couple-looking-at-a-laptop2_460x300He was so strong, straight forward, and controlling. She was so sensitive, passive, and wounded. They came to my coaching office as a last ditch effort to save their marriage while they were separated.

In the past I would have tried to fix their weaknesses. Now I immediately spotted their strengths. What if they could have a language to call their talent themes? What if they could both embrace the value of each others strengths? What if they both could begin to leverage each others strengths in their love relationship?

Sure enough my hunch was confirmed. After taking the StrengthsFinder assessment and coming to the next session his #1 talent theme was command and her #1 talent theme empathy. Command is defined as having presence, being direct, and exerting control in situations that seem out of control. Empathy is defined as being sensitive to others feelings and bringing emotional intelligence.

I showed them my Strenghtometer analogy how 1-40 MPH is coasting (under using a talent), 41-80 MPH is cruising (appropriately using a talent) and 81-120 MPH is speeding or (over using a talent to a detriment). How could they both drive their talent themes appropriately with each other, their blended family, in each situation?

That was the work in the next three coaching sessions.

As an intentional way of softening his commanding presence, he shaved off his duck dynasty beard he had grown for years as a surprise for her in the next coaching session. She had never seen him without his beard. You could feel the tender energy in the room when she gently placed her hands on his cleanly shaven face for the first time. This act of empathetic affection drew them closer in love and emotional intimacy.

The journey of leveraging their strengths at being a great spouse was now starting to cruise.

My StrengthsFinder mentor, Curt Liesveld wrote “How to Aim your Talent Themes at Being a Great Spouse” for all 34 StrengthsFinder talent themes.
Read below.

Command – I could use this theme to fight for my marriage by confronting external threats and by dealing directly with internal pressures.

Empathy – I show my love to my spouse by sensing their emotions, accepting and valuing their emotions, and encouraging their expression.

If you and your love partner want to learn how to aim your talent themes at being a great spouse then join me for the (actually webinar)
on Sunday February 9th 6-9 PM CST and Monday February 10th 6-9 PM CST from anywhere in the world.

Recordings will be available from this webinar.

What talents are you and your spouse speeding with?
Are you aiming your strengths at being a great spouse?

Please like, share, and discuss your comments and questions below.

When I facilitate strengths coaching and workshops I share this quote and the three stages of strengths transformation.

Everybody Is A Genius - StrengthsFinder Coaching

1. Strengths Appreciation

Can you imagine this discouraged fish struggling with strengths blindness and strengths envy. Like many of us we can’t see our own strengths genius and we value others talents more than our own. We focus on what’s wrong with us rather than what’s right with us.

The first stage of strengths transformation is to fully embrace who we are not and appreciate our strengths package.

2. Strengths Application

The school of life is where we gain knowledge, learn strategies and skills, then practice until a talent is transformed into an applied strength.

Einstein was a genius in the area of physics and specifically the theory of relativity however he had a weakness in social intelligence and relationships.

Individual Strengths coaching is the best way to take your intellectual understanding of strengths into a deep emotional application of strengths into your work, your relationships, your leadership-communication, and your entire life.

3. Strengths Aspirations

What are your burning aspirations? After getting clear on what you aspire to then you can point your strengths development in that direction. What do you aspire to?

Is it to be a thought leader? A novelist? Or maybe the best CEO of your own company.

When you deepen your strengths appreciation and strengths application, you will be able to swim faster and make the big leap into your aspirations.

How do you take a 20 ton, 12 foot block of ice and transform it into an elaborate award winning work of art?

Just ask, Singapore Captain Ng See Yian who was gracious to allow me to interview him and learn how his five person team creates their magical snow sculptor called Love, Balance and Community.

Brent-OBannon-StrengthsFinder-Coaching-Blog-Transforming-Talent-2My wife and I got a blast of insight about transforming talent as we watched the 14 countries participating in the 23rd Annual International Snow Sculptor Championship in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Sculptor Rob Neyland said, “Snow is a living medium. It starts as water from the sky, and we just grasp it briefly, and then it’s water again. It’s a lot like life in that respect.”

Talent is a divine given genetic predisposition to think, feel, and act.

Just like snow sculpting teams only have 65 hours to work their magic before being evaluated on their performance we only have a short life time to maximize our talents.

Here are three tips to transform talent.

