Strengths Coaching Blog

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Three Questions Every Leader Should Be Asking

By Stosh D. Walsh

This is the second in a three-part series of articles by Stosh Walsh. In this series, Stosh will offer insights on coaching leaders. Read the first blog article.

The two words I hear the most from individuals I coach is, “Now what?” It doesn’t matter if the person is a recently promoted first-time manager or a C-level executive. It seems this important question lingers in the minds of most leaders who encounter strengths. In part one of this series, I argued that leaders and coaches can address this important and ubiquitous question by answering the following:

  • How do these strengths enable success in this role?
  • How does the exercise of these strengths affect others?
  • What kinds of strengths are complementary?

In part one, we explored the intentionality leaders can create by examining previous successes, using specific language from Clifton StrengthsFinder results, and mapping strengths to a role’s critical functions.

The second question helps us turn the corner by considering, “How does the exercise of these strengths affect others?” Leaders, by definition, have constituencies, and understanding how each of those constituencies will respond to the leader’s strengths is paramount. For this reason, leaders must cultivate a three-pronged sophisticated approach. First, understand his or her own strengths, then the strengths of others, and finally, understand how to leverage these strengths for the intended outcomes.   
A simple self-check proves valuable here: What do I want the result of this encounter to be, and how confident am I that the strengths I am choosing to leverage will yield that result?

Another way to evaluate how a leader’s strengths might affect others is to consider the broader domains in which they reside. For example, if a leader has a high concentration of strengths in the Influencing domain, and his/her team is more relationship building in nature, it will be important to consider how the leader wields that influence, and what trust capital he or she has accrued (and must spend) when a more direct or intense approach is warranted. Conversely, leaders who impact others primarily through their strengths in Relationship Building or Strategic Thinking domains must take care that their messages land clearly, and that others view them as decisive when the situation calls for that. Doing so might require partnership, the use of other themes as a filter or foil, or preparing the group in advance so they know what to expect.

Ultimately, a leader’s use of strengths and a thorough knowledge of how they might affect others is a prerequisite for success. Perception impacts not only morale, but also performance.

Stosh D. Walsh is a writer, speaker, coach and consultant specializing in leadership, employee engagement, and talent management.  He spent nearly a decade with Gallup before joining Alliant Credit Union to direct its learning and organizational development efforts.  He is the author of “Along the Way: Leadership Stories from Everyday Life” (2012), “Leadership Is More Than the C-Suite” (Gallup Business Journal, 2013), and his article “Five Questions You Must Ask Your Team” was the most read Gallup Business Journal article of 2013. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Judson College and a master’s degree in leadership from Bellevue University.

Stosh's top five strengths: Responsibility | Belief | Achiever | Input | Learner

Connect with Stosh:
Twitter - @stoshdwalsh

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