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Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) Applications

Relationship-Based 360-degree feedback is used most frequently with managers and leaders within organisations. It differs from competency-based feedback in many ways, including:

Feedback is typically open (not confidential). Feedback recipients invite providers to participate (as opposed to being randomly selected) Feedback is usually bi-directional (because it is subjective information about the relationship versus competency-based feedback, which attempts to generate objective data) Following is a simple process to facilitate useful relationship-based feedback and some examples of how the various feedback tools are commonly used.

Relationship-Based Feedback Facilitators typically like to start with self-assessment and ask everyone who will participate in the feedback process to complete the SDI and/or Portraits as part of a group. These groups also are involved in designing the feedback process and determining the results they would like to achieve through it. Because of the nature of this feedback, many people find themselves in two roles both feedback provider and feedback recipient.

Feedback recipients then determine who they would like to receive feedback from and distribute the feedback tools. A facilitator typically summarises the information into a 360-degree report and coordinates individual or group meetings to discuss the feedback results. Individual meetings provide an opportunity to consider all available feedback from each provider, and group meetings provide time to consider all feedback generated from the same tool for one recipient at a time.

When feedback recipients have reviewed all their feedback, they create some type of action plan and communicate that plan to the people who will be affected by it or could help to achieve it. Ideally, some type of formal follow up work is also done, though many feedback programs actually leave this step for the participants to work out on their own.

People who attend the 2-day Relationship Awareness Facilitator Certification course gather feedback from 5 people as course pre-work and review the feedback in the course. Facilitation considerations and techniques are shared in much more detail in this course.

Many boards that use the SDI benefit from improved clarity in communication, less time spent in conflict and more acceptable results of conflicts. The very idea of a board is to assemble committed experts with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, opinions, and ideas  then jointly determine the best course of action. A board is a place where conflict should occur regularly and should be recognised for what it is and solved for the betterment of the organisation. The SDI gives board members a language to resolve conflict.

People resist change for different reasons. Change Management training that integrates the SDI can help those responsible for the changes to anticipate resistance and plan resistance-lowering activities. People who are impacted by the change can identify where their own resistance is coming from and manage this more productively. In Relationship Awareness terms, people who score highly in Blue (Altruistic-Nurturing) may resist change that negatively impacts others, or that seems too results-focused. Others who score highly in the Green (Analytic-Autonomising) may resist change that is not well thought through or properly researched. The list goes on for each Motivational Value System and many people manifest their resistance to change by entering conflict. It is at this critical juncture that change efforts are won or lost  if conflict can be identified and leveraged to create win-win solutions, needed change can happen, if conflict is overlooked or allowed to progress into second or third stage (a Relationship Awareness concept) it will most likely fail to meet its objectives.

Conflict is a fact of life  for individuals, organisations, and societies. The costs of conflict are well-documented: high turnover, grievances and lawsuits, absenteeism, divorce, dysfunctional families, prejudice, fear. What many people donot realise is that well-managed conflict can actually be a force for positive change.

Relationship Awareness tools help people to identify the source of their conflict and manage it more effectively  reducing preventable conflict and turning unpreventable conflict into opportunities for growth and the strengthening of relationships. These tools are unique among conflict management tools because they assess individuals motivational values. They get at the reasons behind conflict behaviours and show how those reasons connect to an individual motivational values when things are going well.

Conflict management can be part of other training or be conducted as a stand-alone event. The understanding and management of conflict impacts every area of work  project management, leadership, teams, communication, sales, budgeting, strategic planning, etc.

Relationship Awareness tools, such as the SDI, provide powerful learning experiences. Participants are challenged to choose behaviour more consciously; to reframe and avoid preventable conflict, to actively manage unpreventable conflict in such a way as to restore the self-worth of everyone involved and therefore produce higher quality work and create better working environments.

People who complete the SDI get a chance to talk about conflict without actually experiencing conflict. The SDI provides a common language that helps people identify what happening, and work toward a more positive outcome. The SDI identifies a conflict sequence for each person. A conflict sequence is a predictably sequential set of changes in conflict. Participants learn to recognise these changes in themselves and in others  then learn what to do about it. They learn that in Stage 1 conflict the focus is on Themselves, the Problem, and the Other Person. Then, if the conflict is not resolved in Stage 1, they move to Stage 2 where the focus is on Themselves and the Problem-the other person has dropped out of the picture. Many participants report that their family or organisation is stuck and living in Stage 2. Participants also learn that Stage 3 conflict is the most damaging because both the Problem and the Other Person drop out of the picture. In Stage 3 the focus is on the Self only. By coming to understand their own conflict sequences better, people who have completed the SDI feel more empowered to manage the conflict in their lives.

