Volume 62, May 2006: Strength-based Organizations

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2006 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Wasted strengths are sundials in the shade.” — Benjamin Franklin

“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.” — Old Spanish Proverb

“[O]ne of the goals of life is to try and be in touch with one’s most personal themes – the values, ideas, styles, colors that are the touchstones of one’s own individual life, its real texture and substance.” — Gloria Vanderbilt

“To give style to one’s character – a great and rare art! He exercises it who surveys all that his nature presents in strength and weakness and then moulds it to an artistic plan until everything appears as art and reason …” — Friedrich Nietzsche


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Capitalizing on the strengths and personal styles of employees.
  • Bringing out the best in people and helping them see the best in others.
  • Pointing to what is good and successful in the workplace.
  • Developing strength-based organizations, with unprecedented trust and cooperation.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

According to a Gallup Poll, only 20% of the workforce feels they are playing to their strengths on the job (Buckingham & Clifton, 2001). So often we gear the personal growth of our employees in the direction of overcoming their weaknesses and filling in their learning gaps. Why not build on the natural capacities and talents that people bring to the job? Select people based on talent required. Study of the talents of your best performers. Spend training time on enhancing strengths. Grow careers up strength ladders. Notice and appreciate what is good and true in your organization – and language that.

Frequently Asked Questions

“If everyone is so unhappy on the job, what can we do?”
Martin Seligman (2002) says we are going through a shift from a money economy to a satisfaction economy. He offer a prescription for more “flow” (what occurs when your challenges perfectly mesh with your abilities to meet them):
  • Identify your signature strengths.
  • Choose work that lets you use them every day.
  • Recraft your present work to better use your strengths.
  • If you are the employer, chose employees whose strengths mesh with the work they do.
  • If you are the manager, make room to allow employees to recraft their work within the bounds of your goals. (p. 176)
“I get confused on the nomenclature. What’s a strength – is it the same as a talent?”
You have to have talent to have a strength, write Buckingham and Clifton (2001). They define the following: A strength is near perfect performance in an activity. “The acid test of a strength is if you can imagine yourself doing it repeatedly. happily and consistently.” A talent is “any recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.” You need knowledge to get into the game (although this does not guarantee excellence). Knowledge is of two kinds: factual and experiential. A skill is a sequence of steps that operationalizes knowledge. Skills will help you get better at something, but they work best when combined with a natural talent.
“Does this affect performance appraisals?”
Of course. The term “Performance Development” is probably more on target, since the aim is to grow employees, tap their strengths, add new skills, expand their capabilities within the organization, and increase job satisfaction. Either the supervisor or the employee can identify areas or goals to achieve growth, to prepare for a new job or assignment that will require additional or expanded skills and or competencies. The process is owned largely by the employee, and the supervisor assists in the role of coach/partner. Together they would develop action plans with goals, defined outcomes, and timelines. The employee would lead the assessment of progress under the plan. This is regular and predictable, not just once a year. “Strength-Based Development” for employees, as outlined by the Gallup Organization, is an eight-step process:
  • identifying the strengths of each employee;
  • finding the right job fit for all employees;
  • developing great managers;
  • increasing employee engagement in both their work and in the company;
  • as a result of the employees’ engagement, increasing the customer loyalty

which leads to

  • sustainable growth;
  • increased net assets; and
  • increased delivery of the organization’s mission


Review of the “Strength Revolution” described by Buckingham & Clifton (2001): Now Discover Your Strengths.

Keyzines on related topics: Motivation, Pride in Work, Optimism, Renewing Ourselves, Valuing Diversity, and Convening People.

Using Appreciative Inquiry Tools to build a strength-based innovation culture: Appreciative Inquiry Portal.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Free assessments using numerous surveys, including 240-question “VIA Signature Strengths” and a 24-question“Brief Strengths Test”: Questionnaires Center.

Find your strengths: Clifton Strengths Index (180 paired items) takes 30-40 minutes. Must have a code from a Gallup Strengths publication.

Positive Impact Assessment (also requires a code from the book by Rath & Clifton (2004): Strengths.

Keirsey Temperament Sorter II (online personality assessment).

Are you in the right job? Take the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey

Key Associates offers:

  • Leadership Development
  • Performance Coaching
  • On-Site Training Seminars
  • Off-Site Team Retreats



Buy MK’s latest book!