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CliftonStrengths Individualization Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Individualization Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Theme Thursday Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Individualization
  • "Strong themes, stronger teams": Learn how your team can own its Individualization 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 Individualization 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 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our home studios virtually around the world, this is Gallup's Theme Thursday, Season 6, recorded on June 18, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:20

Theme Thursday is a Gallup webcast series that dives deep into the CliftonStrengths themes, one theme at a time -- and this season based on developing teams and managers with CliftonStrengths. Today's theme is Individualization. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in the chat room; there's actually just a link right above me on the live page. That'll take you to our YouTube page with the chat room. Many of you are out there; love to have you check in and let us know where you're listening from. If you're listening, or want to listen as a podcast, you can go to any podcast player and just search "Gallup Webcasts" and find us there as well. Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. Maika is a Senior Workplace Consultant here at Gallup. Maika, always great to see you on Theme Thursday. Welcome back!

Maika Leibbrandt 0:56

Thanks, Jim. Great to be back. You know, this has been a fun season. Really the impetus for Season 6 was a lot of questions that we get around, What do I do with my teams? And so we're going domain by domain. And today we are still kind of marinating in that Relationship Building Domain. But what I hope you get from today is the ability to, to answer that question of How does the Individualization theme help build relationships? So instead of just boiling it down to, "Oh, they're a people person," I hope you walk away understanding how to love, honor and, you know, make the most of the people with Individualization within your team.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:31

Let's start with the short definition of Individualization. This comes from that CliftonStrengths 34 Report. I really like how they're written directly to the person who has it, so I'm just going to read it verbatim as it's written on that report: If you have high Individualization, you are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. You have a gift for figuring out how people can work together productively.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:54

So we're going to explore this theme just as we have every single theme throughout Season 6 across the 5 Truths of a Strong Team. These are by no means pieces that we've researched against each of the 34 themes. But I do think they help us answer that question of, What do I do with strengths and the team? These 5 truths you can read more about in the first couple pages, the introduction to the book, Strengths Based Leadership. And they're going to serve as a jumping-off place for us to really unpack what every single theme brings to a strong team.

Maika Leibbrandt 2:26

The first truth is about how strong teams deal with conflict. It's that conflict doesn't destroy strong teams, because it's not what they're focusing on. Strong teams instead are focused on results.

Jim Collison 2:37

All right, so as we think about Individualization, and that's maybe the "we" versus "me" -- we've talked about that before, as you're focusing on other people. What does it mean to focus on results for someone that has high Individualization?

Maika Leibbrandt 2:49

So remember, Individualization really is about tapping into -- almost without even trying -- instinctively understanding and tapping into what is different about every single person, and valuing that accentuating it, understanding it. Someone with Individualization, because of their, their ear for difference, they're typically going to account for variance. So a goal or a focus on results might be static. But the approach that every individual takes toward that goal is probably going to be pretty dynamic.

Maika Leibbrandt 3:21

Or if you even think about the way that somebody with Individualization might lead a team, they can have extreme clarity around where we're going, but account for a variance in how we get there, based on the fact that anytime you add human beings to a situation, you're adding a chance to change. They also probably have an intuitive sense of which results or which goals speak loudest to each member of your team. So tap into this person's insight to really understand those customized motivations for every single colleague.

Jim Collison 3:53

And how would they track progress?

Maika Leibbrandt 3:56

Yeah, you know, it's possible that they're intrigued by outliers. What's different about how we're progressing toward our goal this time versus last time? Again, they speak that language of diversity or variance or change or uniqueness. So they're likely tracking progress against the makeup of those people who are working toward the goal, which probably could be said about all of our Relationship Building themes. But specifically for Individualization, it's about understanding how different people, different circumstances, different expectations or even different materials make the execution toward a goal different, and, and using that difference as something valuable.

Maika Leibbrandt 4:38

So you can use this sort of instinct that somebody on your team with Individualization has on purpose by asking them to study what's working; asking them to name the differences that they've noticed are working especially well, and maybe those that they'd want to keep as best practices in the future.

