A Simple Pattern for a Powerful Conversation

It’s too easy to point out weaknesses. Successful leaders know the top three strengths of everyone on the team.

Peter Drucker wrote, “A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all.”

Every leader who expects performance learns to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses.


Top three strengths conversation:

Ask team members to write their top  three strengths on a note card before they come to the next one-on-one or one-on-three meeting.

Before team members arrive, write their three top strengths, as you see them, on a note card. Include one illustration of each strength.

  1. Exchange cards.
  2. Discuss.
  3. Explore ways to maximize and develop strengths.
  4. Conclude with a discussion about insights gained. What are you learning about yourself? Others?

4 Tips:

#1. Send a list of possible strengths before the meeting.

The 34 strength themes  from Clifton Strengthsfinder is a good option. (click the link for descriptions.)

  1. Achiever
  2. Activator
  3. Adaptability
  4. Analytical
  5. Arranger
  6. Belief
  7. Command
  8. Communication
  9. Competition
  10. Connectedness
  11. Consistency
  12. Context
  13. Deliberative
  14. Developer
  15. Discipline
  16. Empathy
  17. Focus
  18. Futuristic
  19. Harmony
  20. Ideation
  21. Includer
  22. Individualization
  23. Input
  24. Intellection
  25. Learner
  26. Maximizer
  27. Positivity
  28. Relator
  29. Responsibility
  30. Restorative
  31. Self-assurance
  32. Significance
  33. Strategic
  34. Woo

#2. Participate:

Include your own strengths in the conversation to make it interesting. Have them write your top three strengths with illustrations.

#3. Exclude weaknesses:

Discuss their top three weaknesses at a different meeting. Don’t use a discussion about strengths as an opportunity to bring up weaknesses. Separate the conversations.

#4. Adapt this for a group exercise with your entire team.


Give team members freedom when they’re working in known strengths.

Provide intervention, oversight, and direction in areas of weakness that need to be developed. Develop weaknesses that block the effective use of strengths. A person who is great at analysis may need to develop their decision-making skills, for example.

What suggestions do you have for a “Top Three Strengths Conversation”?

What additional patterns might you add for successful one-on-ones?