Dealing with Difficult People

The SDI is built into several courses with titles similar to the one above. The title implies that it actually the other people who are difficult to deal with. The surprise for many participants in these courses is that it may actually be their own perception of the other person that makes them difficult to deal with. If we can learn to connect with others on a more positive level (realising that their purpose is to do something that makes them feel good about themselves, not necessarily to hurt others) we can actually understand them better and avoid preventable conflict. These courses also help people to recognise conflict sequences in others and apply strategies to get conflict resolved at an early stage in a productive way.

Conflict in Teams

Many facilitators use the SDI and companion tools to identify and resolve conflict within teams or organisations. The SDI provides the framework and structured exercises such as The Living Triangle provide participants with an opportunity to discuss the conflict objectively and design a plan to resolve it. Groups can be encouraged to draft a Conflict Charter to identify the norms they would like to implement during conflict situations. When teams have an agreement of this nature, they can refer to the agreement to get conflicted members to address the issue and resolve it, rather than letting it get worse.

The Feedback Edition of the SDI and the Feedback Portraits give conflicted team members an idea of how they are perceived by others and a chance to discuss the conflict with other team members in a non-threatening way.

Sometimes conflict in teams comes from differences in expectations  that where the Expectations Edition of the SDI comes in. It gets everyone expectations out in the open and provides an opportunity to discuss and come to some agreement about what is expected. Once expectations are clear, the road to high performance is more obvious.

Understanding conflict is an integral part of Relationship Awareness theory. As such, the conflict management aspects of the tools arise in nearly every application of them. Please review the other applications in this section for more details about conflict management.

The Strength Deployment Inventory has been used widely in a variety of counselling settings including school, individual, group, marriage, and family therapy. The SDI is unique as a self and other awareness instrument in that it provides insights into one underlying motivations, both when things are going well and when one has encountered conflict or opposition. It provides a holistic view of the person by offering a common language and a common scoring grid for both of these mental states. It shows how conflict is related to the going-well state, how to better manage it, and ultimately how to return to a going-well state.

The SDI was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Elias Porter, a student of Carl Rogers, who was also strongly inspired by Erich Fromm. It combines elements of humanistic psychology (personal strengths and human choice) with elements of psychodynamic theory (underlying motivational values) into one assessment. It was developed for a healthy, adult population. The PVI is the easy-reading version of the SDI and is especially effective for younger populations.

In individual counselling, the Premier SDI can be used to help the individual determine what really matters to them in their life. The Portrait of Personal Strengths, included as part of the Premier SDI, will help the person to define tangible strengths that they bring to a job or to a relationship. The Portrait of Overdone Strengths, also included in the Premier, helps to define what strengths that individual may need to be wary of overdoing in their relationships. Overdone strengths can very easily generate preventable conflict by creating conflict triggers for others. In learning to manage their strengths and not overdoing them, individuals can avoid creating unnecessary conflict. The Premier SDI will help individual clients gain new insights into how they view themselves, the way they prioritise their life, and the ways they act on their values. It will also help them to define what strengths they may need to borrow or use more often. The Feedback SDI and Portrait will give the individual counselling client others perspectives on them. Feedback tools can be used with family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who knows the individual well. The feedback tools will show the individual what others believe to be his or her motivational values, as well as how others see them acting on those motivations. Feedback tools provide a forum for non-judgmental and powerful feedback that will help the individual to get a firmer grasp on how he or she relates to others.

In group counselling, the Premier Edition of the SDI can be used in close conjunction with the Feedback Editions of the SDI, the Portrait of Personal Strengths, and the Portrait of Overdone Strengths. By providing feedback to each other, while gaining strong insights into how they see themselves, the members of the group can come to a better understanding of what interpersonal relations are and how they are affected by the unique perspective that each individual brings to the relationship. It will help the group to understand and appreciate differing perspectives, and teach the individuals how to communicate with others in ways that will be meaningful and effective for the other individuals.

In marriage and family therapy, the Premier SDI, in concert with the Feedback tools, will help the family to understand what the source of their conflicts is, and how to address the conflicts. The suite of Relationship Awareness tools will show them that they each have an individual perspective that colours the way they see the others in the family or the marriage, and how this impacts the relationship(s). They will help the family members to avoid overdoing or misapplying strengths, thus avoiding the creation of conflict triggers. If warranted conflict is encountered, the tools will give the family members the insights into themselves and the other members that will enable to address the conflict productively at Stage 1, rather than diving deeper into the 2nd or 3rd stages of conflict (where the other people fall out of the list of concerns).

In the school counselling setting, the Premier SDI and the feedback tools will provide a basis for understanding the differences that exist between students. It will help students who feel that they are completely different or alienated to realise that they are not alone, that there are others who share their perspective. It will help diffuse anger between students who can’t understand each others points of view, helping to diffuse violence within the school setting. The tools will help teachers to identify ways to approach students of varying Motivational Value Systems and how to make their teaching appeal to students of every Motivational Value System type. It will aid school counsellors in understanding their students better, and how to craft advice that will matter to each individual student.

