Say What?! Strengths and Communication using CliftonStrengths

Using CliftonStrengths as a tool for better communication on your team

This week we look through the lens of StrengthsFinder, now called the CliftonStrengths assessment, to learn how to best communicate with each leadership domain.

Do you know how your team members define good communication? It may be different than you think.

Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment measures 34 talent themes – or strengths – organized into four leadership domains: Strategic, Relationship Building, Executing and Influencing. Facilitating your team members’ full expression and contribution requires a different communication style for each leadership domain.

Let’s begin with the Strategic domain.

Trying to plan ahead, efficiently and effectively? Need to design a solution to a tricky problem? The Strategic strengths on your team will get you there: Analytical, Context, Futuristic, Ideation, Input, Intellection, Learner, and Strategic.

For team members with Strategic strengths, good communication means engaging their unique genius at the front end of new projects, possibilities, and problem-solving sessions. Bring them in too late and you’ve missed the chance for them to poke holes in your plans – and improve them.

  • Futuristic and Ideation strengths offer vision and fresh ideas. Creative and exciting, they may also be hard to follow – so be sure to ask clarifying questions to ground their ideas in reality.

  • Input, Context, Intellection and Learner strengths need time to research and understand a subject before determining the best course – so good communication means giving them time to think through the problem at hand before demanding an answer from them.

  • Analytical and Strategic strengths will find what won’t work so that you can identify what will. They poke holes and reveal the various ways your plan may fail. They pre-emptively discover obstacles to success, and offer ways to maneuver past these obstacles – so try not to be offended by their well-meaning skepticism.

Amy, an Executive Director I work with who has the strategic strengths of Learner and Intellection, needs time to research and think about the best direction for the non-profit she leads. Her team often felt like their ideas were left to die on her desk. Good communication for this team – revealed through the lens of StrengthsFinder – has meant honoring Amy’s need to process and strategize within the bounds of a clear decision-making deadline.

Want to kick-off a project with connection and collaboration? Wrestling with conflict on a team and no idea how to address it? Invite your Relationship-Building strengths to the table: Adaptability, Connectedness, Developer, Empathy, Harmony, Includer, Individualization, Positivity and Relator.

These team members know how to build consensus and community and can keep people smiling through even the hardest phases of your project. Got conflict? Bring in these leaders to resolve it, peacefully.  Good communication for Relationship Builders focuses on listening, understanding diverse needs, and creating an environment that is warm, friendly, safe and affirming.

When communicating with Relationship Builders, stay calm and carry on.

  • Empathy and Harmony strengths like peaceful problem solving. They excel at calm mediation wherein all parties can be heard and understood. They will NOT do well if they feel that the anger, frustration or conflict is directed at them.

  • Bring in your Developer, Individualization, Adaptability and Positivity strengths when you are looking for someone to be a mentor or manager. Good communication for them honors the individual: showing patience, and accepting people’s quirks and potential. They love to celebrate even small victories.

  • Includer, Connectedness and Relator strengths will make sure everyone is invited to the table – and to that Happy Hour event after work! Good communication is deep, inclusive, and treats everyone as equals.

Recently, I worked with a team where the majority of the staff had relationship-building strengths while their leadership team did not. Morale and engagement were low because the team needed warmth, connection and affirmation. They needed events that would connect them outside of work. The smallest shift in communication to a less work-centric, more balanced approach, brought back humanity – and Happy Hours – and shifted this team from a group of co-workers to a true community.

Do you have a lot of great ideas that aren’t being acted upon? It’s time for your Executing team members to leverage their Achiever, Arranger, Belief, Consistency, Deliberative, Discipline, Focus, Responsibility, and Restorative strengths.

These are your “get ‘er done” types for whom good communication focuses on the 5Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. They will provide the how. Give them clear goals, boundaries, and the opportunity to succeed and they will focus on, and finish, your tasks and projects – so everybody wins!

  • Achiever, Focus, and Responsibility strengths may appear the most intense and impatient. Their top priority is getting the next task or project completed, so good communication for them often manifests as “please don’t interrupt me when I’m working.” Ask them when they have time to talk. Be prepared with bullet-points, and be ready to follow through on what’s discussed.

  • Good communication for the Arranger, Discipline, Deliberative and Restorative strengths means providing them with all the information they need up front, and with plenty of time to map out the path forward. They can brilliantly break down a problem to its component parts and make sure it is completed and solved – on time.

  • Belief and Consistency strengths need communication that reflects their core values and is fair to everyone in pursuit of solving problems. They may appear pedantic or even judgmental at times simply because they want communication to be infused with integrity.

Recently, a group of executors on a team were called in by their CEO to work on a quick-turnaround project for an upcoming presentation. They spent five hours working on a beautiful PowerPoint for him, only to be told later that he wanted something completely different. You can imagine their frustration. Lack of communication about the 5Ws led to wasted time and talent. Now, however, they have learned to ask clarifying questions up front. If the CEO doesn’t know the answers yet, they restrict the time they spend on the project and present the CEO with a prototype so he can iterate his ideas.

Ready to sell that idea, internally or externally? Revenue down? Is team morale dipping? Unleash your Influencing Leaders: The Activator, Command, Communication, Competition, Maximizer, Self-Assurance, Significance, and Woo strengths.

Influencers thrive on communication in pursuit of a goal.  They promote, motivate, and get things moving in the right direction. They are the pied pipers of your team: Others will follow their confident, high-energy lead. Let them loose to sell and reward them when they do:

  • For Command, Self-Assurance, Competition and Activator strengths, good communication means keeping it direct and then getting out of their way! They are energized by forward movement, so their communication style may feel intense and intimidating. They have the confidence to say and do what they believe is best.

  • Communication, Significance and Woo (Winning Others Over) define good communication as connection and rapport, and personal, charismatic impact. They love to raise the energy level and leave an impression that lasts.

  • Maximizer takes what is already good and makes it better. When communicating with these team members, focus on positive possibilities rather than weaknesses, or you’ll see their influencing energy fade fast.

Let your Influencers bring their gifts front and center to the world. All those networking events you need to attend but have been avoiding? Do you dread standing at a booth during that next trade show?  Recruit your Influencers! When a recent CEO discovered that the Communication and Woo strengths on his team actually wanted to network – and were naturally gifted at it – he was able to instantly multiple his company’s presence in the community.

If you and your team haven’t yet taken the CliftonStrengths assessment, I encourage you to do so. Practice these strengths-centric communication tips and you’ll see better engagement and bottom-line results as you leverage your team members’ greatest contributions.

Next time we’ll put on the Myers Briggs lens and learn how the difference between Intuitive-type and Sensory-type communication can make – or break – your next meeting.

In the meantime, if you want to improve engagement, communication, and bottom-line results with all the strengths on your team, I’d love to chat with you!

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