Best of the World of Work — Q2 2016

Following is a round-up of my favorite articles from the last three months. Each essay will elevate your perspective and help improve your performance—in your work and your life.

Enjoy.

Inspiration — Runners World: Patrick Downes Becomes First Boston Bombing Amputee To Finish Marathon
Career — Susan Cain/Quiet Revolution: How To Win The Career Lottery
Positivity — Forbes: What Negativity Does To Your Immune System
Decision Making – Eric Barker: How To Make Good Decisions—4 Secrets Backed By Research
Flow — Fast Company: How To Hack Into Your Flow State & Quadruple Your Productivity

Have an outstanding next 90 days, and remember:

Talent x Investment = Strength

Cheers,

Doug Wilks

2016 CliftonStrengths Summit Highlights

Every 24 hours another 7,986 people around the globe take the CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder) assessment to discover their unique, natural talents.

At this rate, the strengths movement will soon deliver life-changing insights to its 15 millionth person.

Last week over 740 coaches, educators and business leaders met in Omaha, Nebraska to share, learn and grow in their strengths journeys at the world’s very first CliftonStrengths Summit.

After processing the entire summit, two major conclusions stand out—smart organizations are intentionally creating strengths-focused cultures and the strengths movement is rapidly gaining velocity.


A World Coaching Movement

Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, opened the summit by giving his unique, historical perspective of the strengths movement and its impact on the world today.

Clifton created The Gallup Path, currently used in over 500 companies worldwide. This behavioral economic-based model for organic sales growth has revolutionized the way companies manage their employees and engage their customers.

Needless to say, Gallup’s CEO is one of the world’s leaders in developing and focusing human talent. One of the many tools he and Gallup utilize to foster talent growth is the CliftonStrengths assessment, found in StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath and also online at Gallup Strengths Center.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 is the best selling non-fiction book of all-time on Amazon. It succinctly explains and explores the importance of understanding, nurturing and focusing our natural talents. As millions already know, the expertly researched Insight and Action-Planning Guides are the first step in turning your talents into strengths.

However, as Clifton explained, the real power of the assessment is beginning your own personal talent journey with an expert coach. Someone to help unpack and focus all of the nuance and depth of the talent themes.

As Donald O. Clifton, Jim’s father, wrote in his 1992 best-selling “Soar With Your Strengths”, “Strengths develop only in relation to another human being.”

Consider this: Millennials (those born between 1982 and 1993) already comprise one third of the U.S. work force. By 2025, that percentage will jump to 75%.

And, guess what? Millennials really want to be coached. An entire generation has come of age not knowing what life is like without the internet. Yet, organizations are behind the curve on delivering. In fact, only 46% of millennials say their managers actually deliver on their expectations for feedback.

Smart companies will correct this disconnect posthaste. If not, these companies will gain a lot of experience posting and re-posting vacated positions.

As Clifton said, “This is not a CliftonStrengths movement, it’s a CliftonStrengths coaching movement.”

The power of the assessment is in the conversation.


Can We Really Transform A Life?

Jeremy Pietrocini, Gallup Senior L&D Consultant, emphasized how everything changes—our work, life and relationships—when we get to use our strengths on a daily basis.

To illustrate, Pietrocini gave every CliftonStrengths Summit attendee time to share one story round-robin style of someone they’ve coached with the rest of their table.

What did the “before” look like? How did a journey of strengths conversations lead the client from, in some cases, barely surviving to actually thriving?

The individual stories our table shared were nothing short of exhilarating.

Each coach’s challenge wasn’t thinking of one really good transformational story. Instead, the hard part was only picking one to share!

We each shared multiple moments of moving life change. Each story ran the gamut: Soured business relationships turned revitalized and prosperous. Burned out executives rejuvenated with a strengths intervention. Struggling companies turned into flourishing cash cows.

The common denominator in each situation? Helping people focus and leverage what’s right about themselves.

“Strengths brings people to life in ways they had never imagined,” said Pietrocini in his closing remarks.

As our table of ten can attest (as well as the other 730 participants): Truer words.


Everybody Needs A Coach

It’s nearly impossible to pick just one favorite moment from Roy Spence’s touching and often hilarious presentation.