As an example of this last application, school counselling, let us look at 13-year-old middle school student, Joseph. Joseph is a misunderstood young man who spends much of his time alone. He does have friends, though none that he would call best friends. Joseph, while he is likeable, gets teased often. The kids teasing him mean no harm by their teasing, they are really just not sure what to make of him, are curious about him, and teasing is the only way they have of making conversation with him. To Joseph the teasing is anything but harmless; it is painful and humiliating. Despite his growing anger, he denies that there are any problems, even to his counsellor, whom he genuinely likes and is usually honest with. As the weeks go on and the teasing continues, Joseph gets angrier and starts to withdraw from others. He doesn’t even visit his counsellor any more, and his parents start to notice him becoming more reclusive, though it is œnothing that out of the ordinary. To the students teasing him, Joseph has become weirder. He avoids them, but they pursue, its now a game for them to see how much they can tease him. The game goes on for weeks, Joseph trying to avoid others while they taunt him with names and insults. He seems harmless enough, he just continues to keep to himself, avoiding others when possible, and walking away from situations, angry, but not violent. Then one afternoon, one of the kids who is in the group that usually teases him confronts him alone. It been a bad day for Joseph, his pet dog is ill and his parents have been fighting. The boy teases him and Joseph lashes out with vulgar language and a pen he had been holding. The boy is cut, but the primary injury is to his ego. Fortunately the counsellor stepped in and stopped the incident before it escalated.

Wondering how someone who seems as honest and kind as Joseph could hold in such anger and have it explode forth in a tirade, and wondering how she had missed the signs, the counsellor schedules regular sessions with Joseph. In these sessions she gives Joseph a Personal Values Inventory to complete. The results are interesting. Joseph is found to be Green in a going-well state, that is, he needs time alone, he likes to think things through, he has strong principles, and lives his life according to a set of rules, which he is certain are good rules to live by. His first stage of conflict is Blue, accommodating. His second stage of conflict is Green trying to escape from the situation. His third stage of conflict has a very low score and is Red,or having to fight for one life.

Delving deeper into Josephs scores, the string of events begins to make sense. The other children found Joseph to be odd because he has such a strong set of principles, additionally, being Green, or Analytic-Autonomising Joseph is inclined to want to do things on his own and to spend time by himself. The other children read this as weird behaviour (likely due to their own filters or Motivational Value Systems), and label Joseph as such and the teasing begins. As the children tease him, Joseph makes an attempt to accommodate (Stage 1 Conflict). He feels that by smiling and not asserting himself, the others will just go away and the conflict will be over. In Stage 1 the individual experiencing the conflict cares about their Self, the Problem, and the Other Person. Blue Stage 1 is sometimes characterised by an outward denial, explaining why Joseph did not mention the conflict to his parents or to his counsellor.

After a time, when this strategy has failed, he moves into Stage 2 Conflict, for Joseph, a “Green” response. In Stage 2 Conflict, the individual no longer cares about the other person, they care only about their Self and the Problem. In a typical Stage 2 Green response, he tries to escape the conflict and those “causing” it. Now he is a more active participant in the conflict, but his activity is an attempt to run away. He tries to avoid the children, but they pursue, and in time, this strategy too, fails him.

Joseph then moves to Stage 3 Conflict. His Stage 3 Conflict response occurs when he is accosted by the individual who usually teases him as part of a group. In Stage 3, the individual does not care about the Problem or the Other Person, they care only about Self-preservation. For Joseph this is an unusual place to be and he lashes out in what he now perceives to be a fight for his life. He lashes out with all he has, which shocks the student teasing him, the counsellor, and even himself. The counsellor now sees what could have been done.

Had she been aware earlier of Joseph going-well and conflict relating styles, she could have shared and explained this information to him. Joseph would have been more empowered to take control of his behaviours when he was faced with conflict. He also would not have been pushed into conflict as easily because he would have seen that the other students saw him as weird when he was reclusive, but he would have known that he was not weird, just different from them. Joseph also would have been aware of the ability to borrow behaviours that helped the other students to relate better to him. Finally, he would have been in better control of himself in the conflict situation. He could have borrowed behaviours during conflict to help diffuse the conflict before it had escalated. At least he would have been in control enough to talk to someone about what was going on with him.

Crew Resource Management (CRM) training with the SDI helps crewmembers gain greater influence over the human factors that contribute to critical incidents. While this training originated with the airlines, its applicability to all types of crews is gaining recognition. Airlines apply these concepts to ground crews as well as air crews. Emergency response teams, police, fire, and forestry services all benefit from human factors training  as most critical incidents have human error as a significant contributing factor.

When individual motives and conflict sequences are considered as part of CRM training, all members of the crew get an idea of how they will respond individually and collectively. With this knowledge, crews can agree in advance about who will do what in the event of a critical incident. Some crews use the Expectations Edition of the SDI to clarify role expectations for certain types of situations. When the expectations are clear, members of the crew understand more readily how to borrow behaviour and manage the incident more effectively.

