Influencing Strengths Not Part Of Your Top 5? Chill, You're Not Alone
It’s totally normal for you or your team to hope for a balanced distribution of themes across all four domains of strengths: strategic thinking, relationships, executing, and influencing. You may think that you are not as productive and effective if you lack the talent themes from one or more categories. For example, being low or bare on influencing strengths could make you feel you are disconnected, unconvincing, or misunderstood.
The thing is, CliftonStrengths assessment might surprise you. Ideal does not mean evenly spread. In fact, when you look at the database of all people who have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment, you'll see influencing strengths in 15% of the top 5.
If you're doing the math with us, you've already picked up on the fact that each domain does not get a tidy 25% count. So no worries. If you have 5% influencing strengths or 20% on your team, the secret is to work with what you have.
Here's Lisa Cummings to show you how (full transcript of the 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 gotta tell you, it's tough to find something at work that is more energizing than using your strengths at work every day.
Today we are in a season of the show where we are moving into question and answers from you, the listeners. Today's question:
“We're just starting CliftonStrengths with the team, and we noticed a lack of influencing strengths."
So she goes on to ask about how to address this as a team. They have already talked about how to address when you have a "deficiency."
I'm putting that word in quotes, about when you're missing a talent as an individual person, but how do you address these ideas as a team?
Now first, if you're new to CliftonStrengths or the book StrengthsFinder 2.0, when she's mentioning influencing themes, that is one of the four main domains of talent. Some people call these the four leadership domains. Sometimes I call them the four demands on our personal leadership. Beyond Influencing strengths, the other categories are:
- Strategic thinking
So the first thing to know is — hey, good news, this means you’re normal!
When you look at the whole database of people who have taken CliftonStrengths — more than 24 million people — that instances of influencing strengths (talent themes) in the top 5 is 15%. So it's not an evenly spread dynamic.
So that is the first thing. If you are on a team and you're trying to make all four domains have a nice tidy 25%, stop trying that. It's not how the human population looks — at least the population inside of this database, which is quite large. And spend a little bit more time learning to work with what you got. Work with what you got. You know what I mean?
Let Desired Outcomes Guide You On How To Apply Your Strengths
So, as I think through that, my answer is really to get a little bit more focused on the outcomes at work, rather than obsessing over the strengths.
So one of the things that I see teams do is they do an assessment like CliftonStrengths, and then of course all you want to do is talk about the strengths language and do things like, “Oh, I have the Focus talent, how can I go use Focus as talent? Or you lead through Relator — "How can I go use my Relator today?”
That's totally natural and there's not really anything wrong with doing that. But in a workplace and in a team setting, where I think you'll get extra bang for the buck, is to think about the outcomes you're trying to achieve as a team.
And then think, “In order to reach that outcome, how can I use the talent themes that I have?”
So we're coming at it a little different way, and it's using the themes as your easy buttons to get the outcomes done.
So if I make this a little bit more practical, let's say you have a goal as a team to improve customer satisfaction by 10% in the next quarter. If you were coming at this from the outcome perspective, now you have something to apply your strengths to. Now you have something really practical.
"Okay, I'm going to improve my customer experience. So, if I'm going to improve my customer experience, and I see that I have Activator in my top 5, I think this means I should be able to take action quickly. I can make phone calls to them really responsively. If they have some feedback that we should jump on and make part of our process or operations, I can get on that really quickly." This influencing strength is going to come in handy when I want to create momentum.
Let's say you lead through Empathy (a relationship talent theme), and you actually have a customer going through a tough time, you could apply your talent by really helping them see that they've been heard and understood and that you are fully feeling them out. You're not trying to blow off their response or their complaint. You know when you lead through Empathy, there's something really deep there about the spidey-senses of you understanding what they're going through.
So on those two examples, what comes first is the outcome, not the talent. If instead, you're out there saying, I lead through Discipline, what are all the ways I can whip that out? It makes it actually a little bit tougher. It sounds like it would open up the world to you but then it just seems overwhelming and you're not really sure what to do with it.
