PODCAST #074 - StrengthsFinder: Coaching the Hidden Potential of Individuals and Teams


Episode #074: Paul Allen: Coaching the Hidden Potential of Individuals and Teams

Paul Allen Strengths Finder Podcast Team Coaching Zone

What would be possible if schools and workplaces focused on cultivating people’s strengths? Why is coaching the magic catalyst for unleashing the potential of strengths in individuals and teams? How can organizations move from a global average of 13% on engagement metrics to 70-80% through a strengths-based approach? Tune in to this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone podcast with special guest Paul Allen–Global Strengths Evangelist with the Gallup organization–to explore these and other important questions.

In this episode of the podcast host Krister Lowe and TCZ partner George Johnson explore a range of themes with guest Paul Allen including:
1. Paul’s journey from tech entrepreneur and Founder of Ancestry.com to joining the Gallup organization as a Global Strengths Evangelist.
2. Don Clifton and the origins of the strengths-based movement.
3. An introduction to the StrengthsFinder assessment and the 34 strengths.
4. Four strengths domains (Strategic, Execution, Relationship, Influence).
5. Coaching individuals and teams with a strengths-based focus.
6. How to approach weaknesses.
7. Stories of transforming individuals and teams through a strengths-based approach.
8. Reaching 1 billion people and 1 million coaches via StrengthsFinder.
9. Research on strengths and teams.
10. Why a strengths-based approach is needed in the world now.
11. How coaches can incorporate a strengths-based approach into their coaching practice.

This is an episode that all team coaches can’t afford to miss! Tune in today and begin your journey to helping unleash the power of strengths to transform individuals, teams, organizations and even the world!

Listen Now


Resources Mentioned

  1. Learn more about Paul:
  2. Book & Assessment: StrengthsFinder 2.0
  3. GallupStrengthsCenter.com
  4. GallupExchange.com to find a coach and start your strengths journey
  5. Courses.gallup.com: can get trained as a Strengths Finder coach
  6. http://events.gallup.com/home.aspx:  Attend a briefing to learn about becoming a SF coach


Listen to the Podcast







Part 1: Getting to Know the Guest: Paul Allen

  • Mission/Purpose driven
  • Founder of Ancestry.com
  • Technology
  • Paul’s Journey to Gallup
    • 22 years as an entrepreneur with startups
    • Disruptive entrepreneur
    • Loves technology, early adopter
    • Started programming when he was 12 years old on an Apple IIe
    • First company focused on digitizing knowledge onto CD’s in the early 1990’s…then the internet arrived. Also copyright law protected copying books onto CD
    • Their research however led to discovering that genealogy records however in the public domain and led to Ancestry.com (1996)
    • com was a top photo sharing site and using VOIP before Skype and FaceBook
    • Lesson/Insight for Paul: not people oriented, technology and marketing oriented; meetings were almost always a burden for Paul
    • Discovered StrengthsFinder 5 years ago
    • All of Paul’s strengths (top 6) are in Strategic Area
    • First relationship strength is #17
    • StrengthsFinder helped him discover more about missed opportunities for building culture in previous companies: blind to the talents of people
    • Motivated to help executives and companies build a culture that helps every employee reach their full potential
    • You can be disruptive and fast growing and develop people at the same time
    • Can’t imagine having a greater mission than helping people develop their strengths with StrengthsFinder and coaching
    • 5 million people have taken StrengthsFinder – very underutilized
    • The magic is in the coaching that complements with StrengthsFinder
    • Bold vision: 1 billion people to take SF and 1 million coaches trained to use it: all to help people in the world achieve their full potential
    • Now there are 17 sites/apps that have more than 1 billion people
    • If we want to move the needle on human development we have to be thinking that bold

