Focus Strength: Get Known For Your Talent
I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Focus 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 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 Focus 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. 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 Focus strength:
Red Flag Situations When You Lead With The Focus Strength
These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Focus. They might even make you want to quit the team. So I’ll give you a couple of these to be on watch for — because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or become detached and disengaged at work.
Here are a couple of Red flags for the Focus strength (talent theme):
The Do-Not Do-Not-Disturb Team. You know that setting on your instant messenger - the DND (or Do Not Disturb) setting? Well, it very well may be imperative for someone with the Focus talent theme. Yet if you lead through the Focus strength and you believe that the only acceptable way to behave on the team is to be always-on and fully distractible, this will severely challenge your success. I recently met a woman who said if she didn’t keep Skype open all day, she’d get feedback immediately about being un-collaborative or unhelpful.
Squirrel Brain. You know that saying when you’re in the middle of a thought, and then you go on a tangent, and then you come back and claim, “Sorry, squirrel.” If this is how the team always works - exploring rabbit trails, going off-topic in meetings, and playfully admiring the team ADHD, it will be enormously frustrating for someone with the Focus talent theme. If you lead through this theme, you know you’re talented at being monomaniacal. You naturally use FOCUS like an acronym to stand for Follow One Course Until Success. If the team is pinging around all over the place, you might stay in frustration zone.
3 Fresh Application Ideas For The Focus Strength
These are ways to apply the talent theme of Focus 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 Focus strength, put the talent to good use with one of these options:
Team North Star. When your team has been bogged down, and there are way too many tasks to do within the allotted amount of time, use the Focus talent theme as a compass. This person is naturally going to keep the end in mind - they can probably see a straight line to the finish line. So when your team seems distracted by low-priority urgencies and pet-projects, give the Focus talent theme a voice by asking them to keep pointing to the most important thing.
Project Plan. Next time there’s a big shake-up at work, (imagine a re-org or acquisition or team changes), have the person who leads through the Focus strength clear up the murky waters for everyone. Often, when these big changes happen, people can’t make sense of their day-to-day work for the first few months. With the Focus talent theme, they can break things down into baby steps, important dependencies, and a project plan. This turns stressful chaos into order.
Alone Time. A person who leads through the Focus strength will often be at their best when they’re left alone to get the job done (after the planning phase is over). Allow this person to buckle-down and do the tasks. Usually there’s no need to micromanage someone who leads through Focus. They’re great at making the most of quiet time, and moving things forward in a blitz of action.
Here's Your Personal Branding Homework For The Focus 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.
- Volunteer your talents through the application ideas. And 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 Focus strength all the way. You can really nerd out on the nuances on the Focus Talent Theme Page.
Here's A Full Transcript Of The 13 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. And I get a lot of questions about how to align your CliftonStrengths talent themes with the details of your career. So, in this series, I'm breaking down one strength per episode so that you can add insights that you already have.
When you look at your StrengthsFinder reports, you read the book, you know, you have the Focus talent theme. But now what do you do to make a better match between the activities of the job, and then the labels of the talent themes and the definitions of the talent themes?
So, if you find yourself listening in a manager role, use this series for career development ideas. You can get clues from listening about some responsibilities and tasks and roles that you could consider assigning to a person who leads through Focus. If you're listening for yourself, use this as a chance to build a reputation for your strengths, because then you'll be more likely to be given assignments that live in your strength zone. It's a magical thing.
Today that you've probably picked up that the talent theme of the episode is Focus, you'll get three layers to chew on today. The first one is career branding. The second one is red flag situations at work. And the third one is application ideas.
Now, when we talk about career branding for Focus, you probably already have a reputation for the knowledge, the skills, the expertise that you have. All of those things define what you know, or what you can do. Now, think about the category of how: how you approach work, how you relate to people, how you influence others, how you think through situations, and how it is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live.
And it's an area that is really underused when it comes to career branding, because the how tells people what it's like to work with you, what it's like to interact with you, what it's like to get decisions made with you, or get things done with you or through you. And so, imagine how great it would be if you got known for those ways of working that already feel easy and enjoyable to you.
