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CliftonStrengths Strategic Theme: Teams and Managers

CliftonStrengths Strategic Theme: Teams and Managers

Webcast Details

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

"Strategic" doesn't just describe someone who thinks critically; it describes a specific type of thinking and a speed of noticing patterns.

Maika Leibbrandt, 2:54

Focusing on results, for somebody with high Strategic, happens backwards. They start from where we need to be, and then kind of meander backwards on how best to get there.

Maika Leibbrandt, 3:16

If you're getting lost in something that feels really big and blinding, run it by someone with Strategic and get their take. ... They might ... help you reevaluate which aspects of your current challenge are most important and which ones aren't.

Maika Leibbrandt, 13:07

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 0:21

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 Strategic. If you're listening live, join us in the chat room. There's actually a link right above me there. You can jump in the chat room; let us know where you're listening from. That's always the tradition when we come out here. Or if you have questions after the fact, you can send us an email: Don't forget, on YouTube, subscribe to us. Hit the Like button while you're down there. It's always kind of nice to get those. And if you want to listen to us as a podcast, you can just search "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast platform. Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. She's a Senior Workplace Consultant with me here at Gallup. Maika, always great to see you. Welcome back to Theme Thursday!

Maika Leibbrandt 1:00

Thanks, I am so excited to talk about the theme of Strategic today, especially because we get to talk about it in a way that isn't just defining the theme. But it is really talking about how does Strategic amplify the strength of a team? So throughout this entire season, we've been talking about strong themes leading to stronger teams and using the 5 Truths of Strong Teams to describe how each one of those CliftonStrengths themes contributes to a better team.

Maika Leibbrandt 1:25

Today, I've noticed already in the chat that Strategic -- this is, this is proving a theory I have -- tends to be one of those themes that people don't like seeing lower on their profile, probably because we have an overinflated definition of what Strategic means. Not that we think it's better than it is. But we use the word "strategic" to describe good thinking in general. I hope that today, you, you leave this, understanding that the theme of Strategic is neutral. It's not going to make you successful or keep you from being successful, just like the rest of the 34 themes. But it is a very specific way of thinking that does contribute to the strength of a team. And that it's great if you have it high like I do, because I have it No. 1. But it's also -- a lack of Strategic is not going to keep you from being a leader. And it's not going to keep you from being a thinker. So there's my take on what's going on in the chat right now.

Maika Leibbrandt 2:19

Let's talk about what this really means, where the goal of Season 6 is to be able to say not just, "What domain does this theme fall into?" but "How does it contribute to the strength of that domain and the strength of that team?" The short definition of Strategic: "You create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, you can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues." So we'll unpack Strategic today across these 5 truths, the first of which is "Conflict does not destroy strong teams, because strong teams focus on results."

Jim Collison 2:51

And what does "focus on results" mean for Strategic?

Maika Leibbrandt 2:53

"Strategic" doesn't just describe someone who thinks critically; it describes a specific type of thinking and a speed of noticing patterns. I think one particular hallmark of this theme is the critical pattern of "what if" and "if then." So somebody with high Strategic really quickly assesses possible options, and then follows those that are most viable for the situation. Focusing on results, for somebody with high Strategic, happens backwards. They start from where we need to be, and then kind of meander backwards on how best to get there.

Maika Leibbrandt 3:26

One of the best ways that people with high Strategic can so quickly spot the plans that will work is their natural habit of clustering and theming patterns in their brain. They notice patterns. So in conflict -- to get back to this, this truth -- it can be really helpful because they can name the patterns in a conversation. They can bring people up a level and talk about large themes that are happening in that conflict, and not as much about the individuals who are bringing those patterns to the surface.

Jim Collison 3:57

That is so helpful to understand that. You have it [No.] 1; I have it 12. I actually, this is one I think I could think about more. So as we dig in on this, I don't -- I do this more than I realize, but I don't ever really kind of focus on it. So Maika, what would be some advice, if I were to think about it in the future, how I could track progress on how I'm using this -- how would I do that?

Maika Leibbrandt 4:17

I think Strategic tracks progress by -- a lot of it is that idea of they discard the patterns that aren't working. And so they can -- sometimes people with high Strategic can help you release the grip that you have on prior commitments in favor of new realizations. Nothing in nature happens in a straight line, and neither does human progress. So to track how we're progressing, Strategic is most excited by first revisiting the end goal and then making necessary adjustments in order to get there.