Part 2 – About StrengthsFinder & Using it in Coaching

  • Don Clifton—the father of strengths and the grandfather of positive psychology
  • Based on observation of strengths: talent spotting
  • Used to take 90 minutes of observation to identify someone’s strengths
  • Don partnered with a Harvard professor to get the assessment online
  • Combining strengths with a manager, team and culture is very powerful
  • Learn how to spot strengths in team members: write a note to acknowledge other’s individual strengths
  • Importance of recognizing strengths in others
  • On the 34 Strengths:
    • Were observed for years before 4 domains were identified
    • Clustered them into 4 domains:
      • Strategic Thinking Themes
      • Execution Themes
      • Relationship Themes
      • Influencing Themes
    • Identify your strengths and then build on them
    • Accept who you are and love that and be your best version of your natural self – this will lead to excellence, flow, success, engagement
    • Be who you were born and designed to be
  • Fundamental concept: after 3 years of age half of your neural connections get cut off, naturally recurring patterns of thinking and behaving
  • Why swim upstream? You will be able to go further and faster by swimming with the current
  • You have to invest through work and effort in your areas of strength, not about coasting
  • George story about using StrengthsFinder with a management team of 6 people: the 2 owners are high on influencing while 4 on the team were high in relationship skills; owners were blind to this; then took SF to the rest of the organization
  • Strengths as superpowers: however like superman and kryptonite, each strength has an underlying need that enables the strength as well as things that inhibit maximization
    • g. Software trainer that had a “learner” strength; plateaued at some point because it got boring, needed exposure to new information and thinking – became unhappy; when he discovered this strength he could go to the manager to negotiate for more learning experiences
    • Popeye and spinach metaphor: what do you need to capitalize on your strengths
    • Every theme has something it loves and something it hates
  • What do you do with weaknesses or your bottom 5?
    • Claim them: own them
    • There are multiple strategies for managing weaknesses
    • Make your strengths so powerful that it makes your weaknesses irrelevant
    • Partner with those who have the strengths
    • Use technology to compensate
  • Try getting into your “strengths zone”
  • Stories
    • Indonesia banking company: 12 members of executive team of a bank; mostly execution and strategic thinking; branch was high performing but the HQ located a few countries away was creating all kinds of obstacles and headaches; coach pointed them to use the strengths they had (e.g. strategic and execution) to engage HQ instead of hiring people with influencing skills. After 2-3 months they came up with a plan and executed it
    • Four domains shouldn’t put you in a box
    • Paul is high on ideation: for Paul it’s easier to engage with people when they engage in brainstorming together
    • Thousands of certified strengths coaches around the world: some focus exclusively on teams
    • Lots of applications with sports teams
  • Ideally in all schools and workplaces all people will have the experience of being on a high performing team
  • There is a huge opportunity for team strengths coaching
  • About 8,000 people take the SF each day: Gallup trying to match people and teams up with great coaches
  • Every human being needs coaching at some point especially when we are stuck and in transition
  • Lot’s of dysfunctional teams out there: everybody wants to be on a winning team
  • Research on Teams
    • Team coaching is a big chunk of what their coaches report what they do
    • Google: strengths 2015 meta analysis; study of 100 studies on workplaces; shows impact of a strengths-based approach on a number of outcomes including team productivity
    • Q12 assessment on engagement: 12 questions; measure the engagement of an organization or team prior to a strengths intervention and then do a post test; doubling of engagement after a strengths intervention
    • Clients of Gallup have 70-80%+ who are highly engaged
    • 13% of workers are engaged based on global Q12 data
  • Why it is needed in the world now?
    • Children: screen-based world, educational environments, all children’s are born with incredible potential
    • Performance management in organizations: tends to focus on negative/critical feedback
    • A lot of headwinds that each individual faces throughout life: imagine if schools and workplaces were designed to focus on cultivating people’s strengths
    • Most companies will say “our people are our greatest asset.” Mostly this is a hollow claim
    • FaceBook is an example of strengths-based workplace; Sheryl Sandburg has stated that FB is striving in this direction

Part 3 – Closing / Parting Advice / Recommended Resources

  • Resources:
  • Team Strengths Grid
  • Once you become a certified coach there is a worldwide coaching community that provide a lot of support
  • Paul’s insights about mentoring entrepreneurs: can’t give advice to people who are not like “me”; first seek to understand their strengths and then base advice on that; many well-intentioned leaders are giving this advice and would be so much more impactful if they took a strengths-based approach
  • Study the strengths of your people and design assignments and projects that align with their strengths
  • Almost all relationships that get ruined go back to someone expecting another person to be someone who they are not
  • The top predictor of being a high performing team is not having a balance of members in all four domains, it’s “awareness of each other’s strengths”
  • Coaches have the beautiful opportunity to help individuals and teams realize their full potential

Get In The Zone!

Subscribe for the latest updates on our industry-leading Thought Leadership Resources, Products/Services, & Master Classes!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This