- Gallup Theme Thursday Webcast Series
- Season 5, Learner
- The CliftonStrengths themes at the top of your profile are the most powerful and give you the greatest chance for success. Join us as we discuss Learner.
Join Jim Collison and Maika Leibbrandt as they talk about your Learner talent theme — helping you unlock the power of truly understanding yourself through how you get things done, influence others, connect with people and think critically — on this Theme Thursday Season 5 webcast.
Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.
Jim Collison 0:00
Live from the Gallup Studios here in Omaha, Nebraska, this is Gallup’s Theme Thursday, Season 5, recorded on October 10, 2019. Theme Thursday’s a Gallup webcast series that dives deep into the CliftonStrengths themes, one theme at a time, and today’s theme is Learner. If you’re listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room — link’s above the video window there if you’re in the live show. If not, you can send your questions: firstname.lastname@example.org Maika Leibbrandt is our host today. Maika’s a workplace consultant here at Gallup, and Maika, always great to be back with you on Theme Thursday. Welcome back.
Maika Leibbrandt 0:42
Thanks, Jim. Gosh, it’s great to be here. Definitely the best part of my week. Today we get to talk about Learner, and Learner is a brilliant CliftonStrengths theme. If it is one that shows up in the top of your CliftonStrengths profile, typically your first 5 or about your first 10 or so, then it’s probably something that describes you always. Those those patterns of behavior that are dominant for you are really where you’re going to find your greatest potential. Your greatest chance to succeed at work, at in life, at home really lies in understanding your dominant themes. So today if you possess a great deal of Learner or if you care about somebody who does, this podcast is for you.
Jim Collison 1:20
Maika, so what does it mean to have Learner as my top talent theme?
Maika Leibbrandt 1:23
It means that you have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. It’s that the process of learning rather than the outcome is what excites you.
Jim Collison 1:32
And that’s an easy definition. I think in a lot of cases, some of our themes have some difficult, you know, maybe Individualization is a little or is a hard to understand, but how might we see Learner actually play out in people’s lives?
Maika Leibbrandt 1:45
If you’ve got high Learner, it probably means that you are unintimidated by that feeling of not knowing something because you’re driven by this constant and very real desire to — and a belief that you can –move through confusion into understanding. That not knowing is temporary and that you have the confidence in your own ability to solve a problem or to sort it out. You might look for advice, for classes or for teachers to help make sense of problems. Again, it’s that — it’s almost like an agility with the ability to solve a problem by looking externally. If you have high Learner, and I sometimes find this in clients that I’ve coached over the years who have dominant Learner, they will say to me, I get bored. And sometimes clients can name an exact time frame; they’ll say, you know what, every 4 years I’ve switched jobs. or every 18 months, I tend to look for something else to challenge me. It might be other themes, but you may also notice that if you have high Learner.
Maika Leibbrandt 2:44
It might be that you can — that you can know about those desired skills or those credentials or those things that you want to master, almost like a dream sheet in your mind. You also, if you have high Learner, you might feel a letdown once you’ve mastered something. Learner isn’t necessarily about acquiring that knowledge and then staying there. It’s about looking for the next challenge because you like the experience of overcoming that sort of naivete, or that that overcoming the idea of not knowing and that discomfort into the place where you’ve moved on, and once you’ve mastered it, you really can look for that next challenge. I think I probably mentioned this in a previous season, but my aunt is an English teacher. And in her classroom, my mom, who’s an artist, painted this beautiful mural on her wall that just says, “Celebrate the joy of learning.” And that joy of learning itself really defines Learner. It’s an excitement in the process. You might feel if you have high Learner like looking at a syllabus for a class is like being a kid in a candy store; like you can see all the new things you’re going to learn. There’s an insatiable curiosity to Learner; there’s always a question to ask. There’s always something that you can acquire or know that you don’t yet know.
Jim Collison 3:59
We mentioned this in the show before, but we had over 100 people register, which is kind of a lot for us on Theme Thursday. No surprise it was during the Learner, right? I think we’re seeing a lot as we’ve — in the chat room have asked, Where’s Learner for you? We’re seeing a lot of listeners are wanting to again, I think Theme Thursday leans it — or lends itself to that kind of, it’s a chance to come and learn and hear more, right? I think it’s kind of a natural fit. We’ve spent a lot of time with these themes, talking about success factors, like how does it make it successful? So just learning itself is not is not necessarily the piece in it. But turning that toward success. Sometimes we have some blind spots, right, and the 34 report, we’ve talked a little bit about where the blind spots of this. Talk a little bit about that around Learner.