So instead, when you're getting started, think of the main outcomes as a team, and start to drive conversations around that. The outcomes you're trying to achieve, and then use the strengths like they're tools, or the talent themes like they are tools, like they're your easy buttons for getting it done.
The other benefit is that talent themes from any domain can be influential. So - remember that we were worried about not having enough influencing strengths? In the examples above, both Activator and Empathy were influencing the customer experience metrics. One is technically an influencing strength, and one is a relationship strength. Yet, as you can see, they're both influential when you look at them from the outcomes perspective.
Now when this question started, you were asking a little bit more of a team level, not just the personal level. One thing you heard in the answer that I just gave, is that it's more of the personal action that you would take. And I do believe personal actions roll up into team outcomes because you started the conversation with team outcome.
But the other thing is, if you want to look with the team and say, “Okay well what are the vulnerabilities that we have as a team? What are the opportunities that we have as a team since we appear low in influencing strengths?”
And though it is more of a rolled-up conversation, you can still apply the exact same process. You will get the talent themes that you have and apply them.
To Bridge A Gap In Influencing Strengths, Think Chain-Link Fence
If you find, for example, “Oh, well, we're still feeling the pain that we don't have that many influencing strengths. And we do feel like we need to be able to influence and really move...create momentum in our organization; maybe be more persuasive - be more out front of things. We're leading a lot of change. How are we going to get our ideas heard without influencing strengths? Do we need to go hire a bunch of people and look for influencing strengths?”
Well, no. Instead, what you can actually do is look at the ones you have and see how could you create a way of a conversation where you're partnering up a couple of the talent themes to act like they're influencing, or take the angle of it, that is influential.
So for example, if you take the Analytical theme, it is technically categorized in the domain of strategic thinking. But if you're the one who slices and dices data and makes it really interesting, the way that you put charts in front of people, and it suddenly changes their behavior because it makes them buy in when you show your proof points, well, you're being influential through your thinking. It might not be an influencing strength on paper, yet it's an influencing strength in your actions and results.
If you lead through Developer, and you've really watched a person grow and you've made each of their steps really acknowledged in front of other people, and now they are out doing big things in the world because you've unleashed their potential through your Developer — now this relationship theme has created a ripple of influence. They seem like influencing strengths in those examples, right?!
So, don't think of domains like they have really hard lines delineating them. One coach that I know says, “Think of them like they have a chain-link fence between these categories, not like they have a brick wall between the domain categories."
When I say categories I mean: relationship talent themes, the thinking themes, the influencing themes, and the executing themes. And that opens it up as well, because then you can think, “Oh yeah, I really create momentum because I get stuff done when I lead through my Achiever.”
You can suddenly now open up and categorize them however you want based on how you see them actually getting results in the organization. In the example I just gave, the Achiever talent theme, which is technically an Executing theme - it's now operating just like the influencing strengths.
Okay, with that, if you want to explore the themes in a little bit more detail with your team — go over to leadthroughstrengths.com/resources. And right at the top of that page you'll see a free webinar where I recorded a mini training for you. You can sit down with your team and have a really rich conversation about how to apply these strengths in practical situations on the job.
With that, I look forward to hearing how you've claimed your talents and shared them with the world.
A Few More Reassuring Resources If You're Still Worried About Being Low On Influencing Strengths
Revisit our episode where we answer the question: Is IT Bad If I Only Have 2 CliftonStrengths DNA Colors? Find out why having just 2 out of 4 CliftonStrengths DNA Colors (or strengths categories) is actually also cool. And if you like solving puzzles, this situation should excite you!
Our Honored And Insulted episode is another great reminder that your experience at work should feel totally aligned with your values if you want to feel driven and motivated. While strengths are not an excuse to avoid weakness zone at work, you may not feel as energized if you equally give time and focus on your strengths and weaknesses, just to satisfy the 4 strengths domains.
Again, focus and work more on your top strengths. You — and those around you — will thank you for it. See you on the next episode!
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.