Context Strength: Get Known For Your Talent
I hear a lot of reflections about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Context to your career.
In this series, I break down one strength per post — so that you can add to the insights from your StrengthsFinder report and make an even stronger alignment between your current job and your strengths.
- If you’re exploring this concept as a manager, use this series for career development ideas and even new clues about responsibilities you could give a person with this talent theme so that they can show up at their best.
- If you’re exploring this concept for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths so that you’re more likely to be given assignments that live in your strengths zone.
You’ll get three layers to chew on:
1. Career Branding
2. Red Flag Situations At Work
3. Fresh Application Ideas
Career Branding For The Context Strength
You probably already have a reputation for what you know. Think about your personal resume, CV, or your LinkedIn profile, I bet it's full of “the what,” which are things like job titles, skills, knowledge, expertise, or the degree you earned. What’s missing is usually "the how,” and this is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.
Chances are good that you are a lot like my StrengthsFinder training clients, where you don’t physically see your teammates and customers every day. So many of us work on remote teams. That’s why LinkedIn has become so important for career branding. It’s how your teammates, customers, and vendors go look you up before a meeting - to see who they’re about to talk to. And rather than only telling them what you know, you should also give them a peek at how it is to work with you.
Here are a bunch of adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile when you lead through the Context strength:
- Company Storyteller
- Business Unit Biographer
- Culture Keeper
- History Buff
- Trend Spotter
- Comparer of Then & Now
- Corporate Archaeologist
Red Flag Situations When You Lead With The Context Strength
These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that might feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Context. They could even make you want to quit the team if they get really bad. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might become detached or disengaged at work.
Here are a couple of Red flags for the Context strength (talent theme):
Rework. If you lead through the Context strength, you value lessons from the past. So it would make sense that if you live in a work culture that experiences constant rework (especially rework caused by repeating the same mistakes over and over), you will likely feel frustrated. If you lead through the Context strength, you proactively avoid failure by learning from the past - this is how you naturally think. You would use that information and insight as often as possible. Someone else already did the work or learned the lesson, why re-learn it the hard way? So watch out for frustrating rework. If your colleagues never slow down to understand where you came from so you can make informed decisions as a team, you’ll likely resent that you keep running into the same obstacles.
Bull In A China Shop. Imagine a culture where the mantra is “just ship,” where the ultimate priority is to quickly and consistently get new products out the door. Don’t stop, don’t look back. Well, that action bias might work great, yet moving forward hastily without knowing how we got there also has risks. If you lead through the Context strength, you’ll be keenly aware of the potential to lose your grounding in the why and how. When the past is forgotten or under-valued, you might even feel under-valued as a contributor because you would feel like your opinion doesn’t matter. You will also feel drained if people ignore the lessons of the past by blazing forward, breaking things in the China shop, that could have stayed in perfectly good condition.
3 Fresh Application Ideas For The Context Strength
These are ways to apply the talent theme of Context at work , even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. If you’re exploring this concept as a team manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas. You’ll both be able to come up with places to apply them.
For someone who leads through the Context strength, put the talent to good use with one of these options:
Culture Keeper. Help your organization strengthen its culture through folklore. For example, collect symbols and stories that represent the best of the past. Use these to celebrate people’s contributions. Give major wins some air time. Rather than forgetting accomplishments one day after they’re done, celebrate their meaningfulness. This can help people feel that they are part of a legacy. Maybe you’ll inspire someone to honor the legacy of people before them. Or maybe you’ll inspire someone else to imagine how they can be remembered for significant accomplishments. Create a Hall of Fame award to show how early results and legacy team members have shaped the company you are today.
Fail Forward. If “failing fast” is a part of the culture, volunteer to use your Context as a way to index the learning and keep it in a place that people can easily find it. Whether that’s a wiki or a story or a resource list or a lessons learned document, give people a way to remember this thing as they blaze into the future. You’ll help the lessons not get lost in the chaos.
Study Success. Look at examples from the past that worked. Replicate those things to demonstrate how looking to the past for a minute can help you in the future. This is a great way to enjoy a look back while also making it useful for the current state.
Here's Your Personal Branding Homework For The Context Strength
- Go take action on your LinkedIn profile with the career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the Summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work.
- Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. You might decide to make the situation mean something different, or pre-plan a reaction for the next time it comes around.
- Volunteer your talents through the application ideas. If you’re a manager, have a conversation with your team members about which of these things sound like something they’d love to have more of.
- Dig into the Context strength all the way. You can really nerd out on the nuances on the Context Talent Theme Page.
