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CliftonStrengths Context Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Context Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

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

If you've got Context as ... a dominant theme, ... then you know: The better we learn from where we've been, the better we will do where we're going.

Maika Leibbrandt, 2:48

Someone with Context can help you see the permanence of what you're doing. ... They appreciate the significance of the present and what it's going to look like when it's history.

Maika Leibbrandt, 13:08

Nominate the person on your team with Context to be the connective tissue between what the organization is doing right now and what they've done in the past.

Maika Leibbrandt, 6:26

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, this is Gallup's Theme Thursday, Season 6, recorded on July 30, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:20

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 Context. If you're listening live, we'd love to have you join us in the chat room. There's actually a link right above me up here to the chat room; take you to YouTube and you can sign in there. If you're listening after the fact, you can send us an email: Don't forget, if you're watching us on YouTube, regardless of which channel you're on, click the Like button down there. That's always helpful for us in discovery. Subscribe down there; Maika is getting -- giving you some pointers on how to get that done. Subscribe on YouTube as well. And if you want to listen to us as a podcast as we get back on the road, in a train, in a plane whenever that happens -- hopefully that happens that some point.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:01

In your kitchen, in your bathroom --

Jim Collison 1:03

Walking the dog, whatever, whatever it might be, subscribe on your favorite podcast app; just search "Gallup Webcasts." Maika. Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a Senior Workplace Consultant, and always a pleasure to be with you on Thursdays. Maika, welcome back!

Maika Leibbrandt 1:17

I'm so happy to be here! We are into our Strategic Thinking Domain, which is the fourth of 4; we're going domain by domain this season -- only the second season we've ever done that. And the reason we're doing that is typically those 4 Domains of Leadership tend to be your first glance when you're looking at an entire team. So this is Season 6, and it's all about strong themes leading to stronger teams.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:39

Today, we're going to explore the 5 Truths of Strong Teams. You can read more about that in the book Strengths Based Leadership. But we're going to use these truths as a jumping point, not just to talk about teams, but to talk about the theme of Context. It's a rarer theme, in fact, I think it's in our last 5 most frequently occurring in people's Top 5 if you look at it in order. So the chances that you know somebody with Context are a little bit more rare. It means that when you have someone with Context on your team, it's all that much more valuable that we figure out ways to honor and amplify that talent. But I hope by the end of today, you can think about Context as it relates to a team so that you can walk away with a little bit more than just "Oh, they think a lot."

Maika Leibbrandt 2:21

Let's look at the short definition of Context. "You enjoy thinking about the past. You understand the present by researching its history." And the first truth that we'll use to uncover a little more about Context is how strong teams handle conflict. "Conflict doesn't destroy strong teams, because strong teams focus instead on results."

Jim Collison 2:43

And what does that mean, "focus on results" for someone with Context?

Maika Leibbrandt 2:47

So I think if you've got Context as a, as a frequent theme or a dominant theme, if it shows up in your Top 5, maybe your Top 10, then you know: The better we learn from where we've been, the better we will do where we're going. So somebody with Context on your team can help you navigate through conflict in favor of results by noticing what has worked before. And relationally, they may know exactly what kinds of interactions on your team create conflict, because they've seen it, they've researched it, maybe they've even just asked about it. And if that conflict had led to distraction instead of clarity in the past, they will likely avoid it or at least see it as nothing new and interesting.

Jim Collison 3:30

I am really looking forward to our time together today around Context, because this is the one I get asked the most of, "Do you have Context?" Because I, I do [have] some of these tendencies. So I'm excited about learning about them.

Maika Leibbrandt 3:41

So let me look at your 34.

Jim Collison 3:42

How does, as we --

Maika Leibbrandt 3:43

Do you know where your Context is? Cause I do.

Jim Collison 3:45

I think it's middle, I think it's middle.

Maika Leibbrandt 3:47

[No.] 22.

Jim Collison 3:47

Yeah, it's, it's, it's in there, but it's, it is -- I do, I really enjoy these exercises. So I'm looking forward to hearing about them. But so how does, how does high Context track progress?

Maika Leibbrandt 3:58

So a powerful element of the Context theme is something I'd call intellectual comparison. Someone with significant Context talent will understand any situation by standing that situation up to what's happened before. Sometimes it's about their own experience; sometimes it's in history, like before their time completely, or prior to them being involved. So they likely track progress in the same way. Rather than asking, "How are we doing?" they're more likely to be inspired by asking, "How do we compare to last year?" Or "What are we doing differently than we've done before?"

