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5 Steps to Building a Strengths-Based Culture, Part 2

5 Steps to Building a Strengths-Based Culture, Part 2

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 29
  • Learn how to build a strengths-based culture in your organization via having every employee know and discover their strengths, in Part 2 of this 5-part series.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Robert Gabsa, a Gallup Workplace Consultant, was our guest on a recent Called to Coach. In Part 2 of a 5-part series on Building a Strengths-Based Culture, Robert shared the second step in this process: having every employee know and discover their CliftonStrengths. He discussed the work involved in changing a culture so that it's strengths-based; creating a sense of belonging through having a common (strengths) language; and bringing employees' CliftonStrengths into their behaviors and actions at work. The result fosters trust, understanding and more effective communication in a team and an organization.

Access 5 Steps to Building a Strengths-Based Culture, Part 1, and Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of this 5-part series.

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

What should I look for in a job/career?

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on April 10, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:20

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's a link to it right up there. I saw many of you come late. So if you want to join us in the chat room, do that as well. Click on that link; sign into the chat room. You can pop the chat out even if you'd like. And we'd love to have your comments, your questions and comments there. If you have questions after the fact, send us an email: A great way -- you can send us any of those questions. We'd love to get them. Don't forget, subscribe to us on your favorite podcast app, just go to Gallup -- or search "Gallup Webcasts" on any one of those applications. Like us and subscribe to us down below if you're finding us on YouTube. Robert Gabsa is our host today. Robert works as a Workplace Consultant here. Robert, always great to have you on Called to Coach and welcome back.

Robert Gabsa 1:11

Hey, thanks. Happy to be here, Jim, just excited to be a part of this.

Jim Collison 1:16

In Part 1, we kind of gave an outline of what it means kind of to be a strengths-based culture. We outline that there, if you want to go back and review that -- and you're listening to Part 2 first, might want to go back and review that. Talked about the importance of a CEO. Give us a little bit of a recap on that first session, maybe a couple sentences around that just to kind of bring people up to speed. Why is that important?

Robert Gabsa 1:39

Yeah, sure, absolutely. It's always important to get anything infused into, into an organization. If you want to get at something especially as big as culture, it needs to come from the top. It really needs to be something that's an important part of the business strategy, part of a vision and mission that a, an organization has. When it's siloed, it's just not as effective. So we always say, you know, if you can get leadership or an executive sponsor of some sort behind it, then you're going to get just more traction, more horsepower, and it's just going to fuel the fire to get it going. And then, the managers, directors and everyone below -- internal coaches, then they just amplify that. Right. And that's, that's the easiest way to do it is to have that ammunition.

Jim Collison 2:23

And I think we said that's the best possible scenario; you may enter in at another level in your organization. And that's OK, too, right. But the best possible scenario, if we can get CEO or executive-level buy-off on that. Part 2 is really talking about requiring or having every employee know and discover their strengths. Now, we're talking to a bunch of strengths coaches, so you're gonna have to work hard on this one, Robert. Because I think most people will be like, "Duh!" Let's get started on that. Why is that important?

Robert Gabsa 2:54

Yeah. Well, you know, yeah, it's almost like -- is that a rhetorical question? Why is that important? It's kind of like asking me, "Gee, Robert, you know, you coach your son's lacrosse team. Why is it important that they all have a stick?" You know, "Why does every baseball player need a glove out there in the field?" It's like, if they don't have the tools and equipment, the resources to be their best, and only some of them do, then you're just not going to have a winning team. So to me, it's just one of those things that, you know, it just starts foundationally as -- if you're going to make it a cultural thing, and again, the word "culture" is a big part of this. This isn't about just having a strengths-based team or approaching things with your strengths, or we use it with our recognition. Changing a culture takes work. It takes time, it takes practice, and it takes a lot of belief and communications and it has to show up, right? You can't talk about a culture. You can't mention it and say, "This is our culture," you know, because it's like marketing. We've lost control over marketing our products and services in the world, because people are doing it for us. If we want to know about something, we're reading reviews, we're reading ratings, right?

