Career Branding When Individualization Is Your Strength

I hear a lot of curiosity about how to apply your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Individualization 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 a better 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 When Individualization Is Your 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.

So here are a bunch of Individualization-related adjectives to consider using in your career branding efforts and your LinkedIn profile:

  • Perceptive
  • Astute
  • Insightful
  • Outlier Detector
  • Customizer
  • Anthropologist
  • Uniqueness-Spotter
  • Sees Who People Are
  • Observant Biographer

Red Flag Situations For Individualization

These are the cultures, interactions, or situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Individualization. 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 two Red flags for Individualization:

  1. Execution Over People. Imagine going to a kickoff meeting for a new project team, and the head of the team dives right into the task list. They don’t give you time to get to hear how each person’s strengths can fit into the bigger picture. They don’t even give you a second to get to know the people you’re going to work closely with. If the feeling of brushing over or devaluing the people side is part of the culture, it might be really draining for you when you lead through Individualization. This is because you thrive by knowing what makes each person tick. You’re at your best when you can see how people’s differences are their differentiators. Without having this step, you’ll feel like you need to cram that into your personal process. And if there’s no time made for “those soft things” you’re going to feel drained.

  2. One Size Fits All Rules. Imagine a situation where your manager distributes a list of canned responses that you are required to use when contacted by any customer. You are told not to deviate from this list, regardless of the person’s individual needs. I remember this happening early in my career when I was required to answer the phone by saying, “It’s a great day at ACME Company, how may I help you?” This drove me crazy. Although I could appreciate the positive vibes, it felt fake. Those were not words I’d ever choose, and they never felt genuine coming out of me.

    This is a double whammy for Individualization. First, if you have this theme, you likely don’t believe that one size fits all. Each person would be better off coming up with their own version of a positive vibes greeting. Secondly, if you have Individualization, you might dislike being boxed into rules. So when a one-size-fits-all rule gets implemented, it’s going to feel like an energy vampire every time you have to execute on it. You likely feel that any list of responses should only be a guideline. And you’ll know that it could be made better if you could put a unique spin on it based on each customer’s style.

3 Fresh Application Ideas for Individualization

These are ways to apply the talent theme of Individualization 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 Individualization, put this talent to good use with one of these options:

  1. Style Spotting. When you get a new customer, and your team doesn’t know anything about them, assign someone with Individualization to research the customer and create a style profile. They’ll have fun uncovering how they are unique, and what kind of communication they prefer.

  2. Team Connector. Say you have a newly formed global team that’s working on a huge new project. You don’t know most of the team members, and they don’t know each other. Everyone’s in a different time zone, with unique cultures and experiences. If you want to kick off with a team building meeting or a get-to-know you activity, assign it to someone with Individualization. Even if you’re listening as an individual contributor and no one assigns you a task like this, take it on yourself. Find one fun fact about each person and make a one-pager that shows each person’s photo, role on the project team, and one fun fact. This will be a fun and useful exercise for you, which will help you get you feel more productive because you now know something about each person. And it helps the team connect as well. It’s a win all the way around.

  3. Objective 3rd Party. If you have a personality clash on the team, or you’re having one yourself, call on a teammate who has Individualization. This person can be the objective 3rd party who is excellent at seeing the gifts and positive intent of each person. Often, their deep intuition for seeing value in each person can bring the battling parties to see that they’re not so far away from each other. Often, they can find the differences and see how they can be used as a positive partnership. Of course, use this one with caution. You don’t want to send in a peer as an arbitrator when the goals are not artfully set up and executed. Yet, if you have a highly mature and self-aware team, this is an outstanding use of Individualization.

So there you have it. It’s a quick tour for building your career through the talent theme of Individualization.

Here’s Your Personal Branding Homework

  1. 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.
  2. Then think over the red flags to see if there’s anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
  3. And finally, 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.