How to develop team capabilities by tapping into strengths

Are you trying to grow exceptional teams? Are you tired of building teams only to be told to focus on identifying their weaknesses? Are you done running uphill trying to improve areas where teams naturally suck? I’m going to provide some insights on how to turn around team performance.

Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO.

One of the first things we learn as leaders is to focus on areas where we have a weakness. We’re told about this from teachers and advisors starting when we’re young. Ultimately, whether you’re talking about your resume, job performance, or job opportunities, the discussion always seems to start by identifying areas where you’re weak and require improvement. Fortunately, I don’t buy into this theory. Focusing on your weaknesses won’t help you grow. It also doesn’t always empower your team.

My theory of growing and building teams centers around optimizing and maximizing their strengths. I look for strengths in individuals and match them to opportunities within my team, departments, and organization. This approach allows resources to excel by embracing their strengths and amplifying areas where they’re naturally already good.

A book came out from the Gallup Institute a while back called StrengthsFinder 2.0. This book provides a great starting point for leaders interested in applying a similar approach of focusing on what’s already good in their team.

Essentially, Gallup collected data from 2 million surveys, and they began to get an excellent understanding of people’s natural strengths. As a result of their research, they came up with 34 different themes, which are categorized below.

Strategic Thinking

  • Analytical
  • Context
  • Futuristic
  • Ideation
  • Input
  • Intellection
  • Learner
  • Strategic


  • Activator
  • Command
  • Communication
  • Competition
  • Maximizer
  • Self-assurance
  • Significance
  • Woo

Relationship Building

  • Adaptability
  • Connectedness
  • Developer
  • Empathy
  • Harmony
  • Includer
  • Individualization
  • Positivity
  • Relator


  • Achiever
  • Arranger
  • Belief
  • Consistency
  • Deliberative
  • Discipline
  • Focus
  • Responsibility
  • Restorative

By purchasing the book for your team, each member can take this survey and generate their top five strengths, listing them in order of most significant or most dominant. You might be thinking that you’ll probably have the same strengths as others on your team. However, that’s unlikely to be the case with over 34 million combinations based on the priority order of five strengths.

After your team takes the survey and identifies their strengths, plot those strengths into quartiles. This exercise is fascinating, as it offers insights into where the team is most substantial. Peter Drucker has a famous quote that says, “If you ask most Americans about their strengths, they look at you with a blank stare because they don’t know or they provide some subject background.” For example, “I’m knowledgeable in accounting.” But that’s not a strength. What’s interesting about StrengthsFinder 2.0 is that this model allows your teams to flip their paradigm from focusing on areas of weakness to focusing on areas where they’re good and potentially significant.

It’s essential, as you build a team, to identify each individual’s strengths. By definition, when you identify the team’s strengths, you’re also defining your team’s capabilities. This affords you, as a leader, the ability to align individuals to roles where their strengths become most dominant and are most impactful.

The StrengthsFinder 2.0 exercise identifies many great themes or strengths that already live within teams. For example, the Maximizer theme is a strength in which that individual enjoys going from good to great. They aren’t going to enjoy standing up a process from scratch, but they love optimizing it.

The Learning theme is another kind of strength. In this case, the individual is drawn to learning and acquiring knowledge before others have that information. They’re often the first to volunteer for new challenges and are willing to step into areas they initially don’t understand.

The Intellectual theme dials into the strength where an individual is fascinated by understanding the details and the small nuances of some engineering marvel or scientific invention. Each of these themes is unique, and each can unify and transform teams from average to world-class!

By leveraging your team’s strengths and not focusing on the weaknesses, leaders can optimize performance and allow teams to perform at their best. Isn’t our goal as a leader to create conditions that enable our teams to unlock their potential and perform at their very best?

If you found this video helpful, that’s great! Check out my books, Think Lead Disrupt and Leading with Value. They just came out early in 2021 and both are available on

Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO. Have a great day!

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Peter is a technology executive with over 20 years of experience, dedicated to driving innovation, digital transformation, leadership, and data in business. He helps organizations connect strategy to execution to maximize company performance. He has been recognized for Digital Innovation by CIO 100, MIT Sloan, Computerworld, and the Project Management Institute. As Managing Director at OROCA Innovations, Peter leads the CXO advisory services practice, driving digital strategies. Peter was honored as an MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award Finalist in 2015 and is a regular contributor to on innovation. Peter has led businesses through complex changes, including the adoption of data-first approaches for portfolio management, lean six sigma for operational excellence, departmental transformations, process improvements, maximizing team performance, designing new IT operating models, digitizing platforms, leading large-scale mission-critical technology deployments, product management, agile methodologies, and building high-performance teams. As Chief Information Officer, Peter was responsible for Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange’s (HIX) industry-leading digital platform transforming consumerism and retail-oriented services for the health insurance industry. Peter championed the Connecticut marketplace digital implementation with a transformational cloud-based SaaS platform and mobile application recognized as a 2014 PMI Project of the Year Award finalist, CIO 100, and awards for best digital services, API, and platform. He also received a lifetime achievement award for leadership and digital transformation, honored as a 2016 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader. Peter is the author of Learning Intelligence: Expand Thinking. Absorb Alternative. Unlock Possibilities (2017), which Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Triggers, calls "a must-read for any leader wanting to compete in the innovation-powered landscape of today." Peter also authored The Power of Blockchain for Healthcare: How Blockchain Will Ignite The Future of Healthcare (2017), the first book to explore the vast opportunities for blockchain to transform the patient experience. Peter has a B.S. in C.I.S from Bentley University and an MBA from Quinnipiac University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He earned his PMP® in 2001 and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Masters in Business Relationship Management (MBRM) and Certified Scrum Master. As a Commercial Rated Aviation Pilot and Master Scuba Diver, Peter understands first hand, how to anticipate change and lead boldly.