“Well it’s good to talk with you today, Nathan. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your strengths.”
Now replace my name with yours. How would you respond?
When was the last time someone asked you to identify your strengths? Was it in an interview or an application? Were you joining a new organization, team, project, school or program? Maybe you were about to accept a new promotion or a new role with a new set of people. What did you say? Do you answer the same way each time? Do your answers change based on your present circumstances?
If I could share a proven method to discover your strengths accurately, easily and in a quick and inexpensive manner, would that be good news?
Over the next three weeks, I will be sharing three separate posts addressing how strengths are crucial to individual and organization leadership success.
- An Introduction to Strengths
- Strengths-Based Leadership Styles
- How to Build a Strengths-Based Leadership Program
In 2007, Gallup released a strengths assessment called StrengthsFinder 2.0 and a small book by Tom Rath with the same title. Using data from 1.7 million survey inputs, 40 years of research and previous thought leadership by Don Clifton, the assessment features 34 distinct strength themes. By taking the assessment, each individual gets access to his or her Top 5 Signature Themes. In the past 6 years, over 8 million people have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment.
What are Strengths?
According to Gallup, strengths are made up of three key ingredients: talent, knowledge and experience.
Talent: Talent is a natural way of thinking, feeling or behaving that is innate. This means a person with a particular talent can be counted on to operate from this consistent basis, no matter what comes his or her way. Since it is intrinsic, talent never changes and it only grows.
Knowledge: Simply put, knowledge is the sum total of the amount a person knows about his or her talent and how it applies in any given situation.
Experience: Experience is the amount of time invested in developing a certain talent. Just because someone is inexperienced doesn’t mean a talent doesn’t exist, only that it has limited application.
When you combine talent, knowledge and experience together, you establish a strength, which Rath calls “the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance.”
All the 34 StrengthsFinder themes can be found here. As an aside, my Top 5 Signature Themes are: futurist, maximizer, strategic, focus and relator.
What are the Benefits of Knowing Your Strengths?
Aside from being able to easily and consistently answer inquiries about your strengths, knowing your strengths has many individual and organization benefits. Here are a few of the most explicit:
Employee Engagement Skyrockets: Based on Gallup research, Rath quotes an astounding statistic that employees who have the chance to use their strengths at work everyday are six times as likely to have a high level of engagement at work.
Building on Your Strengths: For a talent to become a strength, knowledge and experience must be added. When you identify your talent, you are much more able to target your knowledge and experience priorities and become remarkable in those areas. In fact, the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book suggests many ideas for development with each individual theme.
Knowing How to Best Support Others: One of my favorite benefits of the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment is that it introduces a common strengths language, not just for individuals, but also for teams. This means teams have the ability to communicate on a strengths basis and to adjust their words and actions based on how they can best support one another in a team environment. The level of synergy is often shocking. Once again, the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book includes suggestions for working with the strengths of others.
Identifying Team Gaps: Completing the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment with your team will give you the ability to identify the gaps that exist on your team. Forewarned is forearmed. All of a sudden, team members with strengths that are in short supply become invaluable. Gaps can also play a strong role in recruitment considerations.
How Can I Discover My Strengths?
The easiest way to discover your strengths is to take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment for yourself. Simply purchase the book and use the access code at the end of the book to take the short assessment online.
For teams, I also offer a StrengthsFinder workshop through my consulting service. I’ll guide your team in completing the assessment and then give your unique team profile showing where your team strengths and gaps lie. I’ll give you suggestions for maximizing your strengths and facilitate a breakout session for team discussion. Contact me if you’d like to know more.
So who cares about your strengths? Do you? If so, I encourage you to invest in your own leadership development by completing the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment just like 8 million individuals – including myself – have already done.
If you’ve already taken the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, what are your Top 5 Signature Themes?
Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader. Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or follow him on Twitter.