6 Steps to Sustainable Teams: Start with Strengths

Leadership Strengths

A great leader does what they can to make themselves and people around them succeed and excel to their fullest potential. If you as a leader aren’t doing this, then it’s time to focus on becoming a “Maximizer.”

Maximizer:  People with the “Maximizer Theme” focus on others’ strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence.  They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

Questions to ask yourself:

Are you a Maximizer? Do you know how many people in your team are Maximizers?

Knowing Thyself

The definition above is one of 34 groundbreaking strength theme definitions from Gallup and the inspiring Marcus Buckingham.

If you are interested in maximizing your own performance and the collective performance of your team members, I highly recommend you identify all the strength themes in your team and start leveraging that information.

I often hear managers and supervisors say “I am playing to the strengths of my team.”

Unfortunately, I usually find that the supervisor has not partnered with the team to identify or define what team members are naturally good at or what they love to do.

It is difficult to play to a team’s strengths if the team members’ strengths are not defined and understood by all.

Be Wise, Maximize

I was facilitating a session when the subject of strengths came up. One of the participants was a business owner and I shared the definition of a Maximizer as a way to get into the topic.

His eyes opened wide when he realized how his business could benefit from this strength theme. When I mentioned that some of his current employees may have that strength theme, he quickly asked how he could find out.

We can all identify with the enthusiasm this man found in the recognition that this potent strength was lying dormant in his team, ready to be leveraged.  Even more exciting, Maximizer is just one of 34 strength themes our teams can benefit from incorporating strengths into the team culture.

The Three Stages to Success

So, how do you this?  How does a supervisor incorporate the strengths of all staff members into the team’s culture?

In my experience,incorporating strengths includes three stages:

Stage 1

Identifying the supervisor’s and the team members’ top 5

Stage 2

Documenting and sharing the top 5 of all team members

Stage 3

Strategically applying strengths through staff performance

Stage 1 – Walking the Walk

The first thing for supervisors to do is to identify their own top 5 strength themes.  Once this is done, the supervisor should identify the strengths of all staff members.

I recommend that supervisors identify their own top 5 themes first because the supervisors have to walk the walk before they can talk the talk. Knowing their own top 5 will help them learn about themselves and how to use their own strengths to start leading others through the process.

Now Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and “Strengthfinder 2.0” by Tom Rath are excellent resources for identifying and defining strength themes.  

Both books provide a good overview of the strengths model and provide codes to online surveys that will give participants their top 5 strengths themes.

Stage 2 – Post the Information

Once all team members’ strengths are identified, the supervisor should capture this information and share it with all team members in an easily accessible format.  The process of incorporating strengths into a team’s culture is a learning process.  Having quick access to the strengths of all team members is critical.

Through the years, my teams have developed websites that contains this information. I call these websites “Strengths Dashboards.”

Strengths Dashboards are  powerful resources for developing strategies and executing tactics based on the team members’ strengths.

Stage 3 – Strengths-Based Performance Reviews

I find that the best way to strategically use the strengths of all team members is to include strengths in the performance review process of every employee.  Adequate performance review documents should include the goals for each employee and the projects or initiatives the employees will be responsible for executing.

The supervisor can work with each staff member to discuss ways in which their strengths can be used specifically to assist the employee achieve the goals outlined in the employee’s performance review documentation.

Leveraging Your Strengths

For example, here are a couple of goals that I could use to leverage my strength themes for common managerial objectives:

– Leverage Al’s strategic strength to finalize and implement the unit’s strategic plan with a cross-functional team from the division.

– Proactively use Al’s empathy and relator strengths to develop an understanding of what the team members are experiencing as we merge two teams together.

Through years of working with my strength themes and those of my staff members, I have learned that while identifying strength themes is an important and critical step, supervisors also need to understand the overall positive and negative personality tendencies of all team members.

The subjects of personality types and team balance are the focus on my next article, “6 Steps to Sustainable Leadership: Team Balance.”


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Al Gonzalez is Founding Partner at GIVE Leadership
He helps clients develop trust and leverage the strengths of all team members
Email | LinkedIn |  Twitter | Web 

Image Sources: thumbs.dreamstime.com

12 responses to “6 Steps to Sustainable Teams: Start with Strengths

  1. One way to identify your own strengths and the strengths of your team members is to invest in personality type training. Each of us are born with certain strengths that are explained when we learn about our four-letter type. The research states this is part of our DNA like being either right or left-handed.

    Once I learned about my four-letter personality type I was able to understand how to leverage my own strengths and also recognize the strengths of my professional associates.


    • Absolutely, personality types and team balance are the focus of my next article.


      Sent from my iPhone


  2. Great post Al. Thx!

    Since I started operating from my strengths and values, everything has been headed in a better direction.

    Here is my profile:

    Strengths: | Maximizer | Ideation | Strategic | Individualization | Winning others Over |

    Values: | Faith | Family | Integrity | Creativity/Innovation | Equipping Others | Philanthropy |

    ~Tom Schulte


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  6. What I see as a challenge with regard to leveraging my strengths and then operating from them is my ‘blind spot’. I may not see a skill, expertise, or ability as a strength, simply because I don’t or haven’t found a comparison for it. For example, while I recognize the utility of using integrating the use of mobile technology to expand the flexibility of access to my site, or strategically apply social networking; for me it’s a common sense thing. But to others it might be seen as a strength.

    In my industry (HigherEd) one of the areas showing advancements in leaps and bounds is quality and competent online learning. Even after developing and teaching dozens of courses, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert – but rather more than merely functionally literate. But the thing is, it’s something I enjoy, so for me it’s a ‘blind spot’, that I really need to leverage in the areas of distributed learning for leaders.

    Great article.
    E. Matthews


  7. Thanks so much for your comment. One of the lessons I learned while identifying and leveraging my strengths, is that, if enjoy the act of doing something, for example, writing leadership content and teaching about it, it is very likely that I enjoy that act because I am using my strength themes. Let me explain this further.

    I have strategic, adaptability and significance as part of my top 5 strength themes. When I write and teach, I am using all three of those strengths, therefore I really enjoy it.

    Marcus Buckingham says it best when he says, your strengths are hiding in plain sight. This may be what you are getting at when you say that teaching courses and using social media are “blind spots” for you.

    Have you taken the strengthfinder survey? I would be very interested in your top five and see if there is a connection between them and what you find logical or easy to do.




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  9. Al, this is a great post and a great reminder to encourage leaders and members of their team to keep learning! I find it intriguing to uncover strengths (and weaknesses) so that I can keep growing both personally and professionally.


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