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HRACI - July 17, 2003 Strength-based Organizations Sonya Showley Vice President, Consulting Services The Clarence and Felix Story The Clarence and Felix Story Can Clarence “fix” Felix and teach him to fly? What are Felix’s strengths? What is the moral of the story?

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Hraci july 17 2003 l.jpg

HRACI - July 17, 2003

Strength-based Organizations

Sonya Showley

Vice President, Consulting Services



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The Clarence and Felix Story

  • Can Clarence “fix” Felix and teach him to fly?

  • What are Felix’s strengths?

  • What is the moral of the story?


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The Strength-based Philosophy

  • Roots in 1970s Social Services Initiatives

  • Strength-based Services International (SBSI): “Children and families are competent and resourceful”

  • Deficit-oriented approach is discouraged


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The Myths of Transformation

  • We can all be anything we want to be if we just work hard.

  • If you keep working on your weaknesses, your persistence will pay off in the end.

  • Good managers focus on fixing their employee’s weaknesses.


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Truths about Transformation

  • Knowledge and skills can be learned.

  • Talent is not learned.

  • Persistence focused primarily on nontalent is wasted energy.

    (Buckingham and Coffman, First, Break all the Rules, 1999)


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Strengths Vs. Weaknesses

  • Strengths utilize four-lane highways.

  • Individual strengths define individual filters.

  • Strengths are those recurring patterns or behaviors we exhibit naturally and that can be applied productively.


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Examples of Strengths

  • Strategic Vision

  • Politically Astute

  • Team Orientation

  • Perseverance

  • Staff Orientation

  • Management Ambition


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Examples of Knowledge and Skills

  • Microsoft Word

  • Statistical Analysis

  • The “1 - 2- 3” Sales Model

  • How to read a balance sheet

  • Product features and benefits


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Tips for Recruiting and Hiring

  • Look beyond the title and job description when determining what talents are needed.

  • Consider the organizational structure when profiling needed talents.

  • Make sure the employment brand that’s communicated draws the talent you need.

  • What talent fits the organizational culture?

  • What talent fits the management style?

  • All jobs require talent.


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Tips for Career Development

  • Create opportunities within your career building programs for people to clarify their talents and strengths.

  • Support opportunities for people to use and strengthen their talents.

  • Include information in job profiles about required strengths and make the information widely available.


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Tips for Performance Management

  • Be on the look out for performance improvement programs that only focus on “fixing” people.

  • Beware of transitioning people out of successful roles that utilize strengths into roles that don’t (promoting to incompetence).


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More Performance Management Tips

  • Define outcomes and let people find their own route based on strengths.

  • Coaching and mentoring programs should help employees think organizationally in order to clarify how their strengths fit.


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Talent Selection & Development at the U.S. Coast Guard

  • Future Force 21

  • Moving from “taking all comers” to a focus on talent selection

  • Philosophy: Invest up-front in selection for the “right” talents in lieu of developing everyone to fill every role in the Service. Place and retain people in the roles they do best.


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Strength-based Organizations

Organizational health is more

than a lack of problems and improvement

involves more than problem-solving.

Strength-based organizations have moved

from problem-based to strength-based.


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Strategies for System Change

Agile organizations capitalize on the unique strengths of individuals and teams - one size fits one. Two approaches for system change are:

  • Appreciative Inquiry

  • Future Search


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Strength-based System Change

  • Resource based, not problem based

  • Builds on common ground

  • Builds on what’s working

  • Buildings on past success

  • Includes a strong future focus


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Appreciative Inquiry

  • Philosophy: Focus on the visible and tacit strengths of an organization, then leverage that positive core to reshape its future.

  • GTE

  • AMOCO


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Future Search

  • Philosophy: Bring representatives of the whole system together with a focus on finding common ground and building a vision from that perspective.

  • Whole Foods Market

  • 3M Union/Management


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The Yahoo Talent Criteria

  • Must be a “talent magnet”

  • A People Person

  • Must have zoom-in, zoom-out ability

  • Passion for life

  • Ability to sustain energetic commitment


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People don’t change that much..

“People (and problems) don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough.”

(Buckingham and Coffman, First, Break all the Rules, 1999)


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