1. Start with a story.

Team Singapore used their mascot as a model for transforming their block of ice.

The story behind their mascot is that the head of a lion and the body of a fish surrounded by dolphins signifies how the world can communicate courageously, attaining peace by living in love and balance.

Donald Clifton, the father of strengths psychology created the Clifton Strengthsfinder assessment measuring 34 talent themes. Over 8 million people in 22 languages have taken this test and now Gallup strengths evangelist want to up the ante to a billion takers.

Clifton also had a vision of winning the Nobel Peace Prize uniting the world with a positive language of talents and strengths.

What would the world, your family, your church, your work look like if everyone started with the story of strengths?

To coach your clients to transform their talents into strengths, ask them to “describe a story when they were at their best.”

By starting with a personal story they have a model for talent and success.



2. Strengthen with tools.

The Snow Sculpture Championship is not allowed to use power tools and can only use hand tools such as chisels, saws, and vegetable peelers. Each sculptor on the team transforms the ice through their skills and precision from years of practice.

Talent is also transformed into strength when we gain knowledge and create a strength based mindset. Honing a positive growth mindset instead of a negative fixed mindset allows character to develop and fuels our talents.

As the book, Outliers describes, true genius is achieved with at least 10,000 hours of repetitive practice.

Coaching, mentoring, masterminding, reading, training, are a few tools used for transforming talents into strengths in everyday life.

3. Succeed with a team.

It’s true “All of us is smarter and stronger than one of us.”

To transform talents to an elaborate work of artful strengths takes the interdependence of strengths from an entire team. Each person has their role and genius that turns a block of ice into love, balance, and community.

No one person has all the strengths needed to create a masterful work of art. It truly takes not only the power of two but the genius of five team members to transform a block of ice into am inspiring award winning masterpiece.

How could your teams capitalize on each others strengths better for success?

Remember to transform talent into strength like the Singapore team transformed ice into a beautiful snow sculpture and then the world will see more love, balance and community.

What is StandOut? TMBC created an assessment that pin points your lead and secondary strength roles and combined role that is your comparative advantage to StandOut at work.

This strengths based assessment is different from the VIA or StrengthsFinder 2.0 in that it measures what we do at work versus who we are at work.

How do you stand out

The 9 strength roles measured by StandOut are:

1. Advisor
2. Connector
3. Creator
4. Equalizer
5. Influencer
6. Pioneer
7. Provider
8. Stimulator
9. Teacher

Not only does the StandOut report give you the definition of each strength role, how you are most powerful, phrases to describe yourself, how to make an immediate impact, how to take your performance to the next level but what to watch out for with your strength roles.

The report will describe your ideal career, how to win as a leader, how to win as a manager, how to win in sales, and how to win in client service.

By the way I’d love to show you how to build your leadership brand, write a better resume or about page on your web site, promote yourself in a big interview or discover a new niche from your comparative advantage revealed in your StandOut report.

For an example view Brent’s StandOut Report.

If you’re eager for strengths application with your VIA, StrengthsFinder 2.0, and StandOut results to grow stronger, work smarter, and live richer in your life and work then download your application for the 2013 – January 14th 7 Week Virtual Strengths Mastermind. Only 7 seats left!

P.S. Defining Moment Opportunity

Can you feel and see yourself as a passionate strengths advocate?
Do you aspire to connect with cutting edge strengths experts?
Will you mobilize your strengths serving the world?

If that’s you then you’ll love to join my brand new Strengths Ambassador Inner Circle and sign up for my FREE kick-off call interviewing Curt Lievsfeld, Sr. Gallup Consultant, co-author of Living Your Strengths on January 7th 9-10:30 AM (CST).

This is a live call and will NOT be recorded.

If you enjoyed the blog today please share your comments and forward to your world.

There is always a tug a war going on between our weaknesses and our strengths, as well as a tug of war between not over working IN our business and neglecting to work ON our business. If you have experienced a battle on your leadership team, business, or company and you want to build a strengths based organization, check out my new web site at

Today, we will focus on weaknesses and how to PLUG your LEAKS. Remember, our weaknesses are like a LEAK in a sail boat.

L: Loath

E: Escape

A: Average

K: Kink

One of my coaching clients loathes public speaking. He wants to escape it or get someone else to do it for him. He tries to improve but still just feels average. He even feels a kink his stomach when he presents a report to the senior management team.

