Get out of your Depth



Recently, I was reminded of the famous Albert Einstein quote, "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know." The cue came in the form of the Accelerated Strengths Coaching Course that I was fortunate to participate in a few weeks ago held by Gallup. To understand more I need to take you back to my initial introduction into the Clifton Strengths philosophy in my mid-twenties and my journey to maximize my unique talents into strengths and do the same for others.

If you've read any of my other articles, you know how much I attribute my success to the understanding and nurturing of my key talent areas from an early stage of my career. Way back in 2002, I took an assessment expressing to me that I had Ideation, Maximizer, Strategic, Self-Assurance, and Command talents and that offered the promise of doing and achieving more by directly applying these talents in my day to day work life. As a young marketer, I began to believe in my ideas and standards and strategies and was able to convince senior leaders to support these ideas, standards, and strategies. And success begat more success which begat even more success.

And it was all because I had decided to CLAIM these five talents as my business identity.

I started reading everything Gallup published on the science of strengths and translated the insights I gathered from Go Put Your Strengths to Work and Strengths-Based Leadership into my personal development plans. Soon I was promoted into my first managerial post and I started applying what I'd learned about strengths with my teams as well. I mapped out my teams based on the four domains of strength and used the science to build high performance teams in very different businesses and geographies. I remade roles for my team mates based on their talents and not their job description. I took risks and moved people across disciplines convincing them that they had the right stuff for the job regardless of what their CV said previously.

After ten years managing people based on what was right with them versus what gaps they had, I discovered an interesting correlation. The difference maker, as it had been for me, was that psychological ownership of one's talents almost always translated into a boost in performance and productivity. So I focused my time and attention on getting people to see themselves as I did through the lens of talent and strength. As is always the case, some people made the leap and some didn't.

It was at this point I began searching for more and better techniques and approaches to helping people understand, own, and apply their unique talents. Around 2010 I found out that Gallup had initiated an Accelerated Strengths Coaching Course. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, I never was able to take this four and a half day course until a few weeks ago. And that's when I had my major AHA moment. For ten years, I had basically been free-diving into the ocean of strengths based coaching, management, and leadership. But just as it's difficult to get to any real depth on a single breath, I realized that I had only scratched the surface of what was possible with this philosophy.

First of all, tools. So many tools!! I left the course with around 8 pounds of material which paled in comparison to the incremental weight of the knowledge I had acquired over a relatively short space of time. I had learned how to map all 34 talent themes for an individual, manager, and team and how these themes interacted with each other in unique and interesting ways. I had learned how much time it takes to successfully coach for performance. I had acquired X-ray vision into the inner workings of the people around me and the precise tools to adjust the knobs and dials for optimal alignment.

Basically, I felt like Luke Skywalker at the beginning of Return of the Jedi.

There was something markedly different about me now. And the name for that difference was DEPTH. I had peeked into the Marianas Trench and the depths had peeked back at me and let me know that should I choose - there was enough space to keep diving indefinitely. And this knowledge was surprisingly EMPOWERING. Over ten years I had been shortchanging my teams due to my own limited knowledge of the subject matter, but never again.

My call to action for anyone who has taken the Clifton Strengths assessment or who is managing based on the philosophy is to get out of the shallow waters and dive deeper for the true pearls that will unlock game changing insights for yourself and others. You can never have too many Jedi's in this world...

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