Consider Robyn and Mark, a two-person flight crew. They work at an airline that includes a review of crew SDI results as part of a pre-flight check. Robyn SDI result is Red-Blue (Assertive-Nurturing) when things are going well and she responds first to conflict with a very high score in the Green (becoming cautious and analytical). Mark SDI results are Blue-Green (Cautious-Supporting) when things are going well and he also is Green first in conflict.

During their discussion they determined that if something out of the ordinary were to happen during the flight they could conceivably both become focused on the details and try to work out why something has gone wrong. If they were to do this to excess, it is possible that they would lose track of other important information and could run the risk of making the situation worse. Therefore, they agreed that in the unlikely event of an irregularity, Robyn would control the plane while Mark investigated the details. Robyn, Mark, and the flight attendants made similar role assignments based on other potential scenarios.

During the approach at their destination an irregularity occurred. A light indicating that the landing gear is down was not lit. It should have been lit because Mark had deployed the landing gear at the appropriate time. Mark alerted Robyn to the irregularity and Robyn began to investigate the problem with the instruments accessible to her. When Mark saw her doing this he said, Robyn, you fly. I’ll investigate. as they had agreed during the pre-flight check. This pre-agreed phrase and Robyn awareness of her own SDI result helped her to understand the need to borrow Red (Assertive) behaviour even though she was personally feeling a need to analyse the situation before taking action.

Recalling other parts of their CRM training, they were able to determine that the landing gear was in fact deployed, by requesting an observation from the air traffic controllers. They then brought the plane in safely.

A post-incident investigation revealed that the landing gear indicator light bulb had burned out. Robyn and Mark attributed their successful handling of the incident to the pre-flight check, the CRM training and their awareness of their SDI results.

Diversity training with the SDI includes the diversity of motivation or intent. When using the SDI in traditional Diversity training, form groups based on SDI results when things are going well and different groups based on conflict sequences. Invariably, people with very different appearances, beliefs, backgrounds etc. will work together and find that underneath all of the “differences,” there is something even more central to them that they share.

Similar to Crew Resource Management, emergency response training uses the SDI to help teams understand how they might respond individually and collectively to emergency situations. With this awareness, they can more effectively plan for a potential crisis and allocate responsibilities to individuals who are most likely to respond appropriately.

Some people use the SDI to help create fictional characters. When authors, cartoonists, playwrights, actors etc. understand what the SDI suggests for their own relationships, they can apply the ideas to their characters. They can generate an arrow for a fictional character by using a Feedback Edition of the SDI and the Feedback Portraits can add depth to the character – just as they add depth of understanding for individuals. Some facilitators like to provide examples of Red, Green, Blue, and Hub behaviour from movies or popular television shows, completing a Feedback Edition on a character can help ensure that those examples have been fully considered.

Leadership training with the SDI typically revolves around two main topics – leadership styles and conflict management.

Leadership Styles:

Facilitators like to start by using the SDI to help leaders understand their own style and preferences – then to recognise situations where borrowing another style would generate a better outcome. Training which provides opportunities for participants to practice borrowing other behaviours tends to be more memorable and have a more lasting impact. The seven Motivational Value Systems (from the SDI) can be presented as follows to illustrate leadership styles:

Blue (Altruistic-Nurturing) is a supportive style of leadership. Leaders who score highly in the Blue part of the triangle tend to have a great concern for the people they lead. They may be more willing to bend a rule or let go of a desired outcome in exchange for better morale or the benefit of an individual employee trusting that creating a better working environment will ultimately lead to better results.

Red (Assertive-Directing) is a directive style of leadership. Leaders who score highly in the Red part of the triangle tend to be outcome oriented. They may try to find the quickest route to a desirable result and want to be the first to market with new products or ideas. They tend to be persuasive and to organise people and resources to get things accomplished. They may be willing to reduce research time or over-burden individuals in pursuit of results.

Green (Analytic-Autonomising) is a Procedural style of leadership. Leaders who score highly in the Green part of the triangle tend to be concerned about processes, fairness, and order. They may prioritise standards, accuracy, and thoroughness in their decision-making. They may be willing to defer an opportunity or restrict access to needed resources until certain of the appropriate action.

Hub (Flexible-Cohering) is a consensus-based style of leadership. Leaders who score centrally in the triangle tend to be concerned about incorporating input from multiple sources to produce a result acceptable to all parties. They tend to select strategies that allow future flexibility and preserve or generate future options. In an effort to balance their decision-making, they may make decisions that look inconsistent to observers.

Red-Blue (Assertive-Nurturing) is a coaching or mentoring leadership style. Leaders who score highly in the Red-Blue part of the triangle tend to focus their energy on developing others and ensuring that they succeed. They tend to be enthusiastic and like to build support for key ideas or initiatives. They may be willing to discount facts that do not support their objectives or overlook details that appear insignificant at the time.

