Lisa Cummings - Lead Through Strengths

028: Why You Should Be Obsessing Over Your Strengths – Lisa Cummings

Lisa Cummings is a StrengthsFinder Trainer and Speaker who has delivered training and speaking events to over 13,500 participants in 14 countries. You can see her featured in places like Harvard Business Publishing, Training Magazine, and Forbes, and she’s the CEO of a company called Lead Through Strengths. Her super-powers include seeing each person’s uniqueness – even when they can’t see it in themselves, infusing corporate cultures with energy and zest that were more lost than your sock that disappeared in the laundry 13 months ago, and offering a practical how-to element to a topic that often leaves people hanging after the initial inspiration.

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Why obsessing over your strengths is more effective than your weaknesses.
  • How the StrengthsFinder assessment can help you be more successful in all areas of life.
  • What it looks like to use your strengths daily.
  • A fresh approach to looking at your weaknesses. 

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Interview Transcript

Lisa, thank you so much taking time to hang with me today. I appreciate it.

Love being here. And I’m loving that, for anyone who is watching in addition to listening, we kind of have this backdrop vibe that’s jiving in color scheme here.

Yes, I love your acoustic tiles. You are in a soundproof room, I love it.

It’s official.

So, we’re talking all about strengths today, and weakness. Because I’m going to just say, you can’t talk about strengths unless you can talk about weaknesses, at least bringing it up. So, sell me on it. Why is it more effective to focus on my strengths, rather than working on my weaknesses, which I’ve tried to do my entire life?

So, if I can tweak the word focus and say, “Obsess”, I will say I believe people should be obsessive over their strengths. They should focus on their weaknesses. It’s something that should be addressed, but people usually obsess over them and think, “I would like to be more of this. I wish I were that.” They’ll spend their whole career or their whole life thinking and obsessing about what they wish they were or what they wish they could be and it’s really a downer.

If you think about this concept; imagine Superman. Superman can leap giant buildings in a single bound, right? Okay, now imagine if there’s someone to be saved in the next building over and Superman says, “You know, that thing that the Invisible Man does? That’s really cool. I’ve really always wanted to work on my invisible skills. I’m just going to double down on invisible skills this calendar year.” It sounds totally absurd, but this is exactly what we do for our personal development.

So, you already have super powers in you. You already have things that come to you naturally; how you think, how you feel, how you act. And if you decide to obsess over developing those, the high leverage that you get is really amazing. It actually feels easy to become better at your performance. Whereas, if you had decided to obsess over your weaknesses, it’s frustrating, it’s draining, it makes you procrastinate and it’s a pretty depressing way to live a life and a career. So, how about that? Are you convinced yet?

I’m getting there. Yet, I’ve had teachers, parents and coaches, all of them tell me, “You’ve got to fix that weakness.” There are people who even say “Fix”, like I’m broken.

Exactly. Isn’t that a sad thing? For people to treat you like you’re broken? You’re not broken, you’re already awesome. It’s all inside of you to be accessed. So, the next thing to consider, is it even a weakness? One thing I see people doing is saying, “I have to focus on this weakness. I really need to bring up this weak spot.” Think about it. Does it even matter? Is it getting in the way of your performance? Or is it getting in the way of someone else’s performance? If it’s not, let’s just not call it a weakness. Let’s just call it something else that somebody else can do or have that doesn’t even matter in your life.

So that’s the first one and that can get rid of a whole lot of stuff to worry about. Then after that, if you decided, “Yes, something is getting in the way of my performance or it is getting in the way of someone else’s performance,” then there are other ways to go about this. There are ways to mitigate it and to work around it. Let me give you two examples; one is, partner with somebody who does that and who loves that. Inevitably, one person’s trash task, is another person’s treasured task. For example, the other day I did a StrengthsFinder training and some guy said, “I love doing escalations,” and everyone in the room was like, “What?! Why?” Everyone else hated it and he was like, “Give them to me. I love them.”

So, they thought that was their weak area and he’s thinking, “That’s my greatest strength. I’m the world’s best subject matter expert in this thing. So why not have the joy in knowing that when some issue comes to me, I’m the last person that has to touch it? I’m going to turn it around for them.” So, there’s the partnership thing. Watch for, what is your trash and what is your treasure, and then look for the opposite world and find someone you can partner up with. Because someone loves doing the stuff that you don’t like doing.