Jim Collison 4:54

Let's look at No. 2.

Maika Leibbrandt 4:56

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

Jim Collison 5:03

And so someone with Individualization, when we're thinking about focusing on the larger goal, how do they do that, rather than just on themselves?

Maika Leibbrandt 5:11

Yeah, this is sort of the question of how do you look up? Right? So for somebody with Individualization, they're going to naturally tune into the differences that people bring. And they're likely captivated by what they're noticing there. So they'll focus on goals or purposes, you know, beyond their own; they'll look up when it helps them solve a problem. Just like asking, "What's your favorite color?" Or "How do you like to start your workday?" It's important for someone with Individualization to also ask people, "What's your most important goal?" Or, thinking about the larger organization, "How do you uniquely connect to the goals of our team or our, our, of our company, of our community?" The extra cool part is that this person is likely to remember those answers and be able to recall those unique perspectives and lean on them when needed.

Jim Collison 6:01

Yeah, and I think the really important part in this is how do they take action? So they know these things. What's the power of taking action?

Maika Leibbrandt 6:08

So somebody with Individualization, I think, when they notice the need to break rules, or the need to make an exception, breaking from the standard operating procedure, they're likely to offer that. And when they're doing that, understand that that's them basically serving up their greatest talent to you on a platter. They're not trying to derail things; they are trying to customize for the optimal individual experience. They're inspired to act when they notice important deviation from the plan or important variance from what is standard. So striving to create a flexibility that accounts for and makes the best of and honors the differences of people involved is really what Individualization is looking for.

Jim Collison 6:54

And sometimes difficult and (excuse me) in certain roles where maybe structure is important. I hear, I hear this from some of our folks that work in government or some of the folks where there -- the jobs are very standardized. And yet Individualization is important even in those roles. Maika, can you talk, just real quick off script, about that conflict between standardization and Individualization?

Maika Leibbrandt 7:19

You know, in the very first Accelerated Strengths Coaching course that we taught outside of the U.S., we had 11 different countries represented with about 20 students in our old London office. And I remember one of our students in that course was in HR for a small firm, and she led with Consistency and Individualization. Sometimes we would call those theoretically different themes, right, but they are, they're probably not super likely to show up together. Because Consistency is all about standards, treating everybody the same, having ways of operating that we adhere to and that we stick to that are stable and repeatable and predictable.

Maika Leibbrandt 8:01

Individualization is almost the opposite of that. I even think about my two maternal grandparents, grandma's -- probably that describes the difference between them as well: the customized for everybody or, you know, have one thing that works for everybody. Now, this HR leader described her approach to her role as there are certain rules that we -- that keep us all safe. And it's important that everybody understands what those are, and that I hold them accountable for those. But the way that I explain those to people is different, based on the human being who's sitting across my desk. And so I think it's, it's not enough just to say that somebody with Individualization is going to force customization on you where it's not necessary, but you should, I think, lean into that through a conversation, right? Have, have that conversation about what are our most important values? In fact, that's one of the questions we're going to talk about here in a moment. When do we flex? When do we make exceptions and when do we not?

Jim Collison 9:01

Yeah, important that they both work together in harmony, not one or the other are mutually exclusive, they -- that they can and will -- and need to, in many circumstances -- to work together. OK, let's look at No. 3.

Maika Leibbrandt 9:14

So the third truth of strong teams is kind of fun. It's that "Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work."

Jim Collison 9:22

So how does someone with Individualization -- how does that, how could that show up in their personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 9:28

They might be that friend who always sends you just exactly the right gift, or who knows what you're into and just amplifies it, turns up the volume on your interests for you, with you, next to you. They probably, in their personal life and even in the way that they talk -- shy away from extremes that don't allow for change. So you're less likely to hear them say "Always" and "Never," and more likely to hear them say, "It depends." Because they're always almost forecasting that flexibility for the, the humans in the situation. They might be energized and intrigued by learning about others. Depending on their other themes, it might mean that they are, they've got every biography ever written. Or it might mean that they spend their vacation time just visiting other people.