Red-Green (Judicious-Competing) is a strategic style of leadership. Leaders who score highly in the Red-Green part of the triangle tend to rely on logical plans and principles as the quickest means to a desirable end. They may be intently focused during key times and prefer to remain behind the scenes otherwise. They may be willing to accept reduced morale or people problems as a matter of course if the objectives are valuable enough.

Blue-Green (Cautious-Supporting) is an empowering leadership style. Leaders who score highly in the Blue-Green part of the triangle tend to focus on building the capacity and capability of their staff. They want people to be able to do things on their own without too much reliance on the leader. They may be willing to suffer initial setbacks or forego desirable results during times of transition in order to achieve a self-sufficient workforce who can learn from their own mistakes.

Conflict Management for Leaders

Several recent studies have found that the number one reason people leave their employer is their relationship with their immediate supervisor. Conflict management training for leaders gives them the tools they need to recognise and resolve conflict. When leaders understand that people ability to focus diminishes in each progressive stage of conflict, they are more likely to attempt to resolve conflict at Stage One where the parties involved are still concerned about each other. They see more clearly the costs of allowing conflict in the organisation to get stuck at Stage Two where a lack of concern for the other parties generates turf battles and stifles communication.

Leaders who have used Relationship Awareness tools understand their own changing motives during conflict situations and learn to recognise what important to other people and what to do to resolve conflict effectively.

Other Leadership Training

Many leadership programmes integrate our feedback tools to help leaders see how they are perceived by others, or understand what others expect from them. The SDI also fits nicely with other leadership concepts and models such as Situational Leadership (Situational Leadership is a trademark of Centre for Leadership Studies.)

The SDI is used both in training mediators and during formal mediation with the disputing parties. Mediators learn to recognise conflict stages in other people so they can focus discussion on returning the parties involved to a place where they can feel good about themselves again, or at least return them to the first stage of conflict so they can resolve the dispute with all parties interests in mind. When the SDI is used with the parties to the dispute it often leads to discussions that help the parties understand each other perspectives more clearly. This understanding contributes to more rapid and more acceptable results of the mediation. In some cases, disputing parties acknowledge that the whole thing was really an unwarranted conflict that got blown out of proportion and if they had recognised it earlier, there would have been no dispute at all.

Organisations and even departments or divisions within them have a certain feel or culture. It the way we do things around here that distinguishes them from other organisations. The SDI fits into organisational culture training by helping employees connect their individual values to the organisation values. Some organisations look at groups of SDI results and spot trends or patterns that prompt them to take action. They may find that their recruitment practices are targeted at certain types of people to the point that diversity within the organisation is limited. Other findings include the identification of subgroups with markedly different results when things are going well or during conflict.

How better might any relationship be if we all agreed what our expectations are of each other first?

If a boss was able to say to each of their direct reports-what style of management would you like me to use to get the best out of you ?

If we were able to be clear with our direct reports the preferred behaviours that are required to undertake specific roles.

The use of Relationship Awareness tools to set and manage performance expectations frequently involves several people and is applied for multiple purposes within organisations. Following are several examples of how these tools have been integrated in performance management systems. As a generality, the Expectations Edition of the SDI and Portraits of Strengths is used in small group or individual settings after all the people involved have taken the SDI and are familiar with their own results and the results of others in the organisation.

Individual Expectations

This typically involves a supervisor and a direct report completing the Expectations Edition of the SDI & Portrait of Strengths about the direct report job and having a discussion how the results compare with the direct report SDI & Portrait of Strengths.

The supervisor and the direct report may have similar or differing expectations when things are going well and in conflict. There may or may not be similarities between these expectations and the direct report SDI/Portrait of Strengths result. The discussion centres on agreeing on expectations first. During this phase of the discussion unrealistic expectations can be abandoned and both supervisor and direct report can refine their understanding of the position. This sometimes highlights the need to restructure a position. After gaining consensus on expectations, they can identify times that the direct report could borrow other behaviours to be more effective.

Some supervisors like to have a second set of Expectations Editions completed on the supervisor job. Discussion of these results helps direct reports to understand the supervisor job, highlights ways that the supervisor can be more effective with that person, and provides a valuable opportunity for upward feedback. This upward expectations management is usually conducted with each feedback provider during a 360-degree Expectations setting exercise.

360-Degree Expectations

A manager or leader may want to understand the expectations of the people with whom they work. Invited stakeholders such as direct reports, peers, senior managers, customers, etc. can complete the Expectations Edition of the SDI. Comparing the arrows generated by others to the SDI result of the person in the job can yield either confirmation of a good fit, or opportunities for the person in the job to borrow behaviour to be more effective with certain individuals or groups.

