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CliftonStrengths Adaptability Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Adaptability Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Theme Thursday Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Adaptability
  • "Strong themes, stronger teams": Learn how your team can own its Adaptability 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 Adaptability 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.

What should I look for in a job/career?

Jim Collison 0:01

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Theme Thursday, Season 6, recorded on May 21, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:08

Theme Thursday's 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 Adaptability. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's actually, on our live page, there's a link right above me to YouTube; it'll take you to the YouTube page. There's a chat room over to the right or down below. You can log into that -- 3 buttons click -- pop out that chat, and we'd love to have you in there. Also want to choose the "live chat" option when you're there. I always forget to do that. If you're watching us or listening to us on YouTube, which you should be at this point right now, down below is a "Like" button; click on that. Also click on the "Subscribe" button so you get notified whenever we post these or we go live. Just kind of a reminder of what's going on; that way you don't miss out, and you would never want to miss out. If you have questions after the fact, send us an email: And don't forget, you can subscribe and listen to us as a podcast. Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a Senior Workplace Consultant here at Gallup with me. Maika, always great to see you. Welcome back to Theme Thursday!

Maika Leibbrandt 1:17

Thanks, Jim. I'm happy to be here; happy to dive into our first alphabetically of the Relationship Building themes. This season, we're exploring every single one of the 34 CliftonStrengths themes through the lens of a team. Now we know from our studies in leadership that strong teams have 5 things going for them. And we're going to use these 5 Truths, as I'm referring to them, as a jumping point to get into the detail of each of the CliftonStrengths themes, Domain by Domain. As you listen, as you explore within the Domain itself, I hope it gives you more insight to the makeup of your team. If you're somebody who leads a team or even just somebody who's a part of a team or a part of a community, I hope that you can walk away thinking, "Wow, this is how they build relationships," for example, rather than just saying "Oh, they're a people person."

Maika Leibbrandt 2:02

So today we are going to uncover this, this beautiful Relationship Building theme of Adaptability. I will say, throughout Season 6, we've really bridged the gap, from where we began of just wanting people to understand how to accurately speak this language all the way to Wow, what do we know about this? And how do we let it morph and kind of paint with it? So everything we're talking about today is less about understanding the theme, and more about an artistic take on how can we see that theme within the context of a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 2:31

So Adaptability, if you lead with this, the short definition that you will find on your CliftonStrengths 34 report is this: You prefer to go with the flow. You tend to be a "now" person who takes things as they come and discovers the future one day at a time.

Jim Collison 2:50

If you've -- Oh, keep going. Sorry.

Maika Leibbrandt 2:51

Go ahead, Jim.

Jim Collison 2:52

I was gonna say, if you keep -- if you've been listening to us very long, you know that we structure these as well. So maybe you're jumping in in the middle of this, and you -- you're like mmm, you could be keeping really structured notes. For some of you -- I know we're doing Adaptability, and that seems kind of weird -- but you could be keeping notes. Because I always ask this question -- the conflict, conflicts don't destroy strong teams, because strong teams focus on results. What does it mean? You're gonna --What does it mean to focus on results when we talk about Adaptability?

Maika Leibbrandt 3:21

Sure. So that is the first truth here. And, and I think that this truth is about, about more than just the results. It really is beyond why results are important to a strong team. Their value in this context is that results are more important than conflict. So I think this describes Adaptability rather perfectly. Adaptability really is that ability to sense what's most important in the moment and willingly be led by that. So it's -- a focus on results for somebody with dominant Adaptability in the CliftonStrengths term here means that they're going to be sensing what the most pressing urgent need is for the people in that space, and the -- which result maybe will will float to the top as the most important. So, very often we talk about this word "priorities," as if you can have more than one. But what Adaptability can do is sense from the people around them what the most important priority truly is, and then in the moment kind of dance and go with the flow and understand how to pour their energy into what's most important, really, without hesitation.

