What We Learned From Our StrengthsFinder 2.0 Challenge

Can you clearly communicate your top five strengths?

If you can’t, Chris and I highly recommend taking the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. We decided to take it because it accompanied one of the books (of the same name) on our list of 10 books to learn about yourself.  (You can either buy the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book to get an access code or get online access for $9.99 here. If you buy the book make sure it is not used because the access code will only work once.)

The StrengthsFinder assessment consistents of 177 pairs of statements. You have up to 20 seconds to choose the description you feel better describes you or it moves onto the next question.

If you want to get the most from this exercise, we recommend going with your gut and not overthinking your response. It will take roughly half an hour to complete. Once you’re done, your top five strengths and your unique twist on how you capitalize on those strengths will be revealed to you almost immediately. (If you end up taking the assessment, share your results with us in our private Facebook Group. Join UnStuckable.co to get an invite.)

Why It’s Important to Understand Your Strengths

Imagine if you were given the opportunity to identify and refine your strengths?  The path to success is much quicker if you focus on using your strengths, rather than relying on grit or brute force to overcome your weaknesses.

The Gallup organization (yes the same people who do all those polls) complied 40 years of research on human strengths to lay the foundation of what is now known as the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. They have identified the most common 34 talents. More importantly, they have created a language to describe these talents and a method to help people identify their own strengths. (To our surprise, this has never been done before! No wonder so many of us feel stuck!)

The lead researcher on this project, Dr. Donald Clifton, believed our society and educational system almost exclusively focuses on overcoming weaknesses. Think about it, when you got a “bad” grade in school your parents and teachers encouraged you to work harder in subjects where you didn’t excel. Does that really make sense?

If you aren’t all that good at something, more often than not you probably aren’t motivated to continue doing it or you might not like it at all. Chris regularly reminds me that professional athletes are a unique group of individuals in society who focus on improving their strengths to achieve success. (Here’s a great article about triathlon training that reinforces this point nicely.) The majority of elite performers in all fields do the exact opposite of what the rest of us do, they hone their strengths and don’t waste energy compensating for their weaknesses.

Building on our strengths boosts our confidence, empower us and make us more engaged in our work. It inspires us to be who we really are as unique individuals, instead of trying to become something we’re not. Your strengths are one aspect of what makes you unique. Improving your weaknesses is a quest for mediocrity.

Chris’s StrengthsFinder Results

Communicator

“You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public, and to write. This is your Communication theme at work. Ideas are a dry beginning. Events are static. You feel a need to bring them to life, to energize them, to make them exciting and vivid.”

Activator

“‘When can we start?’ This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real.”

Woo

“Woo stands for winning others over. You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you. On the contrary, strangers can be energizing. You are drawn to them. You want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up a conversation and build rapport.”

Competition

“Competition is rooted in comparison. When you look at the world, you are instinctively aware of other people’s performance. Their performance is the ultimate yardstick. No matter how hard you tried, no matter how worthy your intentions, if you reached your goal but did not outperform your peers, the achievement feels hollow. Like all competitors, you need other people. You need to compare. If you can compare, you can compete, and if you can compete, you can win. And when you win, there is no feeling quite like it.”

Strategic

“The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity.”

Chris’s Leadership Profile

Chris’s five strengths above are heavily weighted toward one particular leadership style. Communication, Activator, Woo and Competition all fall into the “influencer” profile of leadership strengths.

Influencer Leadership Style

“People who are innately good at influencing are always selling the team’s ideas inside and outside the organization. When you need someone to take charge, speak up, and make sure your group is heard, look to someone with the strength to influence.”

The StrengthsFinder assessment challenged what I thought of my leadership style by giving it context in light of my top five strengths.

What Chris Learned About Assessing His Strengths

I’ve put myself in the wrong bucket for years!

Before taking the StrengthsFinder test I used my own ideas and experiences to haphazardly pick the leadership profile I thought was a best fit for me.

The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment evaluates your top five strengths based on an overall set of 34 possible common strengths. Each strength is categorized into one of four “leadership profiles”.

Once you know your five strengths, you’ll then be able to determine your leadership profile. The four leadership profiles are:

  1. Executing
  2. Influencing
  3. Relationship Building
  4. Strategic Thinking

I was aware of these four leadership styles because I read lots of articles on popular personal development and leadership websites.