So here are a bunch of adjectives that you could consider using in your career branding efforts. Those career branding efforts could include what you say how you act, and even things like literal branding that you do on your LinkedIn profile or in a resume.
People who lead through Focus, they're often selective, singular, efficient, persevering, concentrated, goal-oriented, monomaniacal (how's that for a new word for you? monomaniacal), prioritizer, rudder, intentional, driven.
So, all those have a little different flavor of the Focus talent theme. Pick one that really stood out to you when you heard it. You thought, “Oh, yeah, that's totally me. And I love being in that state.” And think about how to build that one into your branding efforts. And I just emphasized branding on purpose, because brand is this current state. You already have the current reputation, but branding, it's actually a verb. They're actually the efforts that you're doing to get known for that thing. So, imagine picking one of those words and then really modeling it and using it in your language and being really conscious of pulling that forward.
Now, let's move to red flag situations for Focus. These are the cultures, the interactions, the situations that are going to feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone who leads through the talent theme of Focus, and they might be the kind of things that if they fester, you could get the urge to quit or become detached or disengaged. So, you really want to be on watch for these and get ahead of them before they get ahead of you.
So, two red flags for Focus. First one, it's the Do not Do Not Disturb team. You know the setting on your instant messenger the DND, the Do Not Disturb. That's what I'm talking about here. Well, it may be imperative for you if you lead through the Focus talent theme to actually have that on to go in Do Not Disturb mode. I'll tell you, I do this. I, you know, how you live with your phone in your pocket all the time.
I lead through Focus. It's quite high on my profile. And when I'm recording this podcast, I put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode because if I had a little vibration in my pocket, or I saw the phone going off, even if I didn't allow the distraction to take me away to a new task, it's still, for the brain of someone who leads to the Focus talent theme, that is not a cool thing. The interruptions don't work very well at all. So, you might really need that do not disturb feature.
Now, if you work in a workplace where you feel or you believe, or maybe it's even been said that the only acceptable way to behave on the team is to be always on, is to be always fully distractible, this is severely going to challenge your success. I recently met a woman in a session who said if she didn't keep her Skype open all day, ready and available, not in Do Not disturb mode, she get feedback immediately about the fact that she was uncooperative or unhelpful. And that was really bringing her down.
Now I've seen the other situation where a person was in a StrengthsFinder training recently where she does have the Focus talent theme, and instant message is a huge part of their company culture. But she just doesn't know that it's going off. Her team actually makes jokes about how a bomb could go off in the room and she wouldn't know because she's so Focused on the one thing that she's working on. So, it shows up in different ways.
But if you feel the, I'm gonna call it emotional pressure, even though people don't like to be emotional, but there's a pressure that is felt about always being on and if that's part of the corporate culture, that really could be difficult for you with the Focus talent thing.
The second one is called squirrel brain. You're not saying when you're in the middle of a thought, and then you go on a tangent and then you come back and then people go, - “Ooops, sorry. Squirrel.” This is how teams work often today. A lot of tangents they'll talk about, -
“Oh, I went off on a bunny trail.”
“I went off on a rabbit trail.”
“I went off on a tangent.”
If your team always works like that, going off topic in meeting playfully, admiring their team ADHD, that sort of thing that could be enormously frustrating for someone with a Focus talent theme. If you lead through this theme, if you're talented at being monomaniacal, meaning that you're maniacal about finishing with one thing and one stream at a time, then you naturally use Focus. And it probably comes out like an acronym. This is cool, isn't it?
The word Focus, F O C U S, could stand for Follow One Course Until Success. Well, if the team is pinging, all over the place, claiming “squirrel”, you might stay in frustration zone a lot. So, check that out as a red flag. Obviously, you have value to bring the team because you could bring them back to, -
“Oh, remember, this is what we were talking about.”
“Oh, yeah. Okay, back to the point of whatever it was.”
So, it could be a service that you offer the team to bring them back to Focus. But also, it can be a red flag because it can be very draining.
