#109 - A Strengths-Based Approach to Leadership - Brandon Miller

 

 

“The most responsible thing a human can do, either personally for their own development or the development of others, is play to a person’s strengths."

Brandon Miller is the founder and CEO of 34 Strong and one of the first 7 certified Gallup Clifton StrengthsFinder coaches in the world. In this episode, we discussed Clifton StrengthsFinder, also known as CliftonStrengths. Brandon introduced what CliftonStrengths is and why it is important for us to recognize and focus on our strengths. He also shared when leaders apply a strengths-based approach at work, it leads to a much increased workplace engagement. Brandon then gave a walkthrough on how we can identify our strengths by taking the CliftonStrengths assessment and what we should do after we find out our strengths. Brandon also spent some time to discuss my top 3 strengths and explained the idea of complimentary partnerships. Towards the end, Brandon gave some tips for parents on how we can identify and nurture children’s core strengths since their childhood.  

Listen out for:

  • Career Journey - [00:06:46]
  • Starting Journey with StrengthsFinder - [00:08:35]
  • StrengthsFinder - [00:10:17]
  • Why Focus on Strengths - [00:15:06]
  • Increased Workplace Engagements - [00:19:41]
  • Tips for High Work Engagement - [00:23:56]
  • Doing StrengthsFinder Assessment - [00:26:59]
  • Henry’s Top 3 Strengths - [00:30:56]
  • Strengths-Based Leadership - [00:35:34]
  • Core Strengths - [00:38:53]
  • Nurturing Children’s Strengths - [00:41:18]
  • Tech Lead Wisdom - [00:44:46]

_____

Brandon Miller’s Bio
Brandon Miller is the founder and CEO of 34 Strong, a coaching and consulting firm dedicated to improving employee engagement. As one of the First 7 Certified GALLUP Clifton Strengths Finder, Brandon has nearly 15 years of experience providing leadership training, coaching, advising, and facilitating. Brandon is also passionate about parenting, having authored several books such as “Play to Their Strengths” and “Incredible Parent” and founded Co-Founder of Incredible Family, a consulting agency applying strengths-based approach to parenting. He is happily married with his wife Analyn Miller and is the father to seven children.

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Quotes

Starting Journey with StrengthsFinder

  • My number one strength according to StrengthsFinder is maximizer. And maximizers enjoy taking things that are strong and then building them to be even stronger. So you could say that the idea of focusing on people’s strengths more than their weaknesses came very natural to me.

  • I began to engage with the team and figured out what different people did best. Learned to not ignore their areas of incompetence or weakness, but to learn just to manage it instead of trying to change them. That was a big turning point for me. Instead of trying to make you better at something you weren’t naturally good at, could we manage it so it was adequate? It didn’t get in the way. But put more of our effort into building on the things that you really excelled at.

StrengthsFinder

  • [Dr. Donald Clifton] picked many different walks of life, many different careers, and he wanted to know why is it that some people could really excel? And not just excel once or twice, but sustain excellence. And why many more people seem to just live in mediocrity.

  • Through his journey, what he discovered is that the people who really were in touch, they had high self-awareness. They knew who they were, and they knew who they were not. Meaning they knew their strengths, and they knew their non strengths. And they were comfortable with both without judgment, but they put more effort into being the best that they could according to their strengths. So what he called this was the strengths based approach to development.

  • Most of us who were taught the conventional approach to human development, we’re taught to put more time into our areas of weakness or inadequacy.

  • The two places where he saw this very natural were in athletics and in performing arts. So when a player would come into either of those scenes, the instructor or coach would determine their skill set, and almost without a doubt, without fail, position them to do what they do best.

  • We can become so far advanced in our strengths that they can essentially eclipse the areas of weakness. He said that for every one strength a person has, they have 1000 weaknesses. So one strength over a thousand weaknesses. And so his comment was: the most responsible thing a human can do either personally for their own development or the development of others is play to a person’s strengths. In their entire lifetime, they could never solve their weaknesses.

  • You only have so much time to develop people. That’s the great equalizer. You only have so much time. You may find that you will not only get better results focusing on their strengths, but then you’ll have qualitative benefits, happier people. People that want to be better team members. People that treat customers better.

Why Focus on Strengths

  • Children who are taught to focus more on their strengths than on their weaknesses, we’ve seen three major advances.

    • First, they can increase their confidence. When a child has high confidence, it permeates into their ability to make friends, their performance in their school, their ability to face difficulty. Which all of us will face some difficulty in life. So it impacts resilience.

    • Number two. We watch children increase in creativity. So their ability to approach complex problems and see alternatives. Instead of closed doors, they find open doors. With that creativity, it expands learning. So it opens up the opportunity for increased learning and increased space for them to really develop a very full and healthy brain.

    • Third. We see competence. In a space where a child feels confident and they’re creative, then their competence goes up. They can learn more. They can experience more. They’re not kept by fear. They’re not kept by insecurity and doubt.

  • Even more so than Gallup’s work in the business world, and they do extensive work with very large companies around the world, he was very interested in parenting and education because if a child at a young age could learn to build on their strengths, his reasoning is that person into their career, into their family, into their future would be much more successful, and, much happier in life, much more fulfilled higher wellbeing.

  • If I spent more time talking to you about your strengths than your weaknesses, you are six times more likely to be engaged on your job. So this means all that would connect to your productivity, your accuracy, your punctuality, your friendliness to our customers, with our team members, six times more likely. And because you’re engaged, you’re three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life. And this is outside of work. This is your loved ones. Places where you volunteer and your ability to get good rest and your health and fitness.

  • I believe with the work we do with families, that this approach can really not only positively affect positive change workplaces, but it can affect positive change in a person’s life. It can change their life. Because of how deep it will impact their psychology and, eventually, their physiology associated.

Increased Workplace Engagements

  • When a company focuses this way on helping their managers do this from a strengths approach, simply by the fact that I’m going to talk to you when we meet. So by percentage, you’re going to hear more about what you’re doing well, the success you could build on, the opportunity to grow and to learn. You’re going to look forward to our talks more often than if by percentage it was, “Well, Henry, you need to work on this, and then you need to work on that.”