Jim Collison 4:26

We just kind of had to have an adaptable moment there, didn't we? How does Adaptability track progress? And for some of these, you know, when we looked at Executing and [Influencing], that was pretty easy. But as we think about Adaptability, I think there are some ... So how does, how does it track progress?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:45

So it's been fun going Domain by Domain because you can see that some of these truths of a team are more directly easy to answer for some specific Domains. It might be easy to get into Relationship Building and think, well, they don't track progress. That's the answer. But remember that none of these Domains, just like none of the themes, are describing the outcome; they're describing how you get to that outcome. So seeing Adaptability as directionless, or wholly reactive, is probably a short-sighted understanding of the power of that theme, or, in previous seasons, maybe we would call that raw Adaptability. But I think it's just really appreciating only one slice of it.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:27

If you look at the whole of Adaptability, progress probably relates to which helpful detours have helped us the most. Or people with Adaptability, I think it's important to realize they have goals, they have dreams, results do matter. They do have priorities. They tend to be less concerned with the milestones between where they are right now and how they're going to get to those goals. So they may consider progress in the sense of what's better right now in the moment or how well have we adjusted to better attack those milestones? So we, I think about it as not letting go of where you're aiming, but maybe a little bit more forgiveness and flow in how you're, in how you're progressing toward that goal.

Jim Collison 6:12

Good. Let's look at No. 2.

Maika Leibbrandt 6:14

No. 2. The second truth of strong teams is that They prioritize what's best for the organization and then move forward.

Jim Collison 6:20

So how does someone with Adaptability focus on the larger goal? Maybe then, the here and now, I mean, because I think that's important as well.

Maika Leibbrandt 6:28

Yeah, I think they tap into the emotional urgency of other people. Adaptability is a Relationship Building theme. And some of the greatest power in this theme comes from its ability to sense what others are needing that they don't have, and finding a quick and practical way to bridge that gap. So it's important for someone with Adaptability to know what the focus or the important goal is of the people that they work with. So doing what's best for the organization, as we suggest in this truth, means that they will be at their best when there's a clear target -- probably one with either no deadline, like a constant value of always providing the best service or what does the organization stand for, or a short and urgent deadline. So a goal that the team agrees, Hey, this is the most important thing we can do within the next few weeks, for example.

Jim Collison 7:20

You kind of alluded to this, but what really inspires someone with Adaptability to take actions?

Maika Leibbrandt 7:26

Urgency. Again, it's this idea of being in the now. So I would say urgency, the ability to have some autonomy around what happens in the moment. They don't need permission like other themes. Autonomy inspires a lot of themes into action. But I think one of the things that makes Adaptability unique and powerful is they naturally assume the power or permission that they need in order to make things happen. One of -- I think about those moments when I've seen leaders who lead with Adaptability just inspire awe in others. It's usually been that they just did something that other people thought needed to have an overture to it.

Maika Leibbrandt 8:06

So think about those creative leaders that you've noticed in your life who look around, take stock of a situation, find a solution and then it settles everyone down because they just take action. They just do it. Anytime you felt yourself getting wrapped up too tightly, or stressed out because something didn't seem like it was happening in the way that it needed to happen, and then someone made a slight adjustment that just released and allowed things to flow. Those moments when you exhale, and you think, Oh, I didn't know it could be that easy. Chances are you might have been in the presence of someone with high Adaptability.

Jim Collison 8:43

Well said. Let's look at No. 3.

Maika Leibbrandt 8:46

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 8:53

Yeah. And how does Adaptability show up for someone maybe in their personal life? What are some great examples?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:58

They might be able to tell you great tales of spontaneous adventure. It's likely that they tend to be "go with the flow" people; they don't appear bothered or concerned or disrupted very easily. Now, don't make -- don't mistake this as they don't have any direction or they don't care. The direction that they care about and focus on is the one that's just invisible to a lot of people. It's, it's the present. And people with high Adaptability care about the present moment, and they prioritize that. They speak the language of "now"; they understand people through their contribution to the very real current shared existence. And you may also find that they're the person who's just up for anything. They lead with "Yes," with a "Why not?" and they get especially calm and focused in moments that other people might describe as chaos.

