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CliftonStrengths Communication Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Communication Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Theme Thursday Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Communication
  • Strong themes, stronger teams": Learn how your team can own its Communication 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 Communication 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 virtual studios here around the world, this is Gallup's Theme Thursday, Season 6, recorded on April 2, 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 with CliftonStrengths -- and today's theme is Communication. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in the chat room. There's actually a link to the page that has the chat room in it right above me there on the live page. You can log into YouTube instance. There's a chat room that's there. Log in and we'd love to have your questions live during the program. If you're listening after the fact, you can always send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe if you're on YouTube, right below Maika. Maika, you can point to it. There's a little subscription button right down there. Just click on that; it'll subscribe to the live page, which gives you notification every time we go live -- a great way to get a reminder of when we're doing this, and so you don't miss an episode when we do it. If you're doing what the cool kids are doing, and everybody's listening to podcasts these days, just search "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast platform, and you'll find us there as well. Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a workplace consultant here with me at Gallup. Maika, always great to have you, and welcome back to another Theme Thursday!

Maika Leibbrandt 1:20

Great to be here. We, we do these all the time, just about every Thursday, but last week, we had planned to have the the week off just as a normal sort of buffer week, and it felt so strange. So it's great to be back now.

Jim Collison 1:32

It's good to have you. We are diving into Communication. Why don't you get us started.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:36

Sure. This season, as you mentioned, Jim, we are focusing on all 34 themes through the lens of managers and teams. So we know from our studies in leadership that strong teams have 5 things going for them. We're going to use these 5 Truths of Strong Teams as a jumping point to really get into the detail of Communication as a CliftonStrengths theme today. And we're doing this domain by domain. Communication falls in the Influencing Domain. But I think very often, when you look at a team through the lens of those Four Domains of Leadership, it can get kind of easy to bucket them and oversimplify. So I hope by the end of our time together, you can really understand Communication as more than just an Influencing theme; you can start to think about what does Communication contribute to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 2:20

So let's define this theme of Communication. I would say, it's among those that tend to be too quickly misunderstood or too quickly falsely understood, because it's got a name that is pretty common. So we, we very often say, OK, they've got Communication in their Top 5; they must be able to talk. And while that is part of it, there's so much more beauty and value and, I think. detail to the Communication theme.

Maika Leibbrandt 2:43

The short definition, if you have high Communication, is that you generally find it easy to put your thoughts into words. You are a good conversationalist and a good presenter. If you want to know more just about the theme itself, you can go to some previous seasons where we've really talked about how do we name Communication? What do we know is true about it? But right now I'm going to use those 5 Truths of a Team to really explore Communication. And the first truth of a strong team is about conflict. So among strong teams, "They're not destroyed by conflict, because they tend to focus on results."

Jim Collison 3:16

And let's dive in a little bit. What does that mean, "focus on results," for Communication?

Maika Leibbrandt 3:20

Someone with high Communication can influence where, where other people are spending their energy or where they're focusing. So they're likely always thinking about how things can be said, what needs to be said or kind of capturing the energy of other people through their stories, through their interactions, through the questions that they ask and those, I think, the things that they share. So if you've got somebody with high Communication on your team, you can enlist that person when you need to shift where people are focusing. Specifically, again, back to this truth, How do you shift that focus away from conflict and toward the most important team goal?

Jim Collison 3:57

We've also been spending some time on each one of these themes and how they track progress. So how would someone with Communication track progress?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:03

As with many of those Influencing themes, Communication might be most excited about progress as it relates to other people. So how much adoption is there of an idea? How much buy-in is there from others? Communication really is driven -- we've said this previously -- by this desire to be understood. And that's backed up by the ability to provide a message in a lot of different ways. Think about what you know about great teachers. They might not all have the Communication theme, but one of the talents that great teachers have is this ability to say things lots of different ways so that it lands with lots of different learners. That's very similar to something that people with high Communication can do. Help someone with high Communication really track their progress by counting the number of people that they've gotten involved; reviewing their awareness of who they've gotten educated or who they have helped understand or buy in or adopt on an idea.

Jim Collison 5:02

All right, let's do No. 2.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:04

The second truth of strong teams is that "They prioritize what's best for the organization, and then they move forward."

Jim Collison 5:10

And how does someone with Communication kind of see it, the bigger picture, kind of beyond themselves for the betterment of the team?

Maika Leibbrandt 5:18

So wherever the story is, that's where the talent is going to go. So for somebody with high Communication, give them this task: say, Ask what the organization's story is. They might be great with concepts, with themes. Where are the most important messages that they believe need to be heard? They can hear the -- I think about somebody with high Communication can really hear words or phrases or sticking points that are "shinier." They can identify, almost like they're mining for gems or for gold, where other people might just hear a paragraph being said.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:55

Somebody with high Communication is hearing nuggets that can, that can translate into a story. They're hearing sort of license-plate statements or boilerplate statements. They're able to say, "Wow, when the leader said that to our entire team, everybody's ears perked up" -- again, because it's that Influencing theme, which means they constantly have their ear to the ground, thinking about how is what is being communicated being adopted? How is what is being communicated translating into energy that is then rippling through other people? So ask somebody with high Communication what they believe the story is and how that message needs to be shared.

