The journey of developing one’s potential in a business environment begins with knowing your personal areas of excellence, or your strengths. However, the opportunity to develop your strengths largely depends on the organisation culture. In an organisation that has built a culture of inclusion and diversity, employees are better able to take advantage of their development opportunities. Inclusion ensures that every person is treated equally and has the same opportunities to develop their potential, while diversity is about respecting, valuing and appreciating what makes each individual different. Understanding one’s strengths in a scientific way gives individuals insight into why each person has their own way of seeing things – which is one of the core tenets of diversity.
‘In an organisation that has built a culture of inclusion and diversity, employees are better able to take advantage of their development opportunities.’
“Once we understand that we are diverse, with different strength combinations and unique perspectives, we begin to understand why diversity and strength are so intertwined,” says Carina Fourie, Business Coach, Specialist Strengths Coach and Enhanced Conversational Intelligence Skills Coach for software development and testing company DVT, a Dynamic Technologies group company. Fourie says the exciting part is discovering how – like Lego blocks – your strengths blocks fit together. “The coaching sessions help each individual understand how those blocks are constructed to represent their unique profile and how each set of strengths works together in a team environment.”
As part of the DVT transformational coaching programme, Fourie utilises CliftonStrengths (previously called StrengthsFinder), an online strengths assessment tool produced by research company Gallup. She provides holistic coaching and strengths training that maximises natural strengths for both personal and team development. This is implemented through a process of individual coaching, team coaching, workshops and interventions.
Strength coaching is contributing to the culture of diversity and inclusion at DVT and is currently being rolled out to the other group companies in the Dynamic Technologies family.
CliftonStrengths measures natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. These are influenced by Culture, Context and Character, resulting in unique strength combinations. The assessment identifies your top five strengths and provides meaningful insight into how you can best apply them to improve your work performance. “This enables individuals to build better relationships and be fulfilled, contributing members of their team. It also assists with understanding why miscommunication happens and how problems in teams arise,” says Fourie. As we know, dysfunctional behaviour in teams is very common and can impact severely on a project, as well as on each individual in the team. Dysfunctionality in teams is caused from factors such as insufficient contribution by team members and poor communication. Interpersonal conflict also plays a major role in derailing teams.
The new-era approach of strength coaching identifies an individual’s unique combination of talents and strengths. “Doing this, we discover what combination of strengths generates the most fulfilment and energy when optimally applied,” says Fourie. For example, some individuals are more task orientated and efficient, while others are thinking and ideas orientated. “Based on this information, we are able to map individual profiles in a team context and work out how each individual’s strengths can contribute to the strength of the team,” explains Fourie. Ultimately, this is about people achieving their potential.
When it comes to so-called weaknesses, Fourie does not believe there is any benefit in trying to ‘fix weakness’. “Every strength also has a shadow side if we aren’t using it optimally or we are under stress,” she explains. “My focus is on developing strengths. We also don’t refer to ‘weaknesses’ but to ‘lesser strengths’. CliftonStrengths gives team members a language to name what they can do well. It is not vague or generalised, but specifically identifies your top five or full 34 list of strengths and the dynamics that exist between them through a comprehensive assessment and coaching process,” she explains. Fourie’s passion for assisting others to uncover their natural talents and strengths is evident as she explains this magical process. “When you access and develop your innate strengths, you access an inner source of energy that results in higher levels of happiness and contentment,” she says.
‘But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid’ – Albert Einstein
The word ‘magical’ should not be confused with pseudo-science. “CliftonStrengths is not like astrology, where generic terms are used to describe very large groups of people. It is a scientific approach encompassing four main areas of focus with themes that answer questions about the individual.
- Strategic Thinking. The eight themes within Strategic Thinking answer the question ‘How do we absorb, think about and analyse information and situations?’ These themes may help us make better decisions and create better outcomes. For example, the theme ‘Futuristic’ identifies people who are talented at inspiring others with their visions of the future, while people who are talented in the ‘Learner’ theme have a great desire to learn and continuously improve.
- Executing. The nine themes within Executing answer the question ‘How do you make things happen?’ These themes may help us turn ideas into reality. For example, people who are talented in the ‘Consistency’ theme are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same, by setting up clear rules and adhering to them. People who are talented in the ‘Restorative’ theme are good at dealing with problems, figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
- Influencing. The eight themes within Influencing answer the question ‘How do you influence others?’ These themes may help us with taking charge, speaking up and making sure others are heard. For example, people talented in the ‘Command’ theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions. People talented in the ‘Significance’ theme want to be important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognised.
- Relationship Building. The nine themes within Relationship Building answer the question ‘How do you build and nurture strong relationships?’ These themes may help us to hold a team together. For example, people talented in the ‘Harmony’ theme look for consensus and do not enjoy conflict, rather seeking areas of agreement. People talented in the ‘Individualization’ theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.
A question that often comes up during Fourie’s strength finding and coaching sessions is ‘Do my strengths change over time?’ “In general, our top ten strengths and talents may change in chronological order, but will remain in your top ten,” she explains.
Fourie’s ultimate goal is to close the gap between an individual’s strengths and how they perform at their best. Ultimately the biggest power lies in enabling high performance teams. ‘Potential is raw energy and is only activated when we have clearly identified the strength underpinning the potential. Then we are able to strategize how the individual or team can effectively use their strengths to develop and grow. In this way, our workplace – and our world – becomes a much richer, more inclusive, more diverse place.”
Fascinated? Want more information? Contact Carina Fourie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 445 7619.