  • If you look forward to that meeting, because you think this is usually a good conversation. We’re constructive. We’re building. You will naturally be more engaged. If every time you see my email pop up, you go, “Oh no, what does he want now? What did I do now? What did I get wrong?” You will absolutely begin to feel that will pull life from you.

  • Most of us were not taught this as children. We weren’t taught this in university. We weren’t taught this in our jobs. We’re learning a new approach. We’re going to learn new behaviors, new habits.

  • Am I regularly providing you recognition? Meaning, do you feel I appreciate you? Do you feel I respect you? Do you think that I know you? Do you know that I care about you as a person? You don’t only work here, but I happen to know some things about your life and I keep those in mind.

  • When managers are taught, we find that the more resourced we can help them to be, meaning giving them practical tools and practical steps so that they can learn this. This is where we see success. This is where we see what we call a sustainable strengths approach. Because now it’s going to be part of the organization’s standard operating procedures.

Tips for High Work Engagement

  • Companies that are known as the best places to work often also win awards for innovation. They win awards for growing fast. They win awards for places that succeed in accomplishing different contests.

  • We have regular interactions with our team, our company. And in those regular interactions, we make sure that as a company, we are very clear on our company mission and our company vision and our company values. We reset these. We tell them again. If a person in our company is unclear on where we’re going, we want to make sure they know what our mission is and what their part is. That’s one thing we do is connect to the mission.

  • Secondly, we teach coaching as a manager’s mindset. So a manager, when they see themselves more as the coach than the boss, they learn that a relationship by nature is developmental in its focus. So my interest is in seeing you grow, seeing you learn, and it’s the difference between a growth mindset as compared to a fixed mindset.

  • A growth mindset is we both agree our objective is to help you to be successful. In a fixed mindset, I just need you to do your job. I don’t really care how you grow. I just need you to get it done, cause me as little problem as possible.

  • Growth mindset challenges that. It says Henry has a future. Henry has aspirations and goals. How can I help him be successful in this job, but also prepare him for his next job, his next stage?

  • One of the most important things we do as a company is, we want to see people through the filter of who they’re becoming, not just who they are today. In a strength-based culture, you’re always looking ahead for where a person can grow and develop and become their next best version of themselves.

Doing StrengthsFinder Assessment

  • Gallup talks about a person can take it the first time, and the first time is sufficient to know your strengths for the rest of your life. We actually believe that people change throughout their life. Going online and taking the assessment is step one.

  • Some of the power of this particular assessment is it does grow with you. And so, when a person takes it, first thing first is every Strengths coach in the world knows this paradigm, it’s naming, claiming and aiming.

  • The first thing we learn to do is name our strengths. And number two, I’ve learned to claim them as my own. Claiming, right next to naming, a big part of that is to first learn what the names are and become familiar.

  • Second, there is a report. Go into this report, have a pen or highlighter, and read through it and really assess if you can own these strengths. With claiming, we really recommend posting the strength somewhere where you can see them. So for a while, whether it’s on the mirror in the morning where you get ready, or it’s in your workspace, have them where you can see them and be reminded of, yeah, that’s me. That’s who I am.

  • And then the third stage is to begin thinking about how to leverage these and we call it aiming your strengths.

Henry’s Top 3 Strengths

  • Your first two strengths, achiever and learner, are the two most common strengths in the world. So after 20 million people have completed CliftonStrengths in 60 countries and in 30 languages, number one and number two are achiever and learner. Your drive, your work ethic, your endurance, your willingness to work hard until a job is done, which definitely is you have almost an inability to quit. Meaning, it’s almost not possible for you to not continue even when it’s hard, because you have reserves of energy.

  • And learner allows you to be deeply curious, and to stay in a space where you know that the more you learn, the more there is to learn. So it keeps you in a space of curiosity and it keeps you in a space where you stay humble. Learners are some of the best team members. Some of the most effective leaders, because they lead with questions. They lead with a curiosity instead of a need to tell. They want to ask and understand and appreciate.

  • Deliberative. This is a fascinating strength. So it is actually one of the most rare strengths in the world. So this is a strength that very few people share in their top five. Deliberative, what you enjoy is the opportunity to really carefully evaluate the decisions you make. So, as a result, deliberatives are often very well trusted. Measure twice. Cut once. Before you act, make sure you’ve thought through all the ramifications. You’ve carefully considered the options. And then, once you’ve established that this is the right course, now we move forward.

  • Of those three, when you think back about your life, could you see a tale where you were that person as far back as you can remember? If you can see those back into your early childhood, those are what we would call your core strengths. Core means they are genetically coded. They’re a very deep part of you. And so, when you would retake an assessment like CliftonStrengths, it’s very likely they’ll stay. Not necessarily in the top five, they stay in the top 10 and they will group there.

Strengths-Based Leadership

  • Effective leaders not just focus on people’s strengths, but they also surround themselves with the right people and maximize their team based on the strengths.

  • Worldwide, there is a conversation around inclusive leadership, being equity minded, making sure that people are feeling heard and appreciated. The most effective leaders do surround themselves with a team that is diverse. And one of the places where you can find the deepest roots of diversity is in our strengths.

  • When you took CliftonStrengths, the odd of someone having the same five in the same order is one in 33 million. So very unique. That’s like your fingerprint compared to my fingerprint. As a leader, it serves a team well to have representation in as many strengths as you can bring, because you get a richness of perspective, a difference in approach.

Core Strengths

  • The first step with young children is what we call strength spotting. It’s just learning to see them through the perspective that your children have emerging beautiful core strengths that are a part of the transference of DNA.

  • As parents, we really encourage an open heart and mind that they might be different from yours. They don’t have to be the same, nor would it be even the best case scenario for them to be a carbon copy.

  • Strength spotting is learning to see some of the core strengths.

    • First, it’s we call it the enthusiasm clue. What activities are children drawn to? What seems to pique their interest? Where do they make time?

    • And then second, of those activities, which ones just come really natural to them? Do they just seem to really enjoy the process? They seem to just pick up the steps fast. They seem to just really resonate with it.