Jim Collison 9:53

This was a really sticky point for my middle son, because he has very high Adaptability. I think his Top 5 are Adaptability, Adaptability, Adaptability, Adaptability, right? And I took -- I mistook that as his dad as laziness, because I would, we would say, Hey, what do you want to do? Anything! Like, I'm OK, I'm OK, no matter what we do. And when I needed him to make a decision, he would always be willing to kind of go with the flow. And that's grossly overstated, right, and I say that. But there is, until I kind of really understood, oh, he really can do anything; he really is willing to go with the flow, we really struggled.

Jim Collison 10:30

I think sometimes this happens at work, too. So as we think about questions managers could use when they see this or, for me, even, as his dad managing him in his adult life, and that's for some people, that's that wording's too strong, but you know what I mean. How could managers kind of take advantage of this when they see it in someone's personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:50

Oh, think about getting curious about it. Right? So you might ask, What's your latest adventure? What's surprising you recently? What's the most important thing that you're focusing on today? I think even with that question, Jim, you asked really well and set me up brilliantly by saying, How can managers help? But I think it's also about how can you help yourself? If you're someone with high Adaptability, understanding one of the barrier labels might be laziness or directionless; being able to remind other people what you're focusing on. And in doing so, reminding yourself.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:23

Now maybe it is as simple as, I want to focus on my team today, or I want to focus on the client that I'm serving today. Maybe it's also giving voice to your values, you know, being able to say, I stand for justice or honesty or humility, and really speaking those things out loud, so that people feel that they can trust that they're getting your full self and not just, you're, you're compromising something for them. Realizing, if you don't have Adaptability, it can seem difficult to trust that anybody would be that honestly in the flow.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:57

So being able to give people some guardrails of Hey, this is where I'm not going to compromise or this is what I'm really excited about. And I want to flex in -- around that so that we can all get there together. I think those kinds of Claiming and Aiming and sharing moments are really important. I do have a couple more questions that you might ask somebody who has high Adaptability to help crystallize that. Maybe you say, How will you be different or better or stronger next week? And you would probably say that with that "next week," instead of "in a year," because to somebody with high Adaptability, their world becomes clearer, the shorter the focus is. It's like timeline nearsightedness.

Maika Leibbrandt 12:41

So it's, it's also maybe helping them tap into Hey, what are you navigating most easily? You're -- not just that you're adaptable in 360 degrees, but are there moments where you feel like you're really more, more able to change direction? Are there relationships where you feel like you are more adaptable? Where --how can you see that as a starting point for real excellence, instead of just an end at, Oh, they go with the flow? I also love this choice: What is the bravest decision that you made recently?

Jim Collison 13:12

Yeah, he's in -- he's currently in a role, but the job is different every day. Right? So he works in a warehouse. They're fulfilling orders. It's never the same way twice. And, and so he's using that. I think another great question managers can ask is, How can I put you in roles that give you that flexibility to be different or give you that flexibility to live in the day? I enjoy that.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:35

That's great for any theme.

Jim Collison 13:36

Yeah, yeah, no. And I love that. Sometimes I love the, the moments to be fully there in the moment, in the midst of change. And so there's that strategically, on teams, there are some who struggle with that. And, and so for those with high Adaptability, they can oftentimes come and save the day -- and they like to do that as well.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:56

I see in the chat, the word "stability" kind of being knocked around or as something that if people with Adaptability can't get. I'd encourage you to go back to Season 3, where we talk about every single theme through the 4 Needs of Followers, and one of those is Stability. The way that Adaptability can create stability is consistency, right? So it's being able to say, Here is -- like even just being able to say, I'm always going to be in the moment with you. That's something that's true about Adaptability, and that is stable about it.

Jim Collison 14:24

Yeah, it's a great, that's a great way of saying it. We better move on or we're going to go too long here. Let's look at No. 4.

Maika Leibbrandt 14:30

Yeah, let's adapt. Look at No. 4. The fourth truth of a strong team is that They embrace diversity. Disclaimer: This is not -- diversity is a huge, huge idea. We're not suggesting that having a bunch of different CliftonStrengths themes means that you've embraced diversity. What this truth is about is realizing that having team members who bring different experiences and ideas and feel safe enough to share that difference is always leading to better results than people who come at every problem from the same direction.

Jim Collison 15:00

What, what are some descriptors that we can use for this?

