Does a strengths approach actually make a positive difference?

“You just want to plug us in like machines. You want us walking around with cords hanging out of our ass like we’re not even real people!”

Marshall, was an inspector on the shop floor and had been working more years than I’d been alive. I was a new manager with no prior management experience and they damn sure didn’t teach me how to deal with this situation in school. 

I’ve often reflected back to that interaction with Marshall. I did NOT want to plug him in. I DID see him as a person. The only tools I had however, seemed to push more and more towards robots versus real people.  That was frustrating to me and my team.

Over the years I randomly grasped for resources to help.  As many of us do, I picked up books including The Goal, Good to Great, The One Minute Manager, The Toyota Way, etc. These are all great and I got good information from each. I even enjoyed reading most of them. That said, something was still missing.

Enter strengths.

Most of my teams had talented, passionate people that wanted to be successful. What I see now and not so much then, is that each person contributes in their own unique way. The trick is identifying those contributions and harnessing that talent for what it is and where it resides.

In other words, if my strength is being analytical and I get opportunities to leverage that talent, I’ll show up stronger, happier, and more productive.  If you ask me to do something with incomplete data and no facts, I’m going to struggle. 

As I look back at that encounter with Marshall, I regret my inability to engage and inspire him. If only I had known how to capture his talents and leverage them in a productive way. I’ve got no doubt we’d have both achieved our objectives. Taking that further, as a young manager I can only imagine how much faster and higher my career might have gone.

So, how do you make this happen now? How do you identify and harness the unique talents of your team, your peers, and even your boss?

Change for the better.

StrengthsFinder is the tool that literally changed my life. I had the opportunity to learn and implement a strategy around the StrengthsFinder Assessment by Gallup in my previous role.  My team, my peers, my boss and my boss’s boss took the assessment. We worked with a coach to learn and leverage each other’s unique strengths.

This was the missing piece for which I’d been searching. I was able to communicate to my team as individuals. I understood my strengths which acted as the filter through which I saw the world. I understood the filters through which my coworkers saw the world. I knew whom to leverage for what and how to communicate better with each person. I helped my team know how to most effectively communicate with me. 

Talk about a game changer!

  • How much would your life change if you worked daily in a way complimentary to your natural talents and you understood exactly who to leverage in areas where you struggled? 
  • How would it feel if your team and your boss asked for your help in situations where you naturally excelled? 
  • What if you understood your filter for approaching decisions, problems, changes, etc. and could articulate that to your team? 
  • What if I could have spoken to Marshall and leveraged him for his strengths?  

I rarely came across employees that didn’t want to be successful. 

I often came across employees that struggled to be everything in every role to everybody.  For example:

As I worked on various teams at multiple companies, I observed highly successful teams and horribly unsuccessful teams. I saw the same with managers. I wondered, what was the differentiating factor?

In my last management role prior to joining Trybal Performance, I was given the opportunity to learn and engage my team using a Strengths-based approach based on the StrengthsFinder Assessment by Gallup. 

To my surprise, the approach was quite different. 

The Strengths Coach explained some core principles of Strengths:

  1. People are unique – embrace this!
  2. Strengths focuses on what’s right with us, not what needs to be “fixed”
  3. People need one another – Stars have points, and together teams become well rounded
  4. Strengths focuses on leveraging what’s right in yourself and on your team to reach a shared goal

My perspective changed. Suddenly I was more concerned about where I was strong and where each of my team members were strong.  The objective changed to leveraging strengths versus fighting weaknesses.

This was a turning point for me. I began leveraging those around me with strengths in areas I struggled.  Sometimes this was literally as simple as a 5-minute conversation. I started giving feedback and performance reviews to my team members as individuals in terms of their strengths. You’ll find it amazing how the dreaded performance review conversation can change to a productive open dialogue with hope and clarity.


We’ve crafted an easy way for you to express gratitude and admiration for all the unique talents in your life! 

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