    • And then third, where do they seem to derive energy? And this is going to come in the form of their ability to keep going. So even when the puzzle gets hard, or the game is boring, they’ll finish it because it derives some level of energy from them.

  • Once a child crosses into early childhood education, there is an assessment for kids. This is where it’s called the Strengths Explorer.

Nurturing Children’s Strengths

  • Your children are each very unique. If we can customize our parenting approach to recognize that there are certain things that would be the same. Let’s make sure they have the same nutrition and make sure they get rest and make sure they have opportunities. But when it comes to developing them as a person and their strengths and their personality and their interest, allow for diversity, allow for differences. Let them have room to explore.

  • Supporting them in areas of interest, in areas of study, in areas of growth, and allowing for, as they age, some autonomy to make some decisions and to get some things wrong and to get some things right. And be there to support. Because what we have found is where we apply influence to our children is when we know that they are in an area of strength. We know that it’s an opportunity for growth. This is where we put our strongest encouragement.

  • What we have sought to avoid is to put the same encouragement or influence in an area of non strength. Letting it be okay that some things aren’t for them. That’s one of the gifts children need from us as parents is to help them realize they don’t have to compare to others to be successful themselves. They can learn to be as they were made and be the best version of that.

Tech Lead Wisdom

  • I have a word that I have made a life word, and it’s the word magnanimous or to practice magnanimity. The definition is to be high minded, to be free of petty vindictiveness, to be gracious, noble, forgiving.

  • As leaders, it can be such a lure to go down the path of vindictiveness or to feel offended, or to allow rivalry to exist or to carry a grudge. But I have found that magnanimity allows you to maintain objectivity. To stay objective. To look past a situation. To think with your most effective parts of your brain that give you the best opportunity to not carry forward in life those things that can weigh you down. Literally weigh you down in your health, in your vitality, in your relationships.

  • I encourage others to consider some clear philosophy, a clear driver of what it is that they will subscribe to, to be effective as a leader.

Transcript

[00:02:29] Episode Introduction

Henry Suryawirawan: Hello to all of you, my friends and my listeners. Welcome to the Tech Lead Journal podcast, the show where you can learn about technical leadership and excellence from my conversations with great thought leaders in the tech industry. And today is the episode number 109. If this is your first time listening to Tech Lead Journal, subscribe and follow the show on your podcast app and on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. And if you’d like to support my journey creating this podcast, subscribe as a patron at techleadjournal.dev/patron.

My guest for today’s episode is Brandon Miller. Brandon is the founder and CEO of 34 Strong and one of the first seven certified Gallup Clifton StrengthsFinder coaches in the world. In this episode we discussed Clifton StrengthsFinder, also known as CliftonStrengths. Brandon introduced what CliftonStrengths is and why it is important for us to recognize and focus on our strengths. He also shared when leaders apply a strengths-based approach at work, it leads to a much increased workplace engagement. Brandon then gave a walkthrough on how we can identify our strengths by taking the CliftonStrengths assessment, and what we should do after we find out our strengths. Brandon also spent some time to discuss my top three strengths and explained the idea of complimentary partnerships. Towards the end, Brandon gave some tips for parents on how we can identify and nurture children’s core strengths since their childhood.

I hope you enjoy my conversation with Brandon, learning about the importance of identifying our strengths and why we should apply the strengths-based approach in leadership. If you do enjoy this episode, will you help share it with your friends and colleagues who can also benefit from listening to this episode? It is my ultimate mission to spread this podcast and the knowledge to more listeners, and I appreciate your support in any way towards fulfilling my mission. Before we continue to do conversation, let’s hear some words from our sponsors.

[00:05:54] Introduction

Henry Suryawirawan: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another new episode of the Tech Lead Journal podcast. Today, I have with me, a guest named Brandon Miller. Fun fact. Brandon is actually one of the first seven certified Gallup Clifton StrengthsFinder coaches in the world. This is probably one of those people who you would see pretty rare, because StrengthsFinder has been around for quite some time, and he’s like the first seven certified StrengthsFinder coaches in the world.

He’s now the CEO of 34 Strong. A coaching and consulting firm dedicated to improving employee engagement based on StrengthsFinder. He has lots of experience providing specialized leadership training, coaching, advising, and facilitating. So today I’m really happy to talk to you, Brandon, to discuss about StrengthsFinder. How is it relevant for leadership? And how we can grow from knowing about StrengthsFinder? So welcome to the show.

Brandon Miller: Thank you, Henry. It’s great to be here today.

[00:06:46] Career Journey

Henry Suryawirawan: So Brandon, I’d like to always start with my guests to invite them to share their journey, their career highlights, or any turning points. Anything that you think would be interesting for listeners to learn from you.

Brandon Miller: Sure. Some of your listeners might be interested to know that entrepreneurs, so those of us who enjoy the challenge of starting something from the beginning, often first begin our careers working for others. Inside of us lives a dream or a passion to have the independence, have the opportunity to build our own brand, our own company, and some of us do venture out and may not have the best success. That was me multiple times. And then what I found in my career, Henry, is I just stayed with it. I just stayed with it. Even when a venture didn’t go the way I had hoped, I could see out there an opportunity and decided to continue to work there.

So I’ve been a part of investing companies. I’ve been a part of a business that we manufactured what we call hidden doors. So these were bookshelves that were made to look like a normal bookshelf, but they opened like a secret passage, like what you’d see in the movies. So we made those. I then also was a part of an art gallery and had a chance to launch that. A carpet cleaning company and a chiropractic. So I’ve done many different investments and opportunities.

My longest stage of career. I spent 10 years in full-time to part-time ministry capacity. So I served as a pastor. Many people who go into that sort of work don’t do that to make a lot of money. And so as we get into my family later, I have a large family. So I always had second jobs, which were my business startups that I did. Thankfully, I eventually made it to the place where I had one business focus, and that’s where StrengthsFinder entered the picture.