Jim Collison 6:30

And what else might inspire someone with Communication to take action? What else?

Maika Leibbrandt 6:35

You know, it might look like they're taking action before they actually think they are. Because we haven't talked about that -- this part yet. But part of Communication is that comfort in sorting through ideas out loud. So what inspires them -- an audience -- people tend to hear them when they speak. And that in itself is inspiring to somebody with high Communication: having a platform to communicate.

Jim Collison 7:00

All right, No. 3.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:01

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

Jim Collison 7:09

Yeah. And how might that -- Communication -- show up in someone's personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 7:13

You might notice an element of showmanship in their life. Maybe it's a signature style, a favorite joke, kind of a go-to rapport builder activity or question. The person on your team or in your circle, who, who you think, "Yes, what -- they just said what I was trying to say." That's how you notice Communication show up, I think, inside of work and also at home. They also might be somebody who debriefs their day through stories. High points in their life can be explained in a way that kind of makes you feel like you were there.

Jim Collison 7:47

In the preshow, you and I, we start, you know, 30 minutes ahead of the live program, and I'm always telling you stories -- so, Communication (No.) 4. I'm always, Hey, do you have a sec, can I tell you a quick story? I think I always ask for permission to do it, and I do that a lot, now, as I've gotten older. It's just been one of those methods to doing it. I find myself doing that both at work and at home with family. So it's it is one of those things that crosses that, and you could, if I looked or if my manager saw how he was doing that at home, that may be an opportunity to bring it in. How else can Communication make its way from someone's personal life into the workplace?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:22

You could say, Hey, what's your best story? What do you think needs to be said right now? What's the plot of your weekend? What would you like me to understand about you? Who are some key characters in the story of your life? What are some significant chapters? Jim, I also love, you know, you brought up that idea of asking permission. And that's more of how we can self-regulate or think about our own self-expression, once we've got that understanding of ourselves.

Maika Leibbrandt 8:48

So if you're somebody who has high Communication, asking for permission, "Can I tell you a story?" Another way to do it specific to Communication is, "Can I tell -- do you have 5 minutes?" and then challenge yourself to actually stick to 5 minutes. Or, you know, can you tell your best stories in multiple different lengths? If you've got high Communication, can you practice the 90-second version of what you're trying to say? Can you practice the 5-minute version of what you're trying to say? And then can you practice feeling out when the most appropriate time is to share either one of those versions? There's a lot that you can do to think about polishing those talents.

Jim Collison 9:24

By the way, sometimes you do say, "No." "Can I tell you a story?" Like, "We don't have time," like, and I appreciate that. Right. That's, that gives me clues. I don't have to say it. It's not offensive to me. I know we have that rapport or I can be like, "Oh, OK, maybe another time." You know. All right, No. 4.

Maika Leibbrandt 9:39

No. 4: "Strong teams embrace diversity." Now, it's important to realize here that we're not just saying that diversity equals having different CliftonStrengths themes. Everybody has different CliftonStrengths themes. Diversity is a much bigger issue here and we know that there's, there's a lot about diversity that is more than just your makeup of your talent profile. What we do know here, though, is that having a team composed of individuals who look at issues from similar lenses, similar backgrounds, similar pedigrees, similar ways of thinking or patterns of behavior is not as beneficial as having people who are all trying to look at a problem and solve it with different experiences.

Maika Leibbrandt 10:19

We know that that kind of diversity of opinion and experience and, and background really is a much more sound basis for success.

Jim Collison 10:27

We have some descriptor words that we like to throw out -- these, these one -- you know, in a nutshell, what kind of words would we use for this?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:33

You know, the, the, one of the guiding principles of CliftonStrengths is that themes are not labels. But if we're going to use them as relational shorthand, here's a couple that you might give to somebody with, with high Communication. You could say that they're engaging, eloquent, influential, persuasive, good with words, captivating.

Jim Collison 10:53

And what unique perspective could someone with Communication bring to a team, do you think?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:57

Yeah, so what's, what's different about them? What's diverse about Communication? It's that they can elevate the team's challenge beyond themselves, really helping to connect how their goals will translate to the organization, to customers, to their communities. Almost think about them as, like internal public relations -- in a way to say, OK, this is how we talk about it. Let's also think about how our customers are going to need to hear it. And be OK with those being two similar messages packaged in a different way.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:24

They can offer engaging summaries of what's going on, especially during times of change or times of chaos. Somebody with high Communication can say, "All right, I think what we're really saying at this point is ... " And then they can keep the group kind of true to a key message or, or create the key message based on what the team is focusing on.