Maika Leibbrandt 15:02

Yeah, so what does Adaptability bring that nobody else does? They are spontaneous, calm, intuitive, empathetic -- whoa, whoa, whoa -- she's using another CliftonStrengths word! I don't mean Empathy, like CliftonStrengths Empathy; that's in a couple weeks. But really what we mean about this is that they can sense and feel the stress and needs of other people as a clue to what they can react to, as a clue to where their leadership in the moment is most needed. And by that, we'd also say that they are in the moment, they're present, they're real. There's an element of being down to earth, I think, with Adaptability, in touch. There's a short timeline to what they're thinking about. They're real "now" people. And another word I love for Adaptability is responsive.

Jim Collison 15:47

And what unique perspective does, or can, Adaptability bring to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 15:52

Well, they can see beyond what we may be staked as our most important commitments, and see the reality of What do we need to do right now? They know what to take action on in order to meet the immediate needs of their team members or their clients or their family. And they'll likely have that insight more quickly than other people will. If you have someone with Adaptability on your team, seek that insight, invite it. You don't have to ask them to own everything that needs to be done. It's not an Executing theme. But do get in the habit of really just tapping into what they're sensing. You might just say, Hey, what's going on right now? They're likely to be able to adjust course very quickly. So if you need them to focus on one thing for a long amount of time and stay a course, that end goal is going to need to be explicit. And they'll probably do even better if you allow them to take some detours. Just bring them back to focus by again reminding them what's urgent.

Jim Collison 16:46

All right. And No. 5, my favorite, and No. 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 16:50

I just love like the structure of this sentence more than the rest of them, but it's pretty cool. The 5th truth of a strong team is that They're magnets for talent. Another way to spot a strong team or another way to describe this truth is that, look for that team that everyone wants to be on.

Jim Collison 17:05

Yeah, and I'm gonna have -- I have a few insights on this. I've been thinking about this for a while; I'll share those in the mid- or in the postshow as we go forward. But what are others attracted to on Adaptability?

Maika Leibbrandt 17:14

They're unflappable. They're calm. They're in power when other people are spinning out of control. They can be endlessly supportive to what you need and the moment that you need it. I think you can honor this by asking them to get in touch with what they need. And it'll be most helpful for them to answer this, again, in the concept of, What do you need right now?

Jim Collison 17:39

And, and flesh that out a little bit more. What is it that really is, is that attractive quality that people want more of?

Maika Leibbrandt 17:46

I think it's that they don't get too caught up or worried about permanence or about, What is this going to mean in the big picture? They just do the next right thing. They're not paralyzed by a need for certainty or long-term commitment. They can be great filling gaps in the moment without a need for a warmup or a promise of follow-up. Allow this to be the norm. Expect them to be brilliant in shining moments of chaos and release them to go offer that brilliance when it's needed somewhere else. You don't have to turn it into a regular cadence; you can just allow it to be kind of spotlights of ultimate talent that come and go as needed.

Jim Collison 18:26

All right, let's review those 5 again.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:28

Yep, 5 truths. You can find more in Strengths Based Leadership. But they are that 1) Strong teams focus on results instead of conflict; 2) They do what's best for the organization and then move forward; 3) There's an equal importance to their work life and their personal life; 4) They embrace diversity; and 5) They are magnets for talent. There's a lot of different rubrics you can use when you think about the effectiveness of your team or the health of your team. This might be one that you want to dive into. You could -- and I wouldn't just stop at, Do we have it or do we not? But which of these are strongest for us and what kind of habits are making those really strong? It's probably best done with a coach, which is probably even a better reason that you join live, because you're in a chat room with a bunch of coaches!

Jim Collison 19:07

And just this would be a great exercise for a team to do remotely -- to have the book; all those are through that. And then we have each -- for this season, we have each of these themes plus the Domains outline. And you could do like a book study with a review where people listen to it and bring insights. I couldn't think of anything. We set that up for you; you're welcome. OK. We've been -- we have been spending some -- I just felt like saying, "You're welcome." We've been spending some time on talent-mindfulness. You got a great one set up for us today. Maika, why don't you to take us through it.