[00:08:35] Starting Journey With StrengthsFinder

Henry Suryawirawan: Wow. Thanks for sharing the story. So if I can just ask further, right? So you have been in so many different jobs, so many different industries, so many different skill sets. What actually brought you to StrengthsFinder? What are the things that probably pique your interests at that time?

Brandon Miller: Sure. My number one strength according to StrengthsFinder is maximizer. And maximizers enjoy taking things that are strong and then building them to be even stronger. So you could say that the idea of focusing on people’s strengths more than their weaknesses came very natural to me. It was very easy to understand, easy to embrace.

As a leader at the time in our church, we had a large staff for a church. It was about 30 leaders that were on staff, and then we had hundreds of volunteers. So I was introduced to this at the church. One of the members of our congregation had done a training through the Gallup organization. They are the company that owns the intellectual property. And so we were invited to take a course as just part of our service. I was tasked with being the person to lead the effort. So, being a maximizer, it resonated well. I began to engage with the team and figured out what different people did best. Learned to not ignore their areas of incompetence or weakness, but to learn just to manage it instead of trying to change them. That was a big turning point for me. Instead of trying to make you better at something you weren’t naturally good at, could we manage it so it was adequate? It didn’t get in the way. But put more of our effort into building on the things that you really excelled at. That’s where my journey began and took root for StrengthsFinder.

[00:10:17] StrengthsFinder

Henry Suryawirawan: So this is one of the concepts when I read StrengthsFinder many years ago - I don’t remember when exactly - but it’s one of the concepts that I find really interesting because the book actually said, you have both the strengths and weaknesses. Many people, since we are children, we are being taught that we should also focus a lot on improving our weaknesses. But the book actually said that instead of doing that, actually you should put more focus on your strengths and try to manage your weaknesses so that they don’t get in the way, like what you said.

So tell us more about this concept of StrengthsFinder. So for people who haven’t heard about it, right? Why is it so important to focus a lot more on your strengths versus your weaknesses?

Brandon Miller: I’m going to take us through Dr. Donald Clifton, the founder of StrengthsFinder, and he had many partners around the world. Dr. Donald Clifton, over the course of a few decades, 30 years, he was drawn to study human excellence. He wanted to understand what was it about really successful people? He picked many different walks of life, many different careers, and he wanted to know why is it that some people could really excel? And not just excel once or twice, but sustain excellence. And why many more people seem to just live in mediocrity, in that space.

Through his journey, what he discovered is that the people who really were in touch, they had high self-awareness. They knew who they were, and they knew who they were not. Meaning they knew their strengths, and they knew their non strengths. And they were comfortable with both without judgment, but they put more effort into being the best that they could according to their strengths. So what he called this was the strengths based approach to development. Simply a shift in time. Most of us who were taught the conventional approach to human development, we’re taught to put more time into our areas of weakness or inadequacy. His question was, well, what if we just flipped it? What if we put more time into our strengths?

And the two places, Henry, where he saw this very natural, again and again practiced, were athletics and in performing arts. So when a player would come into either of those scenes, the instructor or coach would determine their skill set, and almost without a doubt, without fail, position them to do what they do best. So as he observed this, his question became, and I’ll tell you one of his famous interviews that occurred. It was in 1984 and it was the table tennis team picked to win the gold medal in the Olympics in Los Angeles. The team from China had an athlete that was renowned. An amazing athlete. He was renowned for not having a good backhand. He could not have a good backhand. So any of us who play table tennis or tennis know without a backhand you have a serious deficiency. Very likely you won’t be successful. So an interview was conducted, that Dr. Clifton was a part of, where they asked the coach, “So what is it that you do with your very best player who doesn’t play well from his backhand?” He said, “That’s easy. We spend eight hours a day focusing on his forehand to make it the most lethal, very best in the world, and we ignore the backhand altogether.” And what Dr. Clifton surmised from this was, we can become so far advanced in our strengths that they can essentially eclipse the areas of weakness.

Conversely, and this is an interesting statistic. Based on his research. And I don’t know that this is one of his more cemented facts. This is one, I think, that was more anecdotal, but I think you’ll understand the point. He said that for every one strength a person has, they have 1000 weaknesses. So one strength over a thousand weaknesses. And so his comment was the most responsible thing a human can do either personally for their own development or the development of others is play to a person’s strengths. In their entire lifetime, they could never solve their weaknesses. This is where we begin the journey with an organization or with a family or with an agency, a nonprofit, to say you only have so much time to develop people. That’s the great equalizer. You only have so much time. You may find that you will not only get better results focusing on their strengths, but then you’ll have qualitative benefits, happier people. People that want to be better team members. People that treat customers better. So this is some of the beginning space of where we build on this concept.

Henry Suryawirawan: Wow, thanks for sharing this story. I haven’t heard about this China Olympics athlete that had to train to focus more a lot on his strengths, which is the forehand, and can win the championship without the backhand, which is some people think how could that be?

Brandon Miller: 1984. It was 1984. The reference is a book titled “Soar with Your Strengths”. So the book Soar with Your Strengths is where this story is immortalized.

[00:15:06] Why Focusing on Strengths

Henry Suryawirawan: Wow. Okay. I’ll make sure to put that in the show notes. Which brings me to the next discussion, right? Because, again, since we are children, we are being taught to focus a lot more to improve your weaknesses. I mean, the idea is not so much to say that we should improve a lot on so many different areas, but it’s to probably make us all rounder. So someone who can do many of the things. This is probably the reasons why many people, if you ask, " What are your strengths?" Not everyone can easily say just like you just now, right? I’m a maximizer. Not everyone could actually easily say that. But if you ask them about weaknesses, people can easily throw so many things. I am bad at this. I’m bad at that. But to focus on the strengths, maybe some people need to find some time to actually summarize. Why do you think this is a big problem? What could people do to actually change that?

Brandon Miller: Well, since you brought up the family, I’ll mention this. Children who are taught to focus more on their strengths than on their weaknesses, we’ve seen three major advances. So first of all, they can increase their confidence. When a child has high confidence, it permeates into their ability to make friends, their performance in their school, their ability to face difficulty. Which all of us will face some difficulty in life. So it impacts resilience.

