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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about putting the humanity back into HR. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and author of “JoyPowered®,” a workspace game changing book. I’m here with Susan White, a national HR consultant. Our topic today is StrengthsFinder. I was first introduced to the concept of StrengthsFinder when I read the book, “Now Discover Your Strengths,” by Marcus Buckingham. Although I used the word fascinated, I admit, I was intrigued, but I took the assessment and then I moved on to the next book and the newest philosophy. In 2014, though, I read another StrengthsFinder book – and there are many out there – and this one really stuck. This time, I decided to get Gallup certified at the Gallup headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska about two years ago, and it has made a positive impact in all aspects of my life – personally, professionally and spiritually. We regularly talk about it as a family, and Purple Ink has a strength-based culture, and I even teach a class at my church. My strengths are Maximizer, Arranger Positivity, Futuristic and Strategic. Susan, what are your top five signature themes and what is your experience with StrengthsFinder?
JoDee, you know what I love about StrengthsFinder is the fact that it focuses on, you know, what are you good at, what are your natural strengths, and I feel like that is just a really positive place to really start any type of conversation about your life, your…as you mentioned, your church, your work. Just…I love the whole concept. So my top signature strengths are Woo, which is winning others over, Positivity, which I think is why I enjoy working with JoDee and working with Purple Ink many times, Maximizer, Significance, and Individualization.
StrengthsFinder is a positive philosophy. It helps us to focus on what we do well, what energizes us, and what drives us to get things done, be productive, and to just enjoy our lives. For many, it’s a bit counterintuitive, as most of us were taught to focus on what we didn’t do well so that we could improve on those areas.
I wish I could get back all of the hours and the days and the weeks that I have spent in corporate America where we would evaluate people and figure out, okay, where are they falling short, let’s put together an action plan and a development plan to help them get better at these things they’re no good at. Wouldn’t it be fun to stop and say, okay, what are the things that you are really good at, and how do we leverage those?
Exactly. I think the same thing. It’s so natural for us. Even when I teach StrengthsFinder as a class, I still continue to get so many questions around people’s weaknesses and how they can be better. It seems people are…grasp the concept of StrengthsFinder, yet still can’t get away from focusing on the areas that are not as strong for them.
I had a chance to use StrengthsFinder, actually, in the world of work that I found to be really effective. One of them was for a company that I was the Chief HR Officer for. We put together a leadership development program for our high potentials, and what we did is we pulled them from all over the organization and we gave them…divided them into three teams, and each of them had a project that they were going to have to, over a 12 week period, take a look at the problem and come together as a team and make a recommendation at the end to the executive management team about how do we solve this problem as a business. So as we pulled them all together, they didn’t know each other, and we had been through…we put almost all of our leaders through DiSC and through Myers Briggs and…and they…all the ones that were typical, but we had never put them through StrengthsFinder, so we decided that that was where we were going to launch the leadership program. We did a StrengthsFinder, and they just ate it up. It was so helpful, because as they built their teams and as they worked through solving this problem, they knew who in their group had various strengths and who they could rely on, and it just turned out really, really successful.
Nice. I’m a big fan of all assessments, and I think typically, when we take assessments, we learn a little bit more about ourselves, and that can always be helpful to us. But I think the power of StrengthsFinder, which allows it to maybe stick a little bit more, or maybe this works your team, is that people view it as being a little less judgmental, that you’re not just maybe falling into one of four quadrants or grouped into one of those four, where it seems that everyone in that quadrant has the same…the same type of personality. So I like that StrengthsFinder has come up with 34 different themes, that people feel it’s a little more individual to them, that they can focus on those top five strengths for them and partner with people who have similar or totally dissimilar strengths than what they have.
I do…I do believe people find it less threatening to talk about their strengths than it is to talk about what quadrant am I in, the good, the bad, and the ugly, of that quadrant. I’m with you.
Right. An interesting thing about strengths, that most people think of your top five signature themes as being what you do best, so therefore, your five that are at the bottom of the list, or your numbers 29 to 34, must be your biggest weaknesses. But ironically, Gallup has done a lot of studies on this to say it’s actually our top five strengths that can also create the most angst for us, or the most trouble with us, because we’re not using them as materially or productively or…. Susan, I don’t know if this happens to you, but with my Positivity, sometimes I…people will say, well, what could go wrong with positivity, it always seems to be helpful to…to be positive, but I find myself being naive at times, that I’m a bit overly optimistic or overly positive, that things will always happen the way I wish them to be or think they will be. Do you have a strength that possibly works as what we might call your “dark side” or your “shadow side”?
So, you know, I think Individualization, for me, I sometimes run the risk of it being kind of a weakness. One of the things I read in the Gallup book that I read about it is Individualization, it means when I walk into a large room with…full of people, I actually look around that room, and if there’s 50 people in the room, I see 50 individuals, and I immediately start thinking about each one of those individuals, whereas I’m just not good at clumping people together or grouping. Or I guess it’s a good thing, and that I don’t stereotype, but I truly see 50 different challenges in that room of 50 different people that I want to Woo, I want to win at each and every one of them over. But I’m not really good at, you know, being able to do things in generalities. I just I am really about the individual.
Gallup has a lot of statistics on people utilizing their strengths and how they have a higher quality of life and that they’re more productive in the work, that they’re more positive in their interactions with customers and clients and coworkers, that they feel better about the company they work for. So it’s not just a an individual philosophy of focusing on what you do well, but when we have groups of people working in teams or at companies, we can actually work better as a team and see the success through profits and productivity in the company as a whole.
