interview for somebody so ...

Maika Leibbrandt 12:19

That's the goal: total inception.

Jim Collison 12:21

No, totally. So what, what will others be attracted to in Activator? I think sometimes we see this as negative, and I think it's a super big positive. So how do others -- how are others attracted to it?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:31

I mean, excitement is attractive. Energy is attractive. I think sometimes Activator can sound like impatience. And we even use that word in our, in our definitions, but it really, it's a positive focus on what can happen when we aren't afraid to jump. I mean, how powerful is that? There's, there's a freedom to Activator. I think Activator is going to say, "OK, let's go!" And sometimes people will do a double take of waiting for -- "Wait, don't we have to ask for permission? Like, don't we have to get access first?" And then, if they can exhale long enough to that, let that Activator invite them along to where they're going, they're, they're almost always delightfully encouraged to take hold of the agency that they have on the other side.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:16

Oh my gosh, Jim. So everybody in the chat room right now will know this. But anybody listening on demand might not realize that we read these from notes. I write these and Jim asks me the questions and I basically read my own notes out loud. I wrote this a month ago. I did say today was gonna be evergreen, but this is in the middle of a crazy, unprecedented time, and I'm just reading these Activator notes and realizing everything we said in the preshow was true: That strengths is evergreen. The need for talent is not going to change, and Activator is pretty beautiful right now.

Jim Collison 13:50

During this time, I have intentionally left my schedule as wide open as I can to be able to respond to people's needs as quickly as I can. So just to be that guy who is there when people say, "I need this." I say "I got it." When people say, "I need that," I say "I got it." And it's Activator, right? It's (No.) 5 for me. And it's actually played out really, really well. So, and I think it's working, like, you know, I think in the teams that we're doing, it's working. How might you describe the gift of Activator? How else -- what other things could we look for?

Maika Leibbrandt 14:18

These are things you could look for. These are also things you could just honor on purpose. If you've got an Activator on, on your team, they are -- they've got that ability to rally people, get things, get people unified around an idea and help them feel like they can move forward. They can take the fear out of going first. They can tolerate a word I made up called "planbiguity," which is ambiguity about the detail of future expectations. They can make things happen.

Jim Collison 14:47

Yeah, that's awesome. Let's review the 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 14:49

1) Results, not conflict; 2) Do what's best for the organization and then move forward; 3) Work and personal lives matter; 4) They embrace diversity; 5) And the fifth one is they're magnets for talent. I would say that that "magnet for talent" is more of an outcome of getting the first 4 right? But even with those 5, if you're working with teams, which, I mean you should be. If you're working with strengths, you should be working with teams. You can use these 5 -- think about how you might evaluate your own team or a team that you're working with through those 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 15:20

You don't have to have the right answer on which one they're doing right. That should be a conversation you invite them to have. What are, what are we doing great? What are we -- Why are we doing it great? What's the evidence or the habits or the "filmable" behavior that, that shows these truths show up within our team? And then, of course, how can we honor the talents that are already on a team in order to solve some of those other 4 that maybe you're lacking?

Jim Collison 15:43

Yeah, we have been spending the end of this season as well as Season 5 with this idea of talent-mindfulness -- maybe needed more today than ever. But it also has an evergreen component to it. Like these are stressful times, but there's been stressful times before. And so don't -- certainly now is a great time to do this. But, but just remember, like, these need to be consistent habits that we go through. Maika, what do you have for us today?

Maika Leibbrandt 16:06

So at the end of every podcast starting in Season 5, and I'll promise, every podcast of Season 6, we've got something called talent-mindfulness. And if you haven't done this before, it is not meant to be a continuation of where we've been for the past 20 minutes. It's not meant to be a way for you to just learn more about a theme. It's an invitation for you to practice your own strengths, because we can name the strengths of ourselves and others over and over and over again. But until we get in the habit of thinking about strengths as something you do, over again and daily, and something you actually practice, that doesn't get us to the place where we indeed improve performance. So that's what talent-mindfulness is about. It's about 3 to 5 minutes. You might find that you want to close your eyes and just think about it. In fact, that's how I suggest you do it. You can always come back and replay this later and take notes. This will take us up to the end of our Activator session. So if this is not for you, you can feel free to to just skip to the end and hear Jim's wonderful words to close this out.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:04

But right now I invite you to just take a breath, fill up the back of your lungs ... and let it go. The reason we do that is to help get us in a different mind space to say, OK, this is different than what I've been doing before. And now it's about me. All too often, we allow ourselves to be slowed down by barriers that we build up of our own doing, our own perception of what is possible, or what is not, or what we have permission to do, or what's outside of something we could possibly do. But the truth is, we are capable of making things happen. In fact, we're capable of making things happen so much more quickly than we give ourselves credit for. And so much more quickly than we give our goals credit for. Whether you have Activator or not, there are things you could be creating right now that you're holding yourself back from.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:06

