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CliftonStrengths Learner Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Learner Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

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

Someone with strong Learner [is] comfortable not being the smartest expert in the room. ... And this can be attractive, I think, because their curiosity breaks down the masks that a lot of us tend to wear.

Maika Leibbrandt, 13:55

In someone's personal life, you might notice that Learner takes on a lot of different experiences, or hobbies, but not necessarily for the long term.

Maika Leibbrandt, 7:57

Beyond the product of the Learner's discovery, I think the mindset to always be drawn to new experiences and new skills brings a freshness of thinking and a good perspective to the team.

Maika Leibbrandt, 15:16

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world -- or at least here in the state of Nebraska -- this is Gallup's Theme Thursday, Season 6, recorded on August 20, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:22

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. Today's theme is Learner. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's actually a link to the chat room page on YouTube right above me. Click that; it'll take you, video will restart again. Sign in with your Google account. Join us in chat; let us know where you're listening from -- all those great things. You can leave some comments as well. If you have questions after the fact, and many of you are doing this now -- appreciate that -- send us an email: Don't forget, on the, on YouTube, subscribe, wherever you're listening, just so you get a notification of whenever we post new content. And of course, you can listen to us as a podcast: Search "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast platform, and we are there. Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a Senior Workplace Consultant with me here at Gallup, and Maika, you always brighten my Thursdays. Welcome to Theme Thursday!

Maika Leibbrandt 1:13

It is the best part of my week. And we are thrilled to have the greatest chat room on the internet joining us live today. You know, this season, we are exploring all 34 CliftonStrengths themes domain by domain, in order to answer that question of How might this theme contribute to the strength of a team? So we'll do this today with the theme of Learner. And we're going to use the 5 Truths of Strong Teams that Gallup has discovered through our research into leadership tend to be present when teams are especially strong.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:42

Now these truths are not scientifically tied to the CliftonStrengths themes. But I think they're a great way for us to really unpack that idea of having the place to aim those talents toward in order to strengthen the team. So as you listen and explore within the Strategic Thinking Domain today, I hope it gives you more insight into what people need and how you can honor those, those partners within your team -- so, in this case, thinking just beyond, "Oh, it's a Strategic Thinking theme. So it means they think a lot."

Maika Leibbrandt 2:10

We are diving into Learner today. So let's start with a short definition that you'll find on your CliftonStrengths 34 report. If you've got dominant Learner, "You have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. The process of learning, rather than the outcome, is what excites you." The first truth of a strong team that we'll use to explore the theme of Learner is how that team approaches conflict. "Conflict doesn't destroy strong teams, because strong teams focus instead on results."

Jim Collison 2:39

Maika, I think in the definition, that word "progress," or no, I'm sorry, the "process" -- that word -- is really, really key in the definition. So as we think of that, in terms of focusing on results, if it's the process that's important, how does someone with Learner kind of focus on results?

Maika Leibbrandt 2:56

You know, lots of people shy away from the discomfort of not knowing. But Learner tends to use this not as discomfort but as a clue to discovery. There's a magical space between being stretched, but still within reach. That moment when they realize what they're going through isn't just discomfort, it's change, and that they can navigate that change and transform it into improvement. So when it comes to results, someone with high Learner is attracted to results that signify the end of a discovery journey. "Results" mean that they've gained a new skill or they've had a new experience or somehow they've stretched themselves in ways that otherwise they would not have experienced. And that's sort of what people with high Learner are constantly in search of. Results are -- you can think about them as like a magnet that attracts somebody with Learner through the discomfort of not knowing to that mastery of understanding.

Jim Collison 3:54

I think that idea is gonna come up again. How does Learner track progress?

Maika Leibbrandt 3:58

Certainly! We don't change without making progress. And someone with Learner is probably more attracted to the change and improvement than they are the progress that happens as a side effect. This also might be the definition, or a great example, of a difference between Strategic Thinking themes and Executing themes. If you want to help someone with Learner amplify this truth of strong teams -- of how they handle conflict -- during conflict, ask them, "What are we learning?" "What are we discovering?" Or "What -- maybe if we could look upon ourselves from a bird's eye view -- might we realize we need to understand or know, in order to make it to the other side of conflict and allow that conflict to have changed us or taught us something, rather than torn us apart?"

