Avoid a squiggly mess!

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Mark Complete

The Strengths Advantage: Using Work Strengths

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Have you ever tried to write with your non-dominant hand? The result is usually a squiggly mess and the effort is certainly not a productive use of time or energy. Asking our team members to operate outside of their natural strengths produces the same type of results. Time is often spent cleaning up the mess or correcting avoidable mistakes.

Maximizing the strengths of our team members sets the entire organization up for success. By aligning the jobs to be done with individual strengths, we create environments of high performance and engagement.


Personality and work strengths assessments have been around for a while. Most second-year college students have seen the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator at least twice. Such tools are often used to point people in a direction for the future by aligning personal traits to career and other opportunities. In the workplace, tools like Management By Strengths and CliftonStrengths are utilized to help individuals develop greater awareness of their natural communication and behavioral tendencies.

If we stop at understanding our own strengths, we miss the full power of these tools. Assessing individual strengths provides teams and leaders with valuable information for aligning work objectives and tasks to the right people. Asking a team member with strong Woo to welcome guests at a networking event will yield greater results than assigning that same task to an introvert. Relying on strengths to guide a team increases productivity, satisfaction, and engagement.


Strong results require strong teams. The best way to build a strong team is to capitalize on individual strengths. When employees know how they and their team members naturally operate, communication, engagement, and relationships all function at levels that support the organization’s mission.

Improve Communication

Understanding and integrating individual communication styles and preferences results in more effective and constructive interactions with our teams. For team members who thrive on structure and timing, consider starting each task request with information about deadlines. Communicating clearly received messages requires us to be aware of temperament differences of our team members and to know that tailoring our approach and words can help us be most effective. A team’s increased awareness of collective strengths positions its members to engage with each other at the highest levels.

Build Positive and Productive Relationships

Using strengths to align people to work roles and tasks makes people feel valued by leadership. Honoring individual strengths in this way builds trust and positive relationships across the organization. Actively emphasizing and recognizing strengths during team and one-on-one meetings communicates to all employees that leaders are committed to getting the right people in the right roles, so everyone can be successful.

Increase Engagement

According to Gallup (2014), focusing on individual strengths makes employees “six times more likely to be engaged.” Putting employees in positions that reflect their strengths leads to feelings of empowerment. This results in decision-making that will move individual work and the organization’s priorities forward.

In organizations where strengths are part of regular dialogue and thought, similar feelings of security and empowerment emerge as employees engage in development opportunities. Leaders and employees can use strengths as the foundation of plans and efforts to improve areas of opportunity. This approach to growing and leading with strengths supports cultures of trust and high levels of engagement.

Keep at the Forefront

Playing to individual strengths helps us get the most out of our teams. This means keeping strengths top of mind. Some organizations have come up with creative ways to communicate the strengths of its team members.

  • Teams can post a chart or table of each team member’s strengths in the conference room, to serve as a reminder during meetings.
  • Organizations can include a miniature image or icon on employee badges to reflect each employee’s top strength, to enhance face-to-face interactions.
  • Team members can add their strengths to email signature lines as a way to reinforce communication considerations. 

Non-dominant hand practice

Time yourself writing your name with your non-dominant hand. Then, time yourself writing your name with your dominant hand. Relate that to the time wasted when we, or our team members, are asked to work outside of our strengths.

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