Know any college students graduating? Give them a free ticket to the four-day, ONLINE sixth-annual Grad CareerFestival!

Research shows 83 percent of grads leave campus unemployed.  Worse,  the average grad will take nearly 8 months to land a job. They lose $4,000 a month in salary as a result!

I’m a presenter in the sixth-annual ONLINE Grad CareerFestival along with 35 of my fellow Soar colleagues as well as 36 recently published career authors.  That’s 72 career experts!  We not only want to help grads land jobs faster but help them launch and lead successful careers too! The Grad CareerFestival is a massive four-day online career and professional development conference scheduled June 25th – 28th from 11 am to 8 pm EDT daily. 

Soar has 6,000 free tickets (value $87) to the Grad CareerFestival to share with deserving grads and I wanted to make sure my network had a shot at them.  Please forward this through your network too!

https://soar.securechkout.net/?orid=3525&opid=2

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Want to Change Your Culture? Listen to Your Best People

A big part of culture change and change management in an organization comes down to communication. However, according to Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplacereport, only 13% of U.S. workers strongly agree that their organization’s leadership communicates effectively.

But what you think of when you hear “communication” may be part of the problem. Often, when I tell executives that their employees want better communication, the actions they take in response tend to include more presentations, more emails, more internal memos, more town halls, more messaging.

Good leaders listen before they act. And the best leaders prioritize listening to their best people.

In fact, in many cases what employees are actually saying is that they want to be heard. Only three in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that at work their opinions seem to count. And organizational change, in particular, is one area where employees are especially likely to feel left out of the discussion.

Naturally, leaders believe it is their responsibility to lead culture change within their organization. But they often forget that good leaders listen before they act. And the best leaders prioritize listening to their best people.

Why You Should Listen to Your Stars

There’s a good reason leaders flinch when it comes to receiving feedback. They’ve been burned in the past.

They open up for questions during a meeting, and the most disengaged employees hijack the discussion. The loudest voices are not always the most important voices, but unfortunately, they can drive the conversation.

For this reason, leaders need to be selective and give special attention to those employees who are:

  • high performers
  • highly engaged
  • have extensive experience in the organization

These employees are the most likely to understand your business, understand your customers, understand the limitations of what can and can’t be changed, and believe strongly in your mission.

Leaders should evaluate surveys and focus groups with particular attention to their best people. Remember that they get you better than anyone, and they want to see your organization succeed.

When you allow your employees to dream with you, you don’t have to work on getting buy-in. They already believe in it because they helped create it.

Consider bringing together your top performers for a conversation — maybe a quick breakfast discussion or an all-day retreat, both are valuable listening opportunities. Take time to think through the questions you want to ask them and be prepared to probe them not only on their responses, but on their thoughts behind each response.

For example, you can ask them about how your culture connects to your growth strategyDoes that sound right to you? What are we missing? What would brilliant success look like?

When you allow your employees to dream with you, you don’t have to work on getting buy-in. They already believe in it because they helped create it.

Ultimately, you want to create a workplace that attracts more people like your best people — so why not get their input in the process? Make a workplace that they love, and you’ll naturally attract others like them.

Don’t Forget to Take Action

There is one important caveat to this topic: If you want people to feel like their opinions matter, you must always acknowledge and, whenever possible, show you have taken action based on their input.

Ultimately, you want to create a workplace that attracts more people like your best people — so why not get their input in the process? Make a workplace that they love, and you’ll naturally attract others like them.

Helping Millennials Discovering Their Strengths to Become an Effective Leaders

I was interviewed on a New York Business channel today about Millennials in the workplace. One of the keys with the millennial generation is they want to work from their strengths and not what they don’t do well.

For colleges and organizations trying to develop future leadership talent having the students or organizational participants understand their strengths is essential to their future as leaders.
I emphasized to the student leaders that there is no perfect set of strengths. All strengths are good strengths to have! The most successful leaders understand and use their strengths, encourage others to use their strengths, and build a team around them that have different strengths.

If your college or organization would like to have a brief discussion about leadership strength development for current or future leaders please leave me a email (jlmakela@gmail.com) or call me at 443.364.8341

What is 1 thing you are doing to face your weaknesses?

