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CliftonStrengths Empathy Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Empathy Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Theme Thursday Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Empathy
  • "Strong themes, stronger teams": Learn how your team can own its Empathy 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 Empathy 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 28, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:19

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 Empathy. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in the chat room. There's actually a link right above me to it, the YouTube page. Jump in that chat room, ask your questions. If you have questions after the fact, you can send us an email: Don't forget, if you're on YouTube, subscribe to us. That way you get notified whenever we produce something new. And click that little "Like" button too; that kind of helps us get discovered. And if you want to listen to us as a podcast on any podcast app, search "Gallup Webcasts" or "Theme Thursday." Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a Senior Workplace Consultant here at Gallup, feeling a little more energized, and welcome back to Theme Thursday!

Maika Leibbrandt 1:00

Guys, if you don't join live, you really should. These are the greatest humans on the planet in our chat group right now. Thank you. We're talking about Empathy today. And I would say Empathy and Relationship Building are both labels that we tend to stop at, thinking it tells the whole story. So we've got a lot to talk about today, because it doesn't tell the whole story. This season, Season 6, we are exploring every theme through the lens of how it shows up in a team. And we know that strong teams have 5 things going for them. If you want to read more about those 5 Truths of Strong Teams, check out the book Strengths Based Leadership. It kind of sneaks in there; it's in the introduction around page 70. And we're going to explore Empathy through the lens of these 5 Truths of a Team. The reason we're doing this is not because there's explicit research between it, but it's because it helps us think about that theme of Empathy, beyond just what does it mean for me, but how does that really translate to what it means for my team?

Maika Leibbrandt 1:57

So let's start with the, the short definition here of Empathy. This is how it shows up on your own profile, when you read it near the end of your CliftonStrengths 34. This short definition is, "You recognize and -- oh my gosh, I didn't change it; that's Developer. So the theme of Empathy -- I don't have the exact words, but I'll just read you mine. So for me, Empathy is No. 17 on my profile. So if I scroll to the end, sorry I can't share my screen with you, but if you have not checked out your CliftonStrengths 34 report recently, you really should. It's designed to be one that you come back to over and over again. And near page 23 of that report, you've got short definitions, and they're written as if it describes you.

Maika Leibbrandt 2:45

So I'm going to scroll all the way there and read my Empathy. And it says this: People exceptionally talented in the Empathy theme can sense other people's feelings by imagining themselves in others' lives or situations.

Maika Leibbrandt 2:59

In my own coaching, Empathy is definitely one that knocks people off a little bit. Because if they see it really high, they think, Oh, this is good because I learned Empathy training. And if they see it really low, they think, Oh, this is bad because it means I don't like people. But really what Empathy is about is that 6th sense: the ability to feel what other people are feeling without being told.

Maika Leibbrandt 3:18

And let's think about how this relates to a team. So the first truth that we're going to explore is how teams explore conflict. We know that "Conflict does not destroy strong teams, because those teams are focused instead on results."

Jim Collison 3:33

Nice adaptability, by the way. What does "focus on results" mean for Empathy, then?

Maika Leibbrandt 3:37

A focus on results probably means they're feeling the emotions of others as they progress toward or away from the results that really matter to them. But you know, this question might be more appropriate for Empathy by focusing on another portion of that "strong team" truth, which is how they deal with conflict. As part of a strong team, someone with dominant Empathy can sense when conflict is happening, even before it's said out loud. They can address it, they can direct that emotion toward a focus on results. I think about sometimes Empathy being the person in the room, maybe who can say, Hey, something's brewing here. We need to talk about that, because it's going to help us get closer to what we need to accomplish.

Jim Collison 4:20

And this one may not be as intuitive. I think some of the other themes, when we think about tracking progress, it is. But how does Empathy track progress?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:27

You know, it's about sensing. But that experience that somebody with Empathy has goes much deeper than just accurately guessing how other people feel. I think the first level of understanding the CliftonStrengths theme of Empathy is thinking about it almost like a carnival game where I can guess how old you are. You know, Empathy can say, "You're feeling happy." But that's not it. It's so much more, I think, intuitive than that. When things are going really well, someone with Empathy feels that for themselves in addition to feeling the good energy that other people have. When we're off track as a team, the person with Empathy notices, first, by what being "off track" means to the emotions of the people in that group. They might feel the emotional reaction that people have toward progress, as well as toward conflict, more than the results or the conflict itself. They're feeling how other people respond to it.