How can he PLUG the LEAK?

P: Plan

Plan on consciously using one or more of your signature strengths to boost your weakness. If your strengths are deliberative, belief, responsibility, discipline and relator, then you could decrease the stress (landmines) before you speak, stick with topics on which you can share strong beliefs, use responsibility to make you follow through with quality, structure your talk with discipline, and open your hear so you connect with your audience.

L: Leave

You will likely have to do some public speaking in your work and life as a parent, but what if you could eliminate 80% of public speaking? Of course, don’t volunteer for public speaking jobs. Make it clear to your boss and team that you want to decrease any opportunity that could create public speaking moments.

U: Unite

Who on your team could you unite with that excels at public speaking–that loves public speaking and could take the pressure off of you? Many companies hire a spokesperson. You can, too, in critical public speaking situations. Who knows! You could even barter with someone who has the strength of public speaking.

G: Grow

We all have to do things that we are weak at to some extent. Go to Toastmasters or hire a coach to help you maximize your speaking abilities. Grow in the basics and let it go. Take the pressure off of yourself to be the best at everything and invest your time and energy in your strengths.

You have to do more than plug your leaks.

There is always a tug a war going on between our weaknesses and our strengths, as well as a tug a war between not over working IN our business and neglecting to work ON our business. Today we will focus on weaknesses and how to plug your LEAKS.

Maybe you think the strengths approach is one-sided. Nope. As a coach I realize we all have weaknesses in our personal life and business. Weaknesses are like water leaks in a sail boat and if we don’t plug our leaks, we sink.

First, we need to identify our weaknesses (leaks) as well as discover our top five signature strengths to help us plug our leaks. Strengths guru Marcus Buckingham paraphrased the military strategist Sun Tzu, saying, “Keep your strengths close and your weaknesses closer.”

Use my acronym below to help you identify your top personal and professional leaks (weaknesses) today.


What activity do you hate to do with a passion? You’re are going to laugh when I confess this but I loath and hate dealing with the cable TV remote control or anything related to hooking up a DVD and cables. When you loath an activity you will find a way to…


What activity do you want to avoid and get someone else to do? You guessed it, I ask my wife to take care of the remote control and hooking up any electronics. Similarly, she hates installing the toilet paper so for 27 years I’m the one who puts it on the roll.

In business, I loath and avoid entering data and dealing with Quickbooks so I’m frequently singing, “Help me Rhonda, help help me Rhonda.” Oh, I’m determined enough (whether I’m smart enough is questionable) to learn how to control a TV remote and figure out Quickbooks, but I will always be…


What activity is a weakness in your life or business that, no matter how much you learn or practice it, you will only be average or below average in performance? Many professionals despise public speaking and try to get better by reading books or going to Toastmasters (which I recommend). The truth is, they can get better but they will only be average or below average in performance because it’s not their strength.

In fact, you can become average in a weakness and still feel a…


What activity, no matter how much you improve (and I recommend improving your weakness to a point) there is still a kink in your stomach? A feeling of stress and strain.

My wife gets a feeling of stress and a kink in her stomach just thinking about dealing with conflict personally or professionally. It is a weakness of hers, however she has learned how to plug that leak (and lean on me to help since this is one of my strengths). In 27 years of marriage we have had a couple (okay, our fair share) of conflicts, big and small, but we are still afloat.

We have found a way to PLUG our leaks so we don’t sink.

Each of our top 5 signature strengths are like a SAIL that create momentum in life and business.

S: Success

A: Authentic

I: Invigorating

L: Love

Today’s article will give you 5 ideas to HOIST those strengths into the air so you can sail toward your dreams.

H: Hear

What do your family, friends, and customers say you are great at?

Hear their feedback.

In fact that’s an assignment I often give my clients. Go and ask five people who know you best, what they believe are your strengths. Hearing their feedback breaks through our low self-esteem and denial of our own strengths.

What strength is lying dormant in you just waiting to ignite?

O: Opportunities

What opportunities are in your work or community to use your strengths? One of my coaching clients, a leader at Music Mountain Spring Water, used to under utilize her relator strength at work. Going through my program, she has created a company directory recognizing each employee with a picture, personal profile, and a list of the fun hobbies they enjoy, as well as planned company wide social events to increase positive relationships and employee engagement.