In his book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham suggests exploring one’s strengths using what he calls the SIGN method—success, instinct, growth, and need.

Success—Ask yourself these questions: Have I had a level of success in this activity? Do people tell me that I’m skilled at this activity? Have I won any awards for this strength?

Instinct—How often do I practice this activity? Every day? Do I volunteer for this activity? Volunteering indicates that a strength is instinctual, a natural flow of your life.

Growth—Remember, it’s a myth to believe that we can be anything we want. But we can be more of who we already are. Growth is the ability to learn something quickly and easily without struggling.

Needs—We all have needs. A top strength in your life will meet a need. You can look at this in a number of ways, asking yourself: Am I excited or eager to do this particular activity? Do I have fun thinking about/doing this activity? Does this activity give me a sense of purpose? The needs component of this exercise is helpful when working with kids. It’s important to find out what excites each young person. If it jazzes them, you’ve likely identified a strength and with only a nudge in the right direction, you can expand on these strengths.

However, most of us are experts in noticing our weaknesses more so than our strengths, which is why it’s crucial to highlight the difference between the two.

Donald Clifton taught that managing our weaknesses allows our strengths to overpower them, ultimately making them irrelevant. Clifton stated, “Quickly admitting weak areas is an act of courage and growth.” He also taught that for every area of strength we are likely to have one thousand non strengths.

Weaknesses are like leaks in a sail boat. I use LEAK as an acronym to identify our major and minor weaknesses, which if not managed well will sink our boat.

      L – Loathe

      E – Escape

      A – Average

      K – Kink

Analytical is not among my top strengths. Analytical people are good with technology and numbers. Not me. In grade school, I loathed math class. In fact, I wanted to escape math. By the time I got to trigonometry, I needed all kinds of tutoring to increase my knowledge. Despite all my hard work, math was never a strength, I was barely average. Even to this day, if I need to quickly figure out a math problem, I automatically get a kink in my stomach.

Because talent and instinct are synonymous, avoiding a particular activity often points to an area of weakness. I learned some math and technology in school. However, I find these topics quite boring. The point is, if there’s a lack of growth and learning it indicates a weakness.

Fear not, there’s a way to deal with your weaknesses.

I’ve developed a system to PLUG our leaks.

      P – Plan

      L – Leave

      U – Unite

      G –Grow

Coaching clients often tell me, “I have so many weaknesses that I can’t see my strengths.” But we all have weaknesses. We’re not perfect. Nobody should expect themselves to have every tool in the toolbox. So, how do we deal with our weaknesses? How do we stop wasting our time on our weak areas?

First consciously PLAN to use a strength to boost performance in your weakness. In other words, volunteer and steer your life towards your strengths. Ask yourself: Which of my strengths could I use to get activities done more easily? How can I use my strengths to create a new role for myself at work or my volunteer organization? How can I offer up a strength at home or in my personal relationships? Plan a way to use your strengths to steer you away from your weaknesses.

Second, LEAVE your weakness behind 80 percent of the time. Stop doing activities associated with your weakness. At work, you can ask your supervisor about taking an area in which you are weak out of your job description. Of course, it’s a bit easier when you work for yourself. But, even big business is turning towards strengths psychology. If you feel locked into certain activities that are holding you back, remember—it doesn’t hurt to ask. The point is to stop spending time on your weaknesses.

Third, UNITE with others who have strengths you don’t. Ask yourself: Who could I partner with who has this strength? Who on my work team would be willing to utilize their strength to help stop my weakness? Who could teach me how to deal with my particular weakness? Sure, there are some activities we must do. In my case, I had to balance my checkbook. That said, my wife is great at balancing the checkbook, so I simply turned this task over to her.

Fourth, shift into your GROW perspective to tackle a weakness. I have one particular client who doesn’t have great relationship skills, and he finds it difficult to communicate with his wife. However, he is a Learner—he loves to educate himself. So, I challenged him by asking, “How could you use your Learner strength to acquire more social skills like empathy to learn how to relate to your spouse?”

The light bulb went off. “It’s about turning on a strength in an area where I’m weak, so I can learn,” he said.