Maika Leibbrandt 4:41
Yeah, in your CliftonStrengths 34 you’ll find for your dominant themes, we offer some potential blind spots. And these aren’t meant to say, Hey, here’s the dark side of your theme, or here’s how you’re going to fail. What they are meant to describe is how you could remove perhaps some personal barriers so that you can be the best version of yourself. One blind spot or one way that Learner could get in the way of Learner is that you naturally value learning and growing — that constant feeding of your brain to add more to it. Now there is a difference between your CliftonStrengths and your values. But it’s important to remember that other people can still do great things and offer brilliant contribution without the desire to consistently learn. So I think it’s important to be careful not to impose this as a value on others by learning more about their motivations. There, there might be people who are motivated by the utility that would come with mastering something, but not be motivated by the idea of, I need to be constantly taking another course. So get really curious; turn your Learner on them. Ask what makes them tick, what drives them to complete; what makes them curious. Another blind spot you might want to consider with Learner is that your joy in the journey could distract you from the end goal. You’re comfortable with that discomfort of not knowing, so it could be easy for you to find distractions or rabbit trails along your path. Think about maybe a time when you were trying to execute on a big goal, but you got easily sidetracked by all the interesting other things you learned along the way. So in order to combat that, make sure that you are defining what success looks like. And whenever possible, include learning opportunities as part of that definition of success. Feed the Learner or it will eat your lunch! That might look like specific learning or discovery being baked into your big goals for the year.
Jim Collison 6:35
I think Learner can look like a single-player sport. In other words, I’m learning, it’s about me, it’s about the things that I do, and yet Learner has power on a team. So when we think about that role, how can it be used in a team setting?
Maika Leibbrandt 6:48
So one of the most popular places of this CliftonStrengths 34 report, and certainly one that I find super helpful, is when we talk about your dominant domain. There are Four Domains of Leadership, and Learner lies in the Strategic Thinking domain. So that domain describes the talent themes that that bring their best potential when when people spend time in their head really studying. Learner is inquisitive. And one value that that brings to the team is the ability to ask questions and to open up the minds of other people. I think without a Learner on your team, it could be easy to get stuck in some groupthink that the solution that we’re all excited about is the right one. Learner can ask a lot of questions to make sure that we’ve perhaps thought about things that we haven’t mastered yet. The phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know” — I’m going to go out on a limb and say it isn’t typically as true for Learners as it might be for other people. Usually, Learners have a pretty sensitive radar for what’s happening but they’re not fully understanding.
Maika Leibbrandt 7:52
So if you are a Learner on a team, use this radar to help the team set their own growth or development goals. What is it that your entire team needs to get more familiar with in order to better serve your clients or in order to better serve each other? If you’re working on a team with a Learner, consider placing this Learner in a role of catching important discoveries that everybody needs to be aware of. Could they host a briefing on current topics for your client? Or could they maybe just be in charge of receiving Google News alerts. What’s happening? What do we want to dive deeper into? And sharing that with the group. Learner can be a connector in that way — that intellectual curiosity can translate to others as emotional empathy. You know, the idea of being curious can certainly lead you to understanding other people. And so it can even feel in some ways like a Relationship Building theme. I think Learner brings a freshness to a team because that engine that they have to learn more is an engine that never stalls and never turns off. Learner is always hungry for new mastery. And this is an excitement that they bring, kind of a joy around that, and that that joy and that excitement can be inspiring and contagious. They don’t have to convince other people to learn, but they could be an excellent resource for learning and sharing what they are discovering.
Maika Leibbrandt 9:12
To compare learning with other Strategic Thinking themes, that might help us really understand what some of the nuances of these themes are within the same domain. First, here’s two themes that make sense of something confusing: Analytical and Learner. So Learner is going to understand the big idea based on the building blocks of what do I already know, and what do I have yet to understand? Analytical is going to break complexity down to simplicity, and focus on, What are the smallest provable elements of this idea? So again, they’re both sort of breaking things down and analyzing pieces. They’re just doing it in a different way. To compare Futuristic and Learner, Futuristic might ask, Where are we going, and how can my vision for tomorrow help me understand today? There’s an element of a timeline to Futuristic. Whereas Learner might ask, What avenues already exist that can help me master this right now? So it’s about working toward mastery instead of working toward that sort of imaginary vision of the future. I think the way that Learner and Futuristic both think about the future is also probably pretty different. Futuristic does it by imagining things that haven’t yet existed and, and Learner does it probably by foreshadowing how their world will be different once they have overcome that that not knowing and gotten into a place where they now have known or mastered something.
