Archive for July, 2014

7 Insights on How Useful the Strengths Tool is for Managing Organizational Talent

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

Jack BaxterGuest Post by: Jack Baxter

I was first introduced to concept of strengths when a prospective employer asked me to interview for a management position. Part of their interview process was to analyze the individual’s strengths. A strength book, Now, Discover your Strengths, arrived the following day with instructions on taking the online survey and the email address I was to submit the results. Long story short they thought enough of my strengths to invite me for a face to face interview. After a lengthy process I was offered the position; however, I eventually turned the offer down.

Several weeks later I realized that I had not read the book! I had only looked up the website, located the code in the back of the book and took the survey. I found the book under a pile of documents, which I also had not read, and proceeded to read the book from cover to cover….twice! Needless to say I was fascinated by the development concepts the book put forward. From that point on I was hooked.

In my very next position as Director of Training and Development for a major mortgage origination and documentation organization I introduced the strengths concept to the staff. We purchased the book for each staff member in our department and gave them instructions to first read the book and then take the survey. Here are a few of the outcomes from this project:

  1. Fifty percent of the staff members were excited about the survey and surprised at some of the results of their top five strengths.
  2. The remaining half did not give much credence to the results and I am not sure they read book although some came back toward the end of the project to ask questions about what the results might mean.
  3. I created name plates for each individual and placed their top five strengths below their name. This generated conversations about what a strength was and how it affected their performance and how it compared with other staff members. (To this day my top five strengths are listed below my name (tent) whenever I do a presentation or facilitation.)
  4. Based on the results we identified 4 individuals who were probably in the wrong position. Two of them came to us and stated they felt they were in the wrong positions; we actually swapped their roles and both individuals had stronger production numbers. One person left the company when we tried to change their role and the other remained in place; however, their production numbers never reached the level of their peers.
  5. One of the most interesting outcomes was that the top five strengths of the company president and the operating officer complemented each other. In other words, where one was strong the other not so much and vice versa. The organization thrived and was successful.
  6. Not all our efforts were successful. Trying to expand the program beyond our department met with considerable resistance. Upper management took one look at the foundation of the strength initiative, the Q12, and put the brakes on the program. No manner of convincing worked, even to the extent of having a representative from the Gallup organization visiting to outline the program…everything came to an abrupt halt.
  7. My greatest insight was how useful this tool is to manage talent within an organization. To this day I am in contact with a number of the individuals who took that first survey and most agree that it was a turning point in how they made decisions on their career direction. I know it has made a significant impact on my career.

Sometime has passed since those days in late 2006. A new strengths assessment survey has come out; Stand Out, by Marcus Buckingham. I have ordered the book and I am excited to dive in to discover my two Strength Roles. So stay tuned, more to follow!

Why This Millennial Loves Strength Finders ®. It’s not just a Good Business Horoscope!

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in 4 Generations at Work, VPI Blog

Ilana Herring Marketing StrategyGuest Blog by: Ilana Herring

Ever have those days where you feel stuck, stagnant, and completely unmotivated to do anything?  My suggestion: Read the description of your top five Strengths as outlined in Strength Finders 2.0 from Tom Rath and the folks at Gallup.

What is Strength Finders? ®

Brandon Rigoni, Jim Asplund, and Susan Sorenson explain:
Gallup defines strengths as activities for which one can consistently provide near-perfect performance. Individuals who report using their strengths have higher productivity, self-confidence, well-being, hope, and altruism. Gallup has spent more than a half-century studying human strengths.  “StrengthsFinder 2.0” is the book with the longest stay on Amazon’s Top 100. Why are strengths so important? Strengths Finders reports “people who have opportunities to focus on their Strengths are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general (pg iii).” Sadly, “More than half of U.S. working adults overall do not use their strengths throughout the day” according to Gallup. Ouch.

I’m a Millennial Maximizer

I took the Strengthfinders ® assessment awhile back. What did I learn about me?  I’m a Millennial. My #2 strength is Maximizer.  I like taking something strong and making it into something superb. I prefer this over taking something from below average to slightly above average. I apply this in my work. How do a I tweak a page on a website to make it superb? How do we alter the brand message to make it pop?  As a Maximizer, strengths fascinate me. My # 1 strength is Context. I want to understand where the organization came from in order to understand the current situation and future.

Strength Finders is for Friends, Family, and even Fortune 500s

What have I learned about using strengths with others?  A month ago, I opened the book again, reread my strengths and walked away feeling energized! Every opportunity I had over the next week I found myself sharing with others that rereading my strengths positively impacted my attitude. I then found myself using it in a conversation with a despondent younger friend. She hadn’t met her goals for the year, which were quite ambitious, only one of which was mastering a foreign language. I tried unsuccessfully to help her put things in perspective. She refused to celebrate, despite the fact that her foreign language skills were much better than one year ago.

I decided to give her a copy of Strength Finders.  She took the assessment and sent me the results. I just read through the description of her top five Strengths. And uncomfortable idea had recently crept into my mind. All 34 Strengths look nice. What if I could relate and see myself in her five strengths? Is this just a feel good business horoscope? I read through my friend’s strengths and got my answer. I clearly saw how they described her and how I did not relate personally to her Strengths. What I most enjoyed reading was the section about “Working with Others Who Have X Strength.” After reading about my friend’s strengths, I sent her a note: “Love reading about your Strengths. Let me know when you want to chat about it some more.” I plan to keep in mind what I learned about her Strengths and how to encourage her to recognize her strengths. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep her Strengths top of mind as she picks her career and starts college.

Why Not?

Gallup surveys ask: “About how many hours out of the day yesterday were you able to use your strengths to do what you do best?” What if we could?  What if everyone in your family or on your team appreciated one another’s Strengths and how to best work with others with those Strengths? I’m convinced we could do amazing things if we all start asking this of ourselves, our friends and our organizations!

What is Strength-Based Leadership? VPI’s Gen-Y Explains

Written by Mike Petro on . Posted in VPI Blog

Does strength-based leadership work? Maybe? Yes? No? It seems like it should be a simple answer.
456870_10151805183920472_1430841136_oFirst, let’s define the term since you may be asking yourself “What is strength-based leadership?” My view?  It’s when a leader’s unique talents help drive their success. Gallup indicates that it is to help people uncover their talents.

My top five strengths are Achiever, Analytical, Relator, Competitive and Strategic. These distinctions — and in this order — are what make me unique as compared with someone else. According to Gallup, only in 1 in 33 million people have the exact same top five strengths (of 34) in the same order.  How I harness my abilities to lead is in my unique fashion.

I can tell you that of the other possibilities, such Developer or Woo, they are just not my forte. I see myself as analytical and strategic.  And not just in a leadership role but in how I approach and experience everyday life.

There is one trait that I believe all great leaders have: flexibility. They are flexible enough to understand if they need to “Woo” or be “Empathetic”. By being so diverse, a leader can control and better understand the opinions and point of view of various employee’s and/or peers. If the leader can peak over one side of the fence and understand someone’s point of view while also maintaining their own opinion, they can make a better and more informative decision that benefits a group and/or an individual.

Will these 5 specific traits make me a successful leader though? I think that depends on me.  If I use my strengths flexibly and surround myself with complementary strengths, I can only make myself better not just as a person but as a leader.