3 Key ‘A-Ha!’ StrengthsFinder Moments

3 Key ‘A-Ha!’ StrengthsFinder Moments

The one tool that has never failed to disappoint in my work with teams is the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment. After using it with over 75 teams, it’s my go-to tool when trying to get the lay of the land with a new team.

Having been used with over 16 million people, it’s purpose is – you guessed it – to tell you what your natural talents are, and gives you instructions on how to best maximize them. There are 34 strengths broken into four distinct areas: executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. The best part? When your team does this assessment, you can put the results in a grid that shows which areas individuals are in. By going over each team member’s strengths individually and as part of the group, as a coach that gives you wonderful information to work with.

Today, I’d like to focus on what you see when you look at the team StrengthsFinder grid, and how you can use that information as a leader. Here are three moments I’d like to share from my own experiences that stand out to help put the application of this tool in perspective:

1. Diversifying your team

In one venture-funded startup, the CEO had trouble getting traction on any of his initiatives. By looking at his team strengths, he saw that seven of the nine executives had the strength of strategic thinking – they would agree to do something, but by the time they got back to their desk, they’d have an even better idea. Essentially, the conundrum was this: he had hired people just like himself! That’s when he realized that he needed a greater variety of strengths on his team.

2. Exercising patience

In a manufacturing company, the new EO wanted help coming up with new ways of improving the processes in the company. Her people told her they were overwhelmed, and had no time or capacity to do something new. The previous CEO wanted control and just wanted people to do their job. Nine of the 14 people on the strategic planning committee had the strength of responsibility, so it was not natural for them to look for innovative ways to do their job better.  The CEO realized it would take time and patience for change.

3. Harmonizing strengths

At a young company there was a six person management team. The two owners had all of the influencing strengths including command and competition, yet they had no relationships strengths.  The other four team members each had relationship strengths. With this coming to light, it helped the other team members understand the owners, and in turn, helped the owners understand that they could rely on the other team members to better understand what was going on in the organization.

What stories do you have about using StrengthsFinder with teams?

If you would like to learn more about the Gallup StrengthsFinder movement and their plans for the future, please listen to the Team Coaching Zone podcast featuring StrengthsFinders evangelist Paul Allen.  Paul is a serial entrepreneur and was the founder of Ancestry.com.

Interested in learning more from team coaching experts like George Johnson and Paul Allen? Subscribe to the Team Coaching Zone newsletter to receive a wealth of podcasts, blogs, webinars and resources to keep you in touch with the latest in team coaching. Learn more about the Team Coaching Zone here!

George Johnson has been coaching executives and their teams on vision and strategic planning for over 15 years. Go to his website www.entrevis.com to learn more.

5 Ways To Save a Failing Team Coaching Session

5 Ways To Save a Failing Team Coaching Session

Post by George Johnson, Vision Coach and Chief Vision Officer at The Team Coaching Zone

Have you ever been brought into a planning session that makes you go “Uh, oh…” within the first hour? If you’re a team coach, chances are that this situation might sound a little too familiar…

… So I’ll tell you my memorable story, and what I did to recharge the session. Some time ago, a CEO of a high-tech digital signage company arranged a merger with a Canadian counterpart, and before the merger could happen, he left to take a new job. As a result, the president of the board became the CEO. I had been hired to conduct a strategic planning session the next week that would bring the two groups together. And like I mentioned: the first hour spelled trouble.

One of the funniest jokes I’ve heard in my industry is this – what does a team coach do at lunch? Humor aside, in this situation and in ones you may find yourself in later on, the answer is this: redesign your afternoon session.

I told the group it was time to take a break, and for the next 30 minutes, I brought the president of the Canadian company and the new CEO together. I voiced my concern about the lack of cooperation that was going on in the room, asked if they sensed it and what they wanted to do about it. They agreed that the planning session was premature, that they had a lot more work to do on roles and responsibilities, and that we needed to do the best we could to take advantage of our time together.

We changed the agenda on the spot. Here’s five ways that you can do it, too:

  1. If things aren’t working, sense it and be open to change. The key is trusting your gut, your instincts and to be willing to be vulnerable. Bring up what you sense to the group. If you’re feeling uneasy, chances are everyone else is feeling it, too. As a team coach, to not bring it up would truly be a disservice to the group.
  2. Are people sitting behind desks or in a row? If behind desks, bring them all together in a semi circle to close the gaps that seating arrangements often create.
  3. Look at the geography. Are people sitting by function or department? Have people get up, change chairs and shuffle around. This will often change the energy.
  4. Have people change roles. Let marketing assume the role of production, and the CEO take on the role of sales, for example.
  5. Go back to the purpose of the meeting. Ask the participants what the purpose of the meeting is. Why are they here? What did they want to achieve?