Maika Leibbrandt 4:48

And it might be a little bit more of a winding pathway than the original plan suggested. Maybe that original plan does still work, but maybe in their own tracking of progress, someone with Strategic finds ways to sort of readjust or tap on the edges, and discard those that are no longer aligning, and then move forward through tweaks.

Jim Collison 5:09

Yeah, you do this in our relationship, where we'll go through a bunch of ideas. And to me, they're just ideas. And you're always kind of thinking like, OK, how can we take max out of this? How can we get the best out of it? What's the best idea? How does this move forward? And it's magic in our relationship, though, the way it works, and you really get us on the right, on the right track with that.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:29

Thanks, friend!

Jim Collison 5:30

Let's look at truth No. 2.

Maika Leibbrandt 5:31

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

Jim Collison 5:37

So how does someone -- and you got it No. 1 -- how does someone with Strategic focus on the larger goal rather just than on their own?

Maika Leibbrandt 5:44

You know, when that goal can be something that they have a say in designing or if they have some intellectual space to consider the best way to go about the goal, that's going to be most inspiring. Even if they're not directly involved, invite the person with Strategic to talk about the narrative, the storyboard, the map of how your organization is getting to where they're going. It could be as simple as saying, Hey, what are two things you like about how our organization is navigating this current challenge? Or what theme or pattern do you notice that's really working for our team? Strategic kind of likes to, sometimes we describe it as going up to that 40,000-foot view. Sometimes it's also just about like opening a plan up and being able to look at those patterns that lead to the plan. And so to invite Strategic to focus on that, for an organizationwide plan, that's how you really hook them. They speak the language of pattern. So invite them in that way.

Jim Collison 6:39

And what inspires, Maika, I mean Strategic, to take action?

Maika Leibbrandt 6:42

Stop. It was a great theme, but they're all great.

Jim Collison 6:46

You did write this, by the way. I can hear you through the whole thing. It's so great.

Maika Leibbrandt 6:50

It is hard -- of, you know, all of Theme Thursday, the ones that are most difficult for me to describe are the ones that I have. Yeah, so how does Strategic take action? I think, getting to deconstruct an idea and rebuild it by noticing what's worked, and having permission to get rid of what doesn't. Sometimes with high Strategic, you can just give that person a whiteboard, either physically or intellectually, and the means to depict that big picture.

Maika Leibbrandt 7:18

So I think here's some great enablers of big-picture vision. It's explicit awareness of rules that cannot be broken. Knowing the reason behind the plan -- or clarity on the "Why" is often what we talk about. People who can serve as thought partners and also spot patterns. Feedom to ask questions that may on the surface seem kind of unrelated, really understand that that person was Strategic isn't -- they're not wandering too far. They're just exploring patterns and consequences. And trust -- if you're working with somebody with high Strategic and you want them to take action, you may need to release that need to show your work. Because oftentimes, the detail of describing how you go there won't be as visible to someone with Strategic as the big-picture milestones are of where we're going.

Jim Collison 8:10

Some great insight. If you didn't really hear all those, go back and just, you know, go back in this video and listen to them again. Let's look at truth No. 3.

Maika Leibbrandt 8:18

No. 3 I love. It's that Your personal lives deserve as much commitment as your work life. And --

Jim Collison 8:24

OK, I'm interested in this. How does this, how does this play out in someone's personal life? Because again, we think oftentimes in a work setting, Strategic fits in really, really well. What's this look like in someone's personal life?

Maika Leibbrandt 8:35

They probably look very flexible. It's not because Strategic equals flexibility or Adaptability as a capital A with a theme. It's because people with high Strategic have already pre-thought through alternative ways to proceed. You might think about it as like a cooking show where it looks like I just popped this cake into the oven. And now it's beautiful and brown on the edges. But I also had 7 other cakes all ready to show you. So because of that kind of pre-, "prebaked" flexibility, people with high Strategic might be the ringleader or the go-to person for events or parties or projects. Their attention to seeing how all the pieces fit together means they can serve that role that ties all the individuals into one whole. They pick up on clues that you didn't know were clues, from solving mystery novels to watching movie trailers to predicting big decisions that other people end up making. Someone with Strategic is always noticing the parts that add up to a plan.

Jim Collison 9:37

A manager that might be clued into this, How would -- what kind of questions could they ask that would help draw this out?

Maika Leibbrandt 9:42

When do you do your best thinking? What patterns are you noticing coming to life? If you had to choose a theme for this year, what would it be? What's your favorite part of executing on a project? Who makes a great thought partner? If you had to pivot quickly, what would your Plan B be for your life right now? Or if you were looking down on yourself from above, what would you notice is the big picture?

