My Advice for Building High Performing Teams

A group of people of many different ethnicities work out with kettle bells.

If you can spare fifteen minutes to read this article, I will share with you my secret for building high performing teams.

I’ve learned a lot in the last 25 years, working for leading brands, nonprofit organizations, and tech companies. In the last decade I started and sold a creative agency that raised millions of dollars for organizations doing amazing work and connected people in need with services to improve their lives. I didn’t achieve these things by working by myself. Instead, I’ve been tremendously fortunate to work with talented, hard working people who brought our ideas to life and won great results for our clients. If I’ve been good at anything, it’s that I have been able to build high-performing teams and lead them through good times and bad.  I’m not Lee Iacocca, and I’m not going to pretend to be some kind of management genius. But, in this article, I want to share with you how I build great teams by tapping into my team’s strengths. 

In our fast-paced and evolving business landscape, we are constantly seeking ways to improve our teams’ performance, engagement, happiness, and overall success. For the last 15 years, I have relied on a powerful framework for personal and team development called the CliftonStrengths Talent Assessment. Simply put, by understanding and leveraging our individual strengths, I have found that we can unlock the full potential of ourselves and our teams, leading to increased productivity, performance, engagement, and overall work satisfaction. In this blog post, I will introduce you to the CliftonStrengths framework, describe the benefits of the framework, and convince you to use the framework for yourself and your teams.

If you focus on your strengths, you can get the best out of yourself… and your team. I’m excited to present you with this approach that can help us understand ourselves better and make a profound impact on our personal and professional growth. 

Personally, I have found tremendous value in applying the strengths framework to myself and my work. It has been affirming to discover and understand my unique strengths, seeing them described in a way that truly resonates with who I believe I am (and who I am not). 

For what it’s worth, here are my top five strengths: 

Drawing from my own experience, I have made it a practice to ask everyone who has worked for me in the last fifteen years to take the CliftonStrengths assessment – either by taking the assessment as part of their hiring process or shortly after joining the team. 

I always assumed I was GREAT at “building relationships;” but, my top five suggest otherwise. Since discovering my strengths, I have figured out how to use them to build stronger, more authentic relationships. 

By incorporating the strengths framework individually and within teams, organizations can foster collaboration, leverage diverse skill sets, and create high-performing teams. I should point out here that I firmly believe the strongest teams are those with a broad set of complementary strengths. When we embrace the strengths-based approach we can unlock the full potential of individuals and teams for greater achievements.

I worked with the executive team of a venture backed software startup. All of the members possessed “strategic” and “achiever” strengths. This alignment created an environment where we had “lots of ideas but were short on action.” As we grew the team, we sought more activator strengths who could turn these strategic ideas into action.

What is the strengths framework? 

The CliftonStrengths framework is an online personality inventory (like DiSC or Meyers-Briggs). It asks you to answer 177 questions related to how you would describe yourself. The output is a report that identifies and prioritizes the intensity of your talents in each of 34 different themes. This profile serves as the basis for us to understand our top strengths, consider what they mean for us personally, and outline how we can use this understanding to improve our performance, productivity, and relationships.

How do we use it? New team members take the CliftonStrengths assessment either as part of the interview or onboarding process. We ask them to work through a series of simple, introspective exercises to get familiar with their strengths and how they “could” use them to their benefit. We also introduce them to their team members and their strengths. Once we establish a common language about strengths, we can use these concepts to help us solve problems, organize assignments, and grow our teams in productive ways. You’d be amazed at how collaborative a team can be when they truly understand the unique power each team member brings to the table.

Why should we use this approach instead of something else?

The CliftonStrengths framework increases employee engagement! Backed by extensive psychological research and validated with the results of over 30 million profiles, individuals who have the opportunity to use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job, according to CliftonStrengths. I can tell you, personally, I see these same results with my teams. Imagine the impact of having a team that is not just engaged but thriving!

Frankly, giving people the space to develop this awareness for themselves and their teammates is the most valuable investment I have made in my teams. The process empowers them to ask for what they need and to build meaningful, satisfying work plans.  