Jim Collison 4:32

Yeah, and I find myself asking a lot of those questions in these situations, and learning from the past. Different, I think, sometimes than questioning where we're going, based on the past. And I think this is where it probably breaks down. Those with high Context really have an ability to do this well. What's the second truth that we're looking at today?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:52

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

Jim Collison 4:57
And how does someone with Context focus on the larger group goal rather than maybe just for their own purpose?

Maika Leibbrandt 5:02

I think Context naturally reaches out with feelers in other directions than just where they are. Like the roots of a really complex plant, with someone with Context's brain understands the present by placing it within a setting or a context. And specifically, that tends to be historical, which is richer when there's people involved. So to focus outside themselves, or to even just help prioritize what's best for the organization, nominate the person on your team with Context to be the connective tissue between what the organization is doing right now and what they've done in the past.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:43

Maybe it's as simple as inviting them to share stories they know about the community or about the industry, or how improvements that the organization is making or hoping to make are going to compare to where we've began. So they, I think, similar to most of these Strategic Thinking themes, their brain's gonna go in a bunch of different directions anyway, which can be a good, like, invitation for focusing on something bigger than your own goals. Specifically for context, that direction is, is toward the past.

Jim Collison 6:13

Maika, it's such a great example when we think of that, that connective tissue. There's some evidence that trees in a forest can sense each other based on their roots, so they know who's around them, and they know what's around them. And they can actually warn each other when there's like a threat -- a fire or something along those lines -- chemicals are released. And so when we think about what inspires someone to take action, right, on teams, how does Context take action?

Maika Leibbrandt 6:40

Chemicals. Is that where you're going? I think having access to the backstory, a chance to ask questions, freedom to gather information, realizing a pattern that informs their next decision. If you're listening live, you know we just talked about Analytical. There's something about both of those where having that spark of an Aha! moment is going to accelerate the direction that they're going in. And for Context, that tends to be about, Wow, I just realized how these pieces added up historically, in order to inform what we need to do next or what we're doing today.

Jim Collison 7:16

Let's look at truth No. 3.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:19

"Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work."

Jim Collison 7:23

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

Maika Leibbrandt 7:25

This one's gonna seem probably too predictable, but they probably enjoy history, or historical stories, or just know a lot about where we've been. They might be the person in your circle who remembers things in sequence. They have a timeline to their brain. Something wasn't just in the past in some giant history repository. It happened in an order; it had causes and effects that created a timeline. They may take special delight in, in making that connection between what's happening today and what we know about the past.

Maika Leibbrandt 8:00

I think about vacations where people have come to visit me and I've shown them, you know, the, the hotspots in the community. And they've just been almost overwhelmed by standing in a historical place and thinking about who else would have stood there or what significant events happened there. And maybe that's a clue to someone with Context who can really fully feel and experience the weight of how meaningful history was, and is. Obviously I don't have Context because I used the word "was." But that's, that's a kind of delight that probably feels like a total rush to them when they, you know, a win that they experience and then continue to search out to make it happen again. That might be why they ask great questions about where you've been, what we've done, or when things have happened and how they happened.

Jim Collison 8:47

And the hotspots of Western Nebraska are -- ?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:51

My house. Come visit.

Jim Collison 8:53

Where, where Maika lives. What, what questions could a manager ask to tap into this personal side of Context?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:59

How about this one: If you got to spend a day during any decade in history, when would you choose and what would you do? (That one's my favorite.) What are a few significant moments that led you here? What are you most proud of in our company's past? What inspires you to do research or ask questions? What kind of information do you find most helpful? Who is a historical figure you admire? How do you find your best information?

Jim Collison 9:31

We know, well, let's just, let's look at No. 4.

Maika Leibbrandt 9:34

"Strong teams embrace diversity." That's 4 words that means a lot. And I think it's probably even more important and now in light even more that we pay attention to how well we embrace diversity, and that we catch ourselves when we're not. This truth does not mean having different CliftonStrengths means you're diverse; diversity is a whole lot deeper and maybe more important than that. Plus the chances of having different CliftonStrengths than someone on your team are pretty good.

Maika Leibbrandt 10:03

What this does mean, and what we're going to use it to really unpack with Context, is we know that having a team composed of individuals who look at things differently, who have different backgrounds or different ideas is much -- a greater probability of having a strong team and being successful as a team than if you all have the same ideas and the same perspective on something.

