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

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!