Using the framework can significantly improve team productivity AND retention. Teams that prioritize focusing on strengths have been found to experience a remarkable 12.5% increase in productivity. By understanding and leveraging the unique talents of team members, we can tap into their collective potential and achieve exceptional results. Furthermore, focusing on strengths significantly improves retention rates, with an astounding 85% of employees in strengths-focused organizations planning to stay in the next 12 months compared to just 37% in non-strengths-focused organizations. The positive impact on employee satisfaction and loyalty is undeniable.

Not only does focusing on strengths benefit individuals and teams, but it also drives organizational success. Business units with engaged workers have been shown to enjoy a remarkable 23% higher profit compared to those with disengaged employees. Investing in strengths-based approaches cultivates a culture of engagement, collaboration, and innovation, leading to tangible bottom-line results.

By just reading this article, you will not only gain an understanding of the strengths framework, but also learn how to effectively apply it to develop yourself and your teams. Consider this ten minutes “preparation” to unlock the full potential of your strengths, boost team engagement, and drive outstanding performance. Let’s dive into the world of strengths and set ourselves up for success.

What makes the CliftonStrengths framework unique? 

Unlike traditional approaches that try to cure our weaknesses, this framework embraces a different perspective. Most of us can relate to the struggle of trying to overcome our shortcomings without much success. That’s why I love the Strengths framework—it shifts the focus towards identifying and harnessing our strengths to foster personal and professional growth.

In a sea of self-help and management books that often focus on fixing our shortcomings, the CliftonStrengths framework stands out as a positive and empowering approach.

Improve your team’s satisfaction with work. In a world where job dissatisfaction affects a significant portion of the workforce, it becomes crucial to seek a framework that enables individuals to align their skill sets with their work. Research suggests that, in the U.S. specifically, 50% of workers reported feeling stressed at their jobs on a daily basis, 41% as being worried, 22% as sad, and 18% angry. Can you believe that? Is that a surprise to you? It is to me, and it highlights the need for a transformative approach like the CliftonStrengths framework.

Help employees build their work plans with their strengths in mind. One of the key drivers of engagement in the workplace is the involvement of employees in goal setting. Managers who actively involve their team members in goal setting increase the likelihood of engagement by 3.6 times. This statistic underscores the importance of creating a collaborative environment that empowers individuals to contribute to the goals and direction of the organization. The CliftonStrengths framework gives us the opportunity to ask employees to set goals that are aligned with both their strengths and their work responsibilities. 

Giving employees the opportunity to create a personalized workplan and the accountability to the business becomes a win-win proposition.

Empower stronger teamwork when people can refer to their own AND their teammates’ strengths. Aligning individual strengths within a team is not only beneficial for personal growth, but also directly impacts the outcomes of tasks and projects. A staggering 97% of individuals believe that lack of alignment within a team has a direct effect on project outcomes. By leveraging the CliftonStrengths framework, teams can identify and capitalize on the unique strengths of each member, fostering synergy and optimizing results.

Improve engagement at work by helping managers and employees build better relationships. The quality of the manager-employee relationship plays a significant role in overall job engagement. An astonishing 80% of employees who express dissatisfaction with their direct manager are disengaged on the job. Too often, I find that managers are expected to serve as “task makers,” rather than as coaches in the workplace who are responsible for their employees’ development. The CliftonStrengths framework offers a constructive approach for managers to understand and leverage the strengths of their team members, creating a positive and supportive work environment.

The CliftonStrengths framework provides us as managers with the ability to align employee skills and passions with job roles, foster collaboration, and improve manager-employee relationships. We can also use it to address the underlying factors that contribute to job dissatisfaction and disengagement. By embracing this framework when having hard conversations, individuals and organizations can tap into the immense potential of strengths and create a work environment that is fulfilling, engaging, and conducive to success.

How can we incorporate the CliftonStrengths framework into our work?

The CliftonStrengths framework offers valuable insights and applications both personally and within teams. Using the strengths framework allows individuals to align their unique strengths with their job roles and responsibilities, enabling them to excel in areas where they are likely to thrive. This approach fosters a positive work culture that recognizes and appreciates individual strengths, leading to increased employee satisfaction and engagement. To get the best results we need to be all in, whether we’re using this framework for the whole company or just a single team.