Here's A Full Transcript Of The 12 Minute Episode
You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings and I got to tell you, it's tough to find something more energizing than using your natural talents every day at work. I hear a lot of enthusiasm about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Context with the job. So, in this series, you'll get one strength broken down per episode. That way you can add to the insights you already have from the StrengthsFinder report, and make a practical work-related match between the job and your strengths.
If you’re listening as a manager, use the series for career development ideas. You'll even get clues about responsibilities and tasks and projects you could give a person with this theme so that they can show up at their best.
If you're listening for yourself, because you lead through the talent theme of Context, use this as a chance to consider the reputation you're building around your strengths, because if you do that you're more likely to be given assignments in the future that live in your strengths zone. ‘Sounds like a good deal, right?
Today, the talent theme of the episode is Context. And you're going to get three layers to think about. One, career branding. Two, red flag situations at work. And three, application ideas.
So, let's first talk career branding for Context. Now, you probably already have a reputation for what it is that you know. If you think about a resume, or a CV or LinkedIn profiles, they're full of ‘what,’ like what job titles people have had, what skills knowledge, subject-matter expertise, functional areas they work in departments, degrees earned. And that's an important part of reputation.
Yet something is usually missing. And that thing that's missing is what I call the ‘how’. And the How is where StrengthsFinder talent themes live. It's what it's like to work with you. It's how you think, how you interact, how you make decisions, how you influence others, how you get things done. Imagine how great it would be if you got known for these ways that you would naturally like to work, these ways that feel easy and enjoyable.
So, here are a bunch of adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts. And I bring these up because so many people say that they are motivated team players or disciplined team players or hardworking team players. And it just sounds like the same words that everyone else uses. So, these are very zoomed into your talent themes so that they actually sound unique to you, and they allow your differences to be your differentiators.
So here they are. Grounded. Researcher. Company Storyteller. Perceptive Highlighter. Business Unit Biographer. Studious. Collector. Culture Keeper. Archiver. History Buff. Trend Spotter. Comparer Of Then And Now. And my favorite, Corporate Archaeologist. That's also a favorite when I share this with my training classes. But don't worry, I don't think there's a run on the word or the phrase Corporate Archaeologists. Maybe one person has used it in their LinkedIn profile. But I'm pretty sure it's not going to become a problem that you're repeating one another's use.
So, think back on that list and ask which one really resonated with you as something that sounds like it would be fun to get known for. Pick that one and then make a goal of using that one in your conversations this month. Use that one in your actions this month. The more you use it, the more you'll get known for it.
So, if you're the keeper of the culture, and you're constantly talking about the corporate culture, and some of the threads that have made it great over time, and you give examples to people, you're going to get known for it. And then it allows you to start building a reputation on your strengths that allow people to assign tasks and responsibilities in alignment with that. It's amazing how this works.
Now let's move to red flag situations for Context. These are the cultures, interaction, situations that are going to feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with a talent theme of Context. They could at their worst, make you even want to quit the team. So, I'm going to give you a couple of these because you want to be on watch for them. You want to make sure that they don't fester, meaning, that you don't let the frustration about them fester so that you become detached at work or disengaged or you want to quit and transition.
Instead, you can get in front of these by reframing what they mean to you, or changing your situation or even talking to your manager about them, and how you can cope better with them, given the culture that you live inside of.
So, here are two red flags for Context. The first one is rework. Now if you lead through Context, you will likely value lessons from the past. So, it would make sense that if you live in a work culture, that experiences constant rework, especially rework that's caused by repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again, if you've said that phrase, “Oh my gosh, I'm beating my head against the wall again and again and again”, you'll probably feel frustrated.
If you lead through Context, you proactively avoid failure. By learning from the past, this is how you would naturally think you would use that information, those lessons learned. And those insights, you would use them as often as possible. I mean, why not? Someone else already did the work. They already learned the lesson. Why would you relearn it the hard way?
So, when you see rework and it's frustrating, be on watch for that. If your colleagues never slow down to understand where you came from, so that you can make informed decisions as a team, you will likely resent that you keep running into those same obstacles over and over again. Because you are so aware of where you came from, what's happened in the past, what got you here, and you like to honor that idea of where you came from so that you can move forward and become better and better.
Alright, the next red flag. I’m going to call it bull in a china shop. Now, imagine a culture where the mantra of the company is just ship. And you may have heard this phrase before, but the idea is that the ultimate priority is to quickly and consistently get new products out the door. Don't stop, don't look back, just do it.
