An interview with Polly Chandler, Coach + Facilitator at Chandler Coaching, a WTF Consortium TeamMate + Collaborator.
How did you come to discover the benefits of strengths-based leadership and how has it impacted your leadership coaching work?
I first learned about strengths-based leadership in my coaching certification program. Actually, what I discovered was that I had been practicing and teaching strengths-based leadership for years. I did my graduate work on Servant Leadership, a leadership approach grounded in Robert Greenleaf’s philosophy that one supports others so they too can lead and thrive. I found, as I chaired an MBA in Sustainability Program, that this servant leadership model was a perfect fit for an ecological thinker.
I looked for ways to lead from the side and connect the strongest threads of each person’s talents to help him/her lead individually and as a team. So, when I learned about Gallup and their studies on strengths and leadership it was a moment of empowerment: all of a sudden I had the language to ground my approach. As I looked for the strengths of each individual, I found that people rose to greater levels than they dreamed possible and they were able to serve others in ways that truly made a difference.
WTF focuses on transforming workplaces to cultivate a healthy, sustainable, productive culture. How does your work complement these efforts and how do you collaborate with WTF team members on a corporate consultation – what does it look like?
What I love about the WTF model is that it leverages the talents of different team members to support other teams. WTF has the team to build inner strength and resiliency. I often think of the work of architects and designers as the foundation for building a strong workplace. They envision and create a space where people can flourish. I offer the same foundation for the people who work in that space. I work with individual leaders and teams to recognize their inner strengths and to leverage that knowledge, talent and experience to create teams that flourish.
I assess a team’s strengths at the same time that the WTF team is assessing an organization’s space needs. We leverage the talents of the organization’s employees to create a space where transformation can really happen. Leadership and team development happen in parallel with the space design. We ignite and leverage the strengths of all the people in the space so they can contribute their talents and passions to envisioning what a thriving space and workplace culture can be.
Can you share your favorite example of how you’ve worked to help optimize a team based on their strengths and the outcomes?
My favorite example of optimization is when I get the chance to meet with each individual on a team and do a strengths-based coaching session before we meet as a group. This approach unlocks the potential of each person on the team so he/she comes to the work more aware of his/her greatest potential. People often have huge “ah-ha” moments during strengths coaching sessions and are then able to communicate with greater ease, fluency, and self awareness with the team.
I remember one team I was working with; while all were passionate about their work, there was something missing in their collective energy. They all seemed rather depleted. Once I started talking to individuals about how 60-70% of our weaknesses is just an over or under use of strengths, a whole world opened up. I had one senior executive recognize her underuse patterns and suddenly she found her voice with the team. She now had the language and strategies to bring her amazing insights, knowledge, and experiences to the group. Another manager was overusing some of his strengths. Once he became aware of his overuse patterns and how his approach was leading to some people shutting down, another shift happened.
What’s your favorite mantra to help yourself or clients get unstuck in work or life?
My favorite question to people is, “What grounds you?” If people can stop, pause and recognize what grounds them, it can help them get unstuck. If we get grounded, we can then find new ways forward. If we miss the opportunity to get grounded, we miss the opportunity to bring our best selves to our personal and professional life. Some people are grounded by quiet, others by nature, others by a family member, others by their faith. Everyone is different but if you stop, get grounded and then look where you want to go, I really think so much more is possible.