Number two. We watch children increase in creativity. So their ability to approach complex problems and see alternatives. Instead of closed doors, they find open doors. With that creativity, it expands learning. So it opens up opportunity for increased learning and increased space for them to really develop a very full and healthy brain.

Third. We see competence. When we study brain science, when we lean into is called the old brain, our limbic system, this is the part of our brain that’s reactive. So it’s fight, flight or freeze. As compared to our new brain, the prefrontal cortex, where this is where we have wisdom and logic, and a depth of knowledge. It’s our sage brain. Our deepest intelligence. Well, in a space where a child feels confident and they’re creative, then their competence goes up. They can learn more. They can experience more. They’re not kept by fear. They’re not kept by insecurity and doubt.

Dr. Clifton was very passionate. Even more so than Gallup’s work in the business world, and they do extensive work with very large companies around the world. He was very interested in parenting and education because if a child at a young age could learn to build on their strengths, his reasoning is that person into their career, into their family, into their future would be much more successful, and, this is interesting, much happier in life, much more fulfilled higher wellbeing. And so I think this is important and I’ll give you two primary statistics when we advance the children to their career years.

Number one is this. Let’s say that you and I were working together, Henry, and let’s say that I was your manager. If I spent more time talking to you about your strengths than your weaknesses, you are six times more likely to be engaged on your job. So this means all that would connect to your productivity, your accuracy, your punctuality, your friendliness with our customers, with our team members, six times more likely. And because you’re engaged, you’re three times more likely to report having excellent quality of life. And this is, Henry, outside of work. This is your loved ones. Places where you volunteer and your ability to get good rest and your health and fitness.

And so this is where we believe at 34 Strong. I believe this personally with the work we do with families, that this approach can really not only positively affect positive change workplaces, but it can affect positive change in a person’s life. It can change their life. Because of how deep it will impact their psychology and, eventually, their physiology associated.

Henry Suryawirawan: Wow. Thanks for sharing that. Just to summarize, so you mentioned if we focus on strengths since we are young, there are three things that probably could increase because of that. So you have increased confidence. You have increased creativity, and ultimately increased in competence. And those will lead you to a happier and fulfilled life. So I think that’s probably a message for all the listeners, right? So if you haven’t known for the longest time your strengths, try to find some of those strengths. Maybe you can go through StrengthsFinder or buy the book. There’s a free test that you can go through online. You can probably start categorizing what are some of your strengths and start to build from there, because the impact is so massive.

[00:19:41] Increased Workplace Engagements

Henry Suryawirawan: And you mentioned the statistics in the workplace where if the management focus on their direct reports' strengths, typically, they will be more engaged in the work. Again, I’ve seen this traditionally many companies in the performance review. Yes. They will talk about achievements and all that. But they will also try to focus on people’s weaknesses. You are not good at this. And try to build action items toward those things. But, again, coming back to this StrengthsFinder concept, I think maybe that’s not the right approach.

So tell us more. Maybe how can managers put more focus on the strengths so that people are more engaged? And why people are more engaged, specifically, if we focus on their strengths?

Brandon Miller: Sure. So I want to say this point salient to your comment. Management or whomever it is that you call your boss. Okay. So I’ll use the example of you and I, again. So let’s say I was the boss, and you and I will have a professional relationship because of this. The tone of that relationship, the posture, the effectiveness, I will set more of that tone than you will because I’m the boss. I am more responsible for the health of the relationship than you are because I’m usually paid more. I have increased responsibility and my job is to help you to perform, or to get you to perform.

So when a company focuses this way on helping their managers do this from a strengths approach, simply, Henry, by the fact that I’m going to talk to you when we meet. So by percentage, you’re going to hear more about what you’re doing well, the success you could build on, the opportunity to grow and to learn. You’re going to look forward to our talks more often than if by percentage it was, " Well, Henry, you need to work on this, and then you need to work on that. And that’s almost okay, but now you need to do this". Those conversations, it would be as simple as I send you an email, “Please go onto the platform. We’re going to have a meeting”. If you look forward to that meeting, because you think this is usually a good conversation. We’re constructive. We’re building. You will naturally be more engaged. If every time you see my email pop up, you go, “Oh no, what does he want now? What did I do now? What did I get wrong?” You will absolutely begin to feel that will pull life from you.

So when a company wants to spend time thinking about the strengths of its team members, there is a necessary investment made from leaders into managers. And the investment is we’re going to give you tools and resources to know how to have these sorts of conversations. Because most of us were not taught this as children. We weren’t taught this in university. We weren’t taught this in our jobs. We’re learning a new approach. One that we can, as I shared, if we did participate in extracurricular activities that had this approach, we can recall it, but we’re going to learn new behaviors, new habits. This is where performance management systems come into place. Essentially, we have a new system that we rank managers over. Yes. I want to be evaluated on your performance, Henry, but I also want to be evaluated on am I regularly providing you recognition? Meaning, do you feel I appreciate you? Do you feel I respect you? Do you think that I know you? Do you know that I care about you as a person? You don’t only work here, but I happen to know some things about your life and I keep those in mind.

So, for example, today I learned that one of my employees was involved in a car accident. Thankfully, he and his wife were okay. But it was enough that they had some trauma that they needed to work through. And so, we attend to them. We want to make sure they’re okay. We want to make sure that they’re seeking proper medical attention, and looking into how we can support them. We would want this in this sort of relationship that’s healthy in a strengths approach. So when managers are taught, we find that the more resourced we can help them to be, meaning giving them practical tools and practical steps so that they can learn this. This is where we see success. This is where we see what we call a sustainable strengths approach. Because now it’s going to be part of the organization’s standard operating procedures.

[00:23:56] Tips for High Work Engagement

Henry Suryawirawan: I think if I’m not wrong, your place, 34 Strong, your company also has won numerous best workplace awards. Can you share with us maybe some practical tips or practices that you did in your company so that people are engaged and they do their best work? So that your company, also as a result of that, becomes more successful. So maybe if you can share a little bit on that.