These are just a few suggestions intended to open and facilitate conversation. What would you do? Do you have any challenging team session stories of your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below!

Interested in learning more from team coaching experts like George Johnson? Subscribe to the Team Coaching Zone newsletter to receive a wealth of podcasts, blogs, webinars and resources to keep you in touch with the latest in team coaching. Learn more about the Team Coaching Zone here!

George Johnson has been coaching executives and their teams on vision and strategic planning for over 15 years. Go to his website www.entrevis.com to learn more.

33 Free Ways Teams Can Help Build An Organization’s Future

33 Free Ways Teams Can Help Build An Organization’s Future

Post by George Johnson, Vision Coach and Chief Vision Officer at The Team Coaching Zone

When you think about the vision and future of your organization, the first thing that comes to your mind is your CEO. After all, it’s their job to define that, isn’t it? Not necessarily. Now, we are seeing a dramatic shift in how leaders lead, and this shift is about involving the team in the important decisions affecting the organization. With more openness, collaboration and transparency, leadership can forge a new path ahead. (more…)

3 Things Dogsledding Has Taught Me About Teams

3 Things Dogsledding Has Taught Me About Teams

Post by George Johnson, Vision Coach & Chief Vision Officer at The Team Coaching Zone

I recently went dogsledding in the Superior National Forest outside of Grand Marais, Minnesota and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was a bright, sunny day with the temperature near zero. We were lucky to have fresh snow from the night before, and we dog sledded 17 miles in about 2 hours. As a customer, the whole experience couldn’t have been any better. (more…)

How Would You Coach a Team If You Had Only One Hour?

How Would You Coach a Team If You Had Only One Hour?

Post by George Johnson, Vision Coach and Chief Vision Officer at The Team Coaching Zone

60 minutes isn’t a lot of time to get through to one person, let alone a team… Or so you may think. In a podcast by the Team Coaching Zone, distinguished university professor Dr. Richard Boyatzis opened up on his thoughts surrounding this key question: if you only had one hour, how would you spend that time coaching an executive?

With over 5500 hours of coaching experience, I can’t imagine that this was a simple question for him to answer! But as one of the most respected team coaches in the industry, his response was, of course, spot on:

Dr. Boyatzis recommended the following breakdown of time over an hour:

  • 30 minutes focused on vision
  • 20 minutes focused on strengths
  • 5 minutes on weaknesses
  • 5 minutes focused on action planning

Now, that’s just for one individual – and I completely agree with this breakdown. But what if we only had an hour to coach a team? How exactly would those 60 minutes be used? Read on for my personal recommendations.

30 minutes on vision or purpose

After working with teams for 40 years, you would be shocked to learn how few of them have a vision or purpose. In her book, Senior Leadership Teams: What it Takes to Make Them Great, Dr. Ruth Wageman (another fantastic podcast guest on the Team Coaching Zone) talks about the importance of getting the team purpose right, without which a successful team experience is likely to decrease dramatically.

Tip:

Define purpose using these three C’s: Consequential, Challenging and Clear.

Exercise:

  1. Give each person in the team a piece of paper, and have them write a vision or purpose for that team.
  2. After three minutes, have them take their paper and give it to another person who continues to write the story that the first person started.
  3. After each person has seen each story, have the person at the end read it to the rest of the group.
  4. Let the team vote on the most compelling vision or purpose.
  5. Voila. In 30 minutes, your team now has the clarity to get started.

20 minutes on strengths

Exercise

An assessment that is a personal favorite of mine is the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment, which is how I would use the next 20 minutes of the session. After receiving the results, I would place them on the StrengthsFinder team grid and have each team member discuss their strengths and evaluate the larger strengths of the team.

Tip:

Research has shown that teams who work from a strength-based environment produce 10% better results. I couldn’t agree more – working on strengths has, by far, been the most valuable work I do with teams.

5 minutes on action items

Exercise:

Rather than focus on weaknesses, I would use this time to come up with one compelling action item that they would like to work on, before meeting again.

5 minutes on next steps

Exercise:

Ask the team to take out their calendars and schedule the next meeting! If it isn’t done on the spot, it may very well not happen at all.

So, that’s how I would spend one hour coaching a team – how would you spend the hour with your team?

Interested in learning more from team coaching experts like Dr. Richard Boyatzis and Dr. Ruth Wageman? Subscribe to the Team Coaching Zone newsletter to receive a wealth of podcasts, blogs, webinars and resources to keep you in touch with the latest in team coaching. Learn more about the Team Coaching Zone here!

George Johnson has been coaching executives and their teams on vision and strategic planning for over 15 years. He is a partner of the Team Coaching Zone.

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