Leverage Strengths to Win the Breakthrough You Want

What situation in your business or personal life has you dismayed,terrified, and running with fear? What breakthrough do you want? The Israelites and Philistines were lined up for battle across from each other in the Valley of Elah as described in I Samuel 17.

A giant champion warrior named Goliath taunted Saul and the armies of the living God for 40 days.

Saul and his army were dismayed, terrified, and ran with great fear. V.11,24

This is the exact place God wants to show you how to win the breakthrough you want leveraging your God given strengths.

How did David leverage his strengths to win the battle against Goliath?

I Samuel 17:40 states David chose five smooth stones from the stream with his sling as he approached Goliath.

David’s five stones are like our top 5 strengths that can be leveraged to win against our Goliath.

What top five strengths from StrengthsFinder could we spot in David?

  1. Responsibility – 15, 17 David was found faithful taking care of his father’s sheep as well as delivering food for his brothers on the battle line.People with the responsibility talent take psychological ownership to get the daily grind done. They are servant leaders.
  2. Belief –26, 37, 45 reveal the strong value in God as the victorious champion and his passion to stand up for what he believes. David is not just confident in himself but in the character of who God is!
  3. Positivity –32-34 show how David saw the upside rather than the downside of danger in the battle. He encouraged his brothers and the armies of the living God with his success stories of killing the lion and the bear.

(Notice how Eliab, David’s oldest brother burned with anger and thought David was conceited and just wanted front row entertainment on the battle line. V.28)

Beware of thinking that people of positivity are just naive.

  1. Command – 29 shows how David is not afraid to speak up against his brother’s negative attitude or the crisis that confronts the Israelites. Though he was youthful and undersized he had a sense of strong presence in the face of conflict.Notice v.38-40 how Saul and others will many times try to force us to wear their armor; as a leader this is a fatal mistake to force others into an exact replica of ourselves. David said, “I cannot go in these, because I’m not used to them.”

Being authentic in his own strengths, David chose his tools that he was acquainted and experienced with – the Shepherds staff, pouch for his 5 smooth stones, and his sling.

  1. Strategic – 48-51 David quickly assesses his options and knows he cannot defeat Goliath in hand to hand combat. He chooses one stone, places it into his sling, running toward Goliath  increasing his leverage (likely up to speeds of 60-90 MPH), aiming his stone into the one place that Goliath is vulnerable.Intentionally David stuns Goliath enough that he falls forward and finishes the job cutting off Goliath’s head with Goliath’s sword.

    David maximized his strategic strength with knowledge, skill, and practice in the field as a Shepherd, killing the lion and bear.

Like David, God has designed us uniquely with talent for kingdom purpose.

It is our responsibility to multiply those talents into strengths that are leveraged intentionally for individual and community breakthroughs.

Bring GALLUP Certified Strengths Coach and Convene Resource Specialist Brent O’Bannon to your Forum Day or organization. Learn more at

3 Steps to Harness Your Teams Strengths

It's time to ask yourself: How will I harness my teams strengths each and every day to help us reach our desired destination? In my work as a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, I lead my clients through three steps of harnessing their strengths, which make up the basis of my Strengths Coaching System:

Step #1 - Maximize Your Strengths

Measuring your team’s top five strengths with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 is just the tip of the iceberg. Once you have discovered your signature strengths, you can dig even deeper by exploring the wide array of supplementary strengths based assessments available to help you diversify and define the language you use for your strengths, while also expanding the number of practical techniques you can use to put your talents into practice. The VIA Survey, for example, measures character strengths, broadening the context in which you see and use your signature strengths. Realize 2 and StandOut will also deepen your vocabulary of your strengths.

Strengthening your mindset is all about overcoming the fears and limiting beliefs associated with harnessing your strengths as you mentally prepare yourself for your Iditarod.

My wife and I were certainly anxious before taking our first sled ride. We worried about getting hurt, losing control of the sled, careening into the snowy wilderness. And, while some of those fears were well founded, they had a lot in common with the deficiency or weakness based mindset most of us have developed about ourselves.

So often, when facing a new opportunity or challenge, we prepare for the worst. On the precipice of closing a sales deal, planning a career move, or angling for that next big promotion, we assume we're going to fly off the sled and land in the snow. And this I can't, weakness based mindset predicts our fate. We lose control of the sled because we're so focused on what we can't do, instead of tapping into what we can do and finding others to help us fill in the gaps.