The other is, a lot of times you can work around the weakness by getting to the outcome through one of your strengths. It sounds really obvious, but so many people forget they’ve been going about the thing at their default way or at the way someone taught them to do it or the way everyone else does it. And instead of doing it the way that makes it feel like, “Ugh, this is such drudgery,” if you know your strengths, you can think, “Hmm, how can I get to those outcomes through my strengths instead?” You’ll find a new way to approach the thing that isn’t so draining or so difficult.

I like this video that you did awhile back called, Using Your Strong Arm, Versus Your Wrong Arm. Give people that visual.

The strong-handed moments and the wrong-handed moments. I’ve explained this a couple different ways, but here’s how we’ll do it today; imagine you are holding a baseball in your hand. Go ahead and hold up your hand and put a baseball in it. Yes, it’s imaginary. Then throw that baseball forward. I’m actually sitting right now, so I’m a little more awkward than normal, but do this standing up if you’re listening. Next, you need to flip hands and do the same thing in the opposite hand, and then throw that ball forward. What you’ll notice is, one of them felt easier than the other. One of them felt really natural. Even your whole body coordination; if you’re standing up and you tried to throw with your wrong hand, you realize, “Do I step forward with this foot or this foot?” And you have your tongue sticking out and there’s this concentration face you’re making, because it takes this extra effort. You can still do it. If you broke your arm and you needed to be competent in that weakness area, you would be able to take your wrong hand and get decent at it. But it would always take a little more effort and a little more concentration. It would take more than if you were using your strong hand.

It’s just like that in work or in life. You can get competent in your weaknesses, but it’s a little more draining and it’s a little more effortful. It’s the kind of thing that you might procrastinate over or not look forward to. So, during your day, if you can just think, “Am I in a wrong-handed moment, or a strong-handed moment right now? Am I doing something that I can do with ease and energy and enjoyment? Or is it something that really takes the extra time to work up to?” Like, “Okay, before I do this next pivot table, I’m not looking forward to it. So, I’m going to go get a cup of coffee and then I’m going to check in on my email really quick and make sure no emergencies came up. And then I’m finally going to get back to the thing that I’m meant to be doing,” and now I’m twenty minutes into the task. It should have taken me two minutes, but it took me twenty minutes to work up to it. So, that’s the difference in being in your strong-handed or wrong-handed moments.

Prior to six months ago when I started getting healthy, my reward was something sweet or something that I shouldn’t be eating. That was my reward for a wrong-handed moment. You’ve got to reward yourself somehow.

You use the term StrengthsFinder and obviously I talked about that in the introduction, but for those of you who have not yet heard of StrengthsFinder, what is it? And how can it help every single listener? Because I believe, there’s not a single person that it would not benefit, without a doubt.

I’m biased as well, so I totally believe what you’re saying. StrengthsFinder is an assessment. Call it a survey, call it an assessment, call it a psychometric tool, call it whatever you want. It’s 177 forced choice questions, where it says, “Is this more like you? Or is this more like you?” And then your choices are ranked. Over the course of these questions, a bunch of them are repeated against other things. So, they might seem like they keep coming up, but these choices are being stacked up against different things to eventually force rank 34 potential talent themes.

What’s different about StrengthsFinder is a lot of people have heard of the book, but they assume it’s just another personality test. Where it’s different is, this wasn’t based on the five factors of psychology like the other assessments that tell you if you’re an introvert or an extrovert or if you’re people focused or task focused. This one’s a little bit different, in that this came from the study of the factors that lead people to success in their life. They’re your easy buttons, if you will.

So, if you imagine, no matter how many assessments you’ve done in your life, it’s going to give you a different lens of you. What comes out is, you get this top five; five words that are out of the 34. So, you find out which five will be easiest for you to access and easiest for you to press when you need to find success towards any outcome. What is so cool about getting these five words is, that usually out of a few of them, you’ll say, “Oh, yeah. That’s totally me and I can see how I could apply that at work or in life.” And then a few of them, you might think, “Huh, I hadn’t really thought of that. Yeah, I think that’s me, but I don’t really know what to do with that.” It gives you this whole other way of thinking about how you do things.

So many of us have spent so much of our time branding ourselves, branding our careers, branding our businesses, branding our lives and building a reputation around what is we know,  we’ve totally forgotten how it is we interact with the world; how we think, how we relate and how we influence. So, it’s really cool, because it gives you the how part to compliment the what. It brings this rich layer that many people just haven’t thought of.

