A Powerful Exercise to Strengthen Teams with Untapped Potential
I’m meeting with the leadership team of a new client next week. I asked them to do the following exercise before our first meeting.
Please secretly complete this form for each person that will be around the table in our upcoming meeting. Could you return this project to me by end of day this Friday.
**Please don’t discuss your responses with anyone.
The top three strengths of (person’s name) are:
The thing that most energizes (person’s name) at work is …
(Please complete the exercise for yourself.)
As an example, I completed the project for myself.
The top three strengths of Dan are:
- Discovering new ideas and integrating them into current situations.
- Seeing the unique talents of people and figuring out how they can best work together.
- Thinking that simplifies complexity.
The thing that most energizes Dan at work is moving the ball forward. I love to explore new ideas and put them into action. Talk without action frustrates me.
I don’t care if forward movement is perfect as long as we are moving forward.
I prefer to build the airplane in the air.
Short-term planning excites me. Long-term goals and planning must quickly degenerate into short-term action or it’s frustrating, boring, and useless.
- Read a team member’s self-assessment. Ask the team to guess who it is.
- Collate the responses and hand them out to the team. Affirm the strengths around the table and explore which individuals might work best together. Why would they work well? Why might they clash?
- Discuss how you might challenge or encourage others based on their strengths and passion?
- What projects might your team members be best suited to lead? To participate in?
What discussion questions do you suggest?
How would you modify this activity?
What is your self-assessment?
StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Gallup)
Take the CliftonStrengths assessment. The basic is $19.99. The assessment comes with the book StrenghsFinder 2.0 or can be purchased separately.
First Break All The Rules (Gallup)
Hi Dan, I must admit some un-ease with a Leadership Strategy that you build and grow only from strength. I have seen leaders proclaim this belief and watched as others then excuse their performance or lack of effort as they latch onto the results of an assessment label placed on them. “That’s not my strength, so I should not be expected to do that work.” I think leaders MUST be careful to not give permission to ignore weakness, or maybe better termed opportunity. I know someone who was identified as WOO. They printed the sign, verbally identified as that over and over, and excused growth in other areas. They never quite moved from talking (Woo’ing) to effective execution. Label placed, label embraced.
I understand we all have strengths and passions and engaging in those should lead to exceptional performance. What you love, you will try to do well and always improve upon. And I’m also not suggesting everyone needs to master everything.
What I believe is we must grow in aspects identified as opportunities to increase our effectiveness and we should not lean on an assessment to determine growth expectations of us. Assessments should provide insight and self-awareness but not place borders on us or define us.
Thanks Jack. I’m with you. It’s frustrating to see people hide behind their strengths and neglect their responsibilities.
“I’m just not good at that,” is not an excuse to neglect the hard aspects of your job.
There are parts of everyone’s job that you just get out there and do it, even if you don’t like it. The question is, where do peak results come from? Do they come from weaknesses or strengths? And, are organizations and individuals better off when we focus on strengths instead of weaknesses.
Thanks again for jumping in today.
Thanks Dan, I thought the activity was interesting and may give it a test run the next time that I run a Strengths Workshop.
I’d also like to correct a misconception many people have around how weaknesses are dealt with in a Strengths-Based approach. Strengths isn’t an excuse for people not to get their tasks done, but instead informs them of how they could go about completing their tasks in a way that’s most suitable for them.
For example, in Gallup’s research of sales people in an organisation. Their best sales person was a very task oriented person and enjoyed completing lists. His approach was to complete a list of 100 calls daily, he was very persistent and very energised in doing so. Their second best sales person was a very relational person, and would probably do terribly if he tried to adopt that approach. Instead, he was able to build very deep relationships with clients, who then bought more, and more expensive stuff from him, and also gave him more referrals.
You can also watch this podcast on how weaknesses are approached:
That said, a recognition of strengths and weaknesses also helps us to position ourselves properly for greater chance of success. To borrow John C. Maxwell, he said “Successful People Position themselves in areas of strength, Successful Leaders position their people in areas of strength.” I might have paraphrased it a little.
Not sure if my team is ready for that much honesty. We are in a rebuild after removing an employee who damaged the teams trust of each other. Hmm maybe I am not putting enough trust in them. May have to test those waters.
Thanks Walt. Perhaps it’s a bit safer if an outsider leads this activity, especially when there’s distrust. But your comment speaks to an important concern. Best wishes.
I did a very similar exercise with a team of executive leaders that had a lot of conflict sometime ago. I was SO surprised at the outcome!. Everyone had a lot of good to say about one another and you could feel the air in the room change. At the end of the session, they commented that they need to do this type of exercise periodically so as to not lose sight of the true contributions, and “seeing people’s “good side” for a change.” Thanks Dan!
Thanks Sandy. Your comment is encouraging. I often have teams complete the sentence, “When I see you at your best, I see you….” The exercise described above takes things to a new level.
The spontaneity of going around the room is refreshing and less intimidating.
To clarify, would we would do part 1 about everyone in the room, and part 2 about our selves?
Thanks Zac. I’m glad you asked. I’ve asked them to do both part 1 AND 2 for each team member AND for yourself.
What a brilliant idea.
Really like this Dan. I’m a great beliver in the strengths model, it was also very interesting to see your own assessment.
Shirking responsibility is a different thing entirely, and if someone behaves in that way then they’ll have a long way to go before they can use their strengths anyway.
The more I do things I enjoy and am good at, the more productive and happy i am. That’s why I have an accountant and never let anyone ride my bike for me