Setting the Stage: 5 Suggestions For a Great First Strengths Meeting
Hosting your first team development meeting using the Clifton StrengthsFinder tool can be intimidating. I want to note that there is no “right way” to conduct a meeting. Every group discussion I have facilitated is unique. Sure, I use specific tools to guide the flow of conversation, but, as a coach, I know when it’s time to go by the book, and when it’s beneficial to ditch the script and improvise.
I always preface the conversation by stating that Strengths is a tool. Any good company or organization should always be on the lookout for new ways to improve their effectiveness as a team. As long as StrengthsFinder is not viewed as the flavor of the week and leadership embraces the theories and guiding principles of Strengths-based development, its integration will create positive results.
Below are are five suggestions I would like to offer regarding your first Strengths-focused group meeting. Many companies choose to purchase the assessment codes, allow the staff time to take the assessment, and then, as a group, discuss their results. It may be the CEO, HR team, or middle manager leading the meeting.
Equip yourself with a sense of direction. You don’t need to go as far as developing an agenda, but have an understanding of where you want to start and finish. If you, acting as the facilitator, are new to strengths-based development, acknowledge that you will also be sharing in this learning experience for the first time. If you’ve been using Strengths for several years and are now introducing it to a new audience, I will ask that you avoid coming across too strong in your approach. Those of us who have fully embraced Strengths often find it difficult to tone down our enthusiasm. Be cautious not to define Strengths as a cure-all. Tell the story of how Strengths has helped you, how it has helped others, and how you foresee it helping your organization moving forward.
Kick-start a conversation based on individual talents. Allow your peers the opportunity to share more about their Strengths, and identify how these bundles of talent will help the entire organization succeed. This is not a time to inject your own opinion (unless necessary to keep things moving). Sit back and listen. If the conversation stalls, share a story about each member of the team, and identify one area of talent that was evident in that particular situation. It’s often difficult for some people to toot their own horn, so it’s your job to make sure the entire team feels comfortable.
Ask the question, “Do you feel that you have the opportunity to apply your talents in the workplace?” Again, stress that this is the time to be honest, and share your thoughts. This session is focused on enhancing the well-being of the organization as a whole. Be attentive, and listen to their responses. If the response to that question is “No,” don’t let that frustrate you. Use the information that your team will share to identify areas that could benefit from adjustments or increased collaboration.
Keep the conversation focused on Strengths! It’s very easy for a discussion to get bucked off the rails when hot button issues begin to surface. I’ve been there, and it takes about two seconds for a conversation to go from what the team does well, to how Jane just can’t get along with Jason and how Process A is much better than Process B. Strengths awareness can help with these issues, but your first meeting is not the appropriate place and time to seek out solutions.
Close the meeting with a strong THANK YOU. Acknowledge the fact that sharing in a team or group setting can be difficult. Be sure to integrate the language of Strengths within your daily conversations. I like to post a list of each member’s Strengths in a place where it will be easily observed. If you see a member of your team using one of their talents, be sure to acknowledge their effort. People want to know that their unique abilities are appreciated, and that they are an integral element in the team’s success.
Side note: Not everyone enjoys receiving recognition in a public setting. Understand how each member of your teams wants to be acknowledged for a job well done.
Don’t let the first Strengths discussion be your last. I have spoken with many companies that rotate in a new speaker at each quarterly corporate off-site retreat. A new “personality test” is introduced, and the group takes the assessment because they were instructed to do so. Their efforts result in some water-cooler chatter for a couple of days, but then the idea of Strengths fades like the smell of a new car.
In order for this to work, it needs to be injected into the company culture like a barbecue marinade. It takes time.
~Andy Sokolovich, GALLUP-Certified Strengths Coach
The WOO Warrior
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P.P.S. If the thought of facilitating a Strengths-based team development meeting makes you want to cry, avoid the tears and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to help!