I remember when I first took it, it was probably over ten years ago. What year did this come out through the Gallup Organization?

It first came out in 1999. That’s when they really started going public with it. They had done it internally for something like 30 years with clients, but they finally came out to the public with all the rules and StrengthsFinder and now StrengthsFinder 2.0; the book. That’s when it really hit the scene.

And Marcus Buckingham was part of that effort in brining that to the public.


When I first took it, I remember the excitement of, like you said, “Wow, these totally fit me.” And, “Well, that was surprising. These are a couple surprising ones.” But then I was kind of left thinking, “I thought I was supposed to work on my weaknesses, what about the weaknesses?” Even with Myers Briggs, I’ve taken that assessment a bazillion times; I’m an INTJ. There’s some serious strengths and some serious weaknesses that Myers Briggs points out. So, what’s interesting about StrengthsFinder is that I was thinking, “Okay, this is a bit of a relief.” I kind of feel this little bit of a relief and it’s almost this grace filled experience of saying, “Oh, I’ve spent so much time focusing on my weaknesses and I feel bad about my weaknesses, but I don’t have to feel bad about them in this moment. I can just focus on my strengths.” Do other people have that experience?

Yeah, actually I had a sales guy not too long ago, and when he read the report he said, “This is some of the nicest stuff anyone has ever said about me.” I was like, “Yes!” Why don’t we give ourselves that grace? What a word that you chose. That’s such a cool way to look at it. Give yourself the grace to acknowledge, “Yeah, I’m pretty cool. I’m pretty awesome. I have a lot of potential to offer the world. I have a lot of contributions inside of me. Instead of obsessing about all the things I don’t have, why don’t I think about what I could offer the world?” How beautiful is that?

Talk to me about yourself, if you would be willing to. What are your personal strengths and have they changed? Have you seen them change since you’ve taken the test? How you see those play out in your own life?

I was similar to you; I first took it back in that ’99 – 2000 era. And now, I’ve been nerding out on StrengthsFinder for twenty years. I actually didn’t realize that Gallup’s stance is not to re-take the assessment and that your first response is your truest. So, before I got certified through them and became affiliated through them, I had done it three times. Then learned this and thought, “Oops, okay.” But what I found with me is, what their data shows rang true. So, they have found that over decades of time when they studied people’s changes, 70% of the top ten results that people get, remains persistent over long spans of time, even decades. So that’s pretty cool, and that’s what mine did as well. My top ten things changed around in order, but that’s typical. There was only one that came up different inside of the top ten, and I know exactly why. It was something I was trying to squash out of me, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend that. But otherwise, they were quite persistent. With just a couple of changes of things that were peeking into the top five, like Focus, which is a really strong one for me. That’s not in my latest version; Focus and Futuristic, but those two are really strong in my mind, so I kind of feel like I claim my top seven and those have all been in my top five at different times. Strategic, Maximizer, Individualization, Positivity and Woo are my top five.

Break those down for people who are not familiar with them. I don’t know all 34, because I’m not an expert. Tell me about yours.

Strategic, this is one that’s kind of a tricky, because the word “Strategic” means something really specific in Gallup language. The meaning here is that, I see possibilities that I can sort through really fast. So, imagine you have a traffic block in the road and you’re imagining, “These are my five alternative routes,” you pick one and you go really quickly. So, it’s a fast decision maker. I see a lot of options, but then I can make really quick decisions without buyer’s remorse and without rehashing. Also, I can often simplify really complex things quickly, because I can see those patterns and possibilities.

Then Maximizer, this one naturally aligns with the strength’s world. I see potential and I see potential in people. I see potential in processes. So, I always want to be making things better, and I always believe that people can become better. And I know that it is a lifelong question. We’re never done with anything, even projects. So sometimes, this gets into a concept that might make you feel like this is a weakness, but sometimes there are these trouble maker talents and that one is a bit of my torment. Because nothing is ever done, not even projects with a complete date.

Individualization, this is very relationship focused strength and it is one that sees every person for what makes them different. I love to get to meet a new person and explore, “What makes them weird? What makes them special? What do they nerd out on that no one else cares about? What’s their unique thing?”

Then positivity is basically what it sounds like in the optimism front, but it’s also that I like things to be fun-loving and light. I don’t want to be stiff. I’m a little bit informal. I definitely like humor and I want to create an atmosphere, because I think that’s a fun way to live life.

