5 POWERFUL LEADERSHIP ACTIVITIES USING THE “STRENGTHS OVERPLAYED” CARDS

Jul 14, 2022 | Coaching, Facilitation, Leadership

How this leadership activity equips leadership Coaches, Consultants and Trainers to bring personal leadership to life.

We all know that self-awareness is vital for self-leadership. And all leadership starts with self-leadership. So, how exactly do you open-the-door to self-discovery – and do so quickly and effectively? This is the power of the strengths cards. 

Grow More Leaders

Organisational change happens when we change!

Leo Tolstoy put it well with his quote: ‘everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change themselves’. 

This is a powerful statement. Only when we adapt, when we learn and when we change our own behaviours – does real transformation happen in business. You can either expend energy on ‘top-down’ change or ‘person-centred’ change. One has serious limitations. The other has endless opportunities. In a world of rapid change, top-down driven change has some major drawbacks:  it’s too slow, too cumbersome and sends the wrong signal – the people at the top have all the answers. A more agile and more responsive path to transformation is to give licence for every employee to become a change-agent – regardless of status, position or hierarchy. This is how learning organisations are born. When people step-up and choose to ‘lead without title’, remarkable things happen.  

5 LEADERSHIP ACTIVITIES USING THE “STRENGTHS OVER-PLAYED” CARDS

5 ACTIVITIES TO INSPIRE AND TRANSFORM LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT WITH THE VALUES CARDS

ACTIVITY 1: HOW CAN YOU PLAY TO YOUR SIGNATURE STRENGTHS? 

The problem we’re trying to solve: too many employees turn up to work to ‘play not to lose’ vs ‘play to win’. So they do what they need to do to fulfil their obligations – but don’t always go the extra mile. They may doubt themselves. They may lack confidence. They may feel they don’t have permission to ‘shine’ and end-up colouring within the lines. They impose their own limitations. If enough employees do this – an organisation ends up with mediocre performance.   

The solution:

  • Ask employees the question: what are the conditions for doing your best work? When do you ‘thrive’ and when do you end-up doing ‘just enough’?
  • When you ‘thrive’ and do your best work, what signature leadership strengths do you role model?
  • If 10 people who know you well were in the room right now – what would they all identify as your 3 biggest qualities and attributes that define you – when you’re at your best?
  • Word through the strength cards and select the 3 that best describe your signature strengths. 
  • Now rate on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is low and 10 is high) how fully did you use this strength last month? 
  • For each strength, what stopped you from being a 10?
  • Buddy with a colleague and help them to bring real clarity and sharpness to their signature strength – what does this look, sound and feel like. 
  • Next, ask your colleague, how they bring the best version of themselves to work each and every day?
  • How would they benefit from doing so?

Summary: 

These conversations, and the chance to reflect, helps employees to focus on their ‘assets’ – what they’re good at and what they excel at. This helps build confidence and amplify their competence which creates stronger leaders. This increases the probability of more employees choosing to ‘play to win’ vs to ‘play not to lose’. 

ACTIVITY 2: WHEN UNDER-PRESSURE WHAT’S THE SHADOW-SIDE OF YOUR STRENGTHS 

The problem we’re trying to solve:

Too many development plans focus on the outer game vs the inner game. Employees focus on skills, expertise and knowledge they need to acquire (from courses) – ie the outer game. When in reality smart people are often held-back by their ‘inner game’. When under pressure there is a real temptation to over-play the strengths that got people where they are. We’ve all come across the technically gifted individual who is promoted to becoming a Team Leader or Manager and their default strategy is to over-rely on the strengths that have got them where they have in their career – when under any sort of pressure. Overplaying their strengths becomes their Achilles heel.      

The solution:

  • What examples can you think of, where people got promoted but were ineffective in their new role (I don’t need names, but just examples of how smart people can end-up getting in their own way).
  • How is it possible that strengths – when overplayed under challenging situations, can become a liability? What examples can you share? Eg analytical thinking when over-cooked and overplayed can result in paralysis by analysis, etc…  
  • What are the flip-sides behaviours of your top 3 signature strengths – when working under pressure? Grab a sheet of paper and give some examples of how these strengths are likely to be overplayed. Give some real world examples of where this has happened with you. 
  • Now turn over each of your Strengths cards and identify the flip-side behaviours. 
  • Refer to the manual and identify the tactics to ensure the strengths do not become a liability. 

Summary: 

This activity raises greater self-awareness. It helps identify how every strength has a ‘sweet-spot’. Under-utilise it and you don’t maximise this asset. Overplay it and it can diminish your credibility. The life skill is to identify how to get this balance right AND help team members to do the same.    

ACTIVITY 3: HOW TO SHAPE A HIGHLY PERSONALISED PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN

The problem we’re trying to solve

Too many personal development plans (PDP) are too generic or over-reliant on attending courses. And because of this fault-line, personal development plans are instantly forgettable. Too few employees follow-through with the actions on their PDP. Too many employees see this being a chore and a tick-box activity. So how do you change this dynamic?