Jim Collison 5:28

OK, let's look at the truth No. 2.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:30

"Strong teams prioritize what's best for the organization and then move forward."

Jim Collison 5:35

And how does someone with Empathy focus on that larger goal or purpose rather than the, their own?

Maika Leibbrandt 5:41

Well, someone with Empathy is absorbing the emotions of everyone else around them. So it's no stretch to think how they might experience goals or values outside of themselves. I think what Empathy can offer to a great team, in terms of this truth specifically, is their ability to break down organizational goals that might seem really big into individual experiences. The person on your team with strong Empathy will feel how the decisions made at a bigger level affect people on the team.

Maika Leibbrandt 6:10

And I think with practice, and when they do it on purpose, they're also probably likely to maybe even predict how future leadership decisions are going to make individual contributors feel. They can humanize those organizational goals through the lens of emotion, really bringing into reality the effect, which is the feelings that we know are important -- bringing that effect to the center of a conversation.

Jim Collison 6:35

Empathy may not seem like an action theme, but what, what does inspire someone with Empathy to take action?

Maika Leibbrandt 6:40

Yeah, you're right, Jim. You know, I don't think Empathy really is about action. And maybe sometimes that's where we get it mixed up with the value of being empathetic and we think about it as a result. Really, the theme is about connection. They're feeling what their colleagues, their partners, their communities are feeling. There's no extra push, necessarily, to act upon those feelings as much as there is to act upon the connections to other people that the shared emotion is creating. So the real value Empathy can provide to a team to support this truth is that strong teams prioritize again what's best for the organization and then move forward. The value that Empathy brings is they can serve as that emotional barometer on how ready the team is to move toward action. They can be the "ear to the ground" that's paying careful attention to the emotional health of the group and their readiness as a team to prioritize what's best for others or for the organization, or to tackle anything that might be in their way of that readiness and of doing it well.

Jim Collison 7:48

You know, another great thing about being live, you know, I always joke about -- it's -- sometimes we approach these themes from Name it, Name it and Name it. Like we never really get off the "Name it." This -- as I'm watching the chat room today, I just love the way they're they're adding their Claim and Aim in the chat room. You're talking about this and like, "Yeah, but for me, it's like this." And it's super important, right, that we get to that step of, like, How are we owning this? And what are we doing with it for, for success? As we look at truth No. 3, let's keep that in mind. What's No. 3?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:17

Well, No. 3 is that "Strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work." If you want to hear a little soapbox about this, you can skip back on the live channel about 10 minutes.

Jim Collison 8:29

And how does Empathy show up in someone's personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:32

We often talk about Empathy as having a 6th sense. They can't see ghosts or previous versions of Bruce Willis, but they can feel what -- that's another thing about being live! Sometimes the weird ideas just get out. They can feel what other people are feeling. And that likely leads them to being very tuned in to the people on the team. If you have someone in your life with Empathy, you might describe them as rarely surprised by the, by how people feel. They might be the person who knows something's up before you tell them. They might also be the one who feels really deep feelings, even for strangers. This could manifest as crying easily during a sad movie, or celebrating with like real-"feeled" elation when their team, or even somebody else's team, wins a big playoff.

Jim Collison 9:23

I admit it. I cry at Hallmark movies. What questions could a manager use to tap into this Empathy, seen in a personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 9:29

Yeah, I think it's, What are you noticing about your community? How's your home team doing? What character have you connected to lately? What do you like to do for yourself? How are you feeling? What has been a high point that you felt recently?

Jim Collison 9:46

What do we, what do we say for truth No. 4?

Maika Leibbrandt 9:49

Truth No. 4 -- please don't misunderstand us -- this one is, "Strong teams embrace diversity," and they do in every aspect of the word. This truth is about what kind of diversity does the theme bring, in addition to other areas of diversity that are equally important to making a team strong?

