He Refuses To Participate In StrengthsFinder — Should We Make It Mandatory?

He Refuses to Participate in StrengthsFinder -- Should We Make It Mandatory?If Someone Refuses To Participate In StrengthsFinder, Invite Them To The Session Anyway

Maybe it was a bad experience with another assessment tool, or the thought that another assessment is unnecessary. But if someone in your team refuses to participate in StrengthsFinder, it helps to gather insights behind the “why.”

Chances are you can form or offer solutions that could win you into Team StrengthsFinder so everyone can experience the awesomeness of discovering one's true strengths. 

In today’s episode, Lisa captures the top reasons some people pass on taking the Strengthsfinder survey.

Did they have a bad experience in the past? Can you convince them that you're using this to open up your understanding of each other - not to put them in a box? Is it possible to know your team member’s strengths without the assessment tool?  

Listen as Lisa answers these questions. Here’s the 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 every day. 

Now, in today's Q&A episode, I got a question that kind of challenges that opening statement. It's from a person who asked, “As a manager, what to do when someone on the team refuses to participate in StrengthsFinder? They don't like assessments, and they don't want to be stereotyped.” 

So, I'm saying, “Hey what's more energizing than using your strengths every day?”

And this person is saying, “I don't know what to do. How am I supposed to use that person's strengths? They won't even participate."

Now, and digging a little bit deeper, this person specifically said they don't want to participate because they don’t want to be put into a box. 

We've delivered training to over 20,000 participants. I think I can remember three people feeling like this, like saying, “These assessments are stupid.” Or, “I don't want to be put into a box.” Or folding their arms at the back of the room just not participating, showing up at the event but not doing the process. 

So, that is good news, and most people feel like, “Hey, oh you want to talk about how I'm awesome? Let's go for it.”

But once in a while, you get people who don't want to participate. So first things first. I think that these kinds of tools and most training is best done in an opt-in kind of way if you're talking about personal and professional development

If somebody doesn't want to opt in to their own personal development, if somebody doesn't want to opt in to an event like this, trying to make them do it...“I just haven't seen that go well...” So, I always invite them in to the session, even if they haven't done the assessment. I always make it a point that they can decide later on, that they can take the assessment. 

I just tell them, “Hey, come on, try it and sit in the back. I won't bother you. See if you like the concepts. If you do, you can take the assessment later. There are some downsides to getting exposed to it before you take the assessment..."

But the reality is they weren't going to do it anyway. So, let them come in. If they feel like it's a safe enough thing or it's an interesting enough concept, then most of the time they'll opt in later.

Show The Appeal Of CliftonStrengths

One of the reasons that they do change their minds is: if you think about CliftonStrengths, the chance that someone else will have your exact top 5 in the same order as you, it's one in 33 million. And I don't think it's lost on people that you do feel really unique when you're doing an assessment like CliftonStrengths. It definitely does not feel like putting someone in a box.

The language is really easy. It's easy to understand and have conversations with each other on the first day that you're learning about it, but at the same time, when you know that it's one in 33 million that would have the same as you, 1 through 5 in the same order, that actually makes you feel like, “no boxes are being made at all.”

So I do think it helps that “don't put me in a box” situation. And sometimes, just giving that proof point up front — because there are 34 talent themes that are potentially there, and then of those 34 we’ll usually focus in on their top 5 — that usually helps people not feel like you're going to put them in one of four categories and they're going to be in the corner of the room as the mean people or the weak people or the whatever people because usually that's where it's coming from. We're definitely not here to create stereotypes.

What about when they've had a bad experience at another company?

Maybe they've done Myers Briggs or DISC, or one where they're put into four colors, and maybe it was facilitated in a way where it just did seem like there were only four options and a couple of them were demonized. 

So I get it that people have some bad experiences and then they think it's dumb and they don't want to participate. Of course, the design behind those assessments is deeper than that, yet sometimes they get over-simplified in training events.

Another approach to consider: if you have a solid relationship with this person, ask some questions like, "Tell me more about your reluctance."

You will probably hear insights you didn't think about. For example, “Well, I don't like taking assessments like this. I don't speak English as a first language.” Well, great - you actually have a solution for them. You can do the assessment in many different languages. 

Maybe they’ll say, “Oh, the truth is I don't like doing assessments like this because I don't do well on tests.” Well, if you actually have learning disabilities or some other situations, you can actually call the customer service line at Gallup, and they can take it off of the timer. So I know that one can be touchy to talk about it. You likely don't want to get into medical issues with people, but if somebody does not like taking tests because of processing speed, it is something that you could offer up to them.

Okay, so we've got the person who refuses to participate in StrengthsFinder because, “I don't want to be put into a box.” We covered that part pretty well. And you know that I like to do assessments in an opt-in culture kind of way. So invite them in to start participating at anytime.