Jim Collison 11:43

All right, No. 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:44

No. 5: "Strong teams" -- is Jim's favorite -- "are magnets for talent." Another way to spot a strong team is to look for the teams that everyone wants to be a part of.

Jim Collison 11:54

So what will others be attracted to in the Communication? Again, you mentioned this earlier, sometimes Communication gets this unfair negative bias as talking too much. So if we think of it in terms -- in positive terms -- how is it attractive in a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:09

They bring, I think an energy that's pretty magnetic or attractive. You'll be drawn to their ability to "hold court," which is something that might be a U.S.-based term. But that ability to say (it's probably not a U.S.-based term at all; it probably goes back to courts and, and royalty). But if that doesn't translate, it's the idea of being able to attract an audience who's willing to be there and listen. You want someone with Communication as your advocate. They can take your work and make it seen, make it heard, make it adopted. They're fun to listen to. And you'll find yourself wondering what they would say even when they're not around.

Jim Collison 12:45

And how might you describe the gift of Communication and what it brings, as we think, you know, these teams, what do they want more of? How it would benefit them?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:52

They can translate complicated ideas into digestible messages. They can offer speed by accelerating through the detail, knowing -- again, to that, that idea of sifting for gemstones -- knowing what's most important to say, and being able to leave out the rest. They can be great internal marketers, knowing what to say, when to say it and who to say it with. And it's important that I think we also say "with" instead of who to say it "to," because part of Communication is being an incredible listener.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:23

And I think that that's sort of that maturity of Communication is being able to adapt your style and really make sure that it's, it's not just about having a message and screaming it from the rooftops, but it's about that sophisticated ability to really plant your message with other people who need to hear it. They can also be great thought partners. They can help you replay what you're saying, or replay what you're trying to say, and then deciding whether that's actually accurate, once you put words to it.

Jim Collison 13:50

It's April 2020. And there's a pandemic going on in the world. You might be listening to this 2 years later, and it's over. Hopefully we're still there and we make it. But one of the things Communication's helped me -- it's (No.) 4 for me -- it's helped me to, just, it's engaged me; it's energized me. People have asked me, "How are you doing?" And I'm like, "This is, like, this is game time," right. This is where it's important for us to engage in that.

Jim Collison 14:11

And so lots of times, you and I both have spent a lot of that Communication talent thinking through, like, how do we help people feel connected? How do we help them feel confident? How do we help -- how do we provide those 4 things that leaders provide their followers? Right, those -- that stability, hope, faith, trust, right, all those things -- we're using Communication. It's a great -- Maika, I just think it's a great example of how it is actually working in action. Would you add anything to that before we ... ?

Maika Leibbrandt 14:36

I like the idea of being a connector, especially when we think about those Influencing themes. So we'll probably talk about this a lot in Relationship Building themes, when you think about -- the difference, though, is Relationship Building themes are about connecting people to people. I think what's unique about these Influencing themes is it's a, it's an ability to connect people to an idea. And that can be unifying. And that can be powerful. And specifically around Communication, it's that idea of, you know, I can take a lot of thoughts and I can put them in a place that you can remember them. And you can join and you can be inspired by them, and you can retell it. And so, whether times are challenging or not, it's, it's a great I think rallying talent.

Jim Collison 15:23

Let's review those 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 15:25

Yeah, the 5 Truths: 1) Results, not conflict; 2) Do what's best for the organization and then move forward; 3) Work lives and personal lives matter; 4) They embrace diversity, and 5) They're magnets for talent. If you want to learn more about that they come from the book Strengths Based Leadership, in the beginning chapters. And I think they are also a really great almost filter or a rubric to think about how we might evaluate our own teams through the lens of these truths.

Maika Leibbrandt 15:52

So think about asking your team, you know, which of these are we really great at why are we great at it? If you can really uncover the story behind that -- Communication, look for a story there -- help the team discuss what kind of habits they have that lead to any of these 5 truths being better and then, again, follow them and co-create some actions on what do we need to do a little bit better? It really is about honoring the talents that you have on your team instead of saying, OK, I need more Influencers; I need somebody with Communication. Anybody with this one? It's about saying, OK, the talent that's here, how do we make the most of that in order to solve the challenges before us?

Jim Collison 16:24

We've been spending the end of the podcast talking a little talent-mindfulness, and we've gotten a lot of great feedback on it. We hope we'll get it from you as well. Maika, what do you have for us today?

Maika Leibbrandt 16:33

So strengths coaches, and anyone who's been through our coaching courses, understand that each person has what we call a talent filter. This describes that unique lens that we each have on how we think, how we interpret information, how we connect, how we communicate, how we dream about the future. Today, we're going to use a visualization technique to help you notice your own talent filter.