So, I want to invite you over the next couple seconds just to think about yourself. I am going to ask you two huge questions and guide you around a couple other ways to think about this. The first one is this: What is something that you have, know or do today that you wished for when you were younger? ... Remember what that was like? Pretty powerful.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:47

Now let's think about the future. What's a goal that you hope to accomplish someday? Think as big as you want. See beyond the next few days; imagine beyond the next month or the next quarter. What's something that you would like to know, feel, achieve or contribute when you grow up? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 19:22

And now I'm gonna push you because you deserve it. Here's the push: You already have within you everything it will take to get you there. If you had to accomplish this big dream tomorrow, which of your top strengths would take the lead for you? ... What would that look like? If you could nominate one of your top strengths that would take the lead if you had to accomplish this big goal tomorrow, how would that strength show up? Now, if you were to follow the lead of that strength, what would you do? How would you behave? What's the first, easiest, most accessible action you would take? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 20:34

Don't worry, I'm not going to leave this in dreamland. I'm going to bring you down back to a little bit more practical. There might be plenty of things keeping you from taking action on this big dream. But I'd like you right now, in your brain or on a piece of paper, to write down 3 to 5 actions that you can take, without anyone else's permission, within the next 24 hours. Again, because it's hard to listen to instructions sometimes, I'd like you to write down 3 to 5 actions you can take toward this big goal that require no one else's permission within the next 24 hours. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 21:26

Chin up, take a breath. Fill the back of your lungs again. You got this. Let's go! That's your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 21:45

It's pretty great. Create a global podcast community. That was my, that was my dream.

Maika Leibbrandt 21:54

Ooh, yes. You already have.

Jim Collison 21:57

We did. As, as we think back, as a kid -- I've told this story before -- but I watched a movie and I saw them talking on a television that was -- it was like a phone, you know, video, videoconferencing. And this was '84. And I was like, we're gonna do that someday. And as that -- as the internet came around, I thought, Ooh, we're gonna do video, we're really gonna do this someday. And 8 years ago, when we started doing this, I thought, you know what, we can talk to everybody around the world and have an influence that's positive. We're doing it today. So it's pretty great.

Jim Collison 22:29

I want to inspire those other Activators like -- we need Activators right now. And if you're thinking something, chances are it needs to get done. So get out there, especially with people, we said this at the end of the postshow last week. If you think of somebody, they, they, just act on it, just go call them, like, get on video. Do this. Have these conversations. Maika and I have spent more time -- it's funny, we've been virtual friends for a long time; we spent -- this week we spent way more time together.

Maika Leibbrandt 22:58

I've had to turn on my light a whole lot more in my studio here at home than I normally do.

Jim Collison 23:03

Yeah, no, it's been super great. With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we do have available out there on new Gallup Access. So if you haven't logged in a while, you might want to do that. We're continuing to upgrade that and make some pretty important changes to that that will be the future for us. And if you, if you haven't been there in a while, maybe time to come back. Go to, it'll take you right to the strengths dashboard. Lots of great materials. Might be time to upgrade your report to 34. Maybe today's the day you activate on that, and that's available for you -- available for purchase, if you haven't done it yet, and just a good opportunity for you to go farther there. A couple other reminders: If you haven't signed up for our CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter, which just came out, I think, this morning, I saw that in my email. It's available and you can sign up on any of our pages there. Just look for that newsletter signup. It's usually right at the bottom of the page. You can get signed up for that as well. I'll be posting that into our social groups. Speaking of our social groups, if you want to join us on Facebook: If you want to join us on our link LinkedIn site -- maybe not if you're not a Facebooker. You can head over and search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches," and there's a group there. You don't have to be a trained coach. I'll let anybody in there who wants to talk strengths. And we can do that as well. If you have questions, send us an email: We'd love to hear from you. During this time, I am hearing from more of you and I'm connecting with more of you on LinkedIn. We'd love to do that as well. Maika, how do they follow you on Instagram?

Maika Leibbrandt 24:24

Yeah, on Instagram @strengthstalk.

Jim Collison 24:26

And if you want to sign up for all the live webcasts that are coming up, you can join us in on our Eventbrite page. Go to (B-R-I-T-E). Want to thank you for joining us. If you're listening live, stay tuned for Command. If you're in the podcast app, it's probably there waiting for you. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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

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