(Featured image photo credit: Bảo-Quân Nguyễn)
We all have talents and skills that we naturally excel in. There are certain strengths that we execute with such ease and minimal effort, and you can’t understand why others struggle with something so simple. On the other hand, we all have our downfalls as well and may not be so fantastic in other areas.
The problem arises when we’re only focusing on our weaknesses and not our strengths. Not only is it depressing to constantly remind ourselves that we’re useless, but it’s stressful when forcing yourself into learning skills that you’re not comfortable in or enjoy doing. This is where Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 comes in.
What is Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0?
(Note: In case you’re suspicious – I’m not affiliated with Clifton StrengthsFinder in any way, i.e., I’m not being paid to write about this. However, I’m starting to think that I should be. I’m just a true believer in its awesomeness and want to share how it’s helped me!)
If you haven’t heard of StrengthsFinder before, here’s a brief background of what it is. Maybe you have come across the book called ‘StrengthsFinder 2.0’ from Gallup by Tom Wrath? Well, this assessment and the book are all the same thing.
The theory of StrengthsFinder is that we are all born with different innate strengths. These strengths are so natural to us – we’re amazing at it, and it makes us happy. So instead of focusing on the negatives, we should try and fulfill our lives and the lives of others by recognizing our strengths and making the most of it.
Clifton StrengthsFinder provides an assessment to identify your strengths. There are 34 common talents in total that any individual could have, and the theory is that each individual excels more in some talents than others. On the Gallup Strengths Center website, you can choose to either discover just your top 5 strengths or to identify all the 34 strengths in the order that you most excel in.
You might be thinking, ‘Yea, yea… I’ve taken one of these personality tests before. They’re all rubbish. You can’t pigeonhole me into a ‘type’ – I’m a unique individual!’
Yes, you are unique, and that’s exactly what Clifton StrengthsFinder is trying to tell you. There’s 1 in 340,000 chance that somebody else has the same top 5 strengths as you. And there’s 1 in 33,390,000 chance that someone has the same top 5 strengths as you in the same order. So, yes, you are pretty unique indeed!
You can also trust that this is based on sound research. Dr. Donald O. Clifton, the founder of original StrengthsFinder, has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to research about individuals’ talents and develop this assessment. In 2002, he was even recognised as the Father of Strengths-Based Psychology by the American Psychological Association (APA). If the APA approves of his work, you can bet that it’s highly legitimate.
Escaping the labels and stereotypes
I hope that by now, I’ve managed to convince you that maybe the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is onto something.
So, how did I get into it?
It all started when my manager at work introduced the DOPE Bird Personality Test to the team. He wanted us to understand how each of us thinks and what makes us tick so that we could use this information to help create empathy and work more efficiently with each other. Although the results were meant to be more casual and fun, one or more of my team members had taken offence to the test results. They didn’t appreciate being stereotyped into one of the four available personality types. I could empathise with their perspective – I would like to believe that the whole world’s population was slightly more diverse than just being either a Dove, Owl, Peacock, or Eagle.
My test result had labelled me as a Peacock, who apparently loves being social but have trouble paying attention to details. My bird personality made me slightly paranoid, in case my team thought that this meant I wasn’t competent in my job as their business analyst. However, when I discovered that one of our developers and our lead test analyst was also a ‘Peacock’, I decided not to take the result too seriously.
In a pursuit of finding an assessment that provided more depth to our individual strengths and traits, my manager came across Clifton StrengthsFinder. And that’s how I started my journey in discovering my talents and what makes my life fulfilling.
What it means to be a freakin’ awesome superstar
I highly recommend for everyone to take the StrengthsFinder test to at least find your top 5 strengths. It only costs USD$15, and you learn so much about yourself with the comprehensive reports that you receive from it (a one-on-one session with a StrengthsFinder coach helps even more, but more on that later).
To give you a taster, here are my top 5 strengths and my short, paraphrased definitions of what they mean to me:
- Arranger: I can effortlessly organise other people and resources in a complex, changing environment. I also get bored easily and often like to shake things up.
- Activator: I make s*** happen and help turn ideas into actionable steps. I get impatient with theories and people just talking about things. My favourite slogan is Nike’s “Just do it”.
- Connectedness: I can see the big picture and the common goal. I understand how individuals are connected to each other (that must be my Buddhist side coming through) and believe that things happen for a reason.
- Individualisation: I love getting to know an individual and understanding their unique strengths, weaknesses, and goals. In fact, this theme emerges throughout the rest of my top 5 strengths.
- Analytical: I’m a logical thinker and data-driven. I want the hard numbers and won’t stop questioning until I’m satisfied with where the information came from. Don’t bulls*** with me – I’ll know.
The beauty of this assessment is that, although each strength comes with a standard definition, you’ll also get a personalised report based on how you’ve answered each of the questions in the StrengthsFinder test. So, even if you’re one of the 0.0003% of the population that has the same top 5 strengths as me (*high-five* we’ve got excellent talents!), how you define your strengths will probably differ slightly to mine.
Growing your strengths
I was very fortunate to be introduced to an amazing StrengthsFinder coach through my volunteer work at Women of Worth. It may sound dramatic to claim that my session with her was life-changing, but that’s exactly how I felt. She completely opened my mind to what my drivers were in life.
One of my biggest learnings was that just being aware of your ‘strengths’ is not enough. In fact, we usually begin with ‘raw’ talents which we then mature into ‘strengths’ over time. The definition of a ‘strength’ is when you’re making the most of your talent for the good of others and yourself.
For example, the Activator and Arranger talents of mine are very helpful if there’s a complex project and no one else knows where to start. I’ll inject energy into it and make magic happen!
However, let’s say that I come across someone else who’s trying to kick-off their complex project and they don’t know how to deal with it. I’ll eagerly force my advice down their throat on what I think they should do until they finally give in to me. My eagerness can be slightly intimidating and be suffocating for the other person. Just slightly. And if they decide to reject my advice entirely… watch out! I’ll breathe fire and tell myself (or the other person if they’re unlucky), ‘Well, that’s the last time I give you my great advice! Let’s see how well you do without listening to me!’
The above is a typical scenario when my family, friends, or colleagues come to me for advice. Often, they’ll never come back to consult me ever again. But by believing that I know what’s best for others, I continue to react this way.
I always thought this was the impatient side of me getting frustrated by others who weren’t as ‘switched on’ like me. However, my coach pointed out that this was me throwing a tantrum as the result of my ego (and maybe suffering from grandiosity). Ouch – brutal honesty can hurt. But I instantly knew that she was right.
She further explained that I wasn’t using my talents as ‘strengths’ since I wasn’t acting just for the good of others. Once I am mature in my strengths, I’d be giving out advice with no other agenda than to help other people genuinely. And if they decide not to take my advice, I wouldn’t get upset and would understand that this choice is entirely up to them. I’d continue to offer advice with patience and compassion next time they get stuck.
I’ll be honest; I think I’ve still got a long way to go before I reach my status of ‘saint’. But without Clifton StrengthsFinder and the greatest coach in the world, I might have never recognised this on my own and jeopardised significant relationships.
There’s so much more that I learned from my StrengthsFinder coach that I want to share with you, but I’m stopping myself from turning this into a novel.
Have you taken the StrengthsFinder test?
I’d love to hear what your strengths are (that’s the Individualisation part of me) – please leave a comment below!