Creating new positions

This process can work on an individual or on a 360-degree basis. The twist here is that a new position is being created and there is no person in the job to provide SDI results. When expectations are identified, they can be clearly communicated to people who have an interest in the position in an effort to select the right candidate. It should be noted that the Expectations Edition, like all of our inventories, is not a selection tool and we do not recommend giving any of our tools to job applicants.

Most projects in today fast-paced business world are team-based. Deadlines and deliverables are the focus of most team projects. But timelines, flowcharts, and software can’t ensure that a project will be completed on time, or that a high-quality result will be delivered. To have projects run smoothly and produce deliverables on time, project teams need to be able to function as a cohesive unit. Project team members need to communicate effectively and manage themselves through the conflicts that will inevitably occur. Relationships within teams are not intangible, unmanageable aspects of a project; they are the key ingredients to successful project management.

The Strength Deployment Inventory will give the individuals working together on a project team the understanding of each other that they need to work effectively together. The SDI will provide the platform from which effective working relationships will be crafted. Once the team members know each other motivational values, they will be able to communicate more effectively and work toward common goals, avoiding unwarranted conflict.

The Portrait of Personal Strengths can help to further define specific skills that each individual brings to the project team. It will also help each individual to know what skills they may need to borrow in order to push the project to completion.

Finally, the Expectations Edition of the SDI will help the project team members to define what they believe the role of each project team member to be. This will open up an honest and non-judgmental discussion of the expectations of each team member, as well as the ideal for the team as a whole. In setting and managing expectations for the team, the team can avoid falling into unwarranted conflict over unmanaged and ill-defined expectations.

When used in conjunction with each other, these tools will provide the background personal information and team expectations to ensure the timely and successful completion of the team projects.

Personal Strengths offers a low-tech approach to project management Project Management: The Team Approach is a complete project management system that stresses the importance of interpersonal relationships to the timely and successful completion of projects. This course helps project teams to understand the principles of project management and create a project plan, which can then be used as input for any software program. This Facilitation Guide and accompanying workbook was authored by Gary Robinson, a Personal Strengths Publishing master trainer with over twenty years of training and consulting experience. Gary has trained many organisations around the globe in the successful use of this project management program.

Project Management: The Team Approach integrates the SDI and the Expectations Edition of the SDI into the coursework, so that effective interpersonal communication is presented as a cornerstone of successful project management. Teams learn how motivational values affect perception and communication. They also learn how conflict sequences can easily progress deeper and deeper if the conflict is not well managed. Teams learn how to apply the knowledge they gain about their own and other team members relating styles so that they can avoid communication issues and work toward common goals without the hindrance of unwarranted conflict. The Expectations Edition of the SDI helps teams to set relationship expectations within and across the team, clarifying roles within the team.

Many organisations have found this low-tech project management method to fit well within their culture, enabling them to complete projects on time, with high-quality results.

Relationship Awareness tools help salespeople to see that the key to a successful sales career lies in being able to relate to people on their own terms. Many salespeople believe that in order to sell, they need to use set skills or techniques that turn prospects into customers. Relationship Awareness shows that in order to appeal to potential customers, one needs to speak to them in their own language, tailoring the communication style to each individual. The SDI helps sales professionals to understand how their own motivational values affect how they see the people they are trying to sell to. The Portrait of Personal Strengths will tell them which strengths they use the most-either validating their SDI results, or demonstrating that they are using strengths outside their own Motivational Value System for one reason or another. Feedback Portraits will help them to see what strengths others see them using and which they see them overdoing.

The Portrait of Overdone Strengths will tell them which strengths they are most likely to overdo, and thus what they need to be on the lookout for. In overdoing strengths, it is possible to create a conflict trigger for the potential customer, and thereby lose all chances of a sale. By ensuring that they do not overdo their strengths, salespeople can better relate to others and create a mutually rewarding consultative relationship built on trust and open communication with their customers.

The reality of all relationships is that they are at least bi-directional. That is, there are always at least two people and those two people each bring their own perspective to the relationship. Each person perspective, or Motivational Value System in Relationship Awareness terminology, colours all that they say and perceive. The other component then that salespeople need to take into account is the Motivational Value Systems of their customers. Each customer will have his or her own set of motivational values to which the salesperson will need to appeal. The customer Motivational Value System will affect how they see the salesperson, and vice-versa. Therefore, to be successful, each client needs to be handled as a unique individual with relationship needs of his or her own.