The solution

  • Start by getting employees to identify how they can maximise their top 3 signature strengths – so they’re in the optimum ‘green zone’. By this we mean, they’re leveraging their strengths to solve their biggest challenges. Yet, they have the self-awareness to understand at what point these strengths (when overplayed) can become a liability. This is part 1 of their personal development plan.
  • Part 2 is to identify how each strength, when overplayed in pressurised situations can become a liability, e.g. if the strength is ‘a strong team player’ the overplayed strength might be ‘seeking too much consensus and unwilling to make a difficult decision’. (refer to the flip-side on each strength card).
  • Part 3: what is a more viable strategy, to ensure you don’t overplay the strength? Refer to the manual and identify some practical tips and hints.
  • Part 4: each colleague shares their PDP with a small group of peers (maximum 10 mins) and they also receive peer-to-peer coaching on ‘how’ they will implement some of the tips and tactics.       

Summary:

The strength overplayed cards bring a new dimension to PDPs. Not only is the emphasis on the inner game. But, also on peer-to-peer coaching, so colleagues can continue to support and encourage each other’s development 52 weeks of the year. 

The Strength cards provide a powerful way for a team to come together and leverage each other’s strengths – regardless of role, function and responsibilities. It means the team achieve more by encouraging each team member to contribute more. 

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ACTIVITY 4: AS A TEAM, HOW DO WE LEVERAGE OUR RESPECTIVE STRENGTHS?

The problem we’re trying to solve

There is a world of difference between a high performing team and a working group. In the case of a working group, colleagues show up and report their progress. With a high performing team, colleagues collaborate and combine their brain-power to solve real world problems. They don’t just leverage each other’s expertise. They find ways to play to each other’s strengths as people. So how do you nudge a team to shift from being an OK team to an exceptional team? Let’s explore.     

The solution

  • A team can be self-managed. They don’t need a ‘boss’ or a figure-head to lead them. Either way, there are some key questions any team needs to work through.
  • It often starts with answering ‘why are we here’?  Is it simply to up-date each other? Is it because we all share the same line manager? Is it to innovate? Is is to deliver projects effectively? The ‘why’ question matters.
  • Next comes: how do we want to be with each other? What are OK behaviours and what are not OK behaviours. And how do we each hold ourselves accountable for living up to our agreed behaviours?
  • Then comes ‘the what’. What are our goals and our priorities? What roles do we each play to achieve our goals? 
  • Finally, how do we leverage the strengths in the team? What makes us tick? Other than our knowledge and expertise, what personal strengths can the team harness, so we maximise the contributions of each colleague? 
  • The Strengths cards are a great way for the team to profile each individual. Each colleague shares their top 3 strengths. This is captured on flip-chart and recorded in the team’s playbook. But more importantly, the team has a candid conversation. How do we ensure we get the best from you? And what do we need to know about how we might unintentionally demotivate you?  

Summary:

The Strengths cards are a great way for a team to be self-managed. We know self-managed teams often out-perform ‘managed teams’ – for one big reason – they work hard to get the best from each team member and consciously play to other’s strengths. This insight goes a long way in creating a sense of belonging and fuels personal motivation. Individuals willingly go above and beyond in the pursuit of their team goals.  

ACTIVITY 5: HOW TO GROW MORE LEADERS AT EVERY LEVEL 

The problem we’re trying to solve

In a world of complexity and lighting fast change – we NEED to change our definition of leadership. Put simply, it can’t just sit at the top of an organisation. Leadership is an attitude and mindset – where colleagues choose to take on challenges – not walk the other way. If an organisation fails to grow more leaders at every level, those at ‘the top’ risk burnout and overwhelm and the wheels start to come off. Problem is, too many people in ‘the middle’ and in customer facing roles, don’t see themselves as leaders. So how do you overcome this problem?

The solution

  • Start conversations – at every level – what does personal leadership look, sound and feel like? In any operational meeting, setting aside 15-20 minutes to regularly have this conversation gets people thinking – how can I shine vs being a ‘hired hand’. 
  • Those in leadership positions need to be candid and level with employees – we don’t have all the answers. We need everyone, at every level, to solve problems. To lead change. To innovate and to keep improving the customer experience. 
  • Senior players should change their meeting etiquette from taking up all their air-time, to spending more time listening. More time facilitating and more time asking great questions. 
  • A powerful activity is to ask employees how they role model leadership outside of work.  Chances are, they manage their household budget, they coach the under-12s football team, they raise money for charity, they compete in a 10k road race, they look after an elderly relative……all of these require some form of leadership. Yet, why don’t more colleagues bring this energy, this passion, their drive, their judgement, their imagination into work? Chances are, because they are not encouraged to do so. 
  • A second powerful activity is to help each employee identify their Signature Strengths. What are their gifts? What comes naturally? What do they do, better than anyone else? These conversations get people thinking ‘why not’? Why not ‘play to win’ at work vs ‘play not to lose’? The strengths cards provide a very practical way to help individuals narrow down their top 3 strengths. More importantly, by sharing this with their peers and colleagues, they are encouraged to express these strengths at work. 
  • Growing more leaders can become a grass-roots movement. Where everyone is clear on how to apply their strengths to the operational and customer challenges they encounter. It’s the classic win-win. Employees gain greater self-worth. An organisation begins to develop a culture where everyone knows what pat they can play in the company’s success. 

Summary

The Strength cards provide an effective shortcut to identify ways every employee can lead without title – by giving full expression to their strength.                    

We also have a free workshop on how to Grow More Leaders: www.growmoreleaders.com/lp1/ 

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