Robert Gabsa 4:11

So part of this is, I think, creating this belongingness. Right, there's a belongingness. And it's important that strengths, you know, one of the things that we talk about in the courses that coaches, I know, appreciate is that strengths gives us a common language. You know, human beings have been brought together and connected into this tribal kind of belonging in this mostly through language. It's like when you have a common language -- think of it when you're traveling in another country, and you run into somebody who speaks your language You almost feel an immediate bond with them because there, there's this, this thing, right? So it's amazing when I'm somewhere or I'm and I'm in wherever, and I get somebody that, that hears me talk about my strengths and they go, "Oh!" Suddenly they're like my best friend. "I know my Top 5!" And they suddenly have this barrier that's brought down and they want to communicate and talk to you.

Robert Gabsa 5:07

So I think it's important that everybody have that same opportunity and feeling because then it's not just about, Oh, we took our Top 5; we have our Top 5, we took the assessment. If everybody has it, then they take it to that next level of putting it into behaviors and action. It'll help the way they work together, the way they collaborate, communicate, build relationships, influence, right, think -- all of those things. It just, it's just important. If people are missing, I think we're seeing it become more a part of all onboarding programs. We're seeing universities have all incoming freshmen that are taking it. So it's kind of this you're either in or you're out. If you can be "all in," be all in. Because to take a culture change, you need to be "all in"; it can't just be some people.

Jim Collison 5:54

We often talk about strengths in the context of teams. And it's great, when we think about it on an individual basis and understanding who I am and pointing my efforts in, in areas where I am best, where those things I have had I've had future or I've had past successes in, or I'm most comfortable with, I have that near-perfect performance where, right? I find, I find joy in some of those things that I'm doing, right. But when we think about in the context of teams, can you talk a little bit about the benefits when we have this common language, when we have this structure, when we have this framework? I, I teach at the college level from time to time -- if colleges ever open again -- the, this idea of team acceleration. So when we do, when we do team formations, when we put teams together for the first time, like, which happens in universities all the time, right? They do these capstone projects, whatever. That we, if we use a strengths-based framework to build the team, we can accelerate their performance. What other benefits do you see, do we know, do we teach, when we think about teams using this together?

Robert Gabsa 6:58

Well, there's a, there's a natural tendency to feel almost a bit of empowerment and relief when your team is recognizing your strengths, when they're appreciating them, and when they're coming to you for them. I mean, let's face it, we're people, right? 70% of the way we behave and decisions we make are based upon our emotions. And when people are talking to, you know, strengths are like, like, like, I call them like, like beasts, right? And when we feed them, they get really happy and they really serve us and they, they support us, right? When we starve them, they get "hangry," is the word, right? They get grumpy, they get frustrated and they, they, they hold us back.

Robert Gabsa 7:49

So when I think team members are really looking at and using each other's and identifying and appreciating strengths, it just takes the team to an entirely different level of trust, an entirely different level of communication. And really an entirely different level of performance. You know, I remember talking to a manager who had come out of one of these sessions that we were doing with her team. And she said, "Man, I feel really bad." And I said, "Well, what's what's making you feel bad?" She said, "Well, there's someone on my team who's relatively new. And I've been really thinking about, maybe this person isn't right for my team, maybe I should move them. But the only thing that's keeping him is every Friday when this team has to turn something in, he always turns it in, and it's always really good work. But Mondays and Tuesdays, it doesn't seem like he's doing anything. And I've really thought that he's really lazy and he's a procrastinator. And that's not how we operate. We're Achievers. We're Activators. Right. Everybody else has got stuff written down; he's got a blank screen come Tuesday afternoon. And I just learned he's got this thing called Deliberative. And he's got Intellection, and when he's thinking, he is doing. And I now look at him entirely differently." Those breakthroughs are what makes teams stronger, when they work with strengths amongst the team.

Jim Collison 9:03

I get this question a lot amongst our coaches, like, What are some questions I could use or with this idea of the importance of having everyone in the organization know and be able to talk to, you know, that, that not only Name it but Claim it and Aim it part of strengths? What are some questions you could give coaches that may help in that, that process with organizations to have them really see the value of this?

Robert Gabsa 9:33

I think you have to really start with where are you? Where are you in your strengths journey? Is this something brand new to your company? Is this something that's been done in pockets? I'll find companies that have, they had no idea that other parts of their organization had been doing strengths, but they hadn't been doing it collectively. So I do that kind of internal audit. I ask them, you know, where, what, what learning and development do you need, what type of coaching? What's going on? I would, you know, I would ask about it, you know, how are strengths, tied to your engagement? How are your engagement levels? You know, if they're Q2, if they take our Q12 assessment, that's a great starting point, right. If they can actually pull out, here's where our engagement level is, a lot of times I'll ask them, you know, are they using strengths? Or where can we tie their strengths into their different engagement levels? Is this a strengths movement? Or is it really and truly something that is becoming part of a culture that reaches purpose and goals?