Jim Collison 4:42

I think that's the key in this, right? Is that, that allow that conflict to build us, not push us apart. I think that's really the key in a lot of these. So let's look at truth No. 2.

Maika Leibbrandt 4:53

Truth No. 2: "Strong teams prioritize what's best for the organization and then move forward."

Jim Collison 4:59

And so how does someone with Learner kind of focus on that larger goal rather than just their own?

Maika Leibbrandt 5:04

I think you can help somebody with Learner do this if you aim their topic of discovery where you want the Learner's attention to follow. So they'll present -- or you might -- even if you want this idea of how do we focus on what's best for the organization, and then move forward -- present an organizationwide topic, or even a community or an industrywide topic, and then supply the Learner with resources. And they'll elevate the entire team's perspective beyond sort of their entrenched or habits or their beliefs already.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:38

When faced with a problem or even a question, you can generally rely upon Learner talent to go first to education. So if they're invited to a charity golf tournament, they'll go first, take a look, look for a golf lesson, rather than just pick up some clubs and give it a try. If, as another example, if the organization is facing the challenge of, say, I don't know, going fully remote for work, they're likely to look for an expert to offer a webinar or a class on best practices on remote working, rather than just dive in or even follow their gut. They'll probably do that even more than they would be likely to join a peer group to discuss what others are doing. So if you really want to inspire Learner to shift their focus toward what's best for the organization, make that focus a topic they can learn about.

Jim Collison 6:27

You gave some clues to this just in that explanation. But talk a little bit more about what inspires someone with Learner to take action.

Maika Leibbrandt 6:33

People strong in the Learner theme tend to be inspired most by the journey of discovery -- and Jim, you called this out, even on the short definition -- more than they are that sort of desire to master something on the other side, and then just repeat what they've mastered over and over again. They're curious, and I think at times, they can be the first to admit that they don't know something, or that they don't know it well enough to be considered a credible expert. So somebody with high Learner can be inspired to act by their quick ability to identify gaps in their understanding, and their ability to go through that learning experience in order to fill those gaps.

Jim Collison 7:12

OK, let's look at truth No. 3.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:14

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

Jim Collison 7:19

So how does that I mean, Learner in the context of work makes sense. But how does that work out in somebody's personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 7:26

So often, when I coach people with dominant Learner, I've noticed a pattern over the years. They tend to tell me they get bored after doing the same thing for a while. And it's one of those really magical moments when you know you've tapped into real talent, because they, they usually whisper it like it's a secret. Even though their patterns of how they live and new hobbies they've taken up, or jobs that they've, you know, changed, or different ways that they've approached life would suggest that they're not really cut out for doing the same thing for their entire life.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:56

So in someone's personal life, you might notice that Learner takes on a lot of different experiences, or hobbies, but not necessarily for the long term. And even in with -- even within activities that they've enjoyed their whole lives, you can probably tell or explore with them how they're different today within those activities than they had been in previous chapters. You know, for example, they might be a writer, and they might always be drawn to writing. But they may continue to take courses in different types of writing or different mediums to get their, their writing read. They might be an athlete who has a colorful history of different sports, different practices, or different events or communities. And it's not the novelty of this difference of experience that really drives a Learner. But it's that desire to continue to learn. And sometimes that ends up spreading in all kinds of different directions.

Jim Collison 8:52

In a lot of the communities I manage, especially in the tech communities, I kind of lean on the Learners in these groups to take on new projects, to take on new technologies, new things that are happening, go find out more about this and report back. What kind of questions -- so a manager understanding this in someone's personal life, what kind of questions could a manager asked to kind of tap into that Learner? How do we, how do we get that thing -- how do we bring it out?

Maika Leibbrandt 9:15

Well, Jim, I love your manager talent here. Because I think what you just said is a great example. How could we find out more? Where do we need to go? What have you found out more about lately? I mean, people with high Learner are wired for discovery. And so that's a an attractive question. You know, what do we need to learn? How do we, how do we discover what else is out there?

Maika Leibbrandt 9:35

You also might just say, Hey, what are you reading lately? Or who are your favorite teachers? What are you really into right now? I listen to a podcast where, at the end of every episode, the host asks her rotating cast of guests, Hey, what's something that you're really into? And I just think that's a good way to tap into what are they discovering? What are -- where's their appetite pointing them? You could say, What topic have you found most interesting to explore? What should our team be learning more about? What are you looking forward to knowing that you don't yet know?