Jim Collison 10:11

Throughout the season, we've been giving out some questions that managers can use to kind of pull this out. Maika, what do we have today?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:19

You could ask them, What's special about each person on our team? What's something meaningful to you that others might not know? What makes your current situation different than normal? What is significant about the season that you're in right now? How do you plan for variety or variants? What rules or values do you weigh before you make a change? (That's the question I alluded to about 10 seconds ago.) Or you could also say, What's uniquely valuable about the individual people in your family or your friends or your community?

Jim Collison 10:54

Yeah, that last question is my favorite, because I think sometimes when you're trying to get that information or you're trying to work that information out of people, if you can get them talking about their family, those clues come to the surface a lot faster. Because people are just more comfortable with that; they have the most experience with it. Not always. But, but I love that question. Let's look at No. 4.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:16

You know, Jim, sorry, we'll look at No. 4 in a second. But I think that's a really great way to see the value in Individualization is just to ask them to talk about other people. And sometimes talking about people sounds bad, but, you know, people with Individualization will notice things that will blow you away about the people around them. And it's genu -- generally, you know, rather positive. So getting them started on, What are you picking up? What do you know about this? What's true about these other people? That will, I mean, it's something that traditionally somebody with high Individualization will really enjoy. More importantly, if you don't have it, it'll be a great teaching moment for you to really understand what this theme is all about.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:55

OK, fourth truth: "Strong teams embrace diversity." By no means saying that having different CliftonStrengths means that you've solved a diversity problem. This is an incredibly serious issue. And diversity is about much more than your CliftonStrengths themes. But what we're using this to explore is, What is something that this theme brings to a team that other themes do not? How can we see people for the differences that, that they bring, because we know that those differences, in addition to just your CliftonStrengths themes -- differences in age, race, background, wherever you're coming from -- when you come together through trust and build a strong team, you're much better than having sort of a homogenous makeup of your team.

Jim Collison 12:35

Yeah, and, and what are some descriptive words that we can use for this theme of Individualization?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:39

So we could talk about the person with Individualization on your team as being thoughtful, having a good memory, tuned into personal details, they really pay attention, they notice the little things (especially when it comes to people), personal, you could say that they're a great listener. And I really like these two words: custom and bespoke.

Jim Collison 13:00

Bespoke! Nice! I have to look that one up.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:04

I bet Justin Douglas can tell us what "bespoke" means.

Jim Collison 13:07

What, what unique perspectives do Individualization bring to teams?

Maika Leibbrandt 13:10

They can be an excellent -- I think of them as like a casting director or a resourcing agent, thanks to their ability to notice what makes people different and appreciate those differences as being the same thing as what makes people promising. They can really help direct traffic for, you know, who's gonna sit in which seat on the bus and really enjoy it and bring excellence to that position? There's also I think, a value in Individualization in that they, there's never really a sense of getting complacent, because they're always remaining open to change and adjustment. They're aware that, even if your team has executed the same plan 1,000 times, every single day, every person, every variable could change at any time, and that would change the entire experience. So that awareness goes even beyond the Relationship Building element of Individualization; it goes almost into a strategic place, because it helps keep the team alert and awake to what's going on in the present moment.

Jim Collison 14:10

Lisa asks a good question in chat about this. And I think when we think about teams, it's important. Do Individualizers always see what's good in people? She has Positivity, so she has trouble telling. Is it -- so Maika, just from a concept perspective --

Maika Leibbrandt 14:23

Yeah. From the, well, the definition of the theme -- there's a lot of talents that go into it. So they see what's different. And the piece that makes it a strength, right -- that, that natural piece that we have researched over and over again -- is they equate difference with, with good, right? So they're not shying away from that variance, which probably might make them a whole lot more alert to what's unique about people. And I'm using that word "different," but it really is "unique." It's being able to spot valuable variants. So it's not Positivity; it's not just that they love everybody. But it is that they notice and amplify for effective use what is good about people, I guess? It doesn't -- it's gonna look very different if you have Positivity with it. But Individualization by itself is not going to be a cheerleader like Positivity is, but it is going to bring with it the value that variance is, is important.

