The One-in-a-Million Thing That Happened

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I recently led a Strengths workshop for the leadership team of RIVANNA Medical, a medical device manufacturer and distributor based in Charlottesville, VA. The company was started in 2010 by graduate students at the University of Virginia when they recognized a need in the marketplace. Now the company holds 45 global patents and is on its way to disrupting—and improving—the way ultrasounds are performed.

This workshop was memorable for a couple of reasons. First, it was my first business team workshop since moving to Charlottesville. I hope it is the “first fruit” of more to come. Second, something happened that has never happened in the 250 workshops I’ve led. There was a one-in-a-million chance of this happening, and it did! But before I explain what happened, here’s some background.

The focus of the workshop was increasing self-awareness, optimizing work relationships, and maximizing productivity. We used the CliftonStrengths® assessment as a tool to help us get there. Each member took the assessment prior to the workshop. It identifies your top talent areas with the goal of helping you do more of what you already do well and understanding what you bring to a team. At the event, I provided reports and activities to draw insights from the assessments.

The assessment measures 34 different talent areas, and RIVANNA wanted to focus on each person’s top five. As we explored the results, we found a remarkable thing. Two of the members share four of the same top five talent areas. That’s a 1 in 46,376 chance in the world of happening. Remarkable! But that’s not the extraordinary thing.

The extraordinary thing is that their four talent areas are also in the same order. That’s something I’ve never seen before among the thousands of people I’ve worked with. What’s the chance of that happening? That’s a 1 in 1,113,024 chance in the world of happening. It is literally a one-in-a-million chance!

This occurrence is so rare that it’s worth taking a deeper look at their talents and how they use them in different ways. I’ve gotten permission to share the strengths information of these two men.

Meet Adam Dixon, Ph.D.

As the VP of Engineering, Dr. Dixon’s role is to make new medical technologies work in the marketplace. He leads technology development, authors patents, and writes grants to secure funding so RIVANNA solutions can be created and delivered to clinics and hospitals. He holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering.

Meet Jacob Katz, MBA

As the Sr. Director of Sales and Product Management, Jacob’s role is to create marketing strategies, form distribution partnerships, and consult on product development so that RIVANNA products are adopted in the marketplace. He earned a Master of Business Administration.

As you can see, they have quite different job roles—Adam as head of engineering and Jacob as head of sales and product management. But they pull from the same talent areas to succeed at work.

Here are the four talents they have in common and in the same order:

1. Analytical - searches for causes and reasons

2. Strategic - finds the best way forward

4. Achiever - has the stamina to produce results

5. Ideation - comes up with new ideas

Three of their talents are in the realm of Thinking. This means they are predominantly thinking-oriented and seek to do their work by thinking intentionally about it. Specifically, they analyze, strategize, and think up new ideas. But thinking isn’t all they do.

Their other matching talent is Achiever, which is an Executing talent. They like to stay busy, get work done, and be productive. What useful talents to have when you consider their job roles! Although the objectives of their roles are different—engineering versus sales—the core activities that drive their success are the same.

This suggests you cannot prescribe which job titles to pursue based on talent areas. Talents can be used in lots of different ways. What you can do, however, is understand which types of activities you’re good at and ask which job titles contain those certain activities. Selecting actual job titles involves other criteria such as values, interests, and opportunities. Talent assessment alone can’t select a job title for you.

Now that we’ve looked at Adam’s and Jacob’s talent congruence, let’s look at ways they differ. The #3 talent Adam has is Learner, which means he acquires new information, asks good questions, and seeks new experiences. This comes in handy for an engineer who is applying for new patents, learning about new methods, and applying for funding.

The #3 talent that Jacob has is Communication, which means he puts thoughts into words, communicates meaning, and pays attention to the audience. This is useful for a salesperson who can translate science into tangible practice, communicate value and meaning, and build meaningful partnerships. This is an Influencing talent that seeks to impact and persuade.

We can see that both men are strategic thinkers who use analysis and ideation to forge new paths in their respective jobs. They’re also driven to produce results and don’t spend all their time in their heads; they have feet on the ground too. In addition, Adam is adept at learning and integrating new information as he perfects products to bring to market. Jacob is adept at communicating meaning and value to stakeholders as he expands to new customers and partnerships.

Thank you, RIVANNA Medical, for this one-in-a-million thing that happened.

Reader, what do your talents say about you? What can we discover about your team? Let's find out!

(Thanks to Dr. Adam Dixon for figuring out the statistics. That goes beyond my ability.)
CliftonStrengths and theme names are copyrights of the Gallup Organization.

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