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CliftonStrengths
To Build a Strengths-Based Culture, Start at the Top
CliftonStrengths

To Build a Strengths-Based Culture, Start at the Top

by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe
To Build a Strengths-Based Culture, Start at the Top

Story Highlights

  • Employees who use their strengths are nearly six times more engaged
  • Strengths-based development should start at the executive level
  • Managers must refine their strengths to successfully guide their teams

What if your employees looked forward to their work every day -- instead of always having a case of the Mondays? When people understand and develop their natural strengths, their outlook and productivity start to improve.

Leaders who invest in building a strengths-based culture invest because they know that employees' productivity matters to real business outcomes. They know that when employees use their strengths, they are more engaged (nearly six times more), have higher performance and are much less likely to leave their company.

While outcomes are the goal, the day-to-day experiences that strengths-based workplaces provide are what get people there.

In a strengths-based culture, people can show up to work every day and use the same language to describe what they do best, what they need to progress and how they partner best with others. Their managers use that same language and concept when they assign work, conduct performance reviews and form their teams. A focus on CliftonStrengths moves common relational frustrations and barriers to the back seat. It brings people's unique capabilities to the forefront and becomes a cornerstone of effective management throughout the organization.

However, all of this is more easily said than done. So, where should you start?

Leaders who want to gain maximum performance returns must also drive linkages to key systems across the organization to ensure they have created a cultural ecosystem that supports strengths.

This must start with the CEO or executive sponsor first.

Strengths have to become part of the fabric of your organization -- your mission, vision and values -- in order to create the right experiences and results.

So naturally, buy-in at the executive level is critical to ensure that strengths-based development becomes, simply, "how we do things around here."

The result that leaders are aiming for is a culture in which "conversations about strengths are frequent and productive -- shaping people's mindsets and approaches to work."

Depending on the organization, this may mean a small or large cultural shift.

A focus on CliftonStrengths moves common relational frustrations and barriers to the back seat. It brings people's unique capabilities to the forefront and becomes a cornerstone of effective management throughout the organization.

To make this shift, leaders must ensure that everyone knows their strengths, including managers.

The manager influences at least 70% of team engagement, and we know that only about one in 10 have exceptional talent to manage.

This means that there is an opportunity for most managers to raise the bar for themselves and their teams by learning how they can leverage what they do best to enact management best practices, while also noting what barriers to performance may exist for their teams.

Getting management just right is an art and a science. The best are naturally gifted with this, so they effortlessly get all of it right -- the art and the science. But the remaining nine in 10 can use all the support they can get.

In practice, this means that managers have an opportunity to refine their own self-awareness so that they are leveraging the best of who they are to guide their teams.

For example: A manager who understands their Focus theme can leverage it by setting goals and inspiring their team to achieve them. But a manager with a limited understanding of this theme could instead be viewed as a taskmaster with blinders on.

This applies to all of the 34 CliftonStrengths themes -- managers need to understand how to leverage their dominant themes effectively. How well team members perceive their own natural talents can depend a great deal on that manager's self-awareness as a leader, and this takes investment and effort.

Furthermore, when those same managers know the strengths of each of their team members, they can engage them in the ongoing conversations that research suggests are critical to development.

This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. When employees feel that their organization is committed to building their strengths, they are more likely to believe that their opinions count and that they have greater opportunities to learn and grow. These are key engagement items that correlate to significant business outcomes.

Turn ideas into outcomes by assigning ownership.

To build a strengths-based company culture, you'll first need to select implementation owners for the effort.

Workplaces are busy and outcomes-focused for good reason. Prioritizing strengths needs to become an agenda item on its own so that it doesn't get moved to the back burner.

To keep strengths development top of mind, some organizations create internal teams of coaches. Some build a network of "Champions." Regardless of what their company calls it, this group ensures that there is accountability for strengths awareness, alignment and ongoing implementation within the organization -- and that there is a "buck stops here" mentality about owning the success of the effort.

This means that when strengths assessment and coaching efforts are rolled out, leaders are communicating why they matter to the organization so that everyone participates. It means that leaders are working with learning and development teams to ensure managers have the necessary education to leverage best practices. It also means that they're consulting with those who set incentives -- from recognition, to pay for performance, to developmental pathways -- to ensure those incentives do not mitigate the effects of strengths development.

It means that they're enforcing follow-through from the top down, and ultimately sharing back about the successes they see.

In a strengths-based culture, people can show up to work every day and use the same language to describe what they do best, what they need to progress and how they partner best with others.

How do the best company cultures do this?

The best organizations ensure that as strengths development becomes a core pillar of their cultural identity, it also becomes a key part of internal communications, programs and community-building initiatives.

This is where a strengths-based approach melds with the unique culture of each organization -- but the best and most creative leaders include strengths in everything, from computer screensavers, to team meeting activities, to name tags and lanyards, to highlights in annual reports and best-practice case studies.

When employees see that executives' profiles include their top five CliftonStrengths, there's immediately a common language and reference point for everyone -- starting at the top.

And when those same executives advocate for building a strengths-based culture from the top down, they not only set the foundation to achieve critical business outcomes but also ensure that they're building a culture where nobody has "a case of the Mondays."

Rather, they are building a culture where every person looks forward to what they'll contribute each Monday.

To introduce CliftonStrengths into your organization, start at the top:

Shannon Mullen O'Keefe is an Adviser and Performance Lead, Organizational Performance Consulting, at Gallup.


Gallup https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/311180/build-strengths-based-culture-start-top.aspx
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