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The Strengths Based Approach: Three Ways to Let it Change Your Business

Written by Dana Robertson

Published on

Pennant's blog has been on hiatus since mid 2020, but is preparing for a return in 2023

We’ve all heard and used the phrase “The customer is always right”. This is a trademark value that we bring to our process in sales and in doing business… and it’s a great phrase, am I right? But I’ve recently begun to dig a little deeper on this concept.

You see, when I came on to help build our Design and Web Development Business Pennant Creatives, I started with a mentality with our clients of: ‘you’re right! We will just keep that assumption and move forward’. However, as I got to know our clients,  I started to notice something… Clients may see that they are ‘right’ in a transactional way– example: “I asked for this service and you will give me this service”… but they’re not always seeing their worth or their strength in a transformational way– especially not in the way that they conduct business with their web development/design company OR in the way that they conduct their own business.

This is where I started to think about how to shift our approach as a company away from a ‘right’ transaction and towards a ‘strengths based’ transformation.

So let’s back up: what is the strengths based approach anyway? Well, simply put, this approach focuses first on what exists that is awesome, useful, and what you as a business uniquely offer to the world. This takes on so many different forms depending on who you are and the work that you do, but we believe that when we look at the strengths FIRST, the design process — and really any business process only benefits both in function and form AND on return on investment. This translates even farther than that too.. Strengths based mindsets and approaches are like ripples in a stream that radiate out from individuals, to companies, to communities. The impact can be felt so broadly that it’s worth digging deep to see where you can apply it.

This topic could be covered in so many ways, but today we want to focus on some higher level concepts that can be applied to ANY business. So, without further ado, here are three ways that you can start thinking through how to incorporate a strengths based approach in your business:

Highlight strengths of your clients by infusing opportunities to do so throughout your PROCESS.

Come to find, when you look at the process and infuse strengths, it starts to look less transactional and more transformative. There are ways to infuse this in the process no matter what the strengths of the client.

When I determined that I needed to put this approach into our process, I landed on some pretty great ideas regarding how we engage our people. One of my favorite examples of this is actually in our on-boarding process. We went from a fairly flat, run of the mill discovery session to asking pointed questions to really hone in on the value of the client and their service. So, rather than just asking: what service do you want? What’s your budget?– I began to shift what I was asking– questions like: what do you bring to the world? What do you love about your business?

Another part of our onboarding is LISTENING. I also try to allow a LOT of time for listening and looking for themes that highlight strengths. Newsflash: just like in your atypical job interview– if you ASK someone what their strengths are, you tend to get either a deer-in-headlights look or a pretty pat, rehearsed answer– so depending on the client… you most always have to look and listen.

A third shift in on-boarding came in the way that we curate content and an authentic voice. For us, the voice of the client is SO important that it takes precedence over the main focus of our service initially. We call it ‘content first’ design.  For the actual end product helps us to drive our work with strengths at the wheel and highlights the excellence of what they bring forth before we just put our mark on the design. These are just a few examples with ONE aspect of our process, but lucky for you there are a bunch of opportunities to do that throughout your process, whatever it is, to working with a client.

Reinforce and celebrate strengths through your ongoing relationship with your client.

So the basic question here with varied responses is:  ‘How do you illicit the strengths of what they offer through your interactions with them?’  I really think three key ways that you can easily execute this is through your responsiveness, truthfulness, and flexibility.

Throughout any given relationship if you’re continuously walking with them in an authentic way, you find ways to promote their highpoints and empower them in the lows– and as a business owner, you know just how it feels to own and run a business– it can be a real roller coaster. So, this relational piece is key in being strengths based.

We have the opportunity at times to work with start-ups. The drive to start up something that’s new and groud-breaking is both exciting and heartbreaking. My favorite part of working with a startup entrepreneur is being with them in the rough times and the good ones. The ability to do this, however, requires that we respond with care and empathy, speak truth to them, and remain flexible in our delivery of a service. In doing this, I feel that we have such an opportunity to remind them of how they are strong even if they aren’t feeling it at the moment. I was able to do this just last week with an entrepreneur who is offering cutting edge services to those in need at a low point. It’s a gift to be able to be in that space with someone and even better when you can focus on strengths even when times are rough.

Move within and throughout your client’s strengths by looking for ways that you challenge and help them hone what they are great at!

This last way of applying strengths based takes place in the context of relationship and after you’ve spent time in process with your client. Consistent attention to engagement in learning and transformation as they work with you is key in the transactional vs. transformation equation. In the ways that we walk with our clients, we have an opportunity to show them another way of doing business and discovering something meaningful and strong about the work that they do or even who they are as an individual. So, it’s important to be on the lookout for opportunities to highlight things they may not be able to see for themselves or experience change and positive growth because of your empowering interactions.

One way that we have found to universally do this is to create tools to highlight strengths in different types of people. We have specifically focused on visual preferences and leanings as a way to bring out someone’s strength in viewing the world. We do this because we find it fascinating how someone’s values and value translate visually (we are designers, afterall!). One such tool that we developed is the light hearted “Discover your Designer Artsytype” (Editor’s Note: we have moved this form offline for now) which is meant to be fun but can also be a tool for individual learning. These types of tools are useful for self reflection but also as a way to promote strengths in differing perspectives!

So these are just three ways that you can incorporate the strengths based approach with your clients as you do business. We’d like to hear from you! What has this idea sparked in you? What’s one way that you’ll try and engage in your process, relationships, or creation of opportunity differently to be strengths based? Email us!

Whatever you choose, the perspective is important and transformative. So, let’s focus on creating smaller ripples of strengths based approach that resonate out into our business communities!

Pennant's blog has been on hiatus since mid 2020, but is preparing for a return in 2023

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