Many of us have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment a time or two in their career; my top strength is Individualization. With a core value of lifelong learning, I became very interested in what this strength is all about and how it could help me, my teams, my clients, and organizations grow and thrive. With any strength, there are things you have to watch out for as it can quickly become a hindrance. But overall, tapping into the Individualization strength has proved to be effective for cultivating high performing teams throughout my career. Let’s learn more about this concept.
“Individualization is about recognizing and appreciating the unique qualities, strengths, and potential in others. Individuals with this theme have a keen eye for what makes each person distinct and special, and they are adept at tailoring their interactions to bring out the best in others.
People with the Individualization theme often enjoy observing and understanding the diverse characteristics and abilities that individuals possess. They tend to focus on the "one-of-a-kind" aspects of people, rather than trying to fit them into predefined categories or stereotypes. They are skilled at recognizing the strengths and talents of others and helping them harness these qualities to achieve their goals.
Individualization-themed individuals often excel in roles that involve understanding people's needs and preferences, such as coaching, mentoring, counseling, or leadership positions. They are empathetic listeners who can provide personalized guidance and support, enabling others to reach their full potential.
However, it is essential to note that all CliftonStrengths themes can manifest differently depending on an individual's unique personality, experiences, and the presence of other themes in their profile. The strengths approach emphasizes leveraging one's natural talents to enhance performance and personal satisfaction in various areas of life, including career, relationships, and personal growth.” 1
Individualization feels right to me, and I can see how it has manifested throughout my career. Early on I had this desire to understand what made each person tick, what their motivations were, and consider the best way to encourage/coach/guide them to achieve their potential. It makes sense that I had roles in Career Counseling, Mentoring, Training, Coaching, etc.! I also have to be cautious about this strength; here are a few ways Individualization can hinder someone:
“Your need to customize your approach for every person and situation can slow things down. Sometimes a standardized approach can be more efficient, more productive, and fairer in the long run.
Your intuition about the uniqueness of each individual you meet can cause you to make assumptions about who they really are. Don't assume; ask. Start a conversation and really listen.”2
I have felt the effects of both hinderances above! I try to be cognizant of the first one in all situations. I challenge myself to think of the cost-benefit and what’s best for each situation I’m facing. Same for the second example above, especially early in my career. I now try and push myself in every interaction to slow down and exercise empathy – listen to understand. No one is perfect in anything, of course, so it’s a daily practice to be cognizant in the moment and challenge myself to tap into these emotional intelligence skills and practices.
Here are some other interesting facts about Individualization from Gallup’s CliftonStrengths page:
“How people with strong Individualization talents describe themselves:
"I am a customizer."
"I need expectations that are tailored for each individual."
"I love people getting to do what they do best."
"I hate a one-size-fits-all approach."
"I bring an understanding of people and where they fit best."
The most successful people invest in their strongest talents. The only way to develop your Individualization talents is to use them every day -- at work, at home and everywhere else. The following are a few ideas for how to apply your Individualization to achieve your goals:
Work With Individualization: Your presentations and speaking opportunities will be most engaging when you relate your topic to the experiences of individuals in the audience. Use your Individualization talents to gather and share real-life stories that will make your points much better than would generic information or theories.
Lead With Individualization: Become an expert in describing your own strengths and style. For example, answer questions such as: What is the best praise you ever received? How often do you like to check in with your manager? What is your best method for building relationships? How do you learn best? Then ask your colleagues and friends these same questions. Help them plan their future by starting with their strengths, then designing a future based on what they do best.
Live With Individualization: Explain that it is appropriate, just, and effective to treat each person differently. Those without strong Individualization talents might not see the differences among individuals and might insist that individualization is unequal and therefore unfair. You will need to describe your perspective in detail to be persuasive.”3
Hopefully you know more about Individualization and how that leadership skill can help you in the workplace. The whole point of understanding and tapping into your strengths revolves around the concept of strengths-based leadership. An article from Positive Psychology provided some insight around this leadership style:
“Strengths-based leadership was defined and popularized by author Tom Rath and leadership expert Barry Conchie. It consists of three important factors:
Knowing your strengths
Getting the right talent on your team
Meeting the basic needs of your followers (Rath & Conchie, 2009)
It’s a simple “recipe for success,” but it’s not necessarily an easy one to follow. It takes work to identify your strengths, even more work to apply them, and even more work to make sure you are applying them in a way that encourages, motivates, and inspires your followers.
So, what does strengths-based leadership look like? How do you know when you see it? Check out these 5 examples of effective strengths-based leadership:
A manager helps his followers identify their own strengths and allows them to apply their strengths in a way that works for them, refraining from blanket policies or over-standardization.
An executive articulates a clear vision and communicates it effectively to her followers, rather than taking a laissez-faire approach to leading the organization.
A leader keeps an eye out for potential conflict and has several methods of resolving conflict among her staff instead of ignoring conflict and hoping it will go away or leaving it up to the employees to resolve.
A team leader hires for good team fit and the strengths that will help the employee succeed in their role instead of hiring based solely on “hard skills,” leading to a more effective team.
A supervisor who checks in on his employees frequently, working with them one-on-one to help them grow, enhance their abilities, and meet their stretch goals.”4
With a deeper understanding of strengths-based leadership, you can probably understand why many focus on this area. Understanding your strengths is also part of the Self-Regard emotional intelligence leadership skill; it’s important to know your strengths, how we are meant to grow, and how we become the best version of ourselves. Therefore, my question to you – What is your top strength and how do you utilize it to its full potential every day?
BONUS - To assess where you and your organization are in your employee engagement culture journey, download my “Culture Pulse: Employee Engagement Questionnaire” here: https://www.badeauconsulting.com/culturepulseeequestionnaire
I look forward to providing monthly pulse points to help you stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.
About Jaclyn T. Badeau, CPA, CGMA, MBA, EQ Certified
Jaclyn Badeau is the Founder and President of Badeau Consulting. She specializes in employee engagement initiatives that help companies inspire confidence back into their team for innovation and growth. Jaclyn’s background in cultivating high performing teams, delivering coaching and mentoring, serving as a global business risk advisor, and facilitating internal and external leadership training to a global workforce gives her the unique perspective of what employees need and what works. She is also a multi award recipient and passionate about sharing her expertise and knowledge in volunteer advisory and leadership positions roles for many associations and not-for-profits.
About Pulse Point
Pulse Point is a monthly blog to stay up to date with how the workplace culture scene is evolving.
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1 OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (08.2) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com