Maika Leibbrandt 19:36

Sure. So Adaptability is about presence with other people. It's about living and noticing and responding in the moment. Now, we don't all need the word "Adaptability" on our talent profile, right? We don't need the CliftonStrengths theme of Adaptability, but we can all be slightly more effective if we tune in to the present a little bit more. However your talents get you to the present, that's what we're going to explore today. So, if nothing else, that idea of understanding what we're going through right now helps us understand ourselves and our talent. And that is exactly what the next 3 to 5 minutes are designed to help you accomplish. This is for you, no matter where Adaptability lands in your talent profile.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:23

I'm going to set the scene and then guide you through a series of reflection questions. You can replay this later, if you want to write down your answers. I encourage you just to think about it and listen to your thoughts. Catch what you think about -- what you think about answering, but know that you don't have to answer every reflection question that I ask, and that no one's ever going to force you to share these things out loud. We're not going to overtly hold you accountable for doing anything with your realizations today.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:52

Part of the tenets of mindfulness is not striving, not forming opinions, not judging; just allowing your thoughts to sort of explore within your brain. I encourage you to be brave enough to sit with those thoughts for the next 3 minutes. And if this isn't for you, this is the end of the Adaptability episode. So just skip ahead to the end and hear that great stuff that Jim has. Otherwise, settle in. Close your eyes if you like. Take a deep breath in. And then push all that tense air out. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 21:32

Being present, being human, being right here, right now. It takes courage: the courage to be present, to feel what you're feeling when you're feeling it, to change course midstream, to notice what's needed and react without hesitation. It's being in service of the present. And it's a gift. That gift comes a lot more naturally to some people than it does others. Today, I want to help you warm up to it a little bit more. Do something to turn your focus inward right now. Give yourself just the next few seconds to quiet your mind. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 22:32

And let's pay attention to how that feels. What are you noticing? What kind of thoughts are sticking in your brain? Think about your day so far today. What have you observed today? ... Think about your experiences this week. What have you noticed? ... Now think about a time you felt worried this week. What was that time? ... What's under that worry for you? What -- what fear are you feeling or thinking about having had? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 24:06

Think about something that's different, even if it's just slight. Think about something that's different about your experience this week from what you might call a typical week. Chances are, when your circumstances change, your strengths show up a little differently. So again, I'm asking you to think, What's different about this week? ... So, what is strong or powerful about your strengths right now? Realizing something might be different about this week, which of your strengths is showing up for you the loudest? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 25:11

What is true about your strengths right now? ... What is true about your potential and opportunity to thrive right now? ... What is one small way that you can honor your talent today? And that is your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 26:00

I like it. Good work; this has been a fun one. I always have more to learn about Adaptability, and, and I appreciate it -- appreciate your words there. A couple reminders on the way out: One, take full advantages of all the resources we do have available now. And if you haven't been out to in a while, you might want to check it out. We're adding resources to it all the time. Our webcasts are out there; we got some great pages that kind of work through anything. They answer a lot of the questions that you might have:; visit it today. While you're there, at the very bottom of the page, just join the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter. We make that available every month to you. You can sign up for it; it'll just pop right into your Inbox and you can have it available for you. Kind of keep you up to date on things that are going on. There's a lot of changes still happening for us, and a lot of great things coming, so you might want to get signed up there. Don't forget, if you're watching us on YouTube, click the "Like" button down there and hit the subscription button over to the side, and that way you never miss one of these episodes. If you want to follow the live show, Maika said that several times during the show, it's way more fun live. We'd love to have you come out and join us live because you get the mid and the postshow, which are always super great. Head out to and follow us there. And if you have any questions about anything, many of you have been actually sending -- I don't know why but in the last 6 months, I'm getting more and more emails through this address: coaching (been saying it for like 9 years; nobody ever sent us an email -- all of a sudden, everybody does) -- Join us for the Summit that is coming up. Maika said that chances are, by the time you're listening to this, the summit's over. If you listen to the -- again, another reason to come live. June, June 2:; we'd love to see you there. So if you're listening live, folks, we peppered you in the beginning, so we won't do that here. Join us on our Facebook group: On LinkedIn, you can find us by searching "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches"; love to have you in both of those groups. If you're listening live, stay around for the midshow. If you are listening to the recorded version, just go to the next one. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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