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.

Originally published on Gallup’s Strengths Coaches’ Playbook.



Rachael served as the operations manager for a family-owned bottled water company with over 80 employees. In her day job, she was responsible for a wide range of areas from personnel to procurement, as well as serving on the senior management team. At home, she was a busy mom of two and volunteered as president of a local parent group.

In our first strengths coaching session she admitted, “I’m overwhelmed and feel like I’m on a sinking ship.”

Rather than tell Rachael how to handle her stress with my Command strength, I gently asked her with my Individualization strength, “How could you grow stronger and work smarter with your top five strengths?”

For the next 30 minutes we had fun exploring her Signature Themes, and their potential:

  • Responsibility
  • Consistency
  • Relator
  • Discipline
  • Developer

Then Rachael had an “aha” moment — she recognized that she was overusing, or what I call speeding (80 to 120 mph) with, her Responsibility theme and underusing, or coasting (5 to 40 mph) with, her Relator theme. She was taking on too much psychological ownership at work and home, and emotionally, she was in moderate stages of burnout. She had been isolating herself from friends and couldn’t figure out how to relate authentically in a male-dominated workforce, even though her heart yearned to.

Using her Responsibility theme, she set a goal to hire an assistant who she could delegate more of the daily grind activities to. She also set a goal to practice saying “no” more assertively in her personal and professional life. Then Rachael revved up her Relator theme by making consistent time for girls’ night out, which she had been neglecting and desperately needed. She also nurtured her wellbeing by exercising and tasked herself with reading books on assertiveness and stress-coping skills.

Rachael was discovering that her Relator theme could be used as a tool to dive more deeply in her relationship with herself, not just with others.

After several coaching sessions, Rachael had renewed energy, perspective, and confidence. She created an employee-of-the-week bulletin board, an employee directory, and held a company picnic to help build genuine relationships. She became the strengths champion in team meetings, asking, “How have you used your strengths successfully this week?”

Company morale, the senior management team, and her family benefited from Rachael’s strengths-based coaching, because now she was cruising at 70 mph. With her strengths, it was full steam ahead for Rachael, as she continues to grow stronger and work smarter.

Here are three questions for you to ponder in coaching your clients:

  • Which talent themes can help you ask better questions to explore strengths?
  • When can you help clients turn their strengths inward and outward for success?
  • How could you better help clients understand over- and underusing strengths?

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 does the Realise2* measure? The Realise2 strengths assessment measures 60 different strengths in comparison to 34 strengths by StrengthsFinder 2.0, and 24 character strengths by the VIA. The United Kingdom based Realise2 assessment helps you to marshal your realized strengths, moderate your learned behaviors, minimize your weaknesses and to maximize your unrealized strengths.

*Note that the spelling for Realise2 is based from the United Kingdom.


What are the Realise2 model definitions?

1. Realized Strengths – Are those strengths that you perform well in, feel energized by and are currently using in your life and roles.

2. Learned Behaviors – Are those strengths that you perform well (usually from gaining knowledge, skills, and practice over time) though you are not particularly energized when using them.

3. Weaknesses – Are those strengths that you do not perform well and are not energized by. No matter how much knowledge, skill and practice you remain average or below average in these strengths.

4. Unrealized Strengths – Are dormant strengths that you perform well, feel energized by however are not being fully utilized and need more knowledge, skill, and practice to maximize.


View Brent’s Sample Realise2 Report


If you want to fully realize your potential through the strengths lens then I highly recommend that you measure your strengths through all available strengths based assessment tools. Enjoy exploring the Realise2 at with the founder Alex Linley and read his many positive psychology and strengths based books.

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.

What is the VIA Institute? The The VIA® Institute on Character was established as a non-profit organization in 2001. Their mission is to advance both the science and the practice of character. They aim to fill the world with greater virtue by offering the VIA Survey, free of charge, across the globe. The VIA Survey has been taken by over 1.3 million people in 193 countries and 17 languages.

What is the VIA model? There are 6 virtues and 24 total character strengths that fall within each virtue category.

1. Wisdom and Knowledge – Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and
use of knowledge

2. Courage – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal

3. Humanity – Interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others

4. Justice – Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life

5. Temperance – Strengths that protect against excess

6. Transcendence – Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

What are the 24 VIA Character Strengths?

