I heard a persistent knock on our home door one Sunday. When I answered, I had to adjust my gaze down about 3 feet to find the visitor. Little Caleb greeted me with a “Hi! What’s going on?” and continued to banter with me for about 10 minutes, sharing tales of adventure — including breaking a nightlight on his brother’s head (I unsuccessfully tried not to laugh). He then shared with me how he had visited all the neighbors on his green scooter hoping to chat and meet people. I smiled and thought, “Now, there is woo in the making!”

It’s funny how no other Gallup strength inspires more of a curiosity by those who don’t have it, and more of a flourish by those who do, when it is called out at a conference. We typically all yell in unison “Woohoo!” Let’s dive into a deeper understanding of this strength and its special ability to influence.

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.

– Ken Blanchard.

Woo is about winning people over, as the name implies. It is an influencing strength, and as such its power comes in getting people to buy into an idea, concept, person or product. It brings a lot of energy and presence and is helpful with build engagement and helping others buy into a vision.

I was stunned when I learned I had woo as strength #4; in fact, I didn’t believe it. All I could picture was a used car salesman. As I asked friends for validation, I was shocked when it was unanimous that I had woo. Here are some of the insights I have learned as I shifted from denial to embracing this strength.

Upon reflection, I realized that I naturally combine my enthusiasm and rationale to win people over, causing them to love an idea as much as I do. I see my woo at work whenever I share my exuberance about something I believe strongly in or about. These views can range from why tent camping is awesome, to why I patronize Von Maur, to how leading by engagement is the most profitable way to run a business. If the person doesn’t agree, that’s okay. There are almost always others to engage.

A person with woo can sometimes be the ultimate greeter or host, making everyone feel at home. For some people with high woo, they can barely wait to meet the next person. This is where theme dynamics comes into play (when two strengths combine powerfully). One friend of mine has woo and input as her top strengths, and she talks about “collecting friends.” For her, these truly are genuine relationships. She plans to rent an RV and visit many of them this year. For myself, since I have relator and belief strengths with the woo strength, I can only “sell” ideas which I truly believe in. I prefer to develop deeper relationships, so “working a room” is of no interest to me. Remember — strengths play out slightly differently in each person.

Know When Woo is Less than Welcome
It is really important to know when to pull the reigns back on woo. For people who tend to be more introverted and highly deliberative, the energy that woo brings can feel fake. Managing yourself to make others more comfortable is part of emotional intelligence. For example, when I am meeting a group of scientists or engineers for the first time, I will turn down my woo and turns up my relator so I can build a more meaningful relationship and establish initial credibility quickly. Then, I can allow my woo to return to its normal level.

Position Your Employees to Use Their Woo to Benefit the Organization
If you are leading someone with woo, place them in roles where they have the opportunity to influence others. The influencing strengths, such as woo, are the least prevalent, and so it is critical that leaders take advantage of the employees that have them. In addition, when they get to use their woo, it feeds their need to use the strength, allowing them to feel more fulfilled and engaged. Put them on the front lines with customers and allow them to be internal/external influencers. In fact, these employees can be much more influential than those in management positions.
Some folks with woo may use social media; others may focus on in-person dialogue. While their methods may be different, their ability to move the needle is what makes the strength powerful.

Hone Your Woo
If you have woo, I encourage you to

  • Practice turning it up and down in order to be more intentional with it.
  • Watch others’ body language so you can be aware of how you might need to adjust your approach.
  • Learn strategies for making persuasive arguments. The book Talk Like TED has some great strategies for this.
  • Develop your ability to tell stories.
  • Identify what you want to focus your woo on so that when you do speak, you voice carries more weight.

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    Receive expert insights and advice from BONSAI Founder and President Loriana Sekarski as she introduces new ways to capitalize on your strengths — improving your organization’s performance as well as your satisfaction and personal effectiveness. Loriana’s how-to articles spotlight solutions to problems leaders like you face. Don’t miss out; sign up today.

    Loriana Sekarski is founder and president of BONSAI, a consulting company that transforms leaders (and businesses) into the best version of themselves. As a leadership coach, Loriana teaches leaders how to hone soft skills, spur workplace engagement, and achieve untapped levels of potential. Outside of BONSAI, Loriana serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University’s graduate student program. Additionally, she's fine-tuning her passion project, TakeFlight, a division of BONSAI that launches organizations, churches, and marriages to boldly live out their purpose by leveraging their strengths to achieve their God-given destiny. TakeFlight has just developed Revealing Hidden Shackles, an innovative curriculum that examines domestic violence within the Christian community.