Brandon Miller: Sure. Companies that are known as the best places to work often also win awards for innovation. They win awards for growing fast. They win awards for places that succeed in accomplishing different contests, different exploits. For us, as a company, our most prestigious award and the ones that we are the most proud of are when we’re recognized nationally here in the United States as a great place to work.

To get there though, because this is what we teach to other companies, we like to say, we have to eat our own cooking. We can’t just give you our great cooking. We have to eat our own cooking. So some of the ways that we do that. We have regular interactions with our team, our company. And in those regular interactions, we make sure that as a company, we are very clear on our company mission and our company vision and our company values. We reset these. We tell them again. For example, if a person in our company is unclear on where we’re going, we want to make sure they know what our mission is and what their part is. That’s one thing we do is connect to mission.

Secondly, we teach coaching as a manager’s mindset. So a manager, when they see themselves more as the coach than the boss, they learn that relationship by nature is developmental in its focus. So my interest is in seeing you grow, seeing you learn, and it’s the difference between a growth mindset as compared to a fixed mindset. A growth mindset is we both agree our objective is to help you to be successful. In a fixed mindset, I just need you to do your job. I don’t really care how you grow. I just need you to get it done, cause me as little problem as possible, and we will call this a somewhat healthy relationship. Well, growth mindset challenges that. It says Henry has a future. Henry has aspirations and goals. How can I help him be successful in this job, but also prepare him for his next job, his next stage? And therein is one of the most important things we do as a company is, we want to see people through the filter of who they’re becoming, not just who they are today. In a strength based culture, you’re always looking ahead for where a person can grow and develop and become their next best version of themselves.

Henry Suryawirawan: Wow. Thanks for sharing all these practices. I think it’s really interesting. So some of the things that I pick, for example, you train the managers to become more like a coach. So not necessarily just the boss and get things done, but you also invest time in their direct reports so that they can grow, they fulfill their aspirations, their personal goals, and things like that.

[00:26:59] Doing StrengthsFinder Assessment

Henry Suryawirawan: So I must assume that probably as part of this, you would ask people to do StrengthsFinder test, so that they can find their CliftonStrengths. For example, I have done this test a long time back. From there, what’s next? Because many people might have taken this test individually, not necessarily in the workplace. But they just don’t know where to continue from there on. Maybe we can discuss about what should we do after we know our CliftonStrengths?

Brandon Miller: So the CliftonStrengths assessment is something, Henry, that at 34 Strong, we do take a little bit of a different approach than the Gallup organization. Gallup talks about a person can take it the first time, and the first time is sufficient to know your strengths for the rest of your life. We actually believe that people change throughout their life. So, going online and taking the assessment is step one. We think that the 34 tests, so the tests where you get back all 34 strengths in order, and receive a very thorough, I mean, probably the most personalized thorough report, I think, that one can invest in on the market is a great place to start.

The assessment can be purchased from Gallup or purchased from a reseller like 34 Strong, and then you go online and take it. So that takes about 40-45 minutes. If it’s been a while for somebody, it’s a good idea to do it again, you know, two or three years, because when you take the assessment, it’s like taking an x-ray of your leg. At that point in time, that’s what it was. And so two or three years later, it could look different. That’s some of the power of this particular assessment is it does grow with you. And so, when a person takes it, first thing first is every Strengths coach in the world knows this paradigm, it’s naming, claiming and aiming.

So the first thing we learn to do is name our strengths. So I am a maximizer. I’m an achiever. I’m an activator. I’m strategic. And I’m a ranger. I can name them. I can name you my top 15 in a row. I know exactly what strengths are mine, because I’ve learned their names. And number two, I’ve learned to claim them as my own. So I can say, “I am an activator”. Which is my number three. I know that I’m an activator because I’ve taken StrengthsFinder four times, and all four times activator is one, two or three. All four times. Which means to say, Henry, I could not unbe an activator if I tried. It’s core to my being.

Claiming, right next to naming, a big part of that is so first learn what the names are and become familiar. Second, there is a report, as I said. Go into this report, have a pen or highlighter, and read through it and really assess if you can own these strengths. Meaning, did the assessment get it right? Is this you? Are you comfortable with these results? You know, someone were to ask you, what are your strengths? You could say I’m a relater. I’m high self-assurance. I’m strong in input. Could you say that? Because that’s claiming. That’s ownership. And with claiming, we really recommend to post the strength somewhere where you can see them. So for a while, whether it’s on the mirror in the morning where you get ready, or it’s in your workspace, have them where you can see them and be reminded of, yeah, that’s me. That’s who I am.

And then the third stage is to begin thinking about how to leverage these and we call it aiming your strengths. So, starting with number one as a maximizer, what could I do to aim these strengths? Thankfully for me, it was right away. I got to start helping people find their strengths, and I got to learn how to see strengths and spot it and grow it. I also learned that maximizer was going to be a part of me. I like to coach athletics. How I coach people? I have a large family. I love to coach my kids. That mindset very much affected how my maximizer would be. So naming, claiming, and aiming your strengths. The aiming is one at a time, just starting to see and to build on your knowledge.

[00:30:56] Henry’s Top 3 Strengths

Henry Suryawirawan: Wow. I like that approach. Name, claim, and aim. So first identify with yourself, what are your strengths? And then you claim that you accept it. Okay. This is who I am. And then third is to build from there. So try to aim what’s next that you can leverage from your strengths. I, myself, the top three of mine are achiever, learner, and deliberative. I have done this so many years ago. I guess I must have taken another one maybe in these days and see if they changed or not.

Brandon Miller: And I will say, Henry, for your listeners, for any that might be interested. They can reach out to us. I’ve done this for other leaders of podcasts that if they would like to reach out and request a code, we could provide them with one. To learn complimentary as just a part of our time. You included.

I will mention that your first two strengths, achiever and learner, are the two most common strengths in the world. So after 20 million people have completed CliftonStrengths in 60 countries and in 30 languages, number one and number two are achiever and learner. Which is to say that your drive, your work ethic, your endurance, your willingness to work hard until a job is done, which definitely is you have almost an inability to quit. Meaning, it’s almost not possible for you to not continue even when it’s hard, because you have reserves of energy. And learner allows you to be deeply curious, and to stay in a space where you know that the more you learn, the more there is to learn. So it keeps you in a space of curiosity and it keeps you in a space where you stay humble. Learners are some of the best team members. Some of the most effective leaders, because they lead with questions. They lead with a curiosity instead of a need to tell. They want to ask and understand and appreciate. Very respectful strength.