A strengths based mindset, on the other hand, prepares and focuses on what you do best. Remember—a successful sled is led by a team of dogs with different talents. Each individual dog plays a valuable, yet distinct role in every trip. Were the driver to focus on what each dog can't do or doesn't do well, he or she would have trouble unifying the team and staying on the trail. To successfully achieve your goals, you must mount your own sled with confidence, knowing which strengths will help you round the next bend, leaving your cant’s and don'ts at the lodge. Maximizing your strengths starts by becoming an expert on your personal top five strengths while seeking guidance from those who share your talents and partnerships with people who you feel can help you better utilize them. Make a list of resources—books, tools, colleagues—that will deepen your understanding of your signature strengths. Consider joining others in a strengths mastermind group. Commit to an attitude of lifetime learning, whether it is through self-study, coaching and workshops. (I recommend a combination of all three.)

Step #2 - Mobilize Your Strengths

One of my coaching clients uses the phrase “What strengths am I going to use today?” taped above her desk? The pinnacle of the strengths coaching system is mobilizing your strengths to work, to well-being, to marriage, to parenting, to faith, and eventually the world.

Harnessing your strengths is a lifestyle, a string of flags on a map, not a single destination. With each trip—each goal—we refine our strengths style, developing leaders who will one day pass the torch, modeling his strengths for a new generation. In my own life, my strengths are always taking me higher and helping me trek further into the future, making me a better Christian, coach, mentor and model both for my coaching clients as well as those I love.

Now that you are maximizing your unique set of talents, you can take the reins and start to steer your life, team, and business in the direction of your dreams. So, what are you waiting for?

Step #3 - Monetize Your Strengths The third step of harnessing your strengths is often one of the most exciting, especially for entrepreneurs, business owners, and executive teams looking to use their strengths in the workplace. Monetizing your strengths answers the question: How can I hone my marketing message, get more leads, and grow my client base so we can make more money?

A strengths based marketing and sales approach can transform a business—I've seen it happen. I can't count the number of phone calls and emails I've received from clients celebrating a major sale, new position/promotion, or small business success after tailoring their marketing strategies and sales techniques to their top five strengths. In my book, Selling Strengths, I take you step by- step through the process of making over your marketing strategy so you and the unique benefits you offer can really sparkle, allowing you to reach more potential customers and close more sales. Here's your head start. Ask yourself: What is keeping my ideal client up at 3 AM?

Think about how your unique combination of strengths can help your ideal client sleep better at night. Whatever the answer, you want your marketing to clearly communicate how you and your services can solve your customer's problems and add value to their life and business. A strengths based marketing approach gives you a language to communicate why your special blend of strengths makes you the best person for the job.

Strengths based leaders know how to maximize their own strengths as well as the strengths of all the members of their team so that each individual experiences more confidence and personal engagement on the job and the group as a whole enjoys more overall productivity and profitability (and fewer office wars). By valuing and balancing the unique contributions of each member of their organization, strengths based leaders create interdependent teams with trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

A strong business is also based on strong emotional loyal customer relationships. They increase referrals and add value to your services with positive word-of-mouth advertising and glowing testimonials. Securing customers for keeps depends on making authentic, natural connections with your signature strengths. The research reveals that emotionally engaged customers pay 67% more a year for the service they purchase from you because they feel confidence, integrity, pride, and passion. 

Bring GALLUP Certified Strengths Coach and Convene Resource Specialist, Brent O’Bannon to your Forum Day or organization. Learn more at

Do What You Hate, But Do It Easier

One of my executive coaching clients hates public speaking. He even gets antsy presenting informal information to the senior management team. We all dislike certain parts of the job. One way to reduce our hesitation is to rely more on our StrengthsFinder talent themes.

I suggested my client try a simple 3-step process I refer to as Name It! Claim It! Aim It!

1. Name It!: Write out your top 5 strengths. In this case his strengths were:

  • Deliberative, Belief, Responsibility, Discipline, Relator.

2. Claim It!:Write down the value and power that each strength contributes. For example:

  • My Deliberative strength can decrease my stress and see potential problems before I speak.
  • My Belief can help identify the speaking topics I’m most passionate about.
  • My Responsibility can help me prepare and follow through with dedication.
  • My Discipline can help me structure and organize my talk for success.
  • My Relator can help me connect with my audience heart to heart.

3. Aim It!: Consciously apply your strengths to specific action steps.

  • For Deliberative – I will write out the potential problems and a solution for each before I speak.
  • For Belief – I will let my colleagues know what topics I’m willing or not willing to speak on.
  • For Responsibility – I will prepare, practice, and get feedback on the talk from Toastmasters.
  • For Discipline – I will write a draft of my talk and time how long the talk takes to present.
  • For Relator – I will use personal stories in my talk.