Woo is one that’s about social variety. So, this is one where if you mapped it to Myers Briggs that you talked about, you talked about introverts and extroverts. People who lead with Woo, tend to be extroverted and tend to have a big circle of friends. And anybody who isn’t in that camp might say, “That means you just have a whole bunch of acquaintances.” But that’s kind of the thing for me, “Oh, just bring on the new people. I love meeting people. I love talking to strangers.” That sounds fun to me. That sounds horrible to a lot of other people. So those are my top five.

That’s great. I can feel the woo. I felt the woo the moment the video came on. It was like, “Whoa, she’s wooing me here.”

So, my strengths are Futuristic, Command, Competition, Activator and Input. I was surprised by two when I first took it, I’ve only taken it once, but the one that surprised me was Competition. With my background, I always thought of competition as kind of a negative thing, and that competing with other people isn’t necessarily positive. But then I understood that Gallup sees that a little bit differently. Then with Input, I never thought of myself as seeking input and I can sometimes be turned off by people wanting to give their input. But then I started to understand that differently as well. I saw, “Wow, these really do fit me quite well.”

For those who aren’t as knowledgeable on these areas and to be completely self-centered, go ahead and tell me about my strengths. Break down each one of them.

Well, this is cool and you’re definitely not being self-centred. Because your listeners, when they listened to my, they heard the word Strategic and that might be a popular word in their company. Where people are like, “Hey, we all need to be more strategic thinkers.” But that’s not what this means in Gallup language. Same with your reaction to Input. It means something really specific. So, they can learn that these have a really unique flavor to them.

Also, this lets them see that this brings surprises to them. It shows them ways they might have contributions to give that are fun for them to give to other people, that they just hadn’t thought of. So, I think you’ll really peak their interest in wanting to do this. Before I do a quick round on yours, tell me, you had mentioned earlier that a couple of them surprised you. Say a little bit more about that.

Well, it was Competition and Input. Probably because, with Competition, people who already listen to our podcast know that I have a faith background and competition is really pushed down in that world. It’s a really negative thing. So, I felt like, “Ooh, geez, I don’t want to be that.” I felt kind of bad. And then Input, I had this idea of people coming with criticism or, “Hey, I want to give you input.” But then I started to realize that I actually do seek input a lot. Even doing a podcast speaks to the whole idea of input. I love learning from other people and having them speak into the world and highlighting that. Those were definitely the two that surprised me.

What’s really cool is the chances anyone else will have your top five in the same order as you, is 1 in 33 million. So, any listener is not going to share your talent themes with you. A listener might say, “Oh, hey, I’ve taken that and I have Input. That sounds familiar, but it actually looks different on me.” What’s cool is, whatever your strengths are combined with, make them act differently. So, it’s neat that you’re unique and no one is going to be like you, or very few people are. I’ve never found my strengths twin in all of these years I’ve been looking. But, at the same time, the language is so easy and the ability to begin talking about them and exploring them and thinking about them in your life, it’s so accessible. It’s really the best of both words. You’re a totally unique unicorn, but it’s also easy to talk about.

When I think of yours and how the dynamics might mix because of your unique combination, having Futuristic mixed with Command – tell me your very first one again?

Actually, I’m not giving those to you in order, because I don’t necessarily remember the order. But they are Futuristic, Command, Competition, Activator and Input.

Okay, so Futuristic, Activator and Command together are really unique.  Activator is one that is saying “Hey, let’s get moving. Let’s just get started right away.” If you were in a corporate environment where people hemmed and hawed a lot and then they were very risk adverse and they didn’t want to get started; that might really drive you crazy. But if you were in an environment where people said, “Let’s just go, let’s get it started. Let’s see what happens,” that would be more Activator-like.

So, when you take something like Futuristic, which is very much what it sounds like; orientation to the future and really seeing the possibilities clearly. Being able to imagine a vision really clearly about where you’re headed and what things can be. And if you can see that vision clearly, and you’re ready to move, you’re ready to go. And then you have Command, which means you’re usually able to beautifully and crisply, bring concepts into words. I’ve noticed this in the podcast episodes I listened to of yours. You can find great ways of summarizing something that’s taken someone a long time. Maybe it makes you a great interviewer, but someone talks for three minutes and then you can summarize it in three words very beautifully. That’s a trait that Command would have.

So, if you imagine Futuristic, “I can see where we’re going so clearly. I know what this is going to look like.” Then Activator, “Let’s go get that started. Let’s move toward it.” Then Command, when you communicate it with other people with confidence and clarity. It allows other people to follow you easily. What a neat combination for being a leader and really leading your life that way. How does that part sit for you so far?

