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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Exploring the Idea of Strengths-Based Problem Solving

By Maureen Monte

“We always hope for the easy fix: the one simple change that will erase a problem in a stroke. But few things in life work this way. Instead, success requires making a hundred small steps go right — one after another … everyone pitching in.” – Atul Gawande

It is human nature to “hope for the easy fix.” But what happens when things just do not go as planned? Though it can be difficult, these times can be viewed not as hurdles, but as opportunities to use our strengths.

On a recent Theme Thursday webcast, I spoke about the power of Ideation and how I use it to productively solve problems. The more I understand about Ideation, the more I “connect the dots” and realize I use this theme to problem-solve in three distinct ways: through the proactive power of Ideation; the reactive power of Ideation; and the lifesaving power of Ideation. Don’t have Ideation in your top five? Top 10? Good news! The process of using these “powers” is not theme-specific. Your strengths can help you solve problems just as effectively as mine do. Let’s dive in. 

Proactive Power

Susan Del Gatto once gave this advice, “If you choose to not deal with an issue, then you give up your right of control over the issue and it will select the path of least resistance.” I don’t know about you, but this does not sound like a successful way to problem-solve to me!

Proactivity helps us lay a foundation for a successful outcome. Strengths-based proactivity requires preparation and practice (just like any other tool) so that you bring your best to bear. Some CliftonStrengths themes, such as Futuristic, Input or Discipline, may seem more naturally proactive than others, but all talents offer a unique proactive edge. 

To be proactive, start with the end in mind. What does a successful outcome look like? How do we measure it? Work backward, noting milestones, meetings or people involved. Find the link between your natural talents and those success indicators. If you are new to the strengths journey, it could be helpful to review each of your Signature Themes’ power and edge, available for download as a PDF on the CliftonStrengths website. For reference, let’s examine the power and edge of Ideation:

“People with dynamic Ideation talents are spontaneously creative and bring new and fresh perspectives. They have a natural sense of innovation that defies conventional thinking. Their innovative approach to problems and projects can be a source of new and valuable ideas.”

Look at all the clues I get regarding the many powers of Ideation! Which one of your top five CliftonStrengths gives you a proactive edge? 

Reactive Power

As Michael Chabon famously said, “Man makes plans… and God laughs.” Nothing ever, ever, EVER goes as planned. Therefore, we must be schooled in the art of reacting well. Harnessing your strengths to respond to the unexpected is again a matter of practice and awareness of your talents. Adaptability, Ideation and Harmony are themes that overtly possess a reactive component, but also think about the power of Woo (convince others to stick to your plan!) or Maximizer (“We could do that, but here’s how it minimizes excellence,”) to react with power. 

We all have triggers. Consider what sort of issues, relationships or environments cause you not to react well, and how you might prepare yourself to respond using your strengths. For example, one of my triggers is mediocrity. When the goal seems to be more about taking something poor to a level or average or acceptable, I would rather avoid that goal or squash it from happening at all. I work to respond appropriately by telling myself, “First, do no harm.” I do not want to make a situation worse by saying something I’ll regret later. Then, I let my Ideation run free to help productively change direction. Which one (or combination) of your themes gives you reactive power? 

Lifesaving Power

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein

When a project falls off the tracks, it is critical that you understand, trust and rely on your strengths. Some obvious natural “lifesaving” themes include Restorative, Belief and Command, but any theme has the power to save the day if you know how to use it. Look for the way in which you diffuse tension, think creatively, pivot or even ask for help. My Ideation finds a new path to the desired outcome. Think about the times you’ve transformed a train wreck into a safe and happy ending. What strength did you use? 

I hope these prisms through which to view your natural talents help you find new ways to solve problems, appreciate your awesomeness and increase your value to the team! 

Maureen Monte is a team and leadership consultant focused on building winning teams. She is the author of Destination Unstoppable: The Journey of No Teammate Left Behind, which documents her CliftonStrengths work with a boys’ high school hockey team. She took the team from talented yet dysfunctional to state champs – in six weeks. Maureen Monte works with individuals and organizations all over the world to help them reach their full potential. 

Maureen's top 5 strengths are: Ideation | Strategic | Learner | Achiever | Individualization.


Sharon Horbyk said...

This is EXACTLY what I've been looking for the last few days! As I've been going over 2017 goals and looking forward to 2018, I've been asking myself how I can better leverage my strengths.....ALL of them, not just the Top see that my goals are accomplished! This is one of the, if not THE best post you've had. Thanks for sharing!!

Maureen Monte said...

Sharon, thank you so much for your kind remarks!! Do share your top 5 with us! I'm so glad to hear that you found this blog helpful, and I look forward to hearing about your many goals achieved in 2018! Go get'em!

Serenity Stamper said...

This is awesome. How would you classify each of the 34 themes, from your perspective? I know that it is a personal journey and that my Futuristic could be proactive, reactive or life-powerful. Just curious how you would classify each of them. Great perspective. Thanks.

Maureen Monte said...

Hello Serenity Stamper! I believe that by asking the question you have answered the question. I don't think that Restorative, for example, is only in the reactive category. It can sense problems (proactive), respond to them (reactive) and save the day (life-saver). It's how each person uses them in conjunction with their other talents that is important. Reflecting on what your top 5 strengths are for you, how they manifest themselves individually and collectively, and what triggers you have is the goal/journey. And then, of course, it's lots and lots and lots of practice! Have fun with it!

Heidi Convery said...

Hi Maureen! ALL. OF. THIS. You've articulated so well what I've been working on with a new corporate client - breakin down those stigma barriers of some of the perceived "backseat" strengths. This post really have my wheels turning for some new exercises. I hope to make it to the Summit this year, and would love to connect if I do! Heidi Convery (Activator, Learner, Input, Belief, Includer)

Ed Hidalgo said...

Maureen, thank you for your post. It is so timely as I prepare to work with 50 team members from our front office staff across our schools. They have experienced an intro to Strengths and are ready to go deeper. They want to practice using their talents to handle the myriad of challenges they face every day. They want to apply their strengths. Now that they’ve named and claimed their Strengths I’d like to design a paired simulation around your framing of proactive, reactive and life-saving for them. 45 minutes for them to identify an issue, design a plan using the framework and then role play with a partner. Have you ever used your framework like this? Any advice? Thank you again.

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