Maika Leibbrandt 10:34
Another that I’d like to sort of contrast here and compare is Intellection and Learner. Now both of these benefit from and tend to look for fellow thinkers or other people to learn with them. The difference is, Intellection is going to seek that internal processing of thought and bring a different perspective. Learner is going to typically seek external advice or teaching and bring a confidence through that acquired understanding or that skill that they gain from outside of themselves. In partnership, Learner can help you sort to what you need to learn. Is there a class, a course, an expert? They can keep your project or your perspective very fresh by bringing in current or additional subjects or other expertise. They can be comfortable not knowing and share that kind of comfort and it can translate as compassion when you feel lost. I think with Learner, it’s it’s less about being right and more about getting it right.
Jim Collison 11:34
That’s such great advice as we think about other advice and communicating well with Learner. We spend a lot of time talking about that. How would we communicate well with Learner?
Maika Leibbrandt 11:43
Ask what they’re curious about lately. Again, that engine never stalls, so there’s probably something they’re learning and it’s it’s a good shortcut to a guaranteed “hot button.” Remember, a hot button is a positive thing that you can talk about over and over again. I would also say, give up the need to have the answer and replace it instead with great questions. So if you’re communicating with with a Learner, maybe say, hey, how can I be — how can I sit next to you and discover things? Instead of having to sit across the table from you and have all the answers? So maybe it’s even infusing more questions into your conversation: What is it that we already know about this? How can we find out more? They’re likely less interested in what you’re certain of, and more interested in how curious you are about finding something out. That being said, it’s it’s also helpful, I think, with permission to share your expertise and to know what you have that you can offer that you can teach.
Jim Collison 12:36
We’ve — we’ve had a great example of that. We mentioned this last program, but Ralph has been helping us through this transition, he has Learner high, as well as some of those others that you were talking about. And he has exhaustively gone into our system, in some cases more than we have, and learned it and then shared that back with the community. In some ways, I joke with him about him him having Communication high — which he said he won’t. But it’s a great example of communicating out with Learner, right? I think it’s just a really great example of when we think of not — again, oftentimes we think of Learner as that inward focus, it’s about me. And yet when we turn that outward facing towards, How do I make this powerful in the community? I think that’s an example of communicating it back out in ways that makes sense, that help people benefit from it and — go ahead.
Jim Collison 12:51
And that piece around communicating with Learner, of not having to have all the answers, but you can even think about, What can I open up that that I don’t know the answer to but that I need some investigative energy on? Kind of that transparency around, there are some things we know; there are some things we don’t know. How can we partner in that space?
Jim Collison 13:41
Yeah, and I think we might have a clue to this next question, but how might we inspire or motivate someone with Learner? Certainly, Ralph has been motivated, like he has spent an enormous amount of time doing these things for us, and a perfect example of it. But how else might we inspire and motivate somebody with Learner?
Maika Leibbrandt 13:57
Yeah, challenge to learn something new, in a way that is needed. Is there a gap on your team that needs filled with a skill or filled with some sorting out or some solving or some understanding? Send a Learner! But don’t just send them to say, Hey, go, you know, do this for your own good. Send them with that expectation that what they learn will change what you expect them to do later. And maybe that means that you’re going to give them additional duties or that you want them to teach other people. But again, be upfront about what those expectations are and how they’ll grow with additional learning. Also, I think access to opportunities for them to develop. Think about development outside just taking a class or moving up a career ladder. They can expand upon what they’re already good at by practicing with someone more experienced or by practicing more often. Could they be exposed to a new community or to a new client group? Could they work with different challenges than they have today or in a different climate? Typically with Learner, new and variety is is key. It doesn’t mean that you have to be all over the place and not focused into a certain skill set or or a common theme. But it does tend to bring with it a lot of joy when there’s some element of variety.
Jim Collison 15:12
Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit more about that practicing. So again, with people with high Learner, what could they do to practice this talent every day?
Maika Leibbrandt 15:18
Pay close attention to your own curiosity. What questions have you asked? What have you wondered about more than 5 times? By the way, that’s a tip I took from a book I read by David Rock. Listen to your brain. When it’s — when it’s coming up with something more often, it’s a clue that you need to investigate it. Your brain is craving that exploration. So feed it! Find some great open-ended questions that help other people say more about what they know, and and ask them often. Take stock of what you’ve learned and how it’s helping you improve. So not just that forward-looking engine and energy, but looking at What am I better at today than I used to be? You can avoid that constant grasping for new information by streamlining and realizing the acquired mastery you already have, and how perhaps that is creating a new way that you approach every day already.
Jim Collison 16:09
Maika, we’ve spent some time this season in this idea of talent-mindfulness, not necessarily focused just on Learner or just on the theme in that — using all the things. Talk a little bit today about an exercise we’re going to go through and think more about that idea of practicing.