Next, let's move to three fresh application ideas for the Focus talent theme. These are ways to apply this theme at work, even if the job duties feel pretty locked in on the team.
Now, if you're listening as a manager, have a conversation around these ideas, because you'll come up with more specific ways to apply the idea that I offer you. And also, you can vet out whether this is something that in fact feels like something that a team member would love doing. Because depending on what the talent themes are combined with, it may not be the perfect action item for them.
Here are three. If you lead through Focus, put the talent to good use with one of these options.
Number one, Team North Star. When your team has been bogged down, there are just too many tasks, too little time. I mean, this feels like a lot of teams right now. Just the allotted amount of time feels like it's never going to be doable. Use the talent theme of Focus like a compass, because they're naturally going to keep the end in mind. If they have Focus, they can probably see the straight line to the finish line. So, if the team seems like it keeps getting distracted by low priority urgencies, or pet projects, if you put Focus as a talent theme on this task of giving the straight line to the finish line of voice, ask them to keep pointing to that most important thing.
Or if you have this theme, keep volunteering that because you know what we're out of time we need to really keep that straight line here. It's a great service to offer from the Focus talent theme. Call that team Northstar.
The second one is called Project Plan. You know what these are. Next time there's a big shake up at work, imagine there's a reorg, there's an acquisition, there are team changes, well, have a person who leads through Focus, clear up the murky waters because you know what happens? These big changes come down and people don't really know, “What is my day-to-day work going to be? I'm taking on the work of 3 or 4 people right now and I have so much to do. I don't even know what to start with. And I don't know how this got done in the past. I need to meet all my new teammates.”
If someone has the Focus talent theme, they can break these things down into the steps. They know the important dependencies. They can turn it into a project plan. And they can take that big crazy amount of work and just break it into the baby steps so that people can take that stressful chaos kind of feeling, that chaotic vibe that happens when you have rewards and shake-ups at work, and they can turn it into, -
“Alright, here's the plan. Here are the steps. Let's take step one, so they can really bring order to the chaos.”
Third action item, alone time. A person who leads through Focus, they're often going to be at their best when they're left alone to get the job done, after the planning phase is over. It's not like it means they don't like people. But they do need to buckle down to do the tasks.
Usually, there's no need to micromanage somebody who leads to Focus, because they're great at making a lot of quiet time and knocking out all of the tasks they're going to need to get done into a project. They're usually very organized and they often will work in a blitz kind of style, like they do a big chunk of action all at once.
So, even if you don't have a work from home culture, or if you don't have quiet places in the office where someone can get away just to crank out work without distraction, maybe they could take a half a day and work from home, or a half a day and go to a coffee shop, or half a day and get to a place where they can really feel like they're in their alone cave. I call it their “to go in your cave” time. And that can be really effective for someone like the Focus talent theme.
Okay, personal branding homework.
Number one, go take action on the LinkedIn profile in the career branding summary section. It's really just called the summary section on LinkedIn. But that's a great section for doing career branding, and challenge yourself just to write one sentence in there that captures how you collaborate as a teammate with Focus.
Second, think over the red flags. See if there's anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down. Or if you're listening as a manager, be thinking, “Am I creating a culture?” or, “Do we have a culture that might put this person who leads through the Focus talent theme at risk.”
And finally, volunteer your talents through the application ideas, because remember, no one has to give you permission to use your strengths. This is how you get work done so all of us can go out there and begin creating this brand tomorrow. But if you're listening as a manager, the way that you could do this is, go have a conversation with someone with this theme on the action items and talk about Team Northstar and Project Plans and alone time, and how you might put some of that into a real practical implementable kind of action.
And with that, I'm your host Lisa Cummings from Lead Through Strengths. Now if you're thinking about doing a virtual event or an in-person event to kick-off your strengths-based culture on your team, just head over to leadthroughstrengths.com/training . Come check out our current offering, see if there's a good fit for you out there.
And with that, until next time. Thank you for being part of this powerful movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness they already have inside them.