Definitely, but you know what’s funny? Even as you talk about it, all I can think about are my weaknesses. Isn’t that crazy? I can see all the strengths, but I’m thinking, “Oh yeah, this is how it’s challenging.” Isn’t that wild? That’s part of my own psychology, not everybody’s psychology. That’s my own guilt.

Actually, I would have to say it’s part of most people’s psychology. At one point, when I first started this work – as my soul work and doing strengths only, I thought, “This is just too simple,” and I questioned whether I could I have a career around only this.  But then I go to event after event after event, and whether it’s five people or five hundred people, you’re always fighting your brain and your brain is a powerful force. It has a strong negative cognitive bias that says,  “Whoa there, buckaroo. Hold on, I’m going to keep you safe back here.”

So, you are not the only one. And even when I’m saying all those lovely things about you, the next thing that usually comes up is, “Yeah, but sometimes I’ve been a little forceful or I’ve been bossy before.” And I think, “Oh, so you’ve already identified the shadow side of the strength if it’s overused and if it’s not in its strength zone.” It’s just kind of in its latent potential or you’ve been squashing it down, so it came out in you in an ugly way. It’s easy for people immediately to go to that and start obsessing about that side.

Just this last week, I was introducing Module 2 of a course that I do. It’s called Launch Your Life and we’ve got a beta group going through it. In Module 2, I have people map out their life. So, we do a left hand access of highs and lows and then go from birth all the way to their current day. They map out the high points and the low points in their life and the challenges. We talk about the continuity between the low points and what are the things they have in common? What are the continuities in the high points? And one of my high points was that I was on a little league All-Stars team. I made the All-Stars and that was probably the high point of my whole career of sports. I remember having this negative interaction with the coach, I was the catcher. I know his name, it’s still in my head. I’ll never forget this. I’m standing at home plate. Everybody’s out in the field. We’re practicing and I was telling him how we should run the play. I was like, “Well, you know, on our other team we did it this way. And this is a better way to do it.”

So, I was telling our beta group in the course, “From an early age, I had the ability to speak into a situation to bring clarity and to bring a different idea. It’s taking me a lifetime of learning when to say it and when not to say it.” Even as a little kid; what little kid is going to tell a coach what to do? But yet, that was in me, even at that age. It also gives me grace for myself to go, “It’s been inside of me. It’s a gift that I bring to the world. I didn’t choose this. It chose me. It’s inside of me, how do I process it? How do I focus on the positive and leverage it?”

I’m going to ask you this question, before you keep breaking down my strengths. How do we mitigate our weaknesses? We’re focusing on our strengths, we can’t just walk away from the weaknesses, because some of them are a hinderance to our own success and the success of those around us. How do you suggest that we try to mitigate those things?

Let’s take the category of weakness that you just brought up, because this is one that’s actually fun to work on. So, when one of your natural talents, for example, let’s take Command and let’s name what you did as a catcher with your coach. Let’s name that your Command; knowing it all. And then let’s talk about your natural talents, just like what you would find in your StrengthsFinder talent theme results. These are natural patterns of how you would think or feel or act. So, like you just said, they chose you, they’re in you. It can be nature. It can be nurture. But either one, they are powerful forces that are going to show up in you over and over again; how you think, feel or act. If those are not nurtured, if they’re not worked on or if they’re squashed down because you don’t think that they’re of service, “Oh, I was told I was bossy when I was a little kid, so I shut that off. And every time I heard that voice pop up, I would push it down.” It’s like the Jack-in-the-Box, it jumps out and it scares you when you’re not expecting it.

And everybody else around you.

Exactly, and everybody else around you. I’m using strengths as an informal term here, because in that case, they wouldn’t be your strengths, they would be your natural talents; your areas of greatest potential that you haven’t invested in and made beautiful. What so cool is, if it’s showing up like a weakness because it’s overused or misapplied or misdirected, if that pattern is in you and it’s going to show up so strongly, then you want to wrangle it. You want to invest in it. You want to feed it and water it and nurture it, because it’s going to be a voice in your head constantly. So, why not direct it and craft it and make it beautiful? Because it has potential to be beautiful.