Robert Gabsa 10:28

And I would ask, you know, I would ask myself, I would ask my sponsor, you know, how are we going to provide ongoing support and development for managers that can infuse this into their conversations, into their daily routines? I think those, those are important questions. You know, I think establishing the common language and how will we make it actionable? I think, OK, you know your strengths. How are we going to use this? How are we going to leverage them to, to do better, perform better, communicate better, collaborate better, work together more productively? I think those are, those are some basic questions that I would ask up front.

Jim Collison 11:10

There's a big fear in some organizations that when these "labels" -- I'm putting that in quotes, I'm using air quotes -- when these "labels" come out, I'll be judged, so right, like. for who I am. How do we -- what kind of advice would we give -- we need to support, we need to have some support mechanisms for individuals at this point, right? To just "spray and pray" oftentimes is not, you know, we need to be intentional about this. What kind of -- when we think about the individuals, what kind of advice would you have for rolling this out when everybody has it, especially supporting the individuals who may be for the first time discovering these?

Robert Gabsa 11:49

Well, I think in general, when you think about a rollout, you know, that's a big word, and it depends on if you're rolling it out to a company of 40 people or, or 4,000 people, right? You have to come up with your strategy based upon that. And we've taught that in the ASC course, and we do that and some of our other courses: our LHPT (Leading High-Performing Teams). You know, what's the strategy? Am I going to make a big splash? Do I want to focus on teams? And there's a difference also, you know, we talk about doing things like simple introducing strengths to organizations. And often that is more about addressing a group, not necessarily a team, so there's a difference between having like a group learning session and a team coaching session, right? Those are different things. Teams work together towards common goals and projects; groups, you may just get a room of 20 people from different areas of the -- but they all want to learn, right?

Robert Gabsa 12:47

So it really depends, I think, on, on how you're approaching it and who's going to be there and how you want -- is a great way to start rolling it out because we need to know why would we do this? What performance areas are we trying to point it out? Where are we trying to aim it in general? And then having those one-on-one conversations with, with the individuals is always the best way to kind of follow up, to get them really owning, you know, Aiming, or Naming, Claiming and Aiming their own strengths so that they can do that as well with the team. Because if you don't know yourself, it's hard to know how you value -- or how you offer value to others. Is that -- ?

Jim Collison 13:28

One of the things -- I think so. And let me add to that a little bit. I think one of the things, you know, we published a book last year called It's the Manager, and there's lots of great advice in that book for managers as we think about what they're having to deal deal with. It even comes with a code for that manager. So oftentimes, you know, starting, starting rollouts or starting this with the senior team first; getting them on board, so they understand the language. They're gonna have a lot of questions from from the rest of the organization. They shouldn't come at this like, naaah -- I don't know; I haven't done it yet. There may be, you know, want to make sure we had that covered.

Jim Collison 14:05

Kind of as we wrap this, Robert, I want to ask you, there's been a couple questions. We've mentioned the Q12. And we've mentioned the idea of engagement, right, thinking about measuring an organization on how they think, feel and behave about the way they're involved in their organizations. The more engaged they are, of course, the more productive they are, the safer they are, the more they come, the more profitable they are for the organization. The, the least -- or the less engaged they are, the, the more dangerous actually the workplace works: the more absenteeism that exists, they're less productive. I think that kind of makes sense. In your experience, as we think about bringing engagement in (I don't know how you do strengths without engagement, by the way. I think it's the measuring tool for what you're doing with strengths). What's the right entry point for that or what have you seen? How have you seen that work well, as far as organizations starting with engagement and using strengths as the measurement for that engagement exercise. Can you give just maybe a couple minutes on that?

Robert Gabsa 15:02

Yeah, sure, absolutely. And that's one of the things I did -- one of the first things that I did, when I started working for Gallup, on that topic was a lot of the, a lot of our business development people that were working with some of our clients, and they were -- you know, strengths is a great entry point. People like it, they want to know about it. It's kind of fun. It's interesting. We learn about ourselves. Awesome! But then it's like, well, how can you stop there? Just knowing your strengths, right, is, is great, but it kind of limits you.