Maika Leibbrandt 16:57

Now remember, talent-mindfulness is about you, regardless of where Communication or the theme of the day really falls in your talent profile. You might hear some hints of the theme, but it's not designed to be overly connected to Communication, or to any other theme. It really is just that idea of we can't just name and claim and aim all over again; we really need to think about talent and strengths as a practice. So here's your opportunity to practice. It'll take us about 3 to 5 minutes and that will close out our podcast for today.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:26

I invite you, if you want, for this one to close your eyes and relax your body 10% more than you have been up until now. Slow your breathing a little. And take some smooth inhales with nice slow, smooth exhales. On your own pace, but just pay attention. As you inhale, imagine you are floating above your current position. And on the exhale, imagine you're staying there, suspended safely in the air. Then with each subsequent inhale, you float up a little bit higher, until you've lifted above and through the ceiling of whatever room you're in, over the roof of the building that you're in, and eventually just high enough to see above all the buildings in your neighborhood -- not into the stratosphere, but not so high that you'll lose sight of people or faces; just kind of hovering. OK, that's your goal. That's how high I'd like you to imagine yourself floating. I'm going to be quiet a moment and just let you imagine and breathe yourself up to that height. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 19:02

OK, from here, imagine that you can see the equivalent of a few city blocks. Maybe you can see your neighborhood, your professional neighborhood, your community around where the building is. As you look down on that, that neighborhood, answer this in your mind: What is something you know to be true and powerful about what you can see from here? What is a consistent strength of this neighborhood? It doesn't have to be profound or impressive, just something you notice from this height to be true and positive. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 19:58

As you think about that, continue to take a few slow, steady breaths, allowing your imagination to float you back to the roofline. So imagine, now you can see the inside of the building you're currently in. Depending on where you are, you might be focused on your home and your family; you might be focused on your workplace. Maybe the two are one and the same. But pick a group to identify from this level, something slightly more personal than your neighborhood. So we're getting closer back to yourself. I'm going to refer to this group as your "team." While you imagine seeing that whole team, same question: What's something that is true and powerful about that team? Something you admire? Something you know you can rely upon to be good and promising? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 21:19

I'm going to be quiet while you take a few more slow, steady breaths and bring your imagination back to the ground level. Imagine yourself sitting near your own body in a way that you can still observe yourself. What is something strong and true about you? ... What's something powerful, promising and consistent about you? ... What do you notice that you can count on yourself to do? ... What do you like about yourself? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 22:51

Now come back into your body; open your eyes. Maybe you had an easier time identifying strengths at any one of these 3 different levels. That's OK. It's important to identify talent where you can. It's also important to challenge yourself to see it in more places. That's your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 23:12

I think during some of these times, like we're in now, and it's, again, it's a unique situation in this point in time. But, but I think, as we think about these times of stress, it's a great opportunity. Those 4 questions you asked at the very end, you know, I think are some great questions just to kind of sit and meditate on for a while. These may be some good ones in your car just to think about, or as you're taking a walk -- which many of us are doing these days a little bit more -- to think about and contemplate, so very well done, Maika, I appreciate it.

Jim Collison 23:51

With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources that we have available now through Gallup Access and out at Everything's available for you out there. Lots of great resources for you to download and use. If you want to subscribe to the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter, bottom of the page, while you're out there at, you can do that. Don't forget to follow us on our -- on YouTube channels if you go out and just search "CliftonStrengths" on YouTube. Or go to, and you can subscribe there. You're on the live page right now if you're listening live, so you can subscribe there. No, that's our edited side. That's where all the other stuff goes. It's just this, just in an edited form. And if you want to listen on a podcast, just search "Gallup Webcasts" anywhere that you listen to podcasts. Maybe you haven't started doing that yet, and maybe this is a new habit to pick up right now because you've got some, you've got some time. I don't know about you, Maika. Everybody's talking about this elusive "time" that they have. I've gotten busier -- I don't know about you. But everybody's like, "I'm watching Netflix" and I'm like, ahh, I -- when? I don't even know how to do it. If you're, if you have any questions, you can send us an email: If you are -- if you want to register for the live events going forward -- maybe you're joining us live for the very first time; I see almost 60 of you out there right now -- we'd love to have you do that. Go to -- gallup. Let me try this again: (sorry, got distracted) and you can follow us there. And we then we'll send you an update every time we do something new. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook: or on LinkedIn, just search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches." Don't necessarily need to be a trained coach to be there, but ask for permission; I will let you in. Thanks for joining us. If you're listening live, stay around for the next one; Competition is next. If you're listening to us as a podcast or on YouTube, just listen to the next one. That's probably there. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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