There’s a StrengthsFinder talent theme called Communication. I did a training session recently where a woman said, “Well, it’s in my top five. But I’ll tell you right now, it’s a weakness. Because every year I get feedback on my performance review that I talk to much in meetings and I don’t give other people room.” It’s important to remember that all of these can be developed over a lifetime and refined for a lifetime, but if she took that and instead said, “Okay, there’s this thing in me. I have a need to use words powerfully. I want to be heard.” And then imagining, “How do I use that in writing?” “How do I use that in spoken word?” “How do I make the best email subject line?” “How can I be a compelling communicator so that my messages are receivable for people?” That would actually be fun for her to work on, because that pattern is in her all the time anyways. Versus trying to get something you don’t have.

So, if you take the voice that was in your head as the All-Star catcher and instead of saying, “I’m bossy. I’m never going to use that again,” it’s going to come out like the Jack-in-the-Box. Instead say, “I can be crisp and clear. I can be direct when that’s needed for a situation. I can help clarify something. When people are confused and muddled up, I can find the quick path to help people understand it. I can be confident in times when people are nervous or scared.” Your Command can give them the ability to say, “Oh, this is what it looks like with confidence,” and it makes them want to follow you and see that’s it’s possible.

So, there are all of those ways I just mentioned that bring out the beautiful side of it. Why not nurture those and give those light and use your craftsmanship and finetuning to make it come out like that? So, that’s how I would take something that comes out on the shadow side, because all of these have a shadow side if we overuse them or misapply them. That’s how you can focus on it and actually make some fun work out of working on your weaknesses.

I love it. Okay, Input and Competition. Speak to those two strengths for a moment.

What’s fascinating is, those are two of the handful that I hear most often. And people do say, “Mm, I’m going to put those back in the return counter. I’m not so sure I want that in my top five.” One of the reasons with Competition, is exactly what you said. In fact, I’ll do my true confession time. That’s the one of the tops that I mentioned came out of my top ten. I consciously tried to squash it down for years.

I worked in a corporation where the CEO held a meeting and said, “A mantra for the year is that competition does not equal collaboration.” He was basically trying to squash out the idea of being competitive, because it was just the word he chose to use. He chose to demonize it. But it also happened to be an organization that was strong in faith, so there might be something to that pattern that you mentioned.

But I was squashing it down. You know what comes out when you squash Competition down? You might come out like a sore loser. Or you might be secretly comparing yourself against people when there are more productive ways to do it. So, the healthy side of Competition is, it’s fun to win. You have fun winning. You have fun making wins for yourself. But you also have fun helping other people win. It can be a very generous talent, because you can see other people’s potential and you can help them set goals and help them reach those goals. And that jazzes you up. That will be really fun if you have competition. You can gamify life.

That’s so funny you say that, because I’ve always thought about it as me getting better and competing against myself in a sense. But it’s funny that you call it a generous strength, because anybody who knows me, knows I totally want everybody else to win too. I want to win, but I help people all the time. I’ve done so much free work over the years and I’m always cheering people on in winning. Sometimes people have a hard time if you’re winning. They don’t want you to win, because they feel less than, but I love celebrating when people win. So that is fun that I love to help other people compete.

Yeah, and it’s almost like there’s a cheerleader vibe about it. When you can see, “Oh, this is so great. You’re making this progress.” You might be tracking their progress, because a core thing about the Competition talent theme is the pattern in your head is always going to be comparison. It doesn’t have to be you against them, your comparison is of their current state versus their future potential state. It can be where they’ve been, to where they’ve come. And so, you get to celebrate all that, because you’re going to see it. It’s just something that you’re naturally paying attention to. You’ve probably helped someone see something they’ve become and they can say, “Oh, yeah. You know, hey thanks for pointing that out. I hadn’t really thought of that.” You’re noticing something that they wouldn’t have. It’s a really beautiful one. It’s just the word that we see as negative.


Input and the reason why some people will not like hearing that one on their list, is that they’re thinking, “Does this mean I’m a hoarder and I like to collect a lot of things?” Some of the definition makes people think it’s very much about collection only. Well, that could be that a lot of people are collectors who have Input; they collect guitars, they collect art, they collect typewriters.

Hey, now. I’ve got a few, maybe ten or fifteen.

See. So maybe that’s part of it. But it’s also about collecting information. So, Input is a lifetime learning type of talent theme. There’s one called Learner, that’s also a lifetime learner vibe. But Learner is more about, “I just like to learn a lot about everything and anything you can imagine.” Whereas Input, it’s very curated and if I’m nerding out on this thing, I’m going full bore on it and I’m collecting all sorts of stuff and I have it organized for later so that I can access it and I can share that information with other people. Input is lifetime learner, but it’s very much towards specific topics or categories, usually. How does that one sit for you?