The “executing” style of leadership was always the one I felt best described my style of leadership.

The definition of executing type leaders starts with “They know how to make things happen”. Reading that made me think, “I’m totally an executing type leader. I’m always the one on teams, taking on visions and growing them. Isn’t that executing?”

I made three three important mistakes. First, I had never taken a strengths test of any kind. Second, I relied on my own gut feelings, vocabulary and definitions to categorize myself. Third, I was piecing together my experiences and painting a picture of myself that only I could see.

Now to take action.

  1. I will work with Stephen to share my leadership style and my top five strengths.
  2. I will sign up for a public speaking class to practice my top strength “communication”.
  3. I will work with Stephen to define three activities I can focus on for our team that play to my strengths and our teams needs.

Stephen’s StrengthsFinder Results

Learner

“People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.”

Strategic

“People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.”

Responsibility

“People who are especially talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.”

Intellection

“People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.”

Relator

“People who are especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.”

Stephens’ Leadership Style

My five strengths are distributed a little more evenly than Chris’s strengths, but it is still easy to see where my strengths are more focused.

Learner (1), Strategic (2) and Intellection (4) are all fall into the “strategic” profile of leadership strengths. My responsibility (3) strength is an “executing” leadership strength and relator (5) is a “relationship” leadership strength.

I lean toward a “strategic” leadership style with an influence of  “executing” and “relationship building” leadership strengths.

What Stephen Learned About Assessing His Strengths

I have to admit, the most important thing I learned about myself after taking the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment wasn’t identifying my strengths. I was more excited about how I can better communicate those strengths when I work with others, as well as sharpening my focus on different ways I can improve my strengths.

As I indicated in our podcast episode on StrengthsFinder 2.0, I’m always skeptical of using just one assessment to define yourself. No one assessment is the be-all and end-all. I’m using the information provided to me by StrengthsFinder as a reference point. A reference point to enhance my self-awareness and monitor more of my daily activities, habits and thoughts.

Remember, even within each strength there are infinite ways to express and practice that strength. Don’t feel like your strengths will limit you in anyway. The key is to explore your own unique versions of your strengths, accept them and build upon them.

Yes, understanding my top five strengths was satisfying and even validating, but It was not surprising to me. It did make me realize how terrible I am at communicating my strengths to others at times.  I can now better express my needs and how others can make the most of my strengths.

I’m not going to use my strengths as an excuse for not being able to work in a particular way. However, I can see how the potential for allowing myself to work “in flow” in alignment with my strengths more often, while at the same time strengthening my working relationships.

Over the course of my 15-year journey since being laid off, I have tried loads of personal development experiments. The StrengthsFinders 2.0 assessment has empowered me to want to dig deeper into understanding my strengths and to take action to improve them.

Ironically, I have been doing more and more experiments around how I learn, but I have been conducting them without any real context. This assessment has now given that to me. I can now better prioritize and clarify my learning experiments to both reinforce my unique version of learning as a strength and to challenge myself to better understand the boundaries of my strength as a “learner”.

What We’ve Learned About Working Together

Taking the StrengthsFinder assessment has given Chris and I another very cool benefit. It has given us deeper insight into how we can work more effectively with one another. Rather than focus on what we don’t like about working with one another, we have a more introspective appreciation of each other’s strengths, so we can now weave them together for an even stronger partnership.

For example, I need to recognize Chris’s need to “talk things out” to help frame his amazing ability to generate ideas within the parameters of our business.

And I (Chris here) need to do two things:

First, I need to remind myself to ask Stephen what he is working on each week. Rather than assuming he is not working. This is important because Stephen does some of his best thinking and working when he is alone.

Second, I need to give Stephen time to think and respond after meetings are finished. This is important because when I present an idea I view it as a starting point. When Stephen presents ideas they are already well thought out more often than not.

We both agree taking the Strengthfinder assessment was a valuable experience in getting to learn more about ourselves. Part of becoming UnStuckable is understanding our strengths and owning them.

If you take the assessment, we’d love you to share your results with us in our private Facebook Group! (Join UnStuckable.co to get an invite.)  

We also strongly recommend discussing your results with a close friend or co-worker to get feedback on how you can implement what you’ve learned about your unique strengths.