I worked with a team who made discovering and using strengths “optional.” The employees who embraced the framework excelled in positive ways; while those who didn’t continued to tread water in their personal and professional development.

This should go without saying; but, it is important to encourage managers to actively engage in their own career development, promoting a strengths-based approach to leadership. By understanding and leveraging their own strengths, managers can effectively guide and support their team members’ growth. 

Looking at the framework from a team perspective, it is valuable to assess the distribution of strengths within the entire team. The strongest teams possess a broad set of complementary strengths. It is essential to understand that while specific roles may seem to demand certain strengths, a team composed solely of individuals strong in one area can lead to imbalances and potential pitfalls. For example, a sales team consisting solely of individuals skilled in building relationships may lack execution and follow-through. Similarly, an executive team dominated by strategic thinkers without strong execution capabilities can lead to constant pivoting and inefficiency.

What are the next steps for discovering YOUR strengths?

Discovering and understanding your strengths is the first step in putting the CliftonStrengths framework to work, effectively. Here are some strategies to help you uncover and leverage your unique strengths:

Get started! I swear this isn’t an advertisement and I don’t make a nickel if you take the assessment. You can take the CliftonStrengths assessment online, which typically costs around $60 (as of May 2023). Make sure you take the “CliftonStrengths 34” assessment, since it will give you visibility into your top five and then the other 29 strengths you have, in order. Upon completion, you will receive a personalized report ranking your top 34 strengths and a comprehensive guide to help you explore and leverage your strengths effectively. This resource will assist you in understanding how your strengths complement one another, incorporating them into your daily life, and ensuring that your strengths continue to be assets rather than liabilities.

Seek feedback from colleagues, supervisors, mentors, and coaches to gain additional insights into your strengths and areas where you excel. The perspectives of others can provide valuable observations and help you gain a deeper understanding of your strengths.

More than 70% of coaching recipients experience a marked improvement in relationships, communication, and work performance, according to an affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

Reflect on your own experiences and moments of flow, where you felt energized, accomplished, and in your element. Pay attention to activities or tasks that come naturally to you and bring out your best performance. These moments can indicate areas where your strengths are at play.

Commit to considering these ideas for the long haul. By engaging in self-assessments, seeking feedback, and reflecting on your experiences, you can uncover your unique strengths and begin the journey of leveraging them to enhance your personal and professional life. Embrace the CliftonStrengths framework as a tool for self-discovery and growth, and you will unlock your full potential.

Once you get started, I’m confident that (much like I did) you will find the CliftonStrengths framework offers a powerful approach for optimizing individual and team performance. By focusing on strengths, we can create a positive work culture, enhance employee engagement, and improve overall productivity. Embracing this framework also enables individuals to align their skills and passions with their work, leading to increased satisfaction, retention, and success. Discover your strengths, harness their power, and unlock your true potential with the CliftonStrengths framework. I hope you will give it a chance and try it for yourself. 

How we can help!

The CliftonStrengths assessment is only the beginning.

It provides us with a great way to understand and talk about the challenging things we’re trying to do. Once we have a good vocabulary around our strengths, we can use it to solve many workplace challenges.

If you’re ready to invest in your development and achieve greater success, we’re here to support you. Whether you’re seeking career clarity for yourself, aiming to excel in your current position, or hoping to unlock the untapped potential of your team members, our team can help.

As you consider how we can help, what kind of challenge are you about to tackle? 

  • Grow, Personally: Make a change in your career or take your current role to the next level
  • Build a Business: Create a strategic plan to guide the growth of your business, new product, or service line
  • Create a High Performing Team: Help your team’s performance go from “just fine” to “wow!”
  • Improve Your Work Culture: Consider how to elicit input, define your culture, and put your team’s beliefs into action

We offer a range of one-on-one and team coaching and training services that will help your team thrive. Each engagement is built around YOUR needs.

When you’re ready to explore your strengths, support your leadership on their development journey, or create a comprehensive development plan for your entire team, reach out here or by emailing peter [at] again see the stars dot com. We’re here to listen, collaborate, and provide the support you need to propel yourself and your team forward.

Join the discussion

Get in Touch

We're looking for like minded people to work with us. Say hello and stay in touch with Peter on LinkedIn.