You know, it’s interesting you bring that up, because I was a HR director for a business, and it was a really large leadership team – I’m going to say, you know, more than 15 people – and we were looking a few years into running it…our operation as a team, of ways that we could strengthen the communication with everyone and really the collaboration, because things were starting to get kind of siloed. And so we did a StrengthsFinder workshop, and everyone, of course, before they came, had an opportunity to complete the self-assessment, and then we brought the results. And first of all, it’s fun, because we’re talking about strengths, and so people really did enjoy that and it caused people to look at each other just a little bit differently. And from that point on, I wouldn’t say that, you know, we talked about it in every meeting, but periodically, we’d talk about, well, you know…you know, so and so is good at such and such, maybe we ought to ask them to take the lead on this. Or maybe we ought to draw upon the person who’s an Ideation person, because we know they’re going to come up with really broader thinking than, you know, if we don’t really pull it out of them, so we found it to be very effective in teamwork.
Right. Donald Clifton once said, “What would happen if we could focus on what is right with people versus fixating on what is wrong with them?” And that simple quote really has given me such a new perspective on on other people and even myself, as well. It’s easy for us to look in the mirror and think about what is wrong with us, but if we can spend more time focusing on what is going right, not just with ourselves, but with our peers, and then it’s a perfect example, you said, of thinking about what are people doing well, and how can we utilize them or think about them exhibiting that behavior more often, how can we create opportunities for them to do more of what they do best.
So JoDee, if someone listening today really likes the concept of StrengthsFinder, how do they get started with it? How can you bring it into your organization? What are the steps that you would suggest?
Yes, so anyone can take the assessment online at gallupstrengthscenter.com, or certainly you can buy any one of the many StrengthsFinder books out there which have a code included in them to go online and take the assessment. And then we’ve worked with companies a number of different ways. Some organizations got started because we trained the leadership team first, but in some organizations, we’ve worked with a specific department or team or a couple of small teams that work together, so I think it can start at any place in the organization. I don’t think it has to start with the leadership. Certainly, if the leadership team buys into it and then can help spread and support the concept in others, that can be most effective, but we’ve seen it work a number of different ways. We offer an initial two-hour workshop to just introduce people to the philosophy of StrengthsFinder, to help people understand their individual strengths, and for them to start learning about the strengths of those around them or other people in the organization. A second session, then, would focus a little bit more on the concept of team and partnering with others and creating powerful partnerships, where people can really thrive in a team by utilizing not only their own strengths, but incorporating the strengths of others, as well. I also have had my children take StrengthsFinder, and it’s just been…I believe it’s really helped me become a better parent as I understood the strengths of both my husband and my kids, and we consistently talk about StrengthsFinder at home and how we’re able to utilize our strengths or sometimes not.
Yeah, that’s wonderful.
I think one of the biggest questions I hear from organizations about any kind of assessment is how they keep it alive in their organization. It’s…I personally, and it sounds like you, too, Susan, have taken lots of assessments. And I found it powerful in the moment, but then the information sort of slips into a drawer or in the trash can and we forget about it, we don’t talk about it, where we’re excited in the moment, and then it slips away from us. Have you had similar experiences, Susan?
Yes, absolutely. I…I think about all the binders from all the training programs that I’d attended that were great in the moment, but they’d get dust on the shelf and eventually, a couple years down the road, I’d think, oh, that was interesting, and then I’d throw it away. Which hasn’t been true for me with StrengthsFinder.
Oh, good, good. And as I mentioned in the intro, it…it was a little bit for me in the beginning, and then I was introduced to it again and made it work.
The first time I took StrengthsFinder, I was on a team with…gosh, I’m gonna say about 25 people. And in the room, there was only two of us who were Woo – winning others over – the head of sales and me, and so it really was a great epiphany that when we needed to pull people in, to recruit people in or build sales or whatever, that the two of us really needed to step up and do the work, because it was our natural strength.
Right. Alright, Susan, we also have a guest who’s joining us today. Denise would like to talk about her experiences with StrengthsFinder, both in her former work environment and in her current work environment as well. So welcome to the JoyPowered® podcast, Denise.
Thank you, JoDee, and thank you, Susan. I’m delighted to be with you.
So let’s just start by, if you would, tell us what are your top five signature themes.
My five signature themes are Achiever, Arranger, Learner, Connectedness, and Responsibility.
And do you have a particular strength out of those top five that you particularly exercise or think about more often at this point in your career?
I love that question, JoDee. I think I’d like to answer that in a twofold way. One, how I used to use my strengths in the career that I was doing for 22 years, up till about a year ago. And then currently in my career as a StrengthsFinder trainer and other HR training components, how I use it then. So in my past career, I was a director, and I worked for a church, and I was very high powered in all of the responsibilities that I had under me. So the two strengths that I used most in that job are the two strengths that are my two top: Achiever and Arranger. I had many ministries under me, and I had to kind of keep all of those balls up in the air. One of the nice metaphors I think they use, as far as Arranger is concerned, is the metaphor of being a conductor. And I was like a conductor, having to conduct all of these different pieces of that job, and for me, it wasn’t a big deal. And I had to do all of that, in addition to raising four daughters. So it was really my Arranger and my Achiever that kept me going and drove me during that experience. Now that I’m retired from my full-time job and I do this as a part time job and absolutely love what I’m doing as far as