Co-founder and Chairman of Austin’s GSD&M, Spence has lived a strengths-focused life ever since he was a teenager growing up in Brownwood, Texas.

After receiving a succession of poor grades on numerous writing assignments, Roy was frustrated and discouraged. Ruth Griffin Spence, Roy’s mother and teacher, realized her son was actually a naturally gifted writer. She sat him down and gave the 14-year-old this life-changing advice:

“Roy, I don’t want you to spend another second being average at what you’re bad at.”

You see, Roy could write. He just couldn’t spell.

Roy’s mother knew focusing on strengths mattered exponentially more to his growth and development than attempting to “fix” his weaknesses.

As Mrs. Spence knew, editors, dictionaries and good copywriters can always be called upon to help correct spelling errors. (Fitzgerald was a terrible speller, by the way.) So, she encouraged her son to keep writing and communicating. The “i” before “e” except after “c” rules could be dealt with along the way.

Yet, our generations-old Deficit Remedial Education Model is still too prevalent in many school and business settings.

To anyone charged with developing and leading others, catch yourself before over-indexing on fixing what you think is “wrong” with someone. If you lead with a “weakness fixing” mindset, you’re dampening the power and edge of everyone in your orbit. This very power and edge is what will, in fact, make them successful!

Instead, it’s an essential part of your job as a teacher, coach, manager or leader to spot and nurture what’s right with your students and direct reports.

Anything less is professional malpractice.

Remember, the point isn’t to ignore weaknesses. The point is, if you spend your time and energy fixing weaknesses, you’ll only really be successful at one thing—herding everyone in your purview into a swamp of mediocrity.

As Spence reminded us, “God made all of us different, but we judge our kids with standardized tests...”

A thoughtful point worth pondering.


The Impact of Strengths And Coaching — Enterprise

One of Kristen Nagel’s key responsibilities as the Talent Enablement Director at Accenture is leading the growth and development of 375,000 employees. No small task.

Hearing Nagel describe the strengths immersion approach at one of the world’s leading professional services companies is to begin to understand the enormous value of an immersive strengths-based corporate culture.

At the heart of Accenture’s enterprise-wide strengths focus are these questions:

What are your priorities and what do need to do? How will you use your talents to succeed on your priorities?

It’s a similar riff on a helpful coaching construct—where are you now and where do you want to go?

So much value can be gleaned from such seemingly simple but powerful questions.

Incredibly, Accenture has completed 240,000 CliftonStrengths assessments and over 4,000 one-on-one coaching sessions. Now, that’s some enterprise-level strengths immersion!

With such dedicated commitment to leadership development, it’s easy to see why Accenture has been voted one of Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” for 14 consecutive years.


The Impact of Strengths and Coaching – Education

Rachel Edoho-Eket, Assistant Principal at the Howard County Public School System in Columbia, Maryland, treated CliftonStrengths Summit attendees to an exploration of what happens when strengths are unleashed in our education system.

Unfortunately, a “vicious cycle of unrealized potential” is prevalent in too many of our nation’s schools.

Enter the unstoppable formula of strengths + leadership.

In 2012, Dr. Renee Foose, Superintendent of HCPSS, spear-headed a system-wide strengths movement. It began first with the teachers, then expanded to the students.

Student “strengths spotting” begins as early as grades K – 3. Formal StrengthsExplorer assessment begins in grades 4 and 5.

One student was even compelled to describe his strengths in verse, writing in part: “I am a (bird) leading its flock. I am a (fireman) helping injured people.”

Do you think this young poet’s confidence, self-awareness and budding emotional intelligence is impressive? Yeah, me too.

As a HCPSS Clifton Fellow, Edoho-Eket is part of a team of dedicated leaders helping our nations’s youth create their own futures by finding and building on their unique strengths.

Imagine if each of our communities had such dedicated strengths ambassadors? We could turn our country’s unrealized potential into actualized gain within a generation.

Because of Foose and Edoho-Eket’s leadership, wave after wave of Maryland students are becoming their best by focusing on “what is strong, not what is wrong”.

To see more of Howard County’s strengths-based education in action, click here.