Jim Collison 15:20

And remember that these, these themes lead these, these groupings of talents that create successful outcomes. So, I mean, that the important part is we're making successful. Let's look at No. 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 15:32

No. 5 is our last one here: "Strong teams are magnets for talent." Another way to spot a strong team is just simply to look at the one that everyone wants to be a part of.

Jim Collison 15:41

And what about Individualization is attractive for individuals?

Maika Leibbrandt 15:45

You know, it's kind of fun to be around somebody with Individualization, because it seems that they just know you so well, and they can make you feel incredibly important by noticing and remembering details about your personal human experience. I also think they provide a sense of forgiveness to a team. They can remind people that we don't all have to be the same. And that when our differences do create conflict or clash, they're still valuable.

Jim Collison 16:10

So how might you describe this gift? If we're going to describe it, that it, the gift that it brings to a team, how would you?

Maika Leibbrandt 16:18

I think I'd call it human insight. They speak the language of people. They can spot details that otherwise might not be noticed or might be noticed and considered to be unimportant. They're great at helping others see what's good about each other, not necessarily what is shared. And again, to Lisa's question, the goal with Individualization isn't to build people up and make them feel good about themselves; it's to help people better understand. And I think for them, you know, as the person with Individualization, for them to understand what's different and see that as promising. They can amplify those pieces. I think sometimes it's a whole lot easier to notice what we share and to stand on that level of saying, "OK, we're the same because we classify each other this way." Someone with Individualization can bridge those sort of "thought clouds of sameness" by saying, "And here's where we differ. And, and that's good."

Jim Collison 17:12

What, let's go through those 5 again, just as a reminder.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:14

Yeah, the 5 truths: 1) Results, not conflict; 2) Do what's best for the organization and then move forward; 3) Work and personal lives matter; 4) They embrace diversity, and 5) They're magnets for talent. I do encourage you to read a little bit more up on those. There's just a -- it's a short, short chapter there in Strengths Based Leadership. But anytime that you're looking at a team, it's really important to do it with a goal in mind -- something that you want to solve, something you want to better understand. Don't just map your team strengths for the sake of it. And these 5 give you, I think, a really great rubric of ideas that you could aim for.

Jim Collison 17:44

Wow, "bespoke" and "rubric" in the same podcast, Maika?!

Maika Leibbrandt 17:48

Tell you what -- I have something in my coffee today!

Jim Collison 17:51

We're just pretty great. We should take 2 weeks off more often! We have been spending the season talking about talent-mindfulness, and we have a new one. You're in a new space today. So we expect great things. What do you have for us today?

Maika Leibbrandt 18:06

So I'm in a new space today -- that seems kind of deep. But I am; I'm literally in a different place today than I was before. And so talent-mindfulness is a practice that's for you. It really doesn't matter what --whether you have Individualization or not. If you've never listened before, Season 5 and Season 6, we tag the last 3 to 5 minutes with this idea of something we call talent-mindfulness. It is meant to be a departure from where we've been, not so much about learning about a theme, but really just an invitation to focus on your own talent and the best way that you navigate your world.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:37

So I invite you to settle in, close your eyes if you like, and adjust your attention inward. I mentioned this a little bit in the bulk of our show today, that sometimes it can be easy to think of people in groups. We classify each other by community, location, interest, where we work, where we go to school, what generation we, we claim, race, gender, age, who were part of our family? And as coaches, we also often jump right to, What team are you a part of? Or sometimes even, What department are you a part of? And we attempt to improve those groups as a whole, to think about how they function as one unit.