Jim Collison 10:06

And with that in mind, what are some descriptor words that we might use?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:09

Yeah, what's different about Empathy? Empathy, you could say is emotional, aware, tuned-in, open, insightful, inviting and sensitive -- and I put in brackets, "in a good way."

Jim Collison 10:24

Nice, nothing wrong with crying at a Hallmark movie. I'm just going to say it.

Maika Leibbrandt 10:28

But really, think about sensitive when you think about tools, or like, I want a really sensitive, you know, metric; I want something that's going to notice. That, that's what what sensitive is for Empathy is that it's not going to miss the emotions that are swirling around in the world.

Jim Collison 10:48

I got distracted. Did you get all those? All the names? OK. What unique, what unique perspective does Empathy bring to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:55

They can walk into a room and feel if something's "off." You know, in a way, they can feel something coming. They can be that, that, that emotional barometer -- both positive and negative -- before it even arrives. So listen to the person on your team who has Empathy. Honor them, use their talents. Ask them to be a voice for how things are landing. Tap into the reality that people's perception, their feelings, aren't just waves to be ridden or sort of surfed around. They are clues to how we're doing and how we can do better.

Jim Collison 11:24

Let's look at Truth No. 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:26

Jim's favorite truth: "Strong teams are magnets for talent." This quote is directly from the Strengths Based Leadership book. Another way to spot a strong team is to look for the one everyone wants to be on.

Jim Collison 11:39

And what is it about Empathy that will draw people to it?

Maika Leibbrandt 11:42

You know, on a personal level, having someone with Empathy on your side can mean you don't have to explain yourself. Think about the people in your world who, like, you, maybe you're ready to describe something, and they just say, "I know" and you believe them. That's, that's magnetic, magnetically attractive. And that's Empathy.

Maika Leibbrandt 12:01

If you have Empathy, find ways to express this to people. Turn what you are sensing into a great question that lets people know you're picking it up. You might try something like, "Hey, I'm hearing this. I wonder how that makes you feel? What do you want to explore about this together?" It's, it's, I think, a maturity aspect of Empathy, of instead of saying, "Hey, I bet you're upset today." You can say, "I'm hearing you say this, this and this." So it's explaining the clues that you're picking up on, in addition to what you're feeling, in a way that opens the door for that other person to start to share.

Jim Collison 12:36

Yeah, as we wrap it, think about that -- what's that gift that Empathy brings to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:41

Empathy can accelerate the connections between people. Think about how it relates to a team; it doesn't just have to be the connection that that person with Empathy is having. If you have Empathy, think about how you can use that emotional sensitivity, you know, that, that meter or that radar that's really on, how you can use that to connect team members with each other. You don't have to shoulder the full weight of what everyone is feeling; you can also be the connector who senses great partnerships. You can sense who's really ready for collaboration. You can make that introduction, that connection, and strengthen the entire team.

Jim Collison 13:18

OK, that's some great advice, by the way. If you didn't catch all of that, go back and listen to it again. Maika, let's recap the 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:25

1) Results, not conflict; 2) do what's best for the organization and then move forward; 3) Work and personal lives are equally important; 4) Embrace diversity and 5) magnets for talent. Again, you can read more about all 5 of those around page 70 of the book Strengths Based Leadership.

Jim Collison 13:43

All right, we've got a great talent-mindfulness exercise for you today. So sit back, Maika, I'm going to turn it over to you. What do you have for us?

Maika Leibbrandt 13:49

So this is a practice for yourself. While Empathy is all about sensing the emotions of others, talent-mindfulness, which is what we're doing right now, is designed to help you tune your observations inward so that you can get to know your own lens of talent. And again, the goal of this is not just a cool thing to do; it's, it's helping you practice your own talent so that you can use it better. You know, strengths-based development can't just be -- Jim mentioned this -- can't just be about Naming and Naming and Naming the talents, and unpacking it until we've exhausted our ability to spot talent "in the wild." If it becomes that Naming game, we've already lost. We will win when we turn our understanding of talent into interventions that we can use. And when we're, I think, brave enough to realize our interventions are built on our own lens; it's very likely that's different from somebody else's.