As a case study, let us examine Bob. Bob is a sales representative who just moved from a position in a fast-paced, high-pressure sales arena to pharmaceutical sales. Bob likes things to be accomplished quickly, without over-analysing, without worrying too much about what the consequences may be, and Bob likes to win. He sees each sales prospect as an opportunity, each sales call as a battle. Bob is having difficulty making the transition. He finds it difficult to relate to the doctors he sells to. One individual with whom Bob is having the most difficulty relating to is Chad. Chad is a neurologist who often deals with pharmaceutical salespeople like Bob. Chad sees salespeople as arrogant, he feels like they do not care about his needs or his concerns, and he tries to avoid contact with them for as long as possible. Chad usually says that he has appointments or meetings already scheduled, does not take Bob calls personally, and has, on occasion, failed to show up for scheduled meetings with Bob. He resents Bob and does not look forward to his calls, and especially his visits. To Bob, Chad seems to over-analyse everything; he seems to want too many facts, even facts beyond the information that Bob has been given by his company. Bob feels put off that Chad doesn’t like to take his calls and avoids meetings with him. To Bob, Chad seems nit picking, cold, and suspicious.

In analysing this case, we need to make note that neither Bob nor Chad is right in their relating style. A style of relating is only right in so far as it gets one what one wants or needs. Having said that, we can look at Bobs position on the SDI, how he rated himself on the Portraits of Personal and Overdone Strengths, what feedback he got on the Portraits from friends, family, and co-workers, and then finally, how he applied this to his situation.

Bobs totals were very high on the Assertive-Directing, or Red scale of the SDI. People whos totals are high on this scale tend to be like Bob. They see life full of challenges and opportunities. They are quick to act, they see opportunities others do not, and they take risks others will not. They tend to see themselves as exciting, fun, and energetic people. They don’t have much patience for slow-moving, thinking, intellectual types who seem to get mired in the details and seem unable to make decisions. In fact, when Bob completed the Portrait of Personal Strengths, he found most of his top strengths to be Red strengths-self-confident, competitive, ambitious, and persuasive were all at the top of his chart. Likewise, on the Portrait of Overdone Strengths, Bob thought he was most likely to overdo ambition and become ruthless, or to overdo persuasiveness and become abrasive.

The feedback on Bob confirmed this further, with friends, family, and co-workers all seeing Bob in the same sort of light. Many felt that Bob could also be arrogant, dictatorial, and combative at times.

Because Bob sought training on his own, and because he did not have a solid relationship with Chad, he did not know Chad SDI position, nor did he feel comfortable asking Chad to take the SDI. From Bobs descriptions of Chad, we assumed that Chads Motivational Value System was Analytic-Autonomising, or Green. As such, Chad values logic, principles, and being right. He wants to be absolutely certain that the prescription medications he buys from Bob are tested, proven, and safe. He wants to feel absolutely comfortable in recommending them to his patients.

The real learning here is that from Chads perspective, all of Bobs strengths appear to be overdone. Chad does not see assertiveness; he sees aggressiveness. He does not see persuasiveness; he sees abrasiveness. Likewise, from Bobs perspective, Chad is not analytical; he is nit picking. Chad is not cautious; he is overly suspicious.

By learning how he relates to others, and by learning to read how others relate to him, Bob was able to tone down his Red strengths that had served him so well in his previous position. He found that when he was dealing with someone who he believed to not share his Red perspective and strengths, he needed to soften those strengths so much that, to him, he felt as though he was not using them at all. But, by toning down his Red strengths, Bob was able to appeal better to Chad and other doctors like him. He was able to communicate with them on their level, in their language. He knew that he would sell far more by obtaining and supplying more information to Chad than he would by being persistent in calling and scheduling meetings. He learned that by providing the information ahead of time, giving Chad time to review it and respond with questions, and then fielding those questions at the sales meeting, he could win over Chad trust and respect. Bob saw that by providing information to Chad via fax or postal mail, he gave Chad the time he needed to review it. Bob learned that Chad especially valued receiving industry-related information that was not marketing-oriented. He saw that Chad was not a cold, suspicious, unfeeling person; he just required time with the facts to make up his own mind. Bob became more than a pharmaceutical sales representative to Chad. He became a valued consultant to him because he learned how to help Chad make an informed purchase decision instead of trying to sell Chad on the products benefits. In the end, Bob, Chad, and Chad patients all benefited from this newfound respect and open communication.

Whether students are moving from school to work, high school to college, junior college to university or any of a number of other transitions, Relationship Awareness can ease the transition and contribute to a better outcome. Students can be encouraged to examine their personal values and identify the relationships that are critical to their success  and those that might hinder their progress. They can also identify subjects or career paths that would be most rewarding. With this understanding, they can create a plan to reach their educational and career aspirations.

School Violence Prevention

Unresolved conflict is at the heart of violence in our schools. Relationship Awareness tools such as the Personal Values Inventory (the easy-reading version of the SDI) give young people a way to understand where conflict comes from and how to see conflict as a potentially positive thing that can be used to solve problems. Young people who learn to see the value in others and in themselves are more likely to invest time and energy in resolving conflict for the benefit of all parties. It is our sincere hope and wish that all schools will help students to understand the importance of relationships and learn how to build their own self-worth while enhancing the self-worth of others. To read an example of how the PVI could be used to diffuse violence in the school please read the Counselling section.