Robert Gabsa 15:31

So what I had done with one particular client company and an account person, I said, "Don't start with strengths. Start with engagement," right? Once they -- because they're going to buy into engagement, and they understand engagement, and they started measuring their engagement. And when they started seeing where they were doing really well, and some areas where there were gaps, then it was much easier to say OK, again, engagement is the "why." That's why we're here -- because engagement leads to performance. That's why you're hiring and paying for me. If you want to increase engagement, one of the best ways to do that is with strengths. That's the "how." So now let's pull strengths in and put, put some horsepower behind it.

Robert Gabsa 16:10

And so I think leading with engagement, setting as a base point, and then coming back with now let's watch how strengths -- because we know that when strengths are used in an organization, engagement increases by over 6 times. Not twice as much; not not triple; not quadruple. It's sixfold. So why wouldn't you do it? Right? Why wouldn't you do it? But engagement is sometimes a clearer path.

Jim Collison 16:38

Yeah, so for coaches who are -- this, this idea may be new, of engagement. We actually created a 14-part series for you; we have 14 hours on engagement. And before you kind of freak out, and you're like, Oh, my God, 14 hours, but one, you may have a little more time on your hands these days. But it really walks you through a whole series on why, what it is, and then each of the 12 questions -- Q12 -- that's why we call it "Q12": It's 12 questions. Not a lot of originality in that; it's just 12 questions on engagement that, that organizations can take very fast. Takes about 6 or 7 minutes for the employee to complete it, but gives us tons of res -- we have tons of research and tons of data on it. I would say, if you're new to this -- if you're a coach, if you're a manager, if you're an organization, and you're new to this, get our help on the Q12 side. We're really good at running these. And so, send us an email: We can help you with that process as well. Robert, anything else you'd add before I close it?

Robert Gabsa 17:36

Ah, no, I just, you know, I would just say, you know, tune in next time and, and, and we've got 3 more parts to this. If you didn't see the, the first part on why it's important to get the CEO or the executive leader involved, I highly encourage that because I think that is really a great starting point. And, and that's about it. I think, you know, if you can create a strengths movement great, create a strengths-based culture, the company is going to be completely differentiated.

Robert Gabsa 18:09

I mean, Jim, there was actually a client that I work with that, that soared. And by, by primarily by taking some of the top talent in the industry from their competitors into their organization and propelling their business. And when we were doing a study, and I was interviewing some of those people, one of my favorite questions is, What was it on the day that you said, OK, I'm accepting this offer, what was it that made you say "Yes"? And overwhelmingly those top talent people said, It was the culture of the organization that brought me here. And so it really is a business strategy. They didn't talk about the money; they didn't talk about they had better PTO, right. It wasn't a shorter commute. They talked about the culture. I mean, let that, let that sit for a second, right. That's -- that's amazing. If you can create a culture that attracts people, you're creating an employer brand that gets out there and works for you. So --

Jim Collison 19:07

Wow. Great. Great advice, Robert. Thanks for joining us today. Looking forward to Parts 3, 4 and 5 on this. If you joined 2 for the first time, jump back and catch up with us on 1.

Jim Collison 19:19

With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available, now in the new Gallup Access. Head out to and there'll be a place for you to sign in there, plus tons of resources on that site. So make sure you're taking advantage of that. Many of you asked, How do I take advantage of these 14 hours of training on Q12 that's available for you? Go to YouTube -- -- search "Q12 for Coaches." It's on our site. That's the easiest way; we have this playlist available for you. You'll get to meet Dr. Mike McDonald, who's just our resident expert in all things engagement, and we make that available for you. Again, if you have questions, contact us: We can kind of help you through that process. We can even work on partnering with you and organizations to make sure we do that, and you do that, and have the best rollout possible on that. Couple reminders as well. If you want to join us and listen to us as a podcast, just search "Gallup Webcasts" in any podcast listening platform; that will get you there. On social, join us on Facebook: I know that's a handful, but people get there, apparently, through that, because I hear from you all the time. And then on LinkedIn, search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches" and we'd love to join you or have you join us in that group as though -- as well. Thanks for joining us today. If you're listening live, stay around for a smidgen of a postshow. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Robert Gabsa's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Woo, Futuristic, Strategic and Maximizer.

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

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