Activate frequently receives questions regarding whether or not Strengths-Based development efforts would be appropriate (and impactful!) for a specific industry, business model, or organization. The short answer is: YES! Activate has seen Strengths-based development efforts applied to all facets and stages of life – at work, at home, at church, and in organizations of all shapes and sizes.
The language of Strengths can be implemented to make your team and organization stronger, regardless of the industry. Justin Perez, Director of Lighting and Manufacturing at B-K Lighting in Madera, California has done just that through a commitment to utilizing Strengths and Engagement information across the diverse teams he leads.
Using Hidden Talents
Justin has essentially done it all at B-K Lighting, a firm where industrial lighting is designed and manufactured. There are few positions and fewer departments he hasn’t spent time in during his 21 years with the company, each role offering Justin’s Learner and Achiever talents an opportunity to shine.
From IT to sales to engineering, each change has brought him the opportunity to adapt and learn. His responsibilities now include a number of vital aspects of the business including research and development, design, engineering, production, assembly, project management, compliance, and more. As he shifted to various departments throughout his career, Justin’s Learner talent would kick in and commit to discovering every facet of the position he was in while his Achiever talent would continually strive to become well-versed in his new role.
Justin’s Restorative talent has offered many useful improvements to the organization. With each placement in a new role or department, Justin would immediately begin seeing ways to tweak and alter the processes already in place. These alterations and changes have continually increased productivity, quality, and profitability for the Employee-Owned company. How? Justin would tell you it’s easy; he can see the way options play out, mentally eliminating what won’t work and identifying approaches that might.
The combination of Justin’s Restorative and Futuristic talents is nothing short of poetic. Here’s how it plays out… over and over… Futuristic sees a problem, issue, or challenge on the horizon. Restorative and Achiever demand that his brain come up with a solution to this issue (you know, the one that isn’t an issue yet?). He creates a plan to address the future problem and saves it. SAVES IT?! Why not get ahead of the game and implement it now? Justin will tell you that timing is everything. If he spent his days running through the organization like Chicken Little exclaiming that the sky is falling (AKA problems are on the horizon), his colleagues would tune him out. Better to prepare and wait for others to see what he sees, then gently offer options that have been developed and lie in wait.
If you’re familiar with the Strengths language and theory, you won’t be surprised to know that he discovered the more he practiced this type of thinking, the better he became at discovering areas ripe for change. Justin was developing and leveraging his talents of Futuristic and Restorative long before he discovered the StrengthsFinder assessment. In fact Justin says, “At one point, the owner of the company asked how all these changes were being made. I didn’t have an answer for him, but we were definitely seeing the benefits.”
They call him the “Gardener,” a label that falls outside of Strengths language, but one that describes the combination of talents Justin possesses. In conversations around B-K Lighting, he will chat with people from different departments or will notice trends in the business. Justin naturally sees where the company is headed or where it should be headed and steers his group (and others) in that direction. They say he is planting seeds before anyone else even notices there is a shift on the horizon.
One example of Justin’s “gardening,” or use of his Futuristic and Restorative talents paired together, came when he was unhappy with a key vendor relationship – their design partner. Justin set time aside to deliberately think through the possibility of shifting those responsibilities to an internal team; a team that didn’t yet exist. He created a plan detailing the steps that would need to take place and the employees needed for this change in the business – then filed it away. About a year later, Justin was approached for just that purpose, to start mulling over the creation of an internal team to take over the work this vendor was performing for B-K. He was able to hand over his ideas immediately. While other companies may be surprised when a member of their team has a plan already in place, for B-K Lighting, it wasn’t a surprise, they knew Justin’s talents and desire to utilize them fully.
Equally important, these talents carry over in the long term as well. Justin so thoroughly uses his Strengths in team-building, planning, and thinking strategically for the company that issues rarely arise when he designs a plan. His Futuristic and Restorative talents described above, paired with a Learner talent, help us understand how he is able to think so thoroughly through the paths to achieve a goal. As Justin gains sophistication with his talents and responsibilities across the organization, he continues to earn the trust of individuals and teams.
Shortly after the company transitioned ownership from the founding entrepreneur to an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), a decision was made to measure Employee Engagement levels with the goal of establishing a baseline and continually measuring/improving engagement levels twice each year. The initial baseline survey found that employees were struggling in the following areas:
- My talents are perfectly aligned with my job. (36th percentile)
- At work, I receive recognition that is perfect for me. (41st percentile)
Although the company has always enjoyed a tightly-knit family atmosphere, the employees working at B-K Lighing didn’t have a clear understanding of how their natural aptitudes aligned with the work they were being asked to perform each day. Based on this and other data, Activate recommended a development roadmap that included Performance Management training for supervisors as well as Strengths-Based Development for teams.
Through these training opportunities, Justin found a way to communicate about the Strengths he was already using every day and a shortcut to understanding the talents of individuals on his teams. In addition to the basic training efforts, B-K Leadership Team members and managers use StrengthsFinder in various ways: from brainstorming sessions to planning to reorganizing to teasing each other about the wide variety of talents and approaches employed. By learning the language of Strengths, B-K employees better understand the benefits each person offer simply by being themselves.
We all have talents ready to be developed and utilized for the benefit of the organization. Natural aptitudes can be sharpened and honed to help individuals identify how they fit into their roles and can earn recognition that’s perfect for them. Activate can help with this through our Strengths-Based Developme Engagement Programs. Contact us today to learn more.