Maika Leibbrandt 16:23
Yeah, so this brings us to the end of our Learner side of things. Now we’re going to do just a quick capstone to our podcast around talent-mindfulness, CliftonStrengths and the science of positive psychology that it’s rooted in isn’t just about giving something a name or a label. It’s about being curious about what works so that you can progress toward something better. And that progress takes practice, Talent-mindfulness, where we are right now for about the next 3 to 5 minutes, it is designed to help you practice your awareness of your own potential, whether you lead with Learner or any other of the 33 talent themes, any 33 others — 34 total. Today we’re going to focus on discovery and on improvement. I invite you to take a deep breath. Close your eyes, or just turn your attention in toward yourself. In the very recent past, say from yesterday to a week ago, when did you do something really well? Imagine a time in the recent past — you did something you might even call your specialty. Now exhale, really push all the air out. Get that moment of excellence in your mind. And with your next inhale, imagine yourself floating above the image of your own self performing with excellence. You’re floating up like you’re a fly on the wall somewhere where the wall meets the ceiling. Exhale, but keep your gaze down on your best self. Let’s take another deep breath in, again, with that perspective of hovering from the point of a, an overlooking observer high above your best self. And exhale. As you settle into your position near the top of the room, continue to breathe normally. But imagine you’re looking at yourself during that moment of strength. What do you see? What emotion might you observe in yourself when you’re doing that specialty? Who if anyone is with you? …
Maika Leibbrandt 18:59
From that “fly on the wall” position, how would you describe what it is that your best self is doing? What are you creating or bringing or offering? What effect is it having on other people? Again, what is it that you’re doing? In your mind, give it a name. Let’s call this your specialty. … Take one more deep inhale through your nose. As you exhale, allow yourself to float down from the ceiling and back into your body. And from here, we’re going to do some reflection about how you got to that specialty. It’s likely true that you haven’t always been great at it. Think about a time when you were good at this but not as good as you are today. What changed that made you better? What have you learned at any point in your life? This could be through experience, through a class you took, through people who helped you. What have you learned that helped you improve upon your specialty? …
Maika Leibbrandt 20:37
What moments of discomfort ultimately benefited your talent? … If you were guaranteed not to fail, how could you improve upon this specialty? How could you be even more effective? World-class, near perfect, top of the industry, best in the league? My friend, here’s the challenging truth: The learning and growing that got you to where you are is not enough to get you to even better. Like an athlete training to win, the more you improve, the tougher your workout needs to get. You have brilliance within you, the power to do something truly, truly great. And it might take a little discomfort to break through the “good” into the remarkable.
Maika Leibbrandt 21:44
Now to help you simplify that discovery we just did today, I have 3 questions, 3 summary thoughts for you. These might be thoughts you want to open your eyes and write down the answer to. You don’t have to break that meditative state right now; you can just keep your eyes closed. But I’m going to ask you 3 final summary thoughts. No. 1: What is your specialty? No. 2: If you invested further and improved upon that specialty, what might happen? … And no. 3: What do you need to learn more about? … Thank you for investing in yourself. That’s our talent-mindfulness for today. Jim, welcome back!
Jim Collison 22:51
Thanks, Maika. Always appreciate those. It’s fun to sit back behind the scenes if you don’t get to watch the video. I always I always go Maika full screen on that. By the way, you can watch us on YouTube on those if you want to do that. And it’s just fun to watch, watch you work. I mean this is I think a little bit of a reflection of your Learner — your desire to teach and influence and, and and work in people’s lives, and so super great. With that, we’ll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources we have available — now on Gallup Access, you can join us there: gallup.com/cliftonstrengths will get you there. You can send us your questions or comments, if you have any of those, you can send it to us an email: email@example.com. You can also catch the recorded audio and video of this program as well as all the past ones; they’re available on our YouTube channel, if you just search CliftonStrengths. We don’t make that too hard. Or — and we do have a Gallup webcast live channel on YouTube as well if you want to see the live programs. That’s a lot more fun on live, because you get to see the pre-, post- and mid-show that are available for you there. Or in any podcast app, just search Gallup webcasts. If you’re interested in becoming a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, you want to see a list of any courses that are available for you, think about our summit coming up next summer. There’s going to be some great courses to take around the summit. You might want to be involved in those. We haven’t announced them just yet. But maybe by the time you’re listening to this, they’re out there. You can head over to our courses page: courses.gallup.com, available for you. If you want to get registered for any future webcasts, they’re available on our eventbrite page: gallup.eventbrite.com. Join us on our Facebook group as well: facebook.com/groups/calledtocoach. I want to thank everyone for joining us today. If you’re listening live, stick around for the mid-show. With that, we’ll say, Goodbye, everybody.