Yes, I am very pragmatic. I don’t have the need to learn about all types of different things. I’m not even interested. I mean, if you’re interested in it, I’d be interested. Because I love to pick your brain and hear about what you’re interested in. But I could care less in my own life. Growing up, all these kids that know about sports and all these statistics and I’m thinking, “Yeah, I don’t really care.” I’m more about, “Let’s get something done. Let’s create a sports team and win or something.” It’s more about the collection of information for the purpose of something. But it is interesting that Gallup connects that to collecting. That’s such a unique combination that Gallup does. And obviously there’s something there, because I love to collect old, weird stuff.

Yeah, it’s really fascinating. And a lot of times Learner and Input will be seen together. They have a high instance of being together in a person’s top five. But when it’s not seen together, it’s very common, like you, where there’s a certain of type of curation of knowledge that you like to gather or of things that you love to collect. Input is a talent theme that is in the top half of commonality. Whereas Command, that’s in the bottom two least common talent themes, so it’s extra unique.

With Input, I see a lot of flavors because I hear a lot more feedback about it and there are so many more people who will share examples. The other one that I’ll hear in a business setting is, that people who have the Input talent theme, often at the beginning of projects they love to interview people and to talk to stakeholders. They really seem to want to really get the big picture understanding from lots of different viewpoints before they dive in and solve the wrong problem. So, that’s another thing that I hear often with Input.

One of the things I’ve heard you talk about as well, is to use our strengths daily. What does that mean and how can we do that? First off, to use our strengths daily, that would precipitate actually taking the StrengthsFinder test. I’m going to point people to your work, because I know we have people that live in the corporate realm that could really benefit from your work. But if somebody just wants to do this for themselves personally, what’s the easiest way for them to take the test?

In most markets, the easiest way really is just to go to Amazon and buy the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. That way you’ll have the code and then you’ll have the book behind it, which is largely the definitions, but it has some good setup and story and compelling data in there as well. It’s usually the least expensive way. Sometimes if you even watch Amazon for a couple of days, it might fluctuate from $15 to $25. Usually it’s $21, that’s the one I see the most often.

If you have a family and kids, and you’re interested in doing this for the family, there are assessments for the younger people as well. If that’s something that you think will call to you, buy Strengths Based Parenting by Gallup, instead. Because then you’ll get a StrengthsFinder code and StrengthsExplorer and StrengthsQuest and you’ll cover the age span. You get a little more bang for your buck in the codes if you think you might want to do it for a family.

And if you want to unpack all 34 strengths and the order of the 34, how can people do that?

Anybody who does the Top Five Assessment, Gallup is going to send you an email and say, “Hey, do you want to unlock the full 34?” So, you would get the opportunity no matter how you come into it. But if you wanted to go directly in and know your full 34 and get the Mongo report and see the whole thing, first you have to pinky swear with me that you will not first go to the bottom and decide that those are your weaknesses and start obsessing over them. That’s a whole different show; what to do with those.

I do find it a little bit risky when I work with teams and they want to buy the upgraded report to begin with, they can’t help it. They go to the bottom first and it kind of derails the whole concept. So, it really takes a lot of self-discipline. So, I recommend, start with the five, marinate on that and then go unlock the others. You can always unlock them at any time at www.gallupstrengthscenter.com. Currently it’s $39.95 to upgrade into the full on big deal report. The price changes periodically, so depending on when someone’s listening, it could be different.

Alright, last question. How can we use our strengths daily once we find out what they are? What does that look like?

This is going to sound kind of Mr. Obvious, isn’t it? But you have to set an intention to do something. If your strengths are how you operate, you might be using them daily by accident. But imagine the power if you used them intentionally. It can be kind of overwhelming, so I’m going to give you two ways to do this.

I’ll give you a free resource that doesn’t have an opt in or anything attached, it’s found at www.leadthroughstrengths.com/lockscreen. And we made 34 lock screen images, so that you can put it on your phone and 150 times a day, when you open your phone, you get the reminder of ‘Analytical’, “Oh, right. I’m going to lead through analytical as much as possible today.” So, just having that on your mind regularly, it starts to get in your way of thinking and you can use it in ways that you may not have been thinking beforehand. So, pick one, set the intention and then use it in as many unexpected ways as you can.

