Individualization Strength: Get Known For Your Talent
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 For The Individualization 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 Individualization strength:
- Outlier Detector
- See People For Who They Are
- Observant Biographer
Red Flag Situations When You Lead With The Individualization Strength
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 a couple of Red flags for the Individualization strength (talent theme):
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 the Individualization strength. 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.
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 The Individualization Strength
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 the Individualization strength, put the talent to good use with one of these options:
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.
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.
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 For The Individualization 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 Individualization strength all the way. You can really nerd out on the nuances on the Individualization Talent Theme Page.
Here's A Full Transcript Of The 12 Minute Episode
You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where we help work teams bring out their best strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings and I have to tell you, I get tons of questions about how to personalize your CliftonStrengths talent theme of Individualization with your career. So, in this series, I'm breaking down one strength per episode, so that you can add to the insights from what you already got out of your StrengthsFinder report, and then make an even deeper match between your job and your strengths.
Now, if you're listening to this as a manager, use this series for career development ideas, or even new clues about how you could assign responsibilities to people on your team.
If you're listening 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 actually live in your strength zone.
Today, the talent theme of the episode is Individualization. And you're going to get 3 layers to chew on. One is career branding. Two is red flag situations at work, and three fresh application ideas.
So, let's start with career branding. Now you probably already have a reputation for what it is that you know. These are things that you would write in your LinkedIn profile. These are your skills, your experiences, your past job titles, your subject matter expertise. All of this is good stuff. You need the ‘what’, and you're probably already leveraging that as part of your career brand.
Now, the part that is often forgotten is what I call the ‘how’, and the ‘how’ is where your StrengthsFinder talent themes live. And so, that's why you need to spend some time amping up that forgotten part of career branding. So, think about this and as you listen to some of these adjectives that you might be able to incorporate if they resonate with you, put them in your LinkedIn profile in the summary section. Begin to imagine how you could get known for these kind of qualities or traits or actions that you take naturally, because they're a great part of how you get the work done.
So, people who lead through Individualization are often perceptive, astute, insightful. They're outlier detectors because they see the differences in each person that are their differentiators. They are customizers. They like to customize their communication, or even their outputs of their work for every person. They're anthropologists, they’re uniqueness spotters, they are people who see who others really are. And they're also observant biographers.
So, think about those and see if any resonate with you as a person who leads through the Individualization talent theme. So that's career branding.
Let's get into red flag situations for Individualization. Now, these are the cultures, the interactions, or the situations that feel like soul-sucking drudgery to someone with the talent theme of Individualization. These things might even make you want to quit the team. And I'm going to give you two of these things to be on watch for, because if they fester, you might get the urge to quit the job or detach at work.
Here are two big ones:
Execution over people. Now imagine going to kick-off meeting. It's a new project team. The head of the project team just dives right into the first task. They're all about getting it done. They don't give you any time to get to hear how each person's strengths can fit into the bigger picture. Or think about how to assign these tasks to the right person for the job based on their unique strengths they can get. They don't even give you a second to get to know the people you're going to work closely with, which you think is a big disadvantage for getting things done.
So, if the feeling of brushing over people, or devaluing the people side of a project is part of the culture of the team that you're working on, it might be really draining for you if you lead through Individualization. This is because you would thrive by knowing what makes each person tick. You're at your best when you can see how people's differences are their differentiators. And without having that step, you're going to feel like you need to cram that into your personal process anyway. And if there's no time made for that, and it seems like these soft things are going to be things that others don't value, it will likely make you feel really drained on the job.
Second one, let's call this one size fits all rules. Now imagine a situation where your manager distributes a list of canned responses. And you're required to use these when contacted by any customer, and you must use them verbatim. You're told, -
“Do not deviate from this list regardless of the person's individual needs.”
Now, I remember this happening to me a version of this early in my career. I was required to answer the phone. I'm going to pretend like my company's name was Acme and imagine this is how I had to answer the phone. “It's a great day at Acme Company, how can I help you?”
Oh, actually let me correct this. I had to say, -
“It's a great day at Acme company, how may I help you?”
Now the difference between, ‘how can I help you’ and ‘how may I help you’ was even a bugger for me, because ‘how may I help you?’, well, it may be more grammatically friendly, it felt too formal for me, and it didn't feel like words, I would say, and it drove me crazy. I have Individualization in my top five. I could appreciate the positive vibes of it, but it felt totally fake. And those were not words I would ever choose. And they did not feel genuine coming out of me.
Now this is a double whammy for those with Individualization because first, if you have this theme, you likely don't believe that one size fits all. Each person would be better if they could come up with their own version of a positive vibes greeting. So that's what I thought. Just tell us you want positive vibes, I'll come up with something that feels great and feels like me and feels genuine.