Welfare to Work

Numerous welfare-to-work transition programs leverage the learning from the SDI or PVI to help participants build effective, sustainable working relationships. The Portrait of Personal Strengths is used to help them identify the strengths that would be valued by a potential employer and feature them in resumes and interviews. The Portrait of Overdone Strengths helps participants recognise how their behaviour may generate preventable conflict; then learn to manage their behaviour to prevent it. Conflict management skills form an essential part of these programs as many participants experience significant conflict in their personal lives which in turn impacts their job performance.

Job Training

Job training programs that serve hard-to-serve or at-risk populations benefit from the integration of the SDI or PVI when the participants learn to work more effectively with other people. These programs often start with self-acceptance, and then move toward building acceptance and appreciation of others as fundamental attitudes for being effective in relationships at work. Participants can be encouraged to examine their personal values and identify the relationships that are critical to their success  and those that might hinder their progress. They can also identify career paths that would be most rewarding. With this understanding, they can create a plan to reach their goals.

Relationship Awareness training for groups involved in strategic planning can speed up the process and produce better results. Many strategic planning sessions that integrate the SDI do so at the beginning of the meetings. Then the team triangle is on display for the duration of the planning so team members can be reminded of everyone motives and conflict sequences and learn to recognise conflict more quickly.

Team building efforts with the SDI and other relationship building tools take on several forms and are often connected with other efforts within the organisation. In most cases a facilitator within the organisation or an external consultant guides a team through a series of activities designed to raise members awareness of motives and conflict sequences  for themselves and the other team members. The facilitator will then shift to activities that lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other, followed by activities designed to promote interpersonal effectiveness. Whether conducted in a classroom setting, the employee break room, during a corporate retreat, or at an adventure-learning location, the SDI is the catalyst for learning that participants remember and apply.

The SDI and companion tools can add value in any stage of team development. The following example shows one way that a facilitator can accelerate the process of a team going through Tuckman 4-stage model (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing).


Consider a newly formed team, the members know of each other but have never worked together before. The SDI can be applied as soon as the team members have been identified. Facilitators in this situation tend to do fairly quick team building sessions to get people familiar with each other. The Portrait of Personal Strengths is also used frequently at this stage as it helps groups get a clear understanding of individual and overall team strengths. The Portrait provides some specific details that would not be apparent from the SDI alone. Some facilitators like to use the Portrait as the entry point to create a team resume a description of the group values, skills, and interests. The overwhelmingly positive nature of the SDI ensures that people get started with the understanding that everyone is acting to promote feelings of self-worth. The early awareness of conflict sequences usually pays off quickly as the group will likely find itself in the storming phase before long.


Facilitators who are working with groups in the Storming stage get great value from the Portrait of Overdone Strengths. This Portrait identifies potential sources of unwarranted conflict. Team members become more aware of the impact their behaviour has on each other. With this awareness, they are more empowered to borrow behaviour and be more effective. The Feedback Edition of the SDI and the Feedback Portraits are commonly used in this stage to get more specific about interpersonal perceptions between certain team members who are experiencing conflict.


Teams that undertake a 360-degree feedback effort in the Norming stage can more quickly progress to the Performing stage. One way to accomplish this with a small team is to have each team member complete the Feedback Edition of the SDI and the Expectations Edition of the SDI for each team member (larger teams may want to limit the number of feedback providers). Each team member can then compare a 360-degree report of the way they are perceived to behave and compare it with a 360-degree report of how other expect them to behave. Teams use discussions about expectations vs. feedback to generate norms, identify behaviour that is outside the norms, and design action plans to achieve high-performance.


Performing teams are often accountable for projects within the organisation. These teams can achieve higher quality results in less time after training with “Project Management: The Team Approach,” a Facilitation Guide and Participant Workbook that recognises the importance of relationships in project teams. This low-tech training guides teams through the process of gaining consensus and commitment about project objectives and generating a simple project plan, which can become the basis for input to whatever software the team selects. It is principle-based and has applicability to all types of teams managing all types of projects. (For more details on “Project Management: The Team Approach” click here.)

Breaking up the team

Many teams purpose is to work themselves out of a job. When high performing teams are broken up, their members are highly sought after by other teams within (and outside of) the organisation. When multiple teams within an organisation use a similar approach to training and development, the process of adding new team members can run more smoothly keeping projects on schedule and retaining high-performers.

The critical time between jobs involves many important decisions. That why the SDI is used so frequently in work transition applications such as layoffs, restructurings, new-hire orientations etc. The SDI and the Expectations Edition of the SDI provide a framework to understand the dynamics of a new situation and make more informed decisions  ideally resulting in a new work environment that is more rewarding personally and more productive too. Job seekers may complete the Expectations Edition based on information they have about a prospective job  or an ideal job. People involved in a new or revised role at their current employer may complete the Expectations Edition about their new role and even ask for input from others who will be affected by decisions made from within that role.

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