Jim Collison 10:13

By the way, each -- in each podcast, we have those questions. You might want to go back and make sure you're capturing those for your managers. Let's look at truth No. 4.

Maika Leibbrandt 10:20

"Strong teams embrace diversity." Gallup has a lot of really great research on diversity and inclusion and equity. Having a team made up of diverse CliftonStrengths themes does not equal having a diverse team. But this goes bigger. This, this helps us understand the real truth of the team is that when we all come from different places, we make stronger decisions, and we have a better product. Specifically for this truth, what we're going to use it to explore is What does Strategic bring that the other 33 themes might not?

Jim Collison 10:50

And what kind of terms, or diversity of terms, might we have for it?

Maika Leibbrandt 10:53

Yeah, you could call someone with Strategic conceptual, thematic, a quick thinker, consequence-oriented, insightful, creative or courageous.

Jim Collison 11:05

We could spend a whole show on just on that word "consequence-oriented." I like that! I like that term!

Maika Leibbrandt 11:08

I made that up. Does it make sense?

Jim Collison 11:11

Yeah, yeah, no, it's got some discussion behind it. What unique perspective does Strategic bring to a team?

Maika Leibbrandt 11:17

They can pick up on what's actually happening, not just what we planned on doing. And they can adjust based on the patterns that they're noticing right now in reality. And I think that's because, again, they're not quite so married to what the plan originally was. But they are picking up on those patterns as they're happening. They can ask questions that rock your team past their normal standard way of behaving, because of that consequence piece and the "What if?" nature of Strategic. And they can very quickly think toward the direction of a plan. How do we move forward? What do we need to do next?

Jim Collison 11:50

What about truth No. 5?

Maika Leibbrandt 11:51

No. 5: "Strong teams are magnets for talent." Another way to spot a strong team is to look for the one everyone wants to be a part of.

Jim Collison 11:59

And what will others be attracted to in Strategic?

Maika Leibbrandt 12:02

They notice patterns, which add up to themes, which string through stories. And when this is applied to people, it means they remember things about you. And I think that can feel really special, in a long way of helping people feel seen, heard and appreciated. Oftentimes, I get asked, you know, How do Strategic Thinking themes build relationships? Well, think about a coach or a friend, or just anybody who, who remembers some patterns in your life and can bring them up. It might feel to you like love or compassion. When it comes from Strategic, like just comes from a cerebral place of pattern recognition. Either way, it builds that kind of bond that I think is really attractive.

Jim Collison 12:48

Yeah. And you've, you've played that role in our relationship of that, of remembering those things, of bringing those things back, which has made it so powerful. How would you describe the gift that Strategic brings to a team that others want more of?

Maika Leibbrandt 13:00

Well, I tried not to use a common phrase, but this one just makes so much sense. So it's the ability to see the forest through the trees. If you're getting lost in something that feels really big and blinding, run it by someone with Strategic and get their take. You don't have to ask them to own the project; just sort of vomit the situation and let them pick up the pieces! Better yet, ask them to ask you more questions about how this big thing is playing out in your life. They might be able to help you notice a trend. And they might also help you reevaluate which aspects of your current challenge are most important and which ones aren't.

Jim Collison 13:43

OK, this is the last time we're gonna do this. Let's review the 5,

Maika Leibbrandt 13:46

The 5! 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; 5) Magnets for talent. These have been great this season, and saying them every episode has really helped me as a coach and team facilitator because I can help describe what's working on a team and where a team is struggling -- not through their makeup of strengths, because we don't know that there's a "dream sequence" for, you know, what you should have on a strong team. But we do know that 5 teams have these as, as outcomes. So you can think about doing that in your work as well.

Jim Collison 14:24

Super great. We've been spending some time this season and last through with some talent-mindfulness exercises. You have another one lined up for us today. What do you have?

Maika Leibbrandt 14:31

Today's exercise is an intersection of physical and mental. We're going to call it "mindful." We -- we're going to merge together a body scan with an imagination scan. And while this isn't specific to the CliftonStrengths theme of Strategic, it certainly is a tasty nugget of an experience if you consider yourself a thinker. So let's give it a try. It's short, and if it makes a difference for you, it's vastly better than other ways you're going to spend the next 5 minutes. So let's give it a go and lean into the possibility that this mindfulness exercise might be the moment your life changes.

