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Monday, February 11, 2013

Cruising With Strengths

By Brent O’Bannon, Executive Strengths Coach

Rachael served as the operations manager for a family-owned bottled water company with over 80 employees. In her day job, she was responsible for a wide range of areas from personnel to procurement, as well as serving on the senior management team. At home, she was a busy mom of two and volunteered as president of a local parent group.

In our first strengths coaching session she admitted, “I’m overwhelmed and feel like I’m on a sinking ship.”

Rather than tell Rachael how to handle her stress with my Command strength, I gently asked her with my Individualization strength, “How could you grow stronger and work smarter with your top five strengths?”

For the next 30 minutes we had fun exploring her Signature Themes, and their potential:
  1. Responsibility 
  2. Consistency 
  3. Relator
  4. Discipline 
  5. Developer
Then Rachael had an “aha” moment -- she recognized that she was overusing, or what I call speeding (80 to 120 mph) with, her Responsibility theme and underusing, or coasting (5 to 40 mph) with, her Relator theme. She was taking on too much psychological ownership at work and home, and emotionally, she was in moderate stages of burnout. She had been isolating herself from friends and couldn’t figure out how to relate authentically in a male-dominated workforce, even though her heart yearned to.

Using her Responsibility theme, she set a goal to hire an assistant who she could delegate more of the daily grind activities to. She also set a goal to practice saying “no” more assertively in her personal and professional life. Then Rachael revved up her Relator theme by making consistent time for girls’ night out, which she had been neglecting and desperately needed. She also nurtured her wellbeing by exercising and tasked herself with reading books on assertiveness and stress-coping skills.

Rachael was discovering that her Relator theme could be used as a tool to dive more deeply in her relationship with herself, not just with others.

After several coaching sessions, Rachael had renewed energy, perspective, and confidence. She created an employee-of-the-week bulletin board, an employee directory, and held a company picnic to help build genuine relationships. She became the strengths champion in team meetings, asking, “How have you used your strengths successfully this week?”

Company morale, the senior management team, and her family benefited from Rachael’s strengths-based coaching, because now she was cruising at 70 mph. With her strengths, it was full steam ahead for Rachael, as she continues to grow stronger and work smarter.

Here are three questions for you to ponder in coaching your clients:
  1. Which talent themes can help you ask better questions to explore strengths?
  2. When can you help clients turn their strengths inward and outward for success?
  3. How could you better help clients understand over- and underusing strengths?
Brent O’Bannon at is an executive strengths coach who has conducted more than 27,000 sessions and spoken to 60+ organizations in the U.S. and China. He helps organizations, leaders, and teams to grow stronger, work smarter, and live richer. 

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Strengths Help You Pick Your Goals

By Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D., Gallup Senior Scientist

Your strengths help you pick your goals and give you the energy to get things done. I write about this in my new book Making Hope Happen. Below is an excerpt that describes how I learned to sort through to the goals that mattered most to me. To explore more, please visit my website at

Strengths Help You Pick Your Goals

“Find out what you do well and do more of it” was Don Clifton’s advice to me and many others. As Gallup chairman and the father of strengths psychology, Don believed many people invest too much time and energy in overcoming weaknesses and not enough time doing what they do best. I find that to be true of some of my clients when I talk to them about their goals. They spend much of their effort on goals that require them to work outside their strengths. I try to help these clients -- individuals, schools, and businesses -- figure out what they do best and find ways to do more of it.

Recently, thanks to meetings with my own strengths coach, Cheryl Beamer, and through my study of super hopeful people, I figured out that a very hopeful person almost always outpaces a less hopeful peer because, in Cheryl’s words, they “only accept A+ opportunities.” That means they dedicate themselves to goals they are excited about, that align with their strengths, and that make a big impact on themselves and others. These criteria work when choosing which sports to play as a kid, which roles to take on at work, and which activities to engage in during retirement.

Are you ready to start your own strengths discovery? You can begin by completing the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment.

Shane J. Lopez, Ph.D., a Gallup Senior Scientist, is the world’s leading authority on the psychology of hope and the author of Making Hope Happen.

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Fairy Tales and Strengths

By Stosh D. Walsh, Gallup Talent Management Consultant

Several months ago, I had a series of conversations with a very successful manager. He had accomplished a lot in a short while with his organization, enjoyed positive outcomes, and created a culture of engagement with his team.

But he had a problem.

“No matter how hard I try, a few of the people on my team are intimidated by me,” he revealed.

He owned it as an issue, and his high self-awareness even identified that his Command and Competition themes were likely causing others to feel unsettled, but he was unsure what to do about it.  Further, he could not understand why his best previous attempts to mitigate the problem had failed.

We discussed the scenario and the issues involved. I also asked him a few questions about his intentions and style, such as, “How do you want to be viewed by your people?” “What practices do you employ to help your team know you are available to them?” and “How could you be more intentional with the individuals in question?”

Having listened to his answers, I asked the critical question, “May I be very blunt with you?”

“Please do,” he invited.

“It is okay if you are the big bad wolf, as long as you are their big bad wolf,” I offered.  I went on to summarize his answers to my questions: “You are an advocate for your people; you care about what happens to them; you defend them if necessary. So what we are really talking about here,” I continued, “is finding ways to make sure people perceive your advocacy, care, and defense as for them and not against them.”

He liked it, and we moved into thinking about how he could use his harder-edged talents to advocate for the group; and, critically, to ensure he told them how he planned to do so and followed up with progress reports for them. We also strategized about how to communicate to his team, employing the word picture of his whole team being on one side of a dividing line against the problem or issue. In this way, he could begin to eliminate any lingering doubt that they were in it together, and break down the perception of him versus them.

When our time together had concluded, I left him with some encouragement, “When people encounter someone with your talents, someone capable of being forceful and getting things done, someone they view as able to help the organization be the best, they want that person to be on their side. They want to feel like they are on the same team as that dynamic individual, and the more you own that, the more effective you will be.”

“After all,” I concluded, “there just aren’t that many big bad wolves out there that people don’t have to be afraid of.”

Stosh D. Walsh is a Talent Management Consultant based in Illinois, specializing in leadership, executive coaching and coach-to-coach mentoring. Since joining Gallup in 2006, he has consulted with executives in the healthcare, retail, automotive, and manufacturing industries and for government agencies and education systems. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Judson College and a master’s degree in leadership from Bellevue University.  

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