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Three Reasons You Need to Put Your Talents in Time Out

3 Reasons to Put a Talent in Time Out Blog Header Sara Thomas

The very thing that makes you amazing, talented, and sets you apart as a leader is getting in your way. Before you say, “But, Sara, how can something you’ve taught me is good and right about me get in my way?”

Hang with me, friend, I’m here to help.

What Time Out Is and Isn’t

Let’s start with what a talent time out is NOT.

A talent time out isn’t denying who you are or saying you’re bad. It isn’t removing that talent from your self-awareness either. It’s not moving one of your dominant talents to number 34 on your “Full 34 CliftonStrengths Report” either.

Got it?

Talent Defined Sara Thomas

So what is a talent time out?

Putting one of your talents in time out is simply hitting the pause button. Sometimes we can overuse, misapply, and get overzealous about our talents.

Consider when you place a child in time out. What’s happening at that moment? Honest answer: You’re giving the parents/adults a chance to catch their breath, right? But, you’re also asking the child to take a couple of minutes to pause, reflect, and regroup.

The same is true with talent time outs. This is an opportunity to pause, reflect, and regroup.

When should you put your talent in time out? Here are three primary reasons I coach individuals and teams to put their talent in time out.

3 Reasons to Put a Talent in Time Out Sara Thomas

1. When a Talent is Creating Problems for You or for Others

Stated simply, a weakness is a talent misapplied. Said differently, when your talents are creating problems for you or for someone else, it’s time to put the talent in time out.

Putting one of your CliftonStrengths talent themes in time out is not about discarding that part of who you are and how you are wired. It’s more about leaning into other talents to help you navigate the current dilemma, decision, or direction you’re trying to lead.

I coach a lot of pastors. One of the most common talent themes among the pastors I coach is Responsibility. I love the beauty of this talent. People exceptionally talented in Responsibility take psychological ownership of things. As a result, they do what they say they are going to do.


But, sometimes this talent can lead to exhaustion.

“I have to do…” “I told them I’d be there.” “I need to get this to James by Wednesday…I promised.” These are common statements I hear. We’d all agree, these are great qualities: follow-through, integrity, personal ownership, keeping commitments are great qualities to have.

Here’s the reality: the other side of those endearing qualities is people-pleasing, inability to delegate, lack of boundaries, inability to say no, and overcommitting.

And nobody has time for that!

The end result is the talent causes problems for you and for others, often leading to exhaustion. From the above example, putting your Responsibility talent in time out does not make you irresponsible. It makes you self aware. Lean into your other dominant talents to set priorities and make decisions. Or, partner with someone who will ask you the hard questions about how your responsibility talent is coming to life.

3 Reasons to Put a Talent in Time Out Sara Thomas

2. When Time Is Limited (and when isn’t it?)

Last week, I was offering feedback to leaders. Really, it was a compact, strengths spotting session for ten individual leaders from different contexts.

Hang with me, I’ll explain.

The ten leaders were competing for a $5000 check that would start a new initiative in their local community to share God’s love. They were pitching their idea to three different groups. Each group evaluated the pitches to identify one person to get the $5000. Think Shark Tank for ministry leaders.

As I listened to their 60-second pitch, I offered on-the-spot encouragement about where I saw their CliftonStrengths shining through. I also gave feedback about where they could leverage their talents to communicate their idea. Hence, a compact, strengths-spotting sessions.

A few times as I made my rounds, listening to their pitches, I found myself saying something like, “Lean into your Activator talent and put your Learner talent in time out for a minute.”

Why would I say, “Put your talent in time out?” It was getting in their way.

What Talent is Most Helpful in This Situation?

In the above example, it is not important to communicate your desire to learn more. What IS important is that you “get moving” toward the idea. Each participant had limited time. They needed to get moving.

You might not be offering a 60-second pitch. But, it’s likely you have a sermon to write, a meeting agenda to prepare, or an endless list of to-do items with a finite amount of time.

Here’s the challenge: Set a timer for fifty minutes (or five minutes – whatever time you have available.) Intentionally use a talent to get the task done.

Need to brainstorm sermon series titles? Set the timer for two minutes and call on your Ideation talent while you put the Intellection talent in time out. Don’t have Ideation in your top five? No problem. Who in your community does? Ask them to partner with you. The Ideation talent is all about seeing the possibilities. This isn’t a time for the deep introspection your Intellection talent brings. Don’t let it slow you down. Put it in timeout for two minutes.

3 Reasons to Put a Talent in Time Out Sara Thomas

3. When You Need to Remember the Value the Talent Brings

I remember working with a leadership team at an organization that had multiple areas of focus. Collectively, the team was saturated with the Strategic talent theme.

You might think that is a good thing. It can be a great thing!

It can also become a challenge. In this instance, the individuals were operating in silos, unwilling to see how their path toward goals was conflicting with the overall mission of the organization.

If they put their Strategic talent in time out to see again the value it brings to the team, they might have found a common connection to the mission. Hitting the pause button to see what we’ll miss if the talent isn’t in the room is a great way to remember the value a talent brings.

3 Reasons to Put a Talent in Time Out Sara Thomas

Consistently Apply Your Talents

Intentionally using your talents on a consistent basis will help you know how to lean into one talent and put another talent in time out. And here’s the good news: when you put a talent in time out, there are no tears, there is no whining, and the “nose and toes” rule silences even the most unruly talents.

So tell me in the comments, what CliftonStrengths talent theme (formerly StrengthsFinder) do you need to put in time out? Don’t know your talents? No problem! I’d love to help you learn. Take the first step and learn about your superpowers. Download this free resource to explore five clues to talent. Then, consider when those things get in the way. Let me know in the comments below.

Download Your Superpower Guide to Unlock your Five Clues to Talent Sara Thomas