BMF Insights: Leveraging Strengths
September 18, 2018 BMF Insights

“You need to be more well-rounded.”

“You need to focus on your weaknesses.”

“You need to be more like this and less like that.”

Like most of us, you’ve likely heard these statements echoed throughout your professional career, if not your entire life. As business professionals, we so often focus on problem-solving and corrective measures and “fixing” what’s wrong, so it’s no surprise that we would want to take that same approach with our personal and professional development. But while this approach seems sensible and well-intended, what might happen if we were to focus on what was right with people rather than fixating on what’s wrong?

At BMF, we thought we’d find out…

Last fall, as part of our annual strategic planning retreat, 40+ members of our management team completed the CliftonStrengths assessment. The assessment is a tool developed from nearly 60 years of groundbreaking research and more than 1.7 million business leader interviews, started by Donald Clifton, Ph.D. with the help of scientists and researchers at Gallup, into leadership qualities, how they are developed, and the verified outcomes of people of who focus on their strengths daily.

The outcomes are compelling. According to Gallup’s research and analysis from their research, people who identify and focus on their strengths daily are:

  • 3x as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.
  • 6x as likely to be engaged in their jobs
  • 7.8% more productive

What’s more, teams that focus on strengths everyday experience 12.5% greater productivity and staff that receive feedback with an emphasis on their strengths see a 14.9% improvement!

When our management team completed the assessment and discussed our individual results during the retreat, it was clear that our collective emphasis to date on our weaknesses – rather than our strengths – was more than likely muting what makes each of us strong, talented, and unique. Enthusiastic conversation and additional training in the months that have followed have demonstrated our deeper insight into – and appreciation of – our own natural talents, and how our strengths can be applied at their highest level. This self-awareness has also transcended into how we perceive others, helping to change the development dialogue of our managers and leaders from that of “what aren’t you good at?” to more of “how can we provide you additional opportunities to use your strengths?”

As managers, we know that our emphasis on weaknesses – an approach that we are all familiar with – can be counterproductive. Focusing on what we’re naturally good at makes our talents – the strengths that put us at our best – actually stronger. Furthermore, Gallup’s research bears out that the longer people stay at their job, the more likely they are to have strongly agreed that they have opportunities to do what they do best every day. So not only does an emphasis on strengths have a positive effect on personal and professional development for the individual, it also has far-reaching potential for our efforts with employee retention and engagement.

To date, more than 19 million people have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment. At BMF, we intend to add to that number when we roll out the assessment to the rest of our staff later this fall. The buzz and feedback thus far have been overwhelmingly positive, and it has created for us a collective language and approach to appreciating those things that make us different while reminding us that those same things are actually what make us strong.

After 40 years of research, you would think that a team of scientists would find at least one strength that all of the best leaders shared. But when Don Clifton, the Father of the Strengths Psychology, was asked just a few months before his death in 2003, what his greatest discovery was from his decades of research, his response was:

“What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows their strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time.”
– Don Clifton


About the Authors

Stephanie E. Smith
Stephanie E. Smith
Strategic Communications & Engagement Manager, Marketing Department


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