Jim Collison 10:25

And we have some diverse descriptor words that might fit here in Context. What would those be?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:30

So you could call them -- I made this word up, and it has a hyphen -- so if you, you can tag me, and it'll be my word. Or you can say it's yours. But "storyfinder," a researcher, a historian, legacy-minded, big-picture thinker, interconnected, or a time tracker or a timeline thinker.

Jim Collison 10:50

And what unique perspective does Context bring to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:54

For someone with Context, it's not so much that nothing in the world is new, but the chance that we can't learn what's already been created is so small that we might as well look to history first. So it's not saying, Gosh, you know, it's all already happened, but it is -- something is connected that has happened that we need to research and learn from. I think it's leaning into that, and leaning into history, with excitement.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:21

This helps your team avoid repeating mistakes. It also helps them build on past wins. I think it also emotionally can help your team not get too anxious or spun up without researching where we've been and making a more informed decision about the reality of where we are. Even when things seem really dire, somebody with Context can find clues to analyze the reality of your current story and really make probably better decisions about what needs to be done and what the consequences have been in the past.

Maika Leibbrandt 11:55

So it's like you're facing today with an extra set of glasses that's going to give you a little bit more information. Now, they won't necessarily make things better or worse, but they'll leave your team more informed, and hopefully help your team make stronger, more efficient decisions.

Jim Collison 12:12

I love that. Let's look at truth No. 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 12:15

This is Jim's favorite: "Strong teams are magnets for talent." They're the team that everyone else wants to be on.

Jim Collison 12:21

And what, what is it about Context that others are attracted to?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:24

I think curiosity is contagious. Someone with Context has plenty of questions. And often those are inspiring and attractive because they're not questions like everyone else is asking. Have you ever been stopped in the middle of a conversation and -- just because someone asked something that made you really think or breathe? Like, I think the beauty of Context is they're not common questions. They're not, How are you today? Context is one of the more rare themes and I think this element of unique curiosity can be really fun. It's attractive and it's, it's grounding. It helps us think in different ways.

Jim Collison 13:01

How might you describe the gift of Context that, that others kind of look towards?

Maika Leibbrandt 13:08

I think someone with Context can help you see the permanence of what you're doing. That can be heavy; it can be inspiring. No, they really live through history. So they appreciate the significance of the present and what it's going to look like when it's history. They can expand your thinking beyond what's right now or in the future, but why are we doing it? How did it happen? What similarities have we experienced or have other human beings experienced that we should be learning from?

Maika Leibbrandt 13:39

And that push to say, "We should be learning," I think, is also an element of Context. And that can be a challenging inspiration. In some ways, someone with Context is like one element of mental Connectedness -- and I mean that with a capital "C," as in the CliftonStrengths version of Connectedness -- where that theme, Connectedness, believes there are no con -- coincidences, even when they can't explain the mystery that they're experiencing. Context probably believes that coincidences appear to happen simply because we aren't looking closely enough at historical clues that we've been given.

Maika Leibbrandt 14:18

Ah, it's a great, a great way at looking at those two differently. Yeah, let's review those 5 again.

Maika Leibbrandt 14:24

5 truths, you can read more in Strengths Based Leadership. Somebody once told me it's page 28, but that depends on what edited version you have and what language you're reading. But the truths are: 1) Great teams focus on results instead of conflict; 2) They do what's best for the organization, and then they get going; that 3) Their personal lives are as important as their work lives; 4) They embrace diversity, and 5) They're magnets for talent.

Maika Leibbrandt 14:46

Don't just use those 5 as a, something to learn and move on. You can use those 5 as sort of some markers of how well your team is doing. You know, maybe with a coach, look at your strengths and say, Which of these do we have going well, and why is it going well? Which of these maybe do we need to aim for? I always, I always say the best way to look at a Team Grid or that snapshot of all of your team's themes is with a goal in mind or with a question to answer. These 5 can be, can be great goals are great questions to pursue.

Jim Collison 15:16

Yeah. And one a week for 5 weeks, boom! You're, you're welcome! So we've been spending some time doing these talent-mindful exer -- talent-mindfulness exercises (I think I'm losing my talent right now as we speak.) But Maika, fortunately, we're not losing yours. What do you have for us today?