Click here for the complete list of 24 VIA Character Strengths

Nearly a decade after the Strengths Finder assessment took the management world by storm in the Gallup hit, Now, Discover Your Strengths, strengths based development is no longer confined to the business world.  YES, the youth sports education provider most famously linked to the Major League Soccer Clinic Program, swears by its strengths based coaching program; Ohio State University’s Center for Student Leadership offers student leaders a free 10-week course on strengths based coaching; strengths based practices are a staple in the social work community; and even activists and organizers employ strengths based models to improve political participation.

All over the world, teams of every shape and size are adopting strengths based coaching strategies to train their leaders and achieve their goals.

Strengths based coaching takes its cues from positive psychology, often referred to as “the science of happiness.”  At its most basic, positive psychology is predicated on the theory that the happier a person is, the more able, energized, and engaged he or she is, too.  Martin E.P. Seligman began carving out what would become positive psychology in 1998 when he made the topic the object of his tenure study at the University of Pennsylvania, though Dr. Donald E. Clifton had already been researching strengths based psychology—a parallel theme—for several decades.

The next year, Gallup released First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham, the preface to the smash strengths hit, Now, Discover Your Strengths, introducing the business world to the notion of a strengths based development.  Soon thereafter, companies began to do away with the deficiency-based approach to recruitment, management, and performance review, replacing it with a model devoted to praise and engagement.  Positive psychology and the strengths revolution reflect the idea of “appreciative inquiry,” which aims to find the best in people in order to maximize a system’s positive potential.

Today, strengths based coaching is becoming known as a surefire way to groom better leaders, fortify teams, and close the gap between high and low performing employees.  And it all comes down to one main question, highlighted in First, Break All the Rules:  “Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?”  According to five decades of Gallup research, employee engagement is the key to high productivity and low turnover.  But, when an organization is deficiency based, or focused on improving weaknesses, instead of strengths based, employee engagement hovers dismally around 10%.  Turn the focus onto employee strengths and that number jumps to nearly 75%.

So, how can a company utilize strengths based coaching to improve leadership and boost team performance?  It all starts with individual strengths assessments.  Have your organization’s leaders take the Strengths Finder assessment or the VIA Survey to identify their top talents–the Gallup book Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie is the perfect companion to this assessment, as it outlines how a leader should invest in his or her strengths in order to be more effective and responsive with his or her followers.  After a leader assesses his or her own strength, he or she should guide their team members through the same process.

Studies show that leaders and managers who balance their team’s talents, offsetting one person’s weakness with another’s strength, go eight times further than leaders and managers who focus on weaknesses alone.

Thus, the aim of strengths based coaching is not to turn a blind eye to one’s weaknesses, but to shine a light on one’s deficiencies in order to find someone else who can fill the gap.  Look at this way—when your goal is to improve a weakness, you may enjoy nominal success but you can only ever expect to be average.  On the other hand, if your goal is to build upon a strength, you have unlimited growth potential.  Why, then, would you ever choose to focus on a weakness?  A wise leader, therefore, will seek to assemble a colorful group of people capable of balancing each other’s talents so that each person can fully blossom and perform at his or her peak.

The strengths revolution should come as good news to leaders everywhere.  Before First, Break All the Rules, leaders were expected to be and do it all.  Now, thanks to visionaries like Marcus Buckingham and Donald E. Clifton, leaders are only expected to be themselves—and more of themselves–every day.  The leader who knows their own strengths and recognizes the strengths of the individuals around them is someone people want to follow because they create an environment of clarity and value that is safe for taking risks.

What modern business philosophy can streamline an organization’s hiring, performance, and management structures–all while improving employee performance, productivity, and positivity, as well as the organization’s overall profitability?

If you guessed the strengths revolution, fathered by Dr. Donald O. Clifton and made famous by Gallup, you hit the target (and “Input” could be one of your signature strengths—more on that later). The birth of positive workplace psychology in the late 90s paved the way for the strengths movement to explode at the beginning of the 21st century and this synergy of strengths and psychology changed corporate culture forever. Since Gallup’s publication of Now, Discover Your Strengths featuring the Clifton Strengths Finder in 2001, companies across the United States—and the world—have been cultivating strengths based cultures, all with incredible results.

