Individualization: Customizing to the Uniqueness of Others

A CliftonStrengths Theme Spotlight

"People exceptionally talented in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how different people can work together productively." -The Gallup Organization

The Talents of People High in Individualization

We call people high in Individualization the "Sherlock Holmes of People." They are incredibly intuitive about the distinctiveness of each person they meet. Always curious, they are quick to spot patterns or preferences in others and they're usually driven to adjust their own communication or behavior to meet others where they are. In fact, they are almost always motivated to customize so that everyone in the group feels seen, heard and understood. They become frustrated with "one-size-fits-all" approaches or when others don't respect the needs of each individual.

We hear people high in Individualization express that they usually make accurate predictions about how specific people will react to decisions, work alongside others, or struggle in their roles. Because of this, sometimes people perceive the person with Individualization as being very empathetic. While many with Individualization might also be high in Empathy, we like to describe Individualization as "intellectual empathy" because those high in it describe it more as "originating in my brain instead of my heart."

In teams and workplaces, those with Individualization can bring awareness of how teams can best leverage their individuals for maximum productivity and relational balance and harmony. They are also incredibly helpful when an organization needs to add more talent to the roster. They make great additions to hiring committees because they are typically excellent judges of each candidate's strengths and weaknesses.

Additionally, they are natural at customizing expectations and roles to fit a person. They can help others understand why conflict is emerging on a team, how specific people learn or retain information best, or how to motivate an individual who is struggling to perform his/her job tasks as assigned. They are also incredible at audience analysis when a message needs to be crafted in a customized manner.

One sales-representative we know high in Individualization said it this way:

"When I get a sales lead, immediately I start doing research on the individual and the company because I know that I've got to customize my pitch to the specific person. If I can exchange a few emails or talk to him/her on the phone, it takes me almost no time at all to determine how I'm going to communicate and make the pitch. My coworkers always ask me for advice pitching ideas to specific people because I have this strength."

The Temptations for People High in Individualization

Because people high in Individualization are driven to customize their approach to specific individuals, they can sometimes struggle to synthesize when it comes to teams or groups. Thinking about the needs of the collective team doesn't come as naturally because they prefer to see the group as a collection of incredibly unique and diverse people. This can sometimes cause them to make ill-informed decisions about what is best for the team as a whole. Similarly, it might result in them overly-customizing to the point that efficiency and productivity are negatively impacted. If everyone has a different set of rules and expectations, chaos can ensue.

Those who work under the direction of a leader with Individualization sometimes report that they feel "the playing field isn't level," "he/she plays favorites," or "so-and-so gets special treatment that I don't get." Those leaders with Individualization often intend to communicate how unique everyone is but often communicate that different people get to play by different rules.

Finally, those with Individualization often report they prefer the one-on-one conversations over group-work or meetings. If they aren't careful, they will create "teams" that aren't comfortable enough with each other to work together meaningfully or productively.

Here's a quote from a leader who learned this the hard way:

"When I first started in this company and hired my team, I was spending way too much time with individuals and not enough time with the group as a whole. I wanted to get to know them well and so I invested myself there. Not only was my own productivity negatively affected, my team members didn't know each other at all. I was confused in team meetings because something seemed off. It took me a while to realize that I wasn't creating opportunities for team relationship building."

Action Steps for the Individualization

Here are a couple of quick ideas to get you thinking about how to leverage and self-regulate if you've got a dominant Individualization theme:

  1. Look for opportunities to help others understand the uniqueness of people. Whether it's a potential client, a company stakeholder, a frustrated team member, or a potential new hire, your ability to discern what makes each person "tick" will be invaluable to those around you.

  2. Consider partnering with people high in Influencing themes like Communication or Woo. Their ability to spread a message to a broader audience will pair well with your ability to understand and analyze an audience. Together you can accomplish more than you would as individuals.

  3. When leading a team or working with others, make sure you take time to consider the needs of the collective group. Which part of your approach should be applied to everyone on the team so that everyone feels the playing field is level? Where do you have freedom to customize? Give yourself boundaries to ensure that both the team as a whole and the individuals on the team feel cared for and led well.

At ROI Talent Development, we try to help people fall in love with every single talent theme, even if it isn't dominant in their own theme sequence. Because when we all take the time to understand and appreciate one another, we build happy and healthy workplaces where employee talents are valued and developed.

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