Jim Collison 10:04

Yeah, I love those questions. And I love asking them of other people. Because for me, the discovery, when, when you see it, you'll see a twinkle in their eye. When you hit that, when you hit that, especially on a Learner, and they're like, Oh, they see a new topic, and they kind of start leaning into it. So it's a great indicator, I think, right that you've hit it when that happens. Let's look at truth No. 4.

Maika Leibbrandt 10:25

No. 4 is "Strong teams embrace diversity." Let's be careful to say diversity does not equal having a difference of CliftonStrengths themes. A diversity is much bigger than that, and much more important than just the makeup of CliftonStrengths themes. However, it's a fantastic jumping-off point for us to talk about what's different and powerful and, and unique about each of these themes? What do they bring that other themes don't bring? A quote from the book Strengths Based Leadership -- which, by the way, is where you can find more about all these 5 truths of strong teams -- is this one: "Having a team composed of individuals who look at issues similarly or have been products of comparable backgrounds is not a sound basis for success." The flip side of that is, when we're coming from different places, we get to better answers.

Jim Collison 11:12

And we do have a few descriptor words -- a diversity, I've been saying, of descriptor words. How might we describe this in a single word?

Maika Leibbrandt 11:19

Yeah, what does what does Learner bring? You might call them your explorer, a detective, a student, open-minded, attentive, curious, scholarly and disciplined.

Jim Collison 11:31

And with as fast as things are moving, and as many new things exist, what kind of unique perspective does Learner bring to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 11:39

I think when Learner is at its best, so if they've had great coaching, or even just practice applying that Learner theme, they get to this point where they can really quickly spot the credibility of sources. Think about it: If you are constantly being asked, "How can we learn more?" and then given the expectation to go do it, you start to build your muscle, your Learner muscle and your ability to know where to go in order to discover.

Maika Leibbrandt 12:03

So it's a bit like if you've ever been shopping for a big purchase, and then all of a sudden you tend to spot those, those brands or those things that you're looking for in surroundings that you didn't notice before. If I'm interested in the topic of, say, coaching, and I have dominant Learner talent, I'm probably signing up for more than just one coaching course. And in the process of doing that, I'm doing a bit of research about different coaching topics, different tools, different schools of thought. So Learner can bring this experience to a team in a way that benefits everyone by helping the team not only open their minds to other ideas, but also by knowing how to quickly feed those perspectives as they lean into areas that they can learn more about.

Jim Collison 12:46

Mike, it wouldn't be a huge surprise that we'd have a lot of Learners on the call. This kind of medium, right, lends itself to that kind of activity. If you're in the chat room right now, if you're listening live and you're in the chat room, and you have Learner in your Top 5, just put, put that in there. Let us know where -- what number it is for you. We'd love to see that. Or if you're watching on YouTube, leave that in the comments. We'd love to see that as well. I am sure we're attracting some Learners. That's just what this medium does. Let's look at truth No. 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:13

Maybe we should have everybody who has Learner respond to these questions in addition to me, because Learner's 15 for me.

Jim Collison 13:21

Well, there's a lot of chat going on right now. They're, you know, they're doing that. They're going through that process right now. It's just kind of fun to see that talent in action.

Maika Leibbrandt 13:29

Excellent. No. 5 -- otherwise known as Jim Collison's favorite truth of Season 6 -- is "Strong teams are magnets for talent." I mean, if you want more of your best, ask them where they came from. Another way to spot a strong team is just to look for the one everyone wants to be on.

Jim Collison 13:46

For sure. And what are others attracted to with Learner?

Maika Leibbrandt 13:49

This is fun to answer with that reminder that there's a bunch of you in the chat. So here's what's attractive about you, my friends. Someone with strong Learner thrives in the transformation that happens when you discover something you didn't know or didn't know how to do. So that sounds good. But in practice, it means they're comfortable not being the smartest expert in the room. They may even be comfortable or at least have a close relationship with being vulnerable. And this can be attractive, I think, because their curiosity breaks down the masks that a lot of us tend to wear. Their credibility doesn't come from knowing it all; it comes from authentically being excited about discovering what they don't know. And I think that -- it helps everybody be a little bit more themselves.

