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Strengths Are a Big Deal for Small Business Owners

February 29, 2024

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Kari Gillenwater is a consultant who helps business owners build their brands, their businesses, and their teams. 

“I’m very fortunate I get to work in the small business owner world,” she shared with the Powered by Instinct podcast.  “I specialize more in the finance area, but I also have different clients that I get through referrals, and so I get to work with small to medium business owners. And I love it because I get to help support them to build a team around them so they can entrepreneur the way they need to.” 

The Foundations of a Strengths-Based Business 

As a Kolbe Certified™ Consultant, Kari is adept at identifying exactly what “entrepreneur the way they need to” means for them. Kari uses Kolbe as a door opener to her consulting services. The first thing she does is make sure the business owner takes a Kolbe A™ Index. 

“So if I meet a business owner on a plane and we talk, I’m like, I’ll send you a Kolbe,” she explained. “And then once we do the interpretation and they love it, then we talk about what can we to help their  teams. And that usually leads to me doing Kolbe A’s and B™’s for their entire team.” 

Kari then does a team debrief, and then comes in to do an on-site workshop or program designed to integrate Kolbe with their team. 

From there, she might do leadership coaching, or she might do a strategic summit with the team to really drill in on a focus for the year and what strengths and which team members are going to be needed to reach big goals. 

The result is higher employee engagement, better alignment of strengths to roles, better collaboration and communication, and increased productivity. 

But honing in on natural strengths often does even more for the leaders Kari works with; it can give them purpose.  

“I talk about not being a boss, but being a leader,” she explained, “And I believe that knowing your Kolbe and knowing your team’s Kolbe’s really can help you much more lean into being a leader and empowering your people as opposed to here’s a task, do it.” 

There’s No One Way to Be a CEO 

By adding Kolbe to her coaching repertoire, Kari has been able to expand her business. She now has clients in Luxembourg, London, Singapore, Thailand, Ireland, and Australia, and the examples of Kolbe providing “aha moments” for leaders and teams are too plentiful to count. But one particular example stuck out in Kari’s mind in the interview. 

“I worked with a truck company and the entrepreneur was an Initiating Implementor as the CEO. I don’t find that a lot in the industries that I work with, and he was really struggling. He’s like, I don’t think I’m cut out to be a CEO.” 

Why would you say that? Kari asked him 

I just don’t act like everybody else, he replied. Everyone else is doing this and this and this. 

“And that’s when I say you’re kind of ‘shoulding’ all over yourself,” she told him. “Like, I should be this way. I should be that way. And so we really talked about what he loves and what lights him up.” 

And so, they talked about what lights him up. And one of the things he explained was that, as a CEO, he wasn’t able to be on the tarmac anymore with the guys in the trucks. He wasn’t able to get outside and fix things, which is how he naturally operates as an Initiating Implementor. 

Kari had a solution. 

“I told him, you spend three hours a week out on the tarmac, in your coveralls with your guys, fixing stuff, doing stuff. And instead of constantly being on Zoom, get up, go move into the office, go talk to somebody there, or travel, go get on a plane, go be in person to some of your most important clients.” 

“And once we started doing that, he was so much happier! He was like, I can do this!” 

He just had to align his work with his strengths. But that wasn’t all. 

Finding the Right Fit for Everyone 

“Another thing in that company,” Kari continued, “is we found that the Director of Compliance and the Director of Safety were literally in the wrong seats and they were both miserable. Their Kolbe B’s were just completely misaligned.” 

Kari suggested they switch roles.  

And they did. And six months later, everyone was happy and things were running so much smoother. The CEO and his team members were now comfortable with daily tasks that gave them the freedom to be themselves. 

“Kolbe is so prescriptive that we switched them,” said Kari. “They were in the wrong seats and it was that simple. So that’s a really favorite case study of mine. I have a million.” 

Ready for your strengths-based success story? The best first step is to take the Kolbe A Index and discover your MO. 

Take the Kolbe A Index
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