I’m a father of two—a daughter and a son—and it amazes me how their personalities are so different. Tara early in childhood seemed to enjoy spontaneity and loathed routine. She disliked structure and would rather go with the flow. Her #1 talent theme is Adaptability. My son, Trent seemed to be attracted to the best brands in clothes, sports equipment, and cars. He would rather spend time teaching tennis to the great tennis players polishing their game to become elite. He would rather pay top dollar for the best brand of baby gear for his newborn, because he’s motivated toward quality and excellence. His #1 talent theme is Maximizer.

Psychologists say that about fifty percent of our personality is genetic, or what we’re born with. The other fifty is nurture, what can be attributed to the environmental influence of the world around us as well as the people and caregivers in our lives.

There’s no doubt that, when we are born, we possess a genetic “code” for certain abilities. These talents are in our blood, our brains, and our genes. However, a strength is not limited to hardwiring. Over time, we acquire knowledge, information picked up from our environment and the people in it. Next, we turn this knowledge into skills. The three components of any strength are talent, knowledge, and skills.

So, what if you wanted to boost your strength in any one area? My advice is to focus on any one of the three—talents, knowledge, or skills. Take knowledge, for instance. There are four levels of acquiring knowledge—learning, applying, teaching, and relearning.

First, we learn new information, whereupon we are called to do something about it by applying the information in some way.

After that, teaching is the best way to deepen our understanding of new information. Finally, in order to avoid growing stagnant, we must continue to seek new knowledge, often through relearning what we thought we already knew. And what’s exciting is that we never really stop learning—there is always new information to process or knowledge that we can gain from deepening our understanding of “old” info.

Individualization is my #2 talent in CliftonStrengths.

Individualization is the act of being intrigued with the unique qualities of people. It’s a relationship strength, the ability to look for one-of-a-kind stories. A person with Individualization is a keen observer of other people’s strengths. They have the ability to personalize information, or how they will work with you.

In my case, I was an only child and therefore had to seek opportunities to connect. For the first part of my life, I grew up in a metropolitan environment. In our diverse neighborhood, there were all kinds of people to meet and experiences to be had. It’s where I developed a taste for acquiring knowledge about different cultures, different mindsets, and different ways of thinking.

I spent the second part of my adolescence living in the country, in a small town in East Texas. I went to a little school called Grand Saline and was able to experience the country life.

When I talk to people, I love to ask questions—what is your background, what are your dreams, what are your goals? I love to discover each person’s one-of-a-kind story. Each of you reading this blog has your own story. Some of you are motivated to apply this to your work. You may want to use this knowledge to help your children, or to transform your sense of personal satisfaction.

For me, with Individualization in my hard wiring, I’m not only sensitive to people’s strengths, but also their emotional ups and downs, body language, and moods. I pick up on the little things that make up a person’s personality.

When I’m talking, coaching, or even speaking to a large audience, I have an ability to personalize whatever I’m sharing with the people in front of me.

In college I studied psychology, sociology, and communications. In grad school I studied counseling, where I deepened my knowledge and understanding of people, their personalities, and how to help people grow, work, and live. For the last ten years I’ve been learning professional coaching. I’ve taken courses on coaching, hired a mentor coach, put myself through the ICF (International Coach Federation) certification process, and teach Strengths-Based Coaching. As I write this, I realize I’ve been Individualizing for twenty years, each day improving my talent, knowledge, and skills.

What knowledge, skills, or practice do you want to invest in to turn your talent into world class strength?

Americans have more credit card debt than ever before. According to the Federal Reserve, U.S. households collectively hold over a trillion dollars in credit card debt. The average American family owes $8,377.

In talking with one of my coaching clients, they expressed a goal to pay off their debt in two years to prepare for retirement.  The obstacles to this goal are they owe 67% of each of their paychecks to credit card and loan debt, their job raises are determined by the legislature, and there is no overtime at her workplace.  Once you reach the max of your pay grade, you either have to find a new job within the company or leave.  They want to pay off debt and be in a good place for retirement in a couple of years, but it all feels overwhelming.

Another option for more money to pay on bills is to get a side hustle leveraging her strengths.