Jim Collison 14:37

Yeah, Maika, in the chat room -- this is not scientific. We have about 60 watching live. Thirty -- or 20 -- of them are Learners. And so a full third, right, that are out there, and so that's great. How might this describe (I wonder if they're attracting each other to this?) what, what kind of gift might that describe what that Learner brings to the team, yeah, that others want more of?

Maika Leibbrandt 15:00

Sometimes it might be the product of what they learn. If you don't have this talent high, having someone on your team who does means that you can specialize on improving what you're already good at, and that you can lean on the Learner to sort out what the team needs to improve upon. Beyond the product of the Learner's discovery, I think the mindset to always be drawn to new experiences and new skills brings a freshness of thinking and a good perspective to the team.

Jim Collison 15:27

No, absolutely. OK, let's review those 5.

Maika Leibbrandt 15:29

Yep, 5 truths of strong teams. Remember, you can find these in the book Strengths Based Leadership and read more about them. It's 1) Results, not conflict; 2) Do what's best for the organization and then get going; 3) Work and personal lives are equally important. I mean, how many people do you coach who their topic they want to talk about is work-life balance or wellbeing? I mean, that's, that's a huge one. 4) They embrace diversity, and 5) They're magnets for talent. So these 5 truths are a great jumping-off point to do some consulting with a team, to do some consulting with your own family, or people you consider a team in your community. You can use this instead of just saying, "We want to look at our strengths to figure out who we are," you can use this to say, "How are our strengths contributing to these areas where we're strongest?" And, you know, "How can our strengths maybe be leveraged or honored in different ways to help us get to some of those other truths?

Jim Collison 16:19

That's so powerful. We've been spending some time this season, and last, working through these talent-mindfulness exercises. Just a great way, just a great add-on to the season of some ways to, to kind of get inside our own head; to kind of get some of these things worked out. Maika, you got a great one for us today. What do you have?

Maika Leibbrandt 16:36

Yeah, I really like this one today. I responded to Wendy on LinkedIn this morning. She wrote me a message saying, Hey, you know, what are you thinking about when you write these? And really it is, it comes from years of coaching. Talent-mindfulness, quite honestly, for me as a coach, helps you bridge the gap between naming your talents and understanding what that needs to translate to in action in a way that's a little bit more of a nudge than I would typically give you in a coaching session.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:02

So allow yourself to just try it today. In today's practice, I'm going to guide you through an exercise related to your current job. No, this is not going to help you decide what you want to be when you grow up! But it might help you decide how you want to spend more of your days if you want to live in more alignment with your greatest reserves of potential, or your talent. And anytime I say "current job," remember, that might just mean what are you spending your day doing? It doesn't have to involve a salary.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:34

But learning involves stretching. So let's start with a stretch. Really. I'd like you to physically stretch. So let's just shake out your arms a bit. Allow yourself to shake all the way down to your fingers. And then we're going to do a little, little neck stretch. I think too many of us spend too much time looking down and texting with our thumbs. So I'd love for you just to grab your right hand and stretch it over to your left ear and just give a gentle nudge so that you're pulling your right ear towards your right shoulder, just a little bit, not till it hurts but justly feel that stretch.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:14

And let's do the same thing on the other side, your left hand, reach over your head to your right ear and a gentle nudge of your pulling your left ear toward your left shoulder. (I'm horrible at right and left. I've always been horrible. So if I got that wrong, just stretch.) All right, shake it out. We do this so that you can just separate the mindfulness activity from the rest of what you're learning, Learners.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:42

All right. If you want, you can close your eyes. Just give yourself a moment to get into this. How would you describe in your brain what you are paid to do? Remember, pay can be in forms that do not involve an exchange of money. ... It seems like a simple question. But most of our database cannot strongly agree that they fully understand what it is they're paid to do. So think a little bit harder, not just what your job description is or what your LinkedIn profile says you do. But what really happens because you contribute to it? What wouldn't happen if your contribution wasn't there? ... Don't think too hard about this. Just land on a few words to describe what is expected of you at work. ...

Maika Leibbrandt 19:55

Now I'm going to guide you through a reflection exercise. I'd like you to consider the past 10 days. In those 10 days, what 3 tasks have you completed that align with your definition of what you get paid to do? Or, to ask that another way, what tasks have you completed lately that help describe what your job is? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 20:34

Now, imagine yourself sitting in your favorite place to watch a movie. In your mind's eye, see yourself getting cozy, curling up with popcorn, the screen turns on. And what starts to play is not a movie; it's a highlight reel of your past 10 days at work. As you sit in that comfy spot, you see imagery of yourself completing the tasks that are most important to your job. What moments are replaying on the screen? What are you noticing? As these highlights replay, what task were you most effective at completing? As you're watching your own highlight reel, what do you notice yourself doing that brought a smile to your face or created joy or pride for other people? ...