Maika Leibbrandt 15:11

We're going to start with actively releasing any other responsibility you have for the next 5 minutes. If that means you're driving right now, you'll still get something out of it. But it's probably better for this one if you pause and play this once you've parked, or at least stop focusing on traffic or running heavy machinery. I invite you to close your eyes if that's available to you. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, imagine scanning down your body starting at the crown of your head. Continue to breathe and with each exhale, scan down further, paying close attention to areas where you're holding tension. Anytime you scan over a part of your physical body where you're carrying more tension than is serving you, make a point to release it.

Maika Leibbrandt 16:10

Scan down, becoming aware of your eyes, your cheeks, your jaw. Release any tension you notice in your neck, your shoulders, your upper arms, chest, ribs, elbows. Notice anywhere that your body is sending you alert signals as you continue to scan down your forearms and wrists, your fingers, your belly, hips, the big muscles of the tops of your legs, your knees, calves and shins, your ankles. With one more exhale, scan your feet all the way to your toes. And imagine this scan releasing out the tips of your cute little toes.

Maika Leibbrandt 17:28

This is a great exercise to bring awareness to things we tend to ignore and we tend to let pile up throughout our day. And just as coaching does this for our talents, our natural ways of responding and sensing, the filters we have that attract us to certain areas of potential, this body scan we just did can help alert you to where you're carrying tension, where you're in need of a release. We're going to do a talent scan next, to bring your attention to patterns that need a similar active release. You can think about this exercise as clearing the way of all the clutter so that your talents can really show up.

Maika Leibbrandt 18:23

I'd like you to think about the past 24 hours. From where you were exactly one day ago to where you are right now, in this very moment, right here with me. Start with a breath in. And exhale as you began to scan your day. Anytime you come across tension that could be released, even if you don't feel ready to let it go, for now, just let it go. We're exploring the mental equivalent of relaxing your jaw or loosening your grip. Think about what you were doing at this time yesterday. And then let's scan chronologically through the interactions you had. What happened after this? How did your workday end? What was your evening like? What tension are you still carrying from how you ended your day yesterday?

Maika Leibbrandt 19:31

Continue to breathe and replay your night. The way you woke up today. What are you still gripping or holding that you could release from this morning? What tension are you reminded of as you scan all the way up to pushing Play on this podcast? If you feel like that activity just forced you to collect more tense moments from your day than you did from your body, let that be a "Thank you" from your spirit for cleaning out the tension that isn't serving you. A good sweep of what we're carrying that isn't helpful to us -- it's like dusting off the extra, clearing out the cobwebs, or taking the glasses off of your face and giving them a good polish. Once we release our grip on that tension that is not worth our attention, we make space for our talents to see the situation more clearly.

Maika Leibbrandt 20:43

Our best selves are not going to be found spinning around tension. But if you don't make space for your talent to breathe, no one else will do it for you. I invite you to go throughout the rest of your day with the reminder that you can always refresh; that the inertia of today does not have to dictate the direction you go tomorrow. And that maybe it just takes a second and a couple deep breaths. That's your talent-mindfulness for today.

Jim Collison 21:23

Nice one to end on! Are you going to do one [in] two weeks? We'll kind of wrap Strategic Thinking. Will we do one there? I don't think we do this.

Maika Leibbrandt 21:31

I don't remember if we did. I don't think we do on the domain wraps. We did on a couple of the domain introductions.

Jim Collison 21:36

I don't think we do.

Maika Leibbrandt 21:36

That might be our last talent-mindfulness for the season.

Jim Collison 21:38

For 20, yeah, for 2020, indeed. Well, with that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available, now in Gallup Access. Head out to, kind of the easiest way to get into Access and takes you right to your Strengths Dashboard, where you can see all the reports that are available to you. Lots of resources available, as well. While you're there, all our webcasts, all the transcripts, all these things are there. Spend some time getting to know it so you know how to get back. Search for "CliftonStrengths" on YouTube. And you can find us there. You can also, any podcast app, just search "Gallup Webcasts." If you have any questions, send us an email: Find us on Eventbrite for all these future events. We got a bunch we're planning for 2021. Get signed up on Eventbrite: Create an account and follow us there, and you'll get a notification every time I release something new. If you want to join us in the social groups, the social communities, the innertubes, head us out to -- head us out? -- head out to And of course, on LinkedIn, search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches" and I'll let you in that group as well. Want to thank you for joining us today. If you found this, if this, you found this helpful, share it. Yeah, just do that. Just share it. Share it with a friend; share it with a neighbor; share it with your parents. We'd love to have you back here in two weeks as we kind of wrap up the Strategic Thinking Domain. Thanks for coming out. If you're listening live, hang around for just a smidgen of a postshow. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

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