What challenge do you face? Any chance you could minimize these challenges by using this 3-step process: Name it, claim it, aim it.

For help leveraging StrengthsFinder in your organization visit Convene Resource Specialist and GALLUP Certified Strengths Coach


The Self-Aware Leader

I had a mentor and a long time seminary professor by the name of Marcus Smucker who took issue with the word selfless. He thought it an inappropriate word for a Christian to use. Actually, it was not so much the word that troubled him as it was how the word was deployed.

The distinction Marcus wanted us to make was that there is a difference between not knowing who you are and extensive self-examination. Using selflessness as an excuse to never consider who you are at all opens the door to self-abuse, abuse at the hands of others, and worse, twisting others around abusive demands. Marcus had met and worked with scores of people caught up in this type of abuse, often using “selflessness” as a way to spiritualize the harm they were enabling. They saw it as a virtue rather than the toxic behavior that it was.

Extensive self-examination does not mean self-centeredness. Rather, it is a deep pilgrimage into understanding one’s boundaries and capacities to serve others, learning which part of one’s self to set aside and which to carry forward—knocking the barnacles off, so to speak—in order to live in loving service to God and neighbor.

This means the leader needs to develop an understanding of love languages and basic temperament, perhaps through the use of personality tests like the Enneagram, Strengths-Finders, Colby, or Meyers-Briggs. Also, working with a therapist, an executive coach or spiritual director, or joining a peer-based advising team, spending time in

silent retreat or gathering a clearing committee would be beneficial. This is not merely to gain self-insight. Self-examination as the beginning and end of the journey is selfish. Instead, it is to use acquired insight to heighten one’s capacity to serve.

The inward journey to understand self is turned toward service and focused outward—as if it is a rubber band stretched before being propelled across the room to its destination. Think of it as grace received so that grace can be offered. Understand it as calling clarified so that it can be recognized and clarified in others. Practice it as being present with and accepting one’s self in order to have cultivated the skill to be present with others.

Selfish is distracted and elsewhere. Selfish has something better to do.

Self-less (self-aware) is present in the moment. The moment the self is in is precious in its own right. 

How to Stop Employee Turnover

3 Tactics Using StrengthsFinder Why stop employee turnover?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the U.S. voluntary turnover rate is 23.4% annually. It's generally estimated that replacing an employee costs a business one-half to five times that employee's annual salary. So, if 25% of a business' workforce leaves and the average pay is $35,000, it could cost a 100-person firm between $438,000 and $4 million a year to replace employees.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 13: 3-8 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

Three reasons for employee turnover is poor job fit, ineffective on-boarding, and inconsistent focus from managers. Test these tactics to produce a crop of engaged employees.

  1. Use StrengthsFinder in the Interviewing Process.

Rushing the hiring process can create a bad job fit similar to scattering seed along the path. Having a smarter talent selection system can prevent unnecessary hiring, firing, and quitting.

An example how I helped an oil and gas company was to create a talent selection system for their sales force. I interviewed the CEO’s, sales director, and top sales performers creating an ideal behavioral profile for the job and culture. We then crafted a job posting that reflected the type of talents we were most looking for in an ideal sales person. Each applicant who made it to the interview process, was asked to take the StrengthsFinder assessment.

One of the best strengths spotting questions interviewers can ask (along with follow up questions) to help measure skill level of strengths and culture fit is, “Share a story you love of your most significant project, task, or accomplishment in your career to date that you are most pleased of and why?”

It’s important to note that StrengthsFinder is NOT a talent selection tool that determines WHAT job a person is good at; it’s a talent development tool that reveals HOW a person will likely succeed in a role.

  1. Combine StrengthsFinder Goal Setting with On-boarding.

Sowing clear measurable expectations and roles during on-boarding is crucial to get the best long term production from your new hires. It won’t be long before the work honeymoon disappears, the role gets rocky and the heat turns up.

How do you help new hires flourish in their performance and take root in their role?

Teach and coach employees how to name, claim, and aim their strengths intentionally with each area of work responsibility.

  1. Train Managers to use StrengthsFinder in Performance Reviews.

Employees leave an organization because the manager relationship is perceived as thorny – focused on weakness fixing or choked due to ignoring career advancement and promotional opportunities.

My recommendation is for managers to have meaningful one on one conversations about the development of their associates once a quarter using the strengths based Four Keys Coaching Guide.  Discuss what the manager can do to help the employee succeed.

When leaders focus on employees strengths they are 8x more likely to be engaged and those who receive strengths feedback have 14.9% lower turnover rate producing a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.