Maika Leibbrandt 14:46

So for the next 3 to 5 minutes, I'm going to guide you through some reflection questions that are designed to help you make the space inside your own mind a little bit more welcoming. These questions are designed to answer inspire you to spend even more intention in the practice of designing your own best strategy for attacking what's in front of you. The opposite of that might be reading a book on how somebody else has done it. But really, strengths-based development helps you say your best strategies are already within yourself.

Maika Leibbrandt 15:20

Today, we're going to start with silence. I'd like you to use this short time to feel what it feels like to be in your own body right now. You might stretch or breathe or close your eyes. I'm going to hold space for some silence and I'll bring you back in just a moment. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 15:56

Feelings are powerful things. How we feel determines how we think about our space, our circumstance, our other people, and how we think about ourselves. How we think about ourselves has a big part to play in what we do, how we act and how we show up in our own lives. We're going to get to feelings in a minute, but we're going to start with observations.

Maika Leibbrandt 16:27

For today's practice, I want to keep your focus on work, whatever work means to you. Think about your work over the past week. What is something you've noticed more than 3 times about your work recently? A theme, a concern, an idea -- what have you noticed? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 17:05

As you're exploring your own observation, how is that making you feel right now? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 17:21

However you feel about this observation, you're right. We're not here to fix or change that emotion you have about your work observation; we are going to use it. Let's think about the next 2 weeks of work that you have ahead of you. How do you want to feel 2 weeks from now? It doesn't have to be lofty; it's only 14 days. How do you want to feel about your work in 2 weeks?

Maika Leibbrandt 18:06

Now let's make this your microchallenge. Here's the challenge. It's to improve your chances of feeling that way about your work in 2 weeks. Even if you're already confident that you will feel that way, I want you to think, what can you do to improve your chances of feeling that way? What will you need to observe in the next week? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 18:40

And open up just a little bit more; think about the next 2 weeks of work. What will you need to observe about your work or your approach to your work in the next 2 weeks, in order to feel how you'd like to feel? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 19:05

Now bring it back to where you are right now. And think about this last question: What do you need to do about this today? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 19:25

That's your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 19:29

All right, good work. You made it. Nicely done. Couple, couple, couple reminders for folks before they go. One, if you want to access all of our resources that are available, including the store, we talked about Strengths Based Leadership; you can purchase that book through our store. Head out to, and kind of everything is there. There's a lot there, so you might want to spend some time working your way through it, but If you log into Access from there, it takes you right to the Strengths Dashboard. While you're there, at the bottom of the page, you can sign up for the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter. If you have any questions about anything we talked about, you can always send us an email: I've been getting a lot of emails through that account lately, Maika. We've said that for 8 years, and in the last 6 months, I don't know why, all of a sudden everybody's using it. So we appreciate that; good to hear from you through that channel as well. If you want to follow the webcasts and join us live -- because it's always better live -- head out to, and a complete list of all the webcasts that are going to be available for you that you can join live for are listed there. Love to have you do that. Love to have you join us there. The, the 2020 Gallup at Work Summit is impending. If you're listening live, you might have a chance to join us. If not, you probably missed it for the year. But that's OK. We're going to do it in 2021 and we'd love to have you join us for that as well: And if you are live folks, and you're coming to join us, we want to see you: 4 p.m. That's gonna be the best session, right, Maika, 4 p.m., 4 to 5?

Maika Leibbrandt 20:50

It'll be the best. We can say it.

Jim Collison 20:52

OK, good.

Jim Collison 20:52

I just wanted to make sure; I just wanted to make sure I was OK.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:56

It'll be the most like a party. We can say that.

Jim Collison 20:58

It will be. It is the afterparty. And then there's an after-afterparty, so those will be available for you as well. If you want to join us in our social groups: Many of you do; about 13 or 14,000 there. So join us in that group. Or, if you're not a Facebooker, and that's OK too, join the "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches" page [on LinkedIn]. Love to have you as a part of that as well. I'll let you in; ask and I'll let you in. Want to thank you for joining us today. We will do a little bit of a postshow afterwards, and again, it's better to join us live. With that, we'll say, Goodbye everybody.

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

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