A second way, and this is my favorite; get your top five and put them in front of you. Print them on a list, you can even do this in your Gallup dashboard. You can make a frame or a certificate. Print one of those things out and get them in front of you. I put them in a 4×6 desk frame, so that it looks nice. Next time something comes up that feels like a challenge, use this to solve your problems. A lot of people think, “Oh, StrengthsFinder,” or any assessment, “It must be puppy dog kisses and Kumbaya and a bubble-gum view of the world.” No. Use this for the tough stuff. Next time a challenge comes up, glance at your top five and do a thirty-second skim. Just think, “What if I used this one, or this one, or this one, or this one? How would I handle it, if I lead through this instead of my normal default way?” What happens is, one or two of them will stand out to you and you’ll think, “Yeah, I should give that a go. I’ll try that.” And because it’s your strength, it will feel natural and it will feel easy. But it will be different and it will give you another way around if you haven’t been getting the result you want.

So good. Alright, so step number one, get the book and the code and take the assessment. I guess it’s not a test. I keep calling it a test, like you’re going to fail. It’s an assessment. And you were gracious enough not even to correct me. See, if you would have said that, I would have been like, “I’m going to Futuristically Command Competitively on you that that’s not the right word. It’s not test, it’s assessment.”

And I’m going to Positivity you and say, “It’s close enough, you’re getting people fired up about it.”

Alright, so you’re going to take the assessment; StrengthsFinder. You’ll get that on Amazon and you’ll take the assessment. You’ll get the results and you’re going to print it out on a frame. You’re going to start thinking about it. You’re going to get your friends to think about it. And if they’re in a corporate situation where they lead a team or a company or a business, or they need a workshop and they want to bring the whole team through it. If they want a keynote to get their teams fired up about strengths, they need to talk to you. Am I right?

Oh, thanks. Thanks, I appreciate that. Yeah.

Go to www.leadthroughstrengths.com. Tell me, for people who are listening, what kind of resource can you be in that corporate environment?

I really think of us like a spark and the ideas for the tools to keep sustaining it. So, on the backend of doing all the training events, we have weeks and weeks of resources that we send to people; tools and videos. So, this thing that sounds nice that you might forget about and put in the drawer and go, “Yeah, that was cool. But now I’m busy and I’ve forgotten about it,” we keep it fresh for people. We give them ideas so that leaders don’t have to keep thinking of how to bring these up in conversations.

And then we do a lot of virtual training, where every quarter people will bring us in to keep it fresh and keep bringing a new lens to it. The hope is that strengths become the language of the organization and become really baked into how you think. And it takes some time, so a lot of times people will put it on a system, so that they can keep it going over time and keep building it.

Great, so go to www.leadthroughstrengths.com and we’ll put all the links to your social media stuff in the show notes. They can watch you on YouTube and watch your awesome facial expressions, because your facial expressions are great. That should be your six strength; facial expressions.

I think it’s a Woo thing. It might just fall right there into Woo. I don’t know, usually people who lead through Woo, have some pretty expressive faces. I’ll have to start testing that.

I have gotten in trouble almost my entire life for my facial expressions, and it’s because they weren’t positive. It’s because Command was like, “Why are you saying that? This is the worst thing ever.”

It’s a resting Command face.

Oh my gosh, total resting Command face. Resting Competition face. Resting Futuristic face. ‘Our future sucks in this organization, because of what you’re saying right now’ face. That’s so bad. Well Lisa, your face is much better than my face, because you have a Woo face. Watch the YouTube video to enjoy Lisa’s Woo face.

That sounded weird. Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

You are welcome, it was a lot of fun and I hope the listeners get their interest peaked by hearing your Competition and Input and how you can turn something where instantly you think, “Hmm, I don’t know about that one,” and turn into something really beautiful.

If you’re not taking this assessment after this interview, you’re a loser and you’re just going to focus on your weaknesses forever. How could you not take this assessment after this? You suck. I’m not kidding. You’re horrible. You should take this test. Every human being should take it. I’m saying what Lisa’s thinking, but she can’t say it.

I can’t even think it. I have the Positivity talent. You’re making me think you’re Michael Scott though, and it’s really awesome. The humor part in that is really amazing, but I’m thinking, “No, you might have a loser behavior for a moment, but you’re really amazing on the inside. You’re not a loser.”

Which is true. That’s all true. I believe that’s true. I’m just trying to motivate you at every possible level to take the assessment.

I love it.

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thank you!