Well, that action bias, it might be great for some companies, yet moving forward hastily, without knowing how you got there, it also has some risks. If you lead through Context, you're going to be keenly aware of those risks, and you're going to be aware of the potential to lose your grounding in why you did it and how you got there. When the past is forgotten, or if you see that the past is undervalued, you might even feel undervalued as a person, as a contributor, because you would feel like your opinion doesn't matter because your opinion includes the past.
You'll also feel drained. If people ignore lessons of the past, if people ignore lessons learned, or they ignore the lessons from the failures that have already happened because they're just blazing forward breaking things in the china shop, it could have stayed in perfectly good condition.
So those are your red flags. Let's move on to application ideas. These are ways to apply the talent theme of Context at work, even when the job duties on the team feel pretty locked in. And if you're listening as a manager of the team, just be sure to have a conversation around these ideas, because you're going to come up with better ways of applying them if you do this together with the team member with Context. And also, you can make sure that they actually apply based on the other talent themes that are combined in this person's top list.
So here they are. Application idea number one - culture keeper. Help your organization strengthen its culture, through some version of folklore. For example, collect symbols, collect stories that represent the best of the past and use these to celebrate people's contributions. Give major wins some airtime.
I had one team in one of my training classes. A guy had an item that was used to do this kind of celebration. It was literally a big giant wooden kitchen spoon. At this point, it's been so long, I can't remember what the kitchen spoon represented, but it had stuff written on it in Sharpie marker. It meant something if you had that spoon at your desk. And it was one of those things, it was like you were living out this virtue of our culture that makes us great as a team.
That's what I'm talking about here. That's just another way to give wins some airtime and let that culture live on rather than forgetting those accomplishments after they're done. You're actually celebrating the meaningfulness so that that element of the culture can continue. This helps people feel like they're part of a legacy and maybe, you'll even inspire somebody to honor the legacy of the people before them and think about the culture more deeply.
Or maybe you'll inspire somebody to imagine how they could be remembered by offering a significant accomplishment. You can create things like a Hall of Fame Award. Imagine how Hall of Fame Awards look back and they honor people's accomplishments over a long period of time. These are the kinds of things that you might love to honor if you lead through Context - how people have shaped the company that you are today.
Alright, the second one, fail forward. This one's more like the practical stuff that you do right now. If failing fast is part of the culture, then volunteer to use your Context as a way to index the learning and keep it in a place where people can easily find it. So that could be something like a wiki, or a story, or a resource list, or a ‘lessons learned’ document, or a newsletter. Just something short and practical. Something that gives people a way to remember this lesson learned as they bleed into the future and you'll help them not get lost in the chaos.
If you keep an eye on the future, even though you're grounded in the past, you're allowing them instead of giving the feedback looking back. It's like feedforward looking forward. Pretty cool way to combine then and now.
Third action item, study success. Look at examples from the past that worked. And I've heard people resist those with Context, because they're like, -
“Yeah, yeah, I don't want your history lesson.”
“Yeah, yeah, I don't want to know about all the reason we can't do it today, because we couldn't do it four years ago. Things have changed.”
Well, if you suspect you get that kind of resistance, look to the examples of the past that worked and figure out things you could replicate. And you could demonstrate how looking at the past for a minute can really help you go fast in the future, or how you can replicate past successes in a way that makes things just really efficient for you. Because you've already succeeded, why not just be able to do it again? So, this is a great way to enjoy a look back. But also make it really useful for the current state, and not get so many objections about where you're taking people.
So, there you have it. That's a quick tour for building a career through the talent theme of Context. Sending as a quick shout out to Joe Darren for content contributions on this episode.
Alright for you, back to you. It's your homework.
Number one, take action on your career branding. Challenge yourself to write one sentence in the summary section of LinkedIn that captures how you collaborate as a teammate at work. Imagine the difference saying that you operate like a corporate archaeologist, is really different from saying, “I'm a motivated team player”. You won't sound like everyone else. You can really get known for what puts you at your best.
And then number two, think over those red flags. See if there's anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. This might be reframing how you're thinking about a situation, what you're making it mean, leading through a different strength, or even changing your situation so that you don't have to experience that thing as often.
And finally, volunteer your talents through those application ideas. And if you're a manager, have a conversation with your team members who lead through Context, about which of these things sound like something they love to have more of.
And with that, I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, from Lead Through Strengths. If you're thinking about doing a virtual or in-person StrengthsFinder event to kick off your strengths-based culture, head over to leadthroughstrengths.com/training . See if our current offerings are a good fit for you.
Until next time. Thank you for being part of this powerful strengths movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness they already have inside them.