Many of us in Higher Education are familiar with the Strengthsquest instrument, created by Gallup. After decades of research the masterminds behind Strengthsquest created a list of 34 talents that are valuable in the workplace. This 30-minute self-assessment gives each person a list of their top 5 strengths. While every person can theoretically have some talent in each area, your top five individual strengths should reveal a lot about yourself, your preferred work style and can provide insight into how you approach relationships with others.
Members of our Division of Student Affairs at DePaul University recently had the opportunity to take an in-depth look at our own strengths. Kyle Robinson from Gallup presented a two-day workshop where we learned about each of the 34 strengths, how they work together (theme weaving), as well as the perceived “negative side” (barrier labels) of the strengths.
Kyle asked us to consider if we were leveraging our natural strengths (i.e. living in the balcony) or if we were not utilizing our strengths (i.e. living in the basement). It is an interesting concept to ponder.
For example, let’s look at the strength of “Communication.” According to Gallup, a person who possesses this strength will “…generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.”
Living in the “balcony” of this strength could mean that a person who has Communication in their top five could be an excellent spokesperson for an organization. People could be drawn to them because of their natural story-telling ability. They could also be blessed with the gift of written communication, which could assist their department in terms of creating proposals and new resources that resonate with your target audience.
However, living in the “basement” of this strength could mean that a person is not strategic with their communication, which could lessen the impact of this talent and diminish the message. It could also mean that they talk too much and others could tune them out.
I buy into the concept of strengths because it has helped me to understand how my co-workers prefer to work as well as recognize what they need as an employee in order to be successful. I understand that strengths-based leadership encourages people to focus on what they do well (i.e., moving from good to great) instead of trying to improve areas of weakness to a level of mediocrity.
Perhaps as mangers we should change our language from “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” to “How do you leverage your strengths in order to compensate for your weaknesses?” This puts the onus on the employee to think about how they can live in the “balcony” to maximize all of their natural strengths.
Where do you live? Tell me about how you leverage your own strengths!
Follow me on Twitter @annmarieklotz
My strengths: Achiever, Activator, Woo, Strategic and Maximizer.