The second thing, we have different languages and different test scenarios that can be available for them. Although it's not a test. On the language part, I like to call it the StrengthsFinder tool or the CliftonStrengths assessment. "Survey" can seem a bit too informal, like it's not a valid instrument. Tool sounds useful and accurate (because it is). If you're talking to an HR team, the word "assessment" will ring true to them. It all depends on your audience. 

For me, "tool" is the most widely-appropriate descriptor. I know I'm nerding out on the nitty gritty words, but wow - the "test" thing can really wig people out.

And then the last idea is, just let this person participate in their own words. So when we design our virtual training, we always take people out to tools that will say, if you have your top 5 focus in on XYZ — and when I say XYZ I mean, we've made tools for each of the 34 talents where they can look up their specific information. But if somebody hasn't, we have this extensive list of an inventory of words, where they can pick words that reflect how they get worked on when they are at their best. 

So we actually make the virtual training available so that someone could participate without having an assessment in front of them. We started doing that because people ran into budget issues and they were like, “Hey we want to run 100 people through this, but we don't have the money for assessments right now.” And then we could have strength-focused conversations, regardless of whether they had an assessment. 

So it's also handy for someone who didn't get to take the assessment because something came up. Maybe someone in the family died the couple of nights before your StrengthsFinder training. And now they're at the event, and boom, they don't have anything to go on, and I don't want to alienate them. 

So that's one solution as well. And one way that you could do this, if you go to leadthroughstrengths.com/challenge, you will see a page where we do this 12-week process. It's kind of like a team challenge for you to run a 12-week process of asking people about their strengths. Eleven of the 12 of those questions don't even mention anything specific about their talent themes. They are literally just thinking of what puts people at their best. 

So you can get them participating in the process, just have everyone on the team sign up for that, and have the discussions as a team and learn what puts people at their best. You don't have to have a language.

CliftonStrengths is a total shortcut. It can be like a decoder ring. I would use it every time - it's almost like having a human instruction manual for each person on your team. You can get to this faster with a tool like StrengthsFinder, yet you can uncover similar things about each other with meaningful conversations over time.

I love CliftonStrengths because it makes everything so much easier. It gives you a common language and helps you really understand who shares some similar talents, and that helps them understand how to apply them more quickly. I mean it's my favorite assessment by a mile. At the same time, we don't have to have a tool in order to have strengths conversations

So that's one thing I would do as a team, is get enrolled in that challenge. It's free, and that way you can start to have those conversations without the tool as a requirement. 

Guide People To Their Strengths By Recognizing Them At Their Best

The last thing is, especially if you are a people manager — but this would go for anyone leading an effort like this — if someone refuses to participate in StrengthsFinder (or any training you're delivering to get strengths-based conversations going), just start looking for their strengths anyway.

You know when they're at their best, and if you've recognized it, you are now showing them that you see them when they're at their best. You don't need an assessment to tell you where they really rock. And they don't have to have a tool to figure out where they really rock.

Sometimes it gives you a whole new filter for looking at things. It gives you a whole new set of language that maybe you haven't considered. So of course, the tool has benefits - yet it's not the only way to get there.

Usually, I find that people are really good at describing what they know, kind of like the skills and experiences stuff they're really comfortable with. But when you talk about how you work, how you relate to people, how you make decisions, how you do critical thinking, those are the areas of these natural talents where people aren't as good at knowing their own. That's one reason I love the assessment because it brings it out and they're like, “Oh yeah I already know this but I wouldn't have said it.” 

So if you are on a strength-spotting mission as a manager, or a teammate who's trying to spot it in someone but you don't have their list of talent themes around you, just watch for what they do well and think of things like that. 

  • How do they relate to other people well
  • How do they influence people
  • How do they do their best thinking? 
  • How do they do their best decision-making? 
  • How do they get things done? 
  • How do they interact with others? 

Those are some really good categories if you go through. They'll help you spot their strengths, regardless of having any assessment. And the good news is, the likelihood is, once the momentum gets going in the organization, they're going to join you, because they see that it's being used for good and not for evil. 

So with that I will see you for the next question. Bye for now.

Additional Resources To Help You If Someone In Your Team Refuses To Participate In StrengthsFinder

Check out this episode to help you articulate the best advantages of StrengthsFinder for your team, as well as the practical applications for your strengths. Far from putting you inside a box, Lisa's guest Adam Seaman thinks that as you access the tool deeply, not only will it confirm how you already see and describe yourself, it will also guide you on what to do with those strengths.

But you may ask, is there proof that strengths-focused development works? See the data-driven proof points from Gallup research in this episode, which shows the difference in effects when you invest in your strengths versus when you invest in something that you’re just average in. 

That’s because strengths are easy buttons for better performance. When you focus on what feels easy for you (which may not come easy for other people), that allows you to be more productive and to contribute better to the team. The more these natural talents are consistently noticed, the more you are encouraged to cultivate them. Focusing on your strengths really works the magic.