The Coach’s Coach

One of my favorite CliftonStrengths Summit moments was when Jane Miller, Gallup Executive Vice President and COO, shared one of Donald O. Clifton’s favorite poems, R.L. Sharpe’s “A Bag of Tools”.

The perspective-building poem beautifully reflects Clifton’s own framework of Strengths Catalysts:

  1. Mission – Find a calling.
  2. Relationship – Strengths develop best in response to another human being.
  3. Expectations – Nothing happens until someone expects something of you in ways you can achieve.
  4. Celebration – Recognizing good work.

Perhaps you have one or more of the highest frequency talent themes like Achiever, Responsibility, Learner, Relator or Strategic.

Maybe you have some of the lesser prevalent themes such as Command, Self-Assurance, Significance or Discipline.

Regardless of an individual’s mix of talents, each combination can be molded and put to use to make the world a better place.

Where there is a mission, a relationship, expectations and proper celebration, people and organizations thrive.


CliftonStrengths Summit Keynote — A Lifelong Journey

Rounding out the dynamic list of keynote speakers was Paul Allen, Gallup’s Strengths Evangelist and Ancestry.com Founder.

I took so many notes during Allen’s opening and closing remarks, it’s impossible to fit them all in here.

However, these key points resonated with special significance.

On viewing his career in hindsight through the lens of his own strengths: “My Top Five (talent themes) explained everything I’ve done in my business career.”

(Dear high school, undergraduate and graduate school students—if you remember anything else from this post, please appreciate the above quote.)

For Summit attendees only: “I’ve never used a computer before. I like computers, and this makes me feel more human.”

Allen’s father was a world-renowned engineering taxonomy professor who revolutionized global manufacturing. Yet, one of this man’s greatest gifts were the wise words he spoke to his son, Paul, when he was only five years old: “Make use of your gifts and talents to serve mankind.”

On growing a strengths-based society: “In 2004, 1 million people had taken StrengthsFinder. By 2010, 5 million. By 2014, 10 million. Today, 14 million people have taken StrengthsFinder with 7,986 taking the talent assessment every day.”


If you attended the CliftonStrengths summit, you most likely returned home as energized and passionate about the strengths movement as I am.

The ideas, conversations and energy from such a purpose-filled group will be fascinating to watch unfold in the years to come.

It’s remarkable to consider the impact one young Nebraskan professor would have on the world when he thought to ask, “What if we studied what was right with people versus what’s wrong with people?”


If you want to take the CliftonStrengths assessment and see what all of the buzz is about, click here.

If you enjoyed this post, please sign-up for more insights on turning talents into strengths at StrengthsLauncher.com.

Or, drop me a line at hello@strengthslauncher.com. I’d love to hear about you and your own strengths journey.

Cheers!

Doug Wilks

Google’s Mission Statement and What It Means To You

Laszlo Bock, Head of People Operations at Google, explores the power and benefits of a Google’s mission statement in chapter two of his best-selling book, “Work Rules: Insights From Google That Will Transform How You Live And Leads”.

Google’s mission statement is simple and straightforward: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

How does this simple declaration inspire employees to find the deeper meaning in their work and create more value?

When your mission matters, it reframes how you think, prioritize and execute. Your work becomes a daily calling.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to work at Google or even a Fortune 500 company to harness the benefits of a great mission statement.

You can make your own.

Crafting your own personal mission statement can put the full force of intrinsic motivation behind your goals.

Here’s how.


Focus

We’ve all seen corporate mission, purpose, values and vision statements frankensteined together by well-meaning committees. Done poorly, they’re unintentionally hilarious blobs of corporate speak.

Bad mission statements try to say everything and be everything to everyone.

Instead, they say nothing at all to an audience of zero.

Conversely, Google’s mission provides a clear, concise touchstone for every employee.

A good personal mission statement does the same thing. It’s a benchmark you can point to each day to filter what truly matters.

“Does [fill-in-your-own-blank] honor your mission?” is an excellent way to rapidly test key decisions. If the answer is “no”, you’ve just saved a lot of wasted time.

A personal mission statement gives you long term focus and helps prevent you from spending your life on things that don’t matter.

Beyond long term focus, it also expands your personal and professional freedom.