Now your number three, deliberative. This is a fascinating strength. So it is actually one of the most rare strengths in the world. So this is a strength that very few people share in their top five. Deliberatives, what you enjoy is the opportunity to really carefully evaluate the decisions you make. So, as a result, deliberatives are often very well trusted. There’s an adage here in the United States. Maybe you’ve heard this. Measure twice. Cut once. So before you act, make sure you’ve thought through all of the ramifications. You’ve carefully considered the options. And then, once you’ve established that this is the right course, now we move forward.

Funny thing. My number three, activator, and your number three, deliberative, are opposite strengths. They’re very opposite. So we would be good partners. You would be the voice of caution and reason and pause and let’s think and process. I have a bit more of the I’ll just take the risk. So my risk threshold might be higher at times where you might pause one second too long. I might have already been going, or times where I need to stop and listen to you. So they’re very good. We call them complimentary partners. Because those strengths can really work off of each other very well.

So when you find these, would be interesting for you to know, and this is a little bit advanced for your listeners. Of those three, when you think back about your life, could you see a tale where you were that person as far back as you can remember? So can you remember being that person who would strive to do really, really well with your achiever? The person who was very curious asked a lot of questions. Sometimes, so many questions that people were like, Henry enough. Too many questions. That would be your learner. Cause you were curious. You wanted to know. Were you at times maybe a shy person? Deliberative sometimes could be a little more introverted. But careful. You thought through. If you can see those back into your early childhood, those are what we would call your core strengths. Core means they are genetically coded. They’re a very deep part of you. And so, when you would retake an assessment like CliftonStrengths, it’s very likely they’ll stay. Not necessarily in the top five, they stay in the top 10 and they will group there. And so you would see them recur because you could identify them at that very strong level.

Henry Suryawirawan: Thank you for your assessment. A brief assessment, but really insightful and powerful to me. Thank you for noticing some of my strengths and how some of the things that I, myself, thinking back, I think, yes, I kind of like grow into all these strengths from my journey, from my childhood as well.

[00:35:34] Strengths-Based Leadership

Henry Suryawirawan: And I think you mentioned one of the things that is interesting that we should discuss next. So this is like how you can use it in your workplace as well? So knowing people’s strengths and actually try to see where you can synergize, right? The moment when you mention we could be good partners. So this is where you use the strengths based approach to actually form a team or make your team as best as they can perform. I read in another book of Clifton, “Strengths Based Leadership”, that effective leaders not just focus on people’s strengths, but they also surround themselves with the right people and maximize their team based on the strengths. Tell us more about this approach, because I don’t think many managers put a lot of effort in building a formation that can compliment themselves.

Brandon Miller: Worldwide, there is a conversation around inclusive leadership, being equity minded, making sure that people are feeling heard and appreciated. All kinds of ways that we can accomplish this. The most effective leaders do surround themselves with a team that is diverse. And one of the places where you can find the deepest roots of diversity is in our strengths.

When you took CliftonStrengths, the odds of someone having the same five in the same order. So, you gave me your three, but if we went to number five, the odds of someone having those same five in that same order is one in 33 million. So very unique. That’s like your fingerprint compared to my fingerprint. Very unique to each one of us. And so, as a leader, it serves a team well to have representation in as many strengths as you can bring, because you get a richness of perspective, a difference in approach. We talk about people learning their 34 strengths. And when one does that, they’re going to acknowledge what I shared earlier about core strengths, but they’re also going to find what we call lesser strengths. This would be number 34, number 33, number 32.

And so the reason I mentioned my activator, your deliberative would be good partners is deliberative is one of my strengths, I think it’s number 29 out of 34. So it’s a lesser strength. So even if I tried to be strong at deliberative the same way you are, I would never measure up. I could maybe do half of your effectiveness, because I honestly wouldn’t want to be. As soon as I got going, I would find it just deflated my energy. I couldn’t be successful. So this is where it serves the team well to represent themselves. I actually had a team hired me recently to say, “We just want to make sure that we didn’t just hire a bunch of the same people. Because we don’t want to just make decisions in an echo chamber. We need diversity of thought. We want different perspectives, different opinions. I said, I can’t agree more. That’s a very good way to approach leadership.

Henry Suryawirawan: Yeah. The topic of equity, diversity, inclusivity, and all this, I think, is pretty quite growing these days. As you mentioned, we don’t want to hire the same kind of people, because at the end of the day, you have maybe one single-minded approach to solve problems. Where with more inclusivity, I think it has been proven by research that you will have a more diverse thoughts. And hence, probably you’ll make a better decision out of it. Having known people’s strengths in your team, I think, is one way to go towards that route where you can actually say, okay, if I’m weak at this point, maybe you can leverage on someone else who can do much better for certain kind of problems. So really appreciate that approach.

[00:38:53] Core Strengths

Henry Suryawirawan: You mentioned about the core strengths. This is something that is also kind of like unique for individuals, and maybe it is like a talent. You’re born with it. Which brings us to probably the next topic, because you are also passionate into parenting, right? How to grow children? Maybe in the first place, how do you identify children’s core strengths? Do they need to go through Clifton’s StrengthsFinder test as well? How do you actually nurture children to actually identify core strengths and build from there?

Brandon Miller: Yeah. So the first step with young children is what we call strength spotting. It’s just learning to see them through the perspective that your children have emerging beautiful core strengths that are a part of the transference of DNA, right? It’s just part of who they’re going to be. As parents, we really encourage an open heart and mind that they might be different than yours. And that’s okay. They’re entitled to be different. They don’t have to be the same, nor would it be even best case scenario for them to be a carbon copy.