In the weekly senior management team meetings she facilitates the question, “How did you best use your strengths this week?” All of this positive momentum in Music Mountain Spring Water is flowing because she saw opportunities in her workplace and hoisted her sail/strength.

I: Investigate

How could you grow your strengths so that they are maximized?

Here are a few questions to help you investigate more deeply into your strength.

  • Who could I talk to to learn more about this strength?
  • What could I read to expand my knowledge of this strength?
  • Where could I visit to see this strength at high performance?
  • How could I try on “new hats” with this strength?

Remember that your greatest potential for growth is not in your weaknesses but in your strengths.

S: Strategize

Strategic thinking and planning is the ability to sort through the clutter and find the best route.

How could you design your life and work around your strengths?

A great chess player is always thinking ahead what moves to avoid and what moves to make to win the game. The same is true with your strengths. Ask yourself, “What activities would I love to cut in my work role because it’s not my strength?” Now ask yourself, “What activities would I love to do more of because I am strong at them”

Write that plan down and follow the next step to HOIST your sails.

T: Team

Every strength needs a complimentary strength to partner with to make the best team. A person who is strong at strategic or analytical benefits by teaming up with a person who is a strong activator. The activator makes sure that “paralysis by analysis” doesn’t happen.

What kind of person and what kind of strengths do you need to team up with?

HOIST your sails and enjoy the ride of your life.

What does it take to be a good poker player? That’s the question I asked my workshop attendees. The responses were:

  • Get a lucky hand
  • Know when to hold and when to fold
  • Know how to bluff

Just like poker, each of us is dealt a metaphorical hand at birth. You have been given a genetic set of signature strengths. It’s up to you to play the hand you’re dealt.

First, know your strengths.

Just like playing poker you need to understand the hand you’re dealt.

Here are four questions to help you identify your strengths (hand). Take a moment and write down your answers to these questions to better know your strengths cards.

  1. What successes, prizes or recognition have you received in the past? Maybe you were the chess champion, speech contest winner, or homecoming queen.
  2. What is an authentic, natural and gut reaction to you? Maybe you crack a joke and create laughter without a conscious thought or listen intently making people feel heard and loved. Either way, this strength is not hard for you. It flows naturally and effortlessly.
  3. What is invigorating, energizing, and exciting to you? When you’re reading, your mind comes alive, playing sports you soar with energy, or learning technology absolutely thrills you. These are key indicators of your strengths.
  4. What do you love to learn and look forward to doing in the future? My wife eagerly watches cooking channels and reads cooking magazines. My coaching client just enrolled in a filmmaking class because he loves making documentary movies. Another client can’t wait to get underneath the hood of his classic cars. Appreciate and accept your signature strengths. Learn to play the hand you’re dealt.

Second, know when to hold and when to fold.

Your area of greatest growth is in strengths not weaknesses. Part of that growth is knowing when to hold and play those strengths and knowing when to slow down and fold those strengths so they don’t derail you or hinder others.

One of my character strengths is zest. I was born with a bundle of energy. I wake up in the morning almost jumping out of bed ready to achieve and tackle the world. If you’ve heard me speak, you have felt my energy. However, I have to practice when to slow that energy down so I don’t overwhelm some people and I also need to practice turning that energy up when I need it to accomplish a task.

While in China I spoke for 5 days straight. One person said to me, “You have incredible mental and physical energy.”

I can hear you asking, “What if I’m dealt a bad hand?” That leads me to my next point.

Third, bluff your weaknesses.

We all have sluff cards we are dealt and we can use our strengths to overcome those weaknesses. One of my coaching clients struggles with communication with his team. He is an activator, which he calls WOT, wide open throttle, and he is strategic. He strategically created a discussion form with key questions and now is slowing down his activator strength to meet one on one on a monthly basis to dialogue with his employees. He feels more connected to his team and the door of communication is opening.

How could you use your strength(s) to bluff and overcome your weakness? Remember, play the hand you were dealt.

Happiness is more than just having a momentary good time in life.

The growing school of Positive Psychology is digging deeper into the science and experience of happiness PERMA is an acronym that Martin Seligman uses in his new book, Flourishing, to highlight the 5 elements of happiness, or what is scientifically called, “subjective wellbeing.”