Secondly, if you have Individualization, you might dislike being boxed into rules. People with Individualization often don't like rules that apply to everything and everyone because they feel too generalized. 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 that you can then personalize based on you and what brings out your best, and the recipient and what they would be willing to receive. And you will know that you could make it better if you could put a unique spin on it based on each customer's style.
So, watch out for that. If that is a deep part of the culture, a rigid one size fits all, that's going to be a red flag situation for you.
Let's move to three fresh application ideas for Individualization. This is more of how to energize and how to make the most of this talent theme. There are lots of ways to apply this theme at work even when no one gives you permission, even when the job duties feel pretty locked in.
And if you're listening as a manager, be sure to have a conversation around these ideas because you'll come up with even more places to apply them or ways to personalize these ideas. So, for someone who leads through Individualization, put that talent to good use with these three ideas.
One, let's call it style spotting. So, imagine getting a new customer and your team doesn't know anything about them. Well, assign someone with the Individualization talent theme, to research the customer and create a style profile. The person with Individualization would have a great time uncovering how the customer is unique and writing it up and trying to convey what kind of communication style that customer will prefer, so that it can be useful information that other team members can use as well. And the actual act of uncovering those details about what makes that customer unique, that part will be really fun for someone with the Individualization talent theme.
Number two application idea, this is what I'll call team connector. So, say you have a newly formed global team, they're working on a huge new project and you don't know most of the team members and they don't know each other, and everyone's in a different time zone, and everyone has unique country cultures and work experiences to bring. And this could be a challenge.
So, if you want to kick-off with some team building type of flair to a meeting, or even to kick off this major project with a get-to-know-you activity, assign that to someone with Individualization. Even if you're listening to this episode as an individual contributor, and no one assigned you a task like this, just take it on yourself. Find one fun fact about each person on the team. Make a one pager that shows every person's photo and the role on the project team and one fun fact about them.
So, if you have this talent theme of Individualization, that exercise will be fun to you. And it will be useful to you because you'll use it in the way that you're productive on the job, so you'll feel better about getting the project moving in about all of your future and directions you're going to have with people on the team, because you know something about each person. And it helps the team connect as well. So, it's a win, all the way around. Useful for you and useful for the people that you share it with.
The third one, this application idea is around a tricky situation at work I'm going to call this one objective third party. So, imagine there's a personality clash happening on the team. You might be having one yourself, but you might be spotting one or you might be a manager spotting one on the team. This is a great time to call on a teammate who has Individualization. This person can act like the objective third party. They're excellent at seeing the gifts and the positive intent of each person.
So, instead of being all bogged down in what they don't like about each other and the bad perception part or the conflict part, they have this really deep intuition for seeing the value in each person. And they can bring the battling parties together to see, ‘hey, they're not so far apart from each other’. Often, they can find these differences. And instead of seeing these differences as ways to butt heads, someone with the Individualization theme would be able to see how those could be used in a positive partnership, because they don't like the headspace of the other person. They don't like spending their personal headspace. They're so cool, they get to outsource it to this person. Instead of being annoyed by them, they can think, “Thank you, I don't really want to spend my time thinking that way. I'm so glad someone else loves that.”
Of course, this idea of bringing in an objective third party, you have to use this with caution. You don't want to send in a peer as some sort of arbitrator when the goals of this thing is not artfully set up or artfully executed. But if you have a highly mature team and a highly self-aware team that is usually very functional with each other, and you know, the maturity level is right, 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. A special thanks on this episode goes out to Deena Silverman. She is one of our team members with Individualization number one out of five, and she said, “an awesome content direction for the show.” So, thanks to Deena.
Now, here's your homework. If you're listening, one, go take action on your LinkedIn profile with that career branding section. Challenge yourself to write one sentence or pick a few of those adjectives that really feel like you and get them into the summary section of LinkedIn so that you're not only known for what you do, but also how you think or feel or act when you're at your best.
Second, think over those red flags. See if there's anything you need to get in front of before it brings you down.
And three, volunteer your talents through those application ideas. And if you're a manager, have a conversation with your team members who have Individualization about which of these things sound like something they could do to amp up their contribution at work.
So, with that, I'm your host, Lisa Cummings from Lead Through Strengths. If you're thinking about doing a virtual or in-person event to kick-off your strengths-based culture, head on over to leadthroughstrength.com/training to see if our current offerings are a good fit for you.
And with that, until next time. Thank you for being part of this powerful strength movement that helps people unleash the awesomeness that is already inside of them.
Carmie is a professional writer and editor at Lead Through Strengths. Having spent 8 happy years with a nonprofit child organization as a storyteller and sponsorship relations team manager, she continues collaborating with others across the globe for the joy of human development and connection. Her days are powered by coffee, curiosities, cameras (film and digital), music, notebooks, and a cat. Where books are home, she’s home. She calls her Top 5 StrengthsFinder Talents “CLIPS” (Connectedness, Learner, Intellection, Positivity, and Strategic)–you know, those tiny objects that hold connected things together. She’d like to think she’s one.