For example, those with the strength of Harmony love to keep the peace and diffuse conflict. I encourage those with Harmony to look for other strengths that can help them cope with conflict like Communication. The key is to re-frame your old strengths in new ways.

This week I challenge you using LEAK as a strategy to identify your major and minor weaknesses.  Once you have identified them design an action plan to PLUG your leaks.  Post below your weakness and how you will face your weakness. 

Not sure how to move forward on this challenge? Schedule a ask me anything call and let’s talk strengths

So you want your organization’s employees to be more productive and enjoy coming to work? The difference is knowing what you and your team do well everyday

Knowing your strengths and using your strengths are not mutually exclusive. The other day, a client wrote to me to let me know, “I had my sister take the StrengthsFinder assessment! Guess what, we have three Strengths that are the same! We loved chatting about it, and after I hung up the phone with her it made me miss her even more.” She has also had her husband take the StrengthsFinder assessment and was thrilled by her discussion and learnings with him.
This is what I call an enthusiast! Someone who experiences something they’ve seen impact their entire lives, so it only makes sense to them to share it with those who are important to them.
Committing to Strengths.
When we choose to be enthusiasts of StrengthsFinder, there are three significant contributions we’re deciding to make to the lives of those around us:
1. We’re choosing to see their Strengths.
A lot of times, we can sort of feel when someone is in the zone. We see they’re feeling good, that they’re being productive, and that those around them are being positively impacted. Most of the time, this is the combination of all their Strengths, synergizing in perfect harmony. When we choose to specifically discover someone’s Strengths, we can make sense of why certain moments are so empowering for them. We can peel back the layers, discover the intricacies, and create new moments that can also be very empowering for them. We’re intentional.
2. We’re figuring out how we work best together.
Not only does becoming very intentional about someone else’s Strengths serve them immensely, but figuring out how the combination of our Strengths with theirs can be leveraged also adds immense value. This is known as thyme dynamics (1+1=3) when we purposely work from not only our strengths but the strengths of those on our team or in our personal lives we and other win as well.  Knowing our leadership styles can get us started from the right framework to see how we each operate high-level, and then looking for natural synergies and even areas of tension can prepare us for the best and worst. If we have Strengths that are the same, like my client saw with her sister, we might be seeing the world through a more similar lens than those who don’t share our Strengths. When we have two Strengths that are very opposite, like Activator and Deliberative, we may find in there an area for potential greatest tension but also potential greatest partnership if we’re aware and sophisticated in those Strengths!
3. Take a different perspective on weaknesses.
As soon as we understand that every Strength has a dark side, we realize that a lot of the time someone’s area of weakness is in fact the over-accentuation of their Strengths, which completely reframes how we experience someone falling short. If we can notice someone’s Dark Side showing up rather than saying, “What the heck is the matter with this person!” our perspective is a lot more constructive. We can learn to have conversations around sophistication and make it about how their Strengths are showing up rather than labeling them a bad, incompetent or unworthy person. You might say, “Hey, is your Command on its Dark Side today?” with a bit of a smile, and have a colleague experience that as a gentle nudge to be mindful of their behavior. It feels like you’re on their side
Using Strengths.
So whether you’re bringing this work back to your family or deciding to engage it in a new way with your team, the intention you put behind how you use the StrengthsFinder tool will make all difference. You can take the assessment, browse over your report, maybe attend and introduction workshop, and then leave it at that.
-OR-
You can understand that the power of this work can make the difference between whether your team comes to work happy and engaged every day and is more productive.  Dive into using the tools and frameworks to in your StrengthsFinder report help facilitate that process. Start with the thyme that most resonates with you and practice recognizing when you are using that thyme. Consciously beware of when you are using more than one of your thymes. If you have both individualization and self-assurance in your top 5, you might find yourself saying to a team member or direct report, “don’t worry I won’t let you fail”. I use to say that to my direct reports and it wasn’t till I read my StrengthsFinder report did I know why I said it and how I was making a positive difference with the people I was responsible for. They appreciated the caring for them as individuals I demonstrated toward and because of that demonstration they out performed their peers.