P stands for Positive Emotion

Most people believe that if they feel more joy, peace, security, kindness, compassion, and so on, they will be happy. And research does show that experiencing more pleasant (positive) emotions throughout your day increases your sense of wellbeing. But it’s also true that you can laugh on the outside and be crying on the inside. I know because I’ve done it many times. Increasing positive emotions is a good endeavor to pursue, just don’t stop there because happiness is also a form of adventure.

E stands for Engagement

When my wife and I went crawling 180 feet deep into the Rats Nest cave in Alberta Canada we were totally engaged (and terrified). Picture us with hard hats, coal miner lights, repelling gear, rock gloves, and dressed in coveralls. It took 1.5 hours to slither down into the bottom of the cave and 1.5 hours to climb back out. We were totally engaged and in the moment because climbing required every fiber to be focused on the task at hand.

Engagement is being in the flow so much that you lose track of time. It could be with work, your kids, your hobby, or a thousand other things. Engagement is an important element of happiness but there still is more to happiness.

It’s also…

R, which stands for Positive Relationships

True happiness cannot ultimately be experienced without the context of another human being. Positive relationship experiences are the crucible of happiness. According to studies, doing a kind act for someone else is the single most reliable way to increase happiness. There is no denying the deep influences that positive or negative relationships have on our well being.

But where does happiness research go from here?

M stands for Meaning

Positive psychology researchers define meaning as “belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than yourself.” Being clear on your life purpose and giving your life to a bigger cause can add depth of soul which translates to more than momentary positive emotions.

A stands for Achievement

Many people pursue success, accomplishment, winning, and achievement purely because it floats their boat. The father who works to make money to provide for his family achieves just as the mother who dedicates her time and energies to nurturing her childrens’ success. The teenager who achieves levels of success at games, education, hobbies, dreams and goals increases self-esteem which translates to happiness.

If you want to be deeply happy, set goals in each area: Postive Emotion, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement.

Then you will be PERMA(nently) happy.

China is famous for the Great Wall.

The first Chinese emperor had the massive stone wall built to protect its people from the brutal Mongolian Huns who invaded and pillaged their homes and cities.

Building the wall was not only monetarily expensive, it cost hundreds of workers their lives. The wall stretches from the sea to the desert–several thousand miles–and has remained for centuries.

Ultimately, the wall proved to be ineffective and later, other more sophisticated strategies were created to deal with enemies.

As my wife and I climbed the Great Wall, I was reminded of the emotional walls we build in our relationships and our lives. Here are three lessons about climbing your own great wall:

1. We erect massive walls to protect ourselves.

It’s natural to protect ourselves from hurt, bitter betrayal, a deep wound, or unmet needs. Just this week I coached a successful business man who has built emotional walls in his marriage. Both man and wife have co-existed without emotional intimacy for 21 years, though they attempt to portray the American dream to their community.

2. Walls can extend for generations.

This husband and wife have also built walls with their parents and have continued the same walls into their marriage. Both of them were wounded and felt they were never accepted and unconditionally loved by their parents. The wife rarely heard, “I love you,” by her father, who was also a minister. The husband never felt like he measured up to his dad’s standards and, to this day, has no relationship with his father.

Now his teenage daughter is avoiding her father because she feels unloved, fearful of his disapproval and being attacked. She wonders if she will be able to trust enough to get married one day. Sadly, walls continue to create barriers to open, peaceful, loving relationships, from one generation to the next.

3. Walls are costly and mostly ineffective.

It’s been said, “Marriage is grand, divorce is a hundred grand.” Walls eventually create divorce, which divides and squanders assets. Divorce creates pain, fear, and disillusionment for happy relationships.

And people don’t only build walls in their marriages. As I coach family owned businesses, I’ve seen walls between siblings as well as parents and adult children. These walls cost precious productivity in companies and eventually cause a collapse. Customers pick up on the emotional distance, quiet hostility, and will leave looking for hope and happiness in another company.

There is a famous Chinese quote about the Great Wall: “Not been on the Great Wall, not a great Man.”

Everyone has erected walls in various relationships in their life, including me. But you cannot be great until you climb and get on top of your walls. I’ve learned to get on top of my walls with many important people in my life, including my biological dad, my wife, my children, and myself.

The question and challenge for all of us is how to utilize healthy boundaries to protect ourselves and create peaceful, productive, happy relationships with those that may hurt us.