Maika Leibbrandt 19:23

Now, a lot about this is good and true. We know from, from world history that human beings are rather tribal in nature; we survive and thrive by living together and clustering into positive groups of people. But there is another element I think we need to explore to add more flavor to this picture. And, in my opinion, it's easier and a little bit more practical, if you want to improve a group, start at home by improving your own relationships one by one. Or if you're a coach, help that team evaluate their partnerships one by one. You've heard me speak of the power of partnership before, and today really is no different. But what, what we're going to do today is even more focused on this.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:10

I'm going to ask you today to study one person in your life -- someone you rely upon for success, happiness or support. Specifically, I want you to think about someone who's been bugging you lately. You don't have to choose a person with whom there's a lot of tension or negative energy, but maybe this is even a close partner, someone you have a lot of love for. For today, choose a partner in your life with whom lately things just haven't been as good as they could be.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:51

See this person's face in your mind's eye. Really imagine them. Sometimes this is hard with the people we know the best or see the most often, but remember what their face looks like. Imagine their voice. ... Hear what it sounds like when they laugh. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 21:24

I'll ask you now a series of questions to help you focus your full attention on this person. You might have easy, fast answers pop into your mind for some of the questions; others, you might need to think about. When you feel stuck, make an effort to relax your eyebrows. Unfurrow those brows and just let your mind be open and quiet to any idea that might pass through. Do your best not to qualify or judge your reaction. No one is going to ask you to share any of this out loud.

Maika Leibbrandt 21:52

All right, thinking about this person, what do they like to talk about? What are some of their "hot buttons"? Remember, a "hot button" is a topic that makes their face light up; something they could go on and on about in a positive way. What does this person like to eat or drink? ... What time of day are they most alert and awake? ... What motivates them? Right now, what is an important goal or focus that they are working toward? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 23:01

How do they get things done? ... How do they advocate for or influence other people? ... How do they connect with others? ... When do they do their best thinking? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 23:41

If you know this person's CliftonStrengths, think about those. Which of their top talent themes do you think is showing up strongest right now? ... Now of all the ideas that you've considered, as you're reflecting about this person, what one or two things are sticking out to you about this person right now? ... Encouraging you to really focus on one or two insights about this person. Write them down on the inside of your brain somewhere. And if you're not driving, grab a pen and write them down on some paper: two insights that are important to you about this person. Come back to these insights later today. Or, if you don't do it later today, do it first thing tomorrow morning, when you're at your freshest and your most impressionable.

Maika Leibbrandt 25:05

You are in charge of your relationships. You write your story of what kind of a partner you are. The care that you take in focusing on the people that you need, the people you enjoy, the people you do life or work with -- that care is up to you. And did you notice that throughout that entire reflection, I didn't mention you or your partnership the entire time? Sometimes, the greatest gift we can give someone we care about is our attention. Thank you for allowing me yours. That's your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 25:47

So great job, Maika. Thanks for leading us through that. A couple reminders on the way out. If you want to take advantage of all the resources we have available to you: That's actually a great way to sign into our now -- our new Access platform. As well, while you're there, at the bottom of the page, you can sign up for the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter. Great way to stay up to date. Sends you a monthly notification of all the things that are going on in the community. If you, if you want to follow us on YouTube, you can actually just subscribe. If you're on YouTube right now, subscribe down there. If you're listening as a podcast and you want to share it with others, you can just have them search "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast platform. If you have questions, email us: If you want to follow us on Eventbrite -- that, that way, you get notified of all the new programs that are coming up, maybe you want to know what's going on a month or two out, go to Gallup. -- I'm sorry, -- and follow us there. Just create an account, follow us there. In Facebook, go to On LinkedIn -- maybe you're not a Facebooker -- on LinkedIn, go to "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches" and we'd love to have you as part of that as well. If you're listening live, stay around for the next show that we're about to do. We'll do a little bit of mid-show in the process. If you're listening to the recorded version, just click to the next one. I bet it's there and available for you. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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