So strength spotting is learning to see strengths and there’s a couple clues. So first, it’s we call it the enthusiasm clue. What activities are children drawn to? What seems to pique their interest? Where do they make time? And then second, of those activities, which ones just come really natural to them? Do they just seem to really enjoy the process? They seem to just pick up the steps fast. They seem to just really resonate with it. And then third, where do they seem to derive energy? And this is going to come in the form of their ability to keep going. So even when the puzzle gets hard, or the game is boring, they’ll finish it because it derives some level of energy to them. So those are three of the clues that a parent can use to start to see some of the core strengths.

From there, what Gallup has done that’s very nice is once a child crosses into early childhood education, by the time they reach about fourth or fifth grade, there is an assessment for kids. This is where it’s called the Strengths Explorer. They can actually take an assessment and learn their core strengths.

Henry Suryawirawan: Yes. I think now that you say it, we should identify kids' enthusiasm, their natural ability, and where they derive the energy from. This is also very interesting because we can see kids with plenty of energy, but we can actually also tell there are some activities that they will not participate. They’ll be cranky and things like that. So I think these are definitely a great clues.

[00:41:18] Nurturing Children’s Strengths

Henry Suryawirawan: For me, I’m a parent myself of three kids. It’s really hard to actually spot this naturally. As parents, unfortunately, I have to say that we all tend to want our kids to behave or maybe to be a person whom we think is best. As a parent, we think they should be a doctor or whatever. I think, again, coming back to the strengths based approach, I think this is not effective. Even though the kids are all different, we should try to customize nurturing them differently. So any tips around that? Because, obviously, dealing with so many different styles of kids may not be handy. Maybe any parenting tips here that you can share?

Brandon Miller: Yeah. The comment you just made, I think, is the most important, Henry, is your children, if you have more than one, as you do, are each very unique. If we can customize our parenting approach to recognize that there are certain things that would be the same. Let’s make sure they have the same nutrition and make sure they get rest and make sure they have opportunities. But when it comes to developing them as a person and their strengths and their personality and their interest, allow for diversity, allow for differences. Let them have room to explore.

We have children who enjoyed very different curricular activities. Two of them were very into music. I have two of them very much into American football. One that was very into football, global football, soccer, as we call it here. Another that was into horticulture. She loves plants, and that was her passion. And so supporting them in areas of interest, in areas of study, in areas of growth, and allowing for, as they age, some autonomy to make some decisions and to get some things wrong and to get some things right. And be there to support. Because what we have found is where we apply influence to our children is when we know that they are in an area of strength. We know that it’s an opportunity for growth. This is where we put our strongest encouragement.

What we have sought to avoid is to put the same encouragement or influence in an area of non strength. Meaning if we see one of our kids really struggling, we may ask, is this something that you’re really finding easy? Do you really see this? And if they come back with, " Maybe you’re right. Maybe this isn’t for me,” and letting that be okay. Letting it be okay that some things aren’t for them. That’s one of the gifts, I think, children need from us as parents is to help them realize they don’t have to compare to others to be successful themselves. They can learn to be as they were made and be the best version of that. And that’s good enough.

Henry Suryawirawan: Wow. Really beautiful. Thanks for this parenting tips. I think we must put some of the show notes for your other parenting work. Because the importance of building strengths focused approach since children is really powerful. Because as you have said before, increasing creativity, increase in competencies, and increasing, I think I forget the other one. But yeah, all these basically lead you towards a better fulfilled life, right? So people will get happier if they are nurtured right at the beginning when they’re children. Because if you do it later, then it might be even more difficult because you need to undo some of the mindset that you grew into when you’re kids.

So, thanks for sharing all these beautiful tips. I think for parents listeners out there, do check your children’s strengths. Try to strengths spot them, as Brandon mentioned. Probably try to maybe customize your parenting approach from there. Don’t just do helicopter parenting, where you drive what you want to your children. I think that’s basically an anti-pattern.

[00:44:46] Tech Lead Wisdom

Henry Suryawirawan: So, Brandon, as we move towards the end of our conversation. I really enjoyed our conversation so much. I have one last question that I normally ask all my guests, which is about sharing your version of three technical leadership wisdom. It doesn’t have to be in tech, but maybe any kind of leadership wisdom that you think will be good to share with the listeners here so that they can grow and learn from you.

Brandon Miller: I have a word that I have made a life word, and it’s the word magnanimous or to practice magnanimity. The definition is to be high minded, to be free of petty vindictiveness, to be gracious, noble, forgiving. I was drawn to this word at a young age, in my twenties, when I first learned it, as the style of leadership I want to embrace. As leaders, it can be such a lure to go down the path of vindictiveness or to feel offended, or to allow rivalry to exist or to carry a grudge. But I have found, and many others would agree, that magnanimity allows you to maintain objectivity. To stay objective. To look past a situation. To think with your most effective parts of your brain that give you the best opportunity to not carry forward in life those things that can weigh you down. Literally weigh you down in your health, in your vitality, in your relationships. And it has served me well. And I have to work at it to keep magnanimity in front of my eyes as the focal point of my growth and development as a leader. And I encourage others to consider some clear philosophy, a clear driver of what it is that they will subscribe to, to be effective as a leader.

Henry Suryawirawan: Thank you so much for sharing your magna. I can’t even pronounce it now. Magnanimity. But I guess it’s really beautiful. So people should find their own clear philosophy as well that they subscribe to. Try to identify that as a value.

So, Brandon, it’s been a great conversation. If there are people who want to reach out to you, again, maybe also following up on the code that you will share with all the listeners here, is there a place where they can find you online?

Brandon Miller: Yes. First place is email Brandon, BRANDON@34Strong.com. The number three, the number four, the word strong.com is a great place. And then on LinkedIn, Brandon Miller 34 Strong is a place where we can connect and learn more about each other and what work we’re doing and perhaps to share a Strengths code for those that might be interested.

Henry Suryawirawan: Thank you. I’ll make sure to probably reach out to you closer to the release and put it in the show notes so that people can participate and know their strengths, because this is very important. So thanks again for your time, Brandon. I really appreciate your sharing today and I learned a lot. So thank you again for that.

Brandon Miller: Thank you Henry.

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