Freedom

Consider any athlete preparing for this summer’s Olympics in Rio. Each high-performance competitor is committed to a specific daily workout regimen.

What if a coach or trainer presents a new workout wrinkle or nutritional approach that may give the athlete an edge?

The smart competitor has freedom to tinker, adjust and improve his or her training protocol.

Because they have a personal mission statement guiding their choices, they can edit their routine for maximum results. Similarly, if a new approach honors your mission, you’re free to try it out and add it to your arsenal or leave it behind.

Thus, a personal mission statement gives you the freedom to do this:

Find out what works; do more of it. Pinpoint what doesn’t work; do less of it.

Over time, this simple construct will bless you with extreme clarity.


Fulfillment

Finally, a personal mission statement helps you define success. No one else gets to define it for you. It’s yours alone to determine.

Bock describes Google’s mission as letting it “move forward by steering with a compass rather than a speedometer.”

That’s a nice way to put it.

Compass > Speedometer.

Face it. Graveyards are full of people who spent their whole life chasing unimportant stuff for all the wrong reasons. Maybe you’re on that road right now. Then again, maybe you’re not. (Hope not!)

Part of the fun of executive coaching is helping people pause from the tyranny of distraction and assess what they truly want to achieve. Uncovering these “aha” moments is incredibly edifying and energizing—not just for the client, but for myself as well.

So, spend a few quiet minutes alone to unpack how you’re investing your time and talent. Reflect on where you are and where you want to go.

Create your own personal mission statement. Commit to it in writing.

Then, ask yourself:

  1. Are you currently serving your mission right now in your work and life?
  2. If not, why?
  3. What changes can you make today to correct this?
  4. How will you measure whether you’re fulfilling your mission?
  5. Who will keep you accountable?

Personal Mission Statement Summary

Remember:

A great personal mission statement gives your work meaning. There’s a moral element to it, not a profit element.

A great personal mission statement taps into the power of intrinsic motivation.

A great personal mission statement helps you act like a founder since every day you—and you alone— decide whether to honor it.


To help you kick-start your own personal mission statement:

Personal Mission Statements of 5 Famous CEOs

Your Personal Roadmap

Helping Your People Find Purpose In their Work.

For more on the power of intrinsic motivation:

The Problem Wth Financial Incentives and What to Do About It – Knowledge@Wharton

For an excellent examination on living a meaningful life:

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen


If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for future updates at StrengthsLauncher or drop me line at hello@strengthslancher.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Best of the World of Work — Q1 2016

Here are five of my favorite articles on talent, work and leadership from Q1 2016.

Each essay illuminates the world of modern work, highlights important trends and enhances our perspective. Enjoy.

Management — Knowledge at Wharton: Love Me Do – Lessons From The Fifth Beatle

Love Me Do: Management Lessons from the Fifth Beatle


Innovation — HBR: Create The Future, Manage The Present and Selectively Forget The Past

Future of Work — Rooting Digital: Strategic Technology Trends 2016

http://rootingdigital.com/2016/03/20/strategic-technology-trends-2016/


Leadership — HBR: The Most Important Leadership Competencies

Teamwork — Forbes: Why Focusing On Teams Is Key To Success

 

Just land a new job, promotion or business opportunity and want to keep up the momentum? Please say hello@strengthslauncher.com.

Turning natural talents into strengths is my specialty, and I’d love to help you focus your strengths on your goals.

How To Win A Work/Life Academy Award

One of my favorite lines in the Oscar-nominated “The Martian” is when astronaut Mark Watney realizes his best chance for survival is through his own unique, natural talent.

“I don’t want to come off as arrogant, but I’m the greatest botanist on this planet.”

[Spoiler Alert]
As viewers know, Watney (Matt Damon) is the only person on Mars…However, he reveals two things to the audience here.

First, we get a laugh and some character exposition into our protagonist’s dry winsomeness. Second, he shows us his insightful (and, potentially life-saving) self-awareness.

Watney knows he has the talent within himself to achieve his goal.

Will building a makeshift greenhouse on Mars be easy? No. Has NASA ever even grown food on the Red Planet (or any other planet)? Nope.

If Watney harnesses his innate, natural talents does he have a chance? Yes.