Maika Leibbrandt 15:33

No pressure. So this is an exercise meant to be separate from understanding Context. It'll have a little bit of an element of the Context theme in it, but it's for you. This is really meant to be aside from the rhythm of the rest of your day. So go ahead and do something to separate this from where your brain has been. Maybe you stand up, maybe you stretch. Maybe you just close your eyes and be quiet for a few moments just so that you can turn your awareness inward. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 16:08

In this exercise, I'll ask you a couple questions. I don't think you need to write them down. You can always come back and replay this. Please don't try and capture it. Please don't try and teach somebody else this; just share this with them. Whatever you take away from today is exactly what you were supposed to.

Maika Leibbrandt 16:28

From your Top 5, which one is showing up for you most right now? Even if you don't feel like you're succeeding, you are here. You are taking this time for yourself. You are investing in your work and your life by even thinking about this. Which of your Top 5 has been at the helm of your strengths lately? The one theme that describes any measure of success you've experienced recently. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 17:14

Now think about your own personal history. What is a significant event that contributed to the development of this talent? In your own history, what happened that helped launch this strength into what it is today?

Maika Leibbrandt 17:47

You've probably seen this equation before, but we often say that talent multiplied by investment equals strength, and strength is Beyoncé-level, near-perfect performance, highly potent, your best example of the work you can do, the person you can be. But it's a multiplication challenge for, for a reason. We all have talent. We don't all invest in it. When we talk about investment, usually we mean adding skill, knowledge or intention. Sometimes investment also just means experience, trying over and over and over again; putting yourself in a position where your talent is needed and used; getting and listening to feedback; asking for criticism and adjusting course so that you can be better at what you do best.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:54

Sometimes people say we should focus on our weakness to turn them into strength. That's probably a better way to describe human behavior to say, you should know about your weakness so they don't get in your way. That awareness can, can become a strength. And you should invest in what you're great at, so that it can become near-perfect performance, world-class strength.

Maika Leibbrandt 19:17

So let's go back to that one theme that's sitting at the top of your Top 5 right now for you; the one that's really at the president's chair of the board, if the rest of your themes are sitting around the table. And imagine I asked you that same question a year from now. Imagine I say, What has been a significant event that made that talent theme even stronger? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 19:48

Without qualifying whether it's possible, what will you say was a significant event that contributed to the development of this talent for you? ... Now without waiting for someone else to make it happen, what if that future significant event started today? You don't have to wait for a big outside event to develop your talents. Yes, big life moments are most often unplanned. Sometimes they're even tragic. And you are the master of your own development. So you can plant something significant. You can take control, you can do it on purpose, you can invest in your talent proactively.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:48

Believe you have more to master, even within and especially within your most dominant talents. Make it a priority to significantly invest in one of them, and start today. No one else will do it for you. That's what makes you stand out. That's what makes you especially, uniquely effective and reliable and resilient, for yourself and for everyone around you. That's what makes you a leader. That's what makes you strong.

Maika Leibbrandt 21:25

So think again, just about one of your top talent themes, the one that you will experience a significant growth event in over the next year. See that word? Hear your own voice say that talent theme out loud in your head. This is your talent. This is your precious potential. And this is your year. That's your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 22:04

Maika, I think, in a year -- it's 2020 -- maybe you're listening to this sometime, hopefully you're still listening to this years after the fact. But I think these talent-mindfulness exercises become even more important during times like this. And that just we spend some time refocusing and recentering. And, and using them however they work for you, right. This is however that works for you in a way that's, that's very, very powerful.

Jim Collison 22:29

With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available, now on the new Gallup Access. So head over to Great way to log in to Access; takes you right to the Strengths Dashboard. But more important, we have all kinds of resources available for you. Just click on the tab that says Resources. We didn't make it too hard. Resources, drop that down. All these webcasts are there, including all the transcripts for a good chunk of the seasons we've done over the last couple years. And actually we're going back and getting some of the older seasons of Theme Thursday transcribed as well. So thanks for viewing those. You can also catch us on YouTube; search "CliftonStrengths" or you can search "Gallup Webcasts Live"; subscribe to those channels so you never miss an episode. You can also subscribe to us as a podcast, so head out to any podcast app and search "Gallup Webcasts" and subscribe there as well. If you have any questions, send us an email: Don't forget, you can join us in the Facebook groups:, and on LinkedIn, you can just search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches." If you found you liked this or it was helpful, share it! Like we want you to share these things. They're available both podcasts or YouTube or the page on Share it, share it with somebody. We'd love to have you do that. And we want to thank you for joining us live today. If you're out there live, stay around for a smidgen of a postshow. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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