For the last decade, the implementation of strengths based selection profiles, performance systems, and management structures have generated marked increases in hundreds of companies’ employee engagement and, consequently, customer satisfaction and sales revenue.

World leaders in mortgage banking, hotels, automobile manufacturing, and healthcare, among others, have contracted Gallup to design strengths based systems to help them meet and exceed their organizational goals and Gallup never fails—time and time again, strengths based systems yield record growth for teams and organizations of all sizes, all while changing individual employees’ lives.

With the help of Dr. Donald O Clifton, Gallup compiled nearly a half century of strengths research into Now, Discover Your Strengths, which featured a list of 34 talents and an assessment to help people identify their 5 signature strengths. (“Input,” the strength I mentioned before, is one of Gallup’s 34 talents, and is characterized by a desire to acquire knowledge and know more. Those with the Input strength are veritable storehouses of information.) The Strengths Finder assessment, now updated in the Strengths Finder 2.0, debuted in 2001 in Now, Discover Your Strengths.

The idea behind the strengths movement is that the traditional development approach, being deficiency-focused, is flawed. Clifton and Gallup concluded that, when one focuses on a weakness instead of a strength, he or she may improve, but only to an average performance level. Strengths based development, on the other hand, focuses on harnessing and maximizing an individual’s strengths in order to give each member of an organization the opportunity to shine. When a company’s employees are actively engaged in their work and intrinsically motivated by each task, Clifton argues, this is reflected in the organization’s productivity and profitability.

Strengths based leadership schemes are predicated on the notion that it is a well-rounded team, not well-rounded employees, that breeds success.

Because strengths based development requires a complete shift in how an organization operates and how its employees interact, it can take years for a traditional company to make the strengths transition. For companies ready to switch, Executive Strengths Expert, Brent O’Bannon, founder of and prescribes a 5 step process:

1. Start the assessment/coaching process with your company’s executive leaders.

2. Build a well-rounded executive/management team focused on communicating, understanding,and leveraging each others strengths.

3. Design a plan to assess every employee’s strengths and apply these strengths to improve job performance.

4. Shift to a strengths based business style and company culture starting with selection process and identify the specific strengths your company needs, based on its business plan/mission.

5. Continue applying the strengths based company model to communication, leadership, sales, customer service and employee well-being. Regularly measure, review and refine the strengths process.

Gallup’s approach to designing strength based solutions for the companies it consults with closely mirrors O’Bannon’s. When working with “one of the largest banks in North America,” as well as a “luxury hotel management firm operating 41 properties in six countries,” (the only details it will reveal in order to protect client confidentiality) Gallup focused in on each company’s approach to selection instead of taking an ax to everything at once.

In both cases, Gallup worked closely with each company before crafting strengths based selection profiles that spoke to the business’ specific needs and goals. Based on these profiles, the bank and the management firm modified their interview style, writing new questions to help pick up on each candidate’s company-compatible strengths (or lack there of). The result, for the bank as well as the hotel management firm, was an increase in productivity for all employees and 85-90% success rates for employees hired using the specially-designed interview techniques.

According to Gallup research, less than ¼ of all Americans are “actively engaged” in their work. In other words, over 75% of workers in the United States hate their jobs, with productivity levels that match their attitudes. But just as employee engagement is taking a nosedive, mega-companies like Starbucks, Aviva, Ernst & Young, and Unilever, as well as your every day Mom ‘n’ Pop corner store are switching to the strengths model because they have seen how empowering employees leads to skyrocketing sales.

Studies show that when employees are given an opportunity to utilize their strengths on a daily basis, they will be more “actively engaged” and team productivity will soar. On the other hand, disengaged employees have the potential to destroy profits—permanently. (A disengaged, or, negative team member is the ultimate liability when it comes to customer service.)


As CEO, Executive, Entrepreneur, Director, Manager you may know your top five strengths but you also need to understand the unique genius and beauty of all 34 strengths so you can harness the full potential of your team.

So follow the link for a gift article on the Genius and Beauty of the 34 Strengths in the Clifton Strengths Finder 2.0.