While you may not be the greatest botanist on Mars, you are uniquely wired for greatness at something here on Earth. You just have to find out what your talents are and how they work together.

Moreover, the difference between knowing and not knowing can dramatically influence your health, productivity and wellbeing…

Ground Control to Major Watney

My second favorite line from “The Martian”:

[after trying to make water by burning hydrogen] “So…I blew myself up.”

How’s your failure rate these days?

Hopefully, you don’t have to create your own water by isolating hydrogen from left over rocket fuel. However, what have you tried, failed at and learned from in the past seven days?

If you can’t think of anything, you’re not failing fast enough.

For example, if you’ve spent any time learning guitar, swinging a tennis racquet or preparing a new recipe, you’re familiar with the pain of short-term failure—calloused fingers, sore elbows and learning to quickly remove the batteries from your smoke alarm…

Eventually, after hours of mindful practice (and failure), you learn a few chords, consistently get your backhand over the net, and serve an edible apple-glazed lamb chop.

In smart work circles, quality failure is an activity that’s honored. Consider Google. Few companies are more dedicated to fostering a culture of innovation. (Check out Laszlo Bock’s “Work Rules!” for excellent insight into growing smart organizations.)

The benefits Google receives from allowing its employees to mindfully fail is staggering in terms of new products, new services and the creation of entire new markets for the company.

Fear-based cultures, on the other hand, shun and silence workers who dare suggest unfamiliar—but potentially superior—ideas and initiatives.

Why do lesser organizations, and people, for that matter, avoid failure with such determination?

People like the idea of improvement, but they hate change.

Someone at Kodak must have suggested paying closer attention to the growth of digital photography in the late 1990’s. Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975, for goodness sake. Alas, that potentially golden opportunity was not to be.

In 1908, a well-run saddlery probably made a decent profit. Then, this happened.

As we see, sometimes you gotta make water from hydrogen. You have to put your natural talents to work and take risks. When you do, you may get “blown up” a few times in the process. You’ll face uncertainty, challenges and your fair share of disappointment.

However, it’s the only way to survive past Sol 300 on Mars–much less thrive on earth.

It’s Time To Leave The Capsule…If You Dare

In the final scene, we see Watney in a lecture hall coaching a young group of explorers. Here’s the closing dialogue of the film:

“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you…everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, ‘This is it. This is how I end.’ Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home. All right, questions?”

In work and life “everything going south” is a “when” not an “if” proposition. When it does, will you be prepared?

One of the best ways to discover your natural talents and begin turning them into strengths is through the best-selling StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and talent assessment.

Check it out and remember the mindset of Mars’ greatest botanist. Own your natural talents, and keep failing until you’ve achieve your goal.

You may never be the greatest botanist on another planet, but you can become the best you on this planet.


If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for future updates at StrengthsLauncher or drop me line at hello@strengthslancher.com. I’d love to help you discover, grow and focus your natural talents.

Talent And The Art Of The Comeback – TCU’s Stunning Alamo Bowl Victory

Elvis in ’68. Sinatra in ’74. Bills v. Oilers in ’93. In their own ways, all worthy comebacks.

However, there’s a new contender for best comeback of all time. TCU’s triple overtime win over Oregon in the 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl.

“The Kolhausen Comeback.”

From the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory, “greatest comebacks of all time” don’t just happen by accident.

How can you prepare to win more, live smarter and maybe even pull off your own comeback in 2016?

Read More

Leadership Lessons from Jerry Seinfeld

Last year Jerry Seinfeld, co-creator of what TV Guide called “the greatest television show of all time”, hosted a hilarious and nostalgic Reddit AMA.

Not only is it an entertaining read, but we learn a lot about how he thinks, works and treats people.

What does Seinfeld know about leadership you might be missing?

Read More

TCU Legend LaDainian Tomlinson: Success Secrets in Work and Life

What are the secret ingredients to a successful personal and professional life? How do we cut through the noise and the naysayers to stay focused on our goals?

LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU Hall of Famer and the NFL’s 5th all-time leading rusher, spoke to the TCU Alumni Association in Dallas on Friday.

Here are just a few key insights from LT’s Q&A:

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