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As hospitality organizations, our team members’ voices are important. Their level of engagement affects their service delivery and directly impacts our guests’ satisfaction. We solicit our team members for feedback in their self-evaluations, team member satisfaction surveys, annual reviews, quarterly development lunches, random one-on-ones, and several team member engagement activities.

With all these activities, do we do an adequate job providing our team members with the tools to articulate how they contribute to the organization’s culture and success?

StrengthsFinder (now called CliftonStrengths 34) is an assessment tool designed to showcase a person’s top strengths and what that means for them as an individual. The assessment has been taken by more than 25 million people worldwide.

I am privileged to work for an organization that has a dedicated StrengthsFinder coach on property. We leverage this expertise in a variety of ways including our internship program, mentoring program, and personal development courses. It has made a dramatic difference in my perspective and how I lead, daily, as a Director of Resorts Marketing.

Before we start on this journey, I want to share my definition of what StrengthsFinder is vs. what it is not:

What It Is:  A tool to help gain greater insight for self-awareness. There are 34 strengths that can be identified by the assessment. It provides an opportunity to identify and focus your energy into your natural talents vs. focusing energy on areas that do not come to you as easily.

What It Is Not:  A replacement for common sense. An excuse for not being able to accomplish projects, tasks, or assignments. The authority on other people’s thoughts, feelings, and capabilities.

Most of us recognize that we have room for improvement in various areas. However, identifying our unique talents and understanding those around us allows for easier collaboration, and the opportunity to combine the superpowers of the team. Using StrengthFinder helps us accept individuality versus requiring someone to contribute in ways that may not come as naturally.

Here are five ways to leverage StrengthsFinder results:

1. When you receive your results, read your report. Read it again. Answer the questions provided.

    • That may sound obvious, but often we skim over the descriptions provided and chalk it up to ‘of course I know myself.’ If you truly read it with focus, there are some unique truths and insights you may not have known.
    • The report provides an exercise to actively identify the areas of your talents that speak loudest to you. Answer those questions for each of your top five talents. Keep them in a journal or print them out and reference as needed.
    • Here are a few examples of the questions that were posed and what stood out for me as I read about my strength of ‘ideation’ in my report:

Q: As you read your personalized strengths insights, what words, phrases, or lines stand out to you?

A: You refuse to be stifled by traditions or routines.

Q: Out of all the talents in this insight, what would you like for others to see most in you?

A: You likely spring from one original thought to an entirely different one.

These phrases afforded me the opportunity to articulate that I do not want the status quo, I want to innovate, and quickly. The second statement spoke loud and clear to me, as I have often been criticized for being ‘scattered’ or ‘distracted.’ However, this insight allowed me to see that I am actually processing seemingly unrelated thoughts in support of that innovation. This exercise gave me the ability to share why I operate the way I do and demonstrated the strength I bring to the team.

2. Ask Your Team to do the same exercise: Read and answer the questions for each talent.

Then, talk about it! After each response, ask your team member the prompt ‘WHY?’  i.e., Why did the phrase ‘You refuse to be stifled by traditions or routines’ stand out to you? By having this open dialogue, you are developing a deeper understanding of your team member, and they will recognize and appreciate your efforts.

3. Share Your Results.

Sometimes leaders believe they are exempt from talking about themselves, as if our titles mean we only can share with those at our level or above, rather than with our team. However, by sharing your own talents and reflections with your team and colleagues, you are developing a deeper mutual understanding and creating the opportunity for a stronger working relationship.

4. Plot the Domains.

Once you’ve done the previous exercises with each member of your team, see how they compare as a group. StrengthsFinder tiers each talent into four unique domains:  Strategic, Influencing, Executing, and Relationship Building. By seeing your entire team’s strengths on display, you understand how the dynamics can work together, or where you may need to lean on others to bring in different perspectives.

5. Identify Special Projects & Partnerships.

Now that you have your team’s strengths laid out, use your insight to identify growth opportunities. For example, many of my top talents fall within the Strategic Thinking domain. That doesn’t mean I am unable to execute, rather it positions me as naturally leaning towards thinking vs. implementation. However, I have two extremely strong team members in the domain of Executing, which means I can have confidence in delegating projects to them and allow them added benefit of exposure and visibility throughout the organization, as well as a sense of purpose for bringing our vision to life.

 6. BONUS! Keep the Conversation Going.

For me and my team, StrengthsFinder isn’t a one and done conversation. If you are committed to using it, you need to remind your team of what they uniquely bring to the table every day. Here are some ways we do that within my organization:

  • Intentionally use your strengths in your self-evaluation to highlight the successes of your company.
  • Actively use your team’s strengths in their annual performance reviews to highlight the successes of your company or use it as a coaching tool.
  • Start your team meetings with shout-outs by characterizing your team’s combined strengths in the various dynamics, or specifically calling on the talents of a project completed by an individual contributor.
  • Make a commitment at an annual meeting for each Team Member to share one of their talents and an insight it has afforded them.
  • Give your team a visual reminder of what they are good at in fun and creative ways. We posted signs outside each of our office spaces to highlight and celebrate that person’s unique strengths.

StrengthsFinder has been an incredible tool for me as a leader. It has allowed me to build a team that approaches any challenge from multiple angles, utilizing our executors, influencers, relationship builders and strategic thinkers. We’re better for it, and I hope you’re able to use these ideas to improve the dynamics of your team.

Kate Lochridge, Director of Resorts Marketing at Universal Orlando Resort

Kate Lochridge is the Director of Marketing for the portfolio of hotels at Universal Orlando Resort where she is responsible for developing brand strategy and marketing programs. Kate began her career at the front desk of Loews Royal Pacific Resort in 2002, during college. Over the past 20 years, she has held roles in Guest Service Operations, Human Resources Recruitment, Executive Administration, and Marketing. She has had the privilege of opening seven hotels, five of which contribute to the growth of the Universal Orlando hotel portfolio. Kate currently serves on the HSMAI Marketing Advisory Board and is a proud member of Women in Travel THRIVE.

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