Maika Leibbrandt 21:54

Watch that one again. And really focus on just one task -- one thing that you really did with a bit more excellence than others, and name what that task was in your brain. So again, what did you do that met or exceeded the expectations of your job? What did you enjoy most about doing this?

Maika Leibbrandt 22:25

And here comes the stretch. What if you believe me when I say that task, the one that you did so well, so recently -- that's your baseline. What if that wasn't you at your life's best, but just you at your foundation, a place from which you build to something even more effective? Let's believe right now that a year from now, you'll watch that same highlight reel and you'll think, "Yeah, I was OK, but I'm great now!"

Maika Leibbrandt 23:01

You can be. I know it. On some level, you know it. Your friends and family and colleagues certainly know it. It'll take stretching; it'll take a bit of discomfort, just enough to reach you beyond where you are today. You'll need to stretch frequently, with commitment, with excitement, and it will be worth it. If you want to start today, it's a good idea. There won't be any better day to start. So here's your invitation: Before you go to bed tonight, talk with someone who cares about you. Tell them what you're looking forward to about your improved performance a year from now. And tell them one easy stretch that you plan on exploring this week.

Maika Leibbrandt 23:54

You've got this. That's your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 24:03

This week, I've been working on -- I got a list of coaches that we can't contact; our certified coaches that we've lost, we've lost their email. Email doesn't work. We've been trying to send it to you. By the way, if you haven't heard from us in a while, and you're listening to this, chances are you're one of them. You may get tracked down by me.

Maika Leibbrandt 24:21

Before Jim puts your face on a milk carton, just reach out.

Jim Collison 24:23

Exactly. I made a kind of "Most Wanted" posters for some of these. I've been, I've been spending the mic a lot of time. It's, it's not easy to find people. Like it's easy -- it's not impossible, but it's not easy. It's a lot of work to dig into these lists, to find people on LinkedIn. I've been pinging some of you on LinkedIn: Hey, I need you to update your address with us. It's actually given me a great chance to connect with some folks I don't know, so I really enjoy that. But it's been a task that for a lot would -- people would shy away from it. I have actually really enjoyed it. Like I look forward to -- there's long lists, and it's kind of repetitive, and it's kind of boring. And for some people, they'd be like, "Oh, that's so meaningless!" And it couldn't be more important and more meaningful to really find those that we've lost connectivity with and bring them back in. And so I'm charged, I'm charged up by it.

Jim Collison 25:11

As you were going through your talent-mindfulness, that was one of those things today, I'd be like, "Oh, I'm doing that right now. And it's not for everybody. There's folks I could give that task to who would hate it. And, but, but I'm designed to do it. And it gives me a great opportunity to kind of shine in that area. So thanks for taking us through that talent-mindfulness, we get excited, some exciting things coming up in 2021 with talent-mindfulness, so thanks for getting that done as well.

Jim Collison 25:38

With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available at -- now on Gallup Access. Head out to, get you access to everything we have available there. All these webcasts, all the transcriptions, all the videos, all the audio. Like, you -- Learners, you should -- I -- there's tons out there. Like if you want to learn something, there's more than you can do. Let me just throw that challenge out. Learners, we've created more than you can consume. So give it a try. Head out there: If you want to subscribe to us as a podcast, you can do that. Just search "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast player. Here on YouTube, you can subscribe to us. Just search "CliftonStrengths" and you'll find our page that's got all the videos, if you're -- maybe you're a visual learner and you want to do it that way. If you have questions, you can always send us an email: Follow us on Eventbrite: Join us in our Facebook group: And of course, you can join us on LinkedIn, just search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches" and I'll let you in that group as well. If you enjoyed today, share it! We got some cool things coming up at the end of this series around sharing some things, so -- but, but don't wait for that. Share it, and share it with your friends and your neighbors and your coworkers and all those, all those folks that are around you. I want to thank you for joining us today. If you're in the live -- if you're listening to the live show, hang around for a little bit of midshow. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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