The question I asked was “Which of your strengths can you call on to help you get out of debt and make more money? “  Their top 5 strengths are:

  1. Empathy
  2. Connectedness
  3. Input
  4. Developer
  5. Strategic

The first four are relationship building, and they use them exceptionally well in working with people. She loves showing empathy, connecting people to resources, and developing people. Why not become a life coach? Building a life coaching business on the side is a great way for this person to pay off debt and create a fulfilling revenue stream with her strengths.

Do you see that 5th strength – Strategic?

According to Gallup “The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large.”  Doesn’t that seem like the perfect strength to use when they are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how to move forward?

Using their Strategic theme will support them in sorting through the disorder of their current financial situation and plan the best path to work their way out of their financial situation. Using this strength, we began to look for patterns to bring some order to feeling overwhelmed.

Once the patterns began to emerge, they began to play out different situations, asking them self, “What if I do this? What would happen if I do? Using these questions over and over it helped them see what they could do and what could happen if they do.  From that place, they could evaluate their plan and the potential of obstacles.

Armed with this strategy they began to view what felt like an overwhelming situation in their life as something that they could manage.  Looking at the patterns of what they do in their life as it pertains to their finances they were able to find the changes to make in some, the ones that they could not change and the patterns that will be discarded.  A plan began to emerge that would take them to their goal of paying off their debt in two years in time for retirement.

What emerged was strategically offering her technology and writing services for another entrepreneur and building her life coaching business.

What had been at the beginning of the call an overwhelming situation in their life was now taking shape as a manageable situation, the work was not all done, but the action plan was in place to get out of debt and build a side hustle to make more money with her strengths.

What strengths can you call on to get out of debt?  Knowing what your strengths are is important but knowing how to use them is essential.  (click here to view all 34 strengths and their characteristics) We talk a lot about using our strengths in corporate settings and how managers need to honor employee’s strengths.

But what about you – how do you get out of debt with your strengths? What kind of side hustle could you start with your strengths?







Do I know what is expected of me at work? Everyone’s initial reaction is – of course I know what is expected of me at work, I do it every day.  It does seem like a pretty simple and straightforward question but is it? What was I hired to do?  How do I know what is expected of me in my work?  Who decides what is expected of me?  When you start to unpack that question, it is not as simple as it appears.

Your manager probably thinks that the answer to you is obvious.  If management is not clear in their communication about the goals and objectives in your job expectations how are you supposed to be successful?

Do you ever have those moments when you have gotten a new assignment, and all you can think is  “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.”   If you are a new employee, you might be afraid to ask for help because you don’t want the company thinking they have made a bad hire.  If you are a seasoned employee, you might not want to ask for help because you don’t want your boss or co-workers questioning your abilities since you have been in the job a while.  New or seasoned employee – doesn’t matter – we can all end up in the position of not knowing what is expected of us at work.

When you are in that position what do you do?  Wing it and hope it works out? Fall into analysis paralysis and not make any progress?  The simple answer is to ask for clarification from the person who made the assignment.  But it isn’t always that simple.

How can you as a manager create an environment where employees input and ideas are valued?  How can you as an employee create an environment where your manager value your input and ideas?  It takes some work on both sides to make sure everyone can answer the question “Do you know what is expected of you?” with confidence. Always remembering that you both want to create a culture of trust.

Gallup’s Q12 survey includes 12 questions to measure engagement that link to important business outcomes, such as improved productivity, profitability and customer ratings. This survey provides a company a clear picture of their work environment and how successful each manager is in meeting employee needs.

Gallup’s analysis of the link between achievement, accountability, and accessibility and employee engagement, showed that managers who are successful in fulfilling employees’ needs on each of the 12 questions would have employees that are more likely to be engaged:

  • Among employees who strongly agree with the statement, “My manager helps me set work priorities,” 38% are engaged. Among employees who disagree, only 4% are engaged.
  • Among employees who strongly agree with the statement, “My manager holds me accountable for my performance,” 28% are engaged. Among employees who disagree, only 6% are engaged.
  • Among employees who strongly agree that “I feel I can approach my manager with any type of question,” 31% are engaged. Among employees who disagree, only 2% are engaged.

When employees are engaged, they will perform at a higher level and bring passion and interest to their job, which often leads to innovation in the workplace. If an employee is engaged in the workplace, they will feel they have a real stake in the organization. Open communication and collaboration between engaged employees and management can lead to a culture of trust and growth.

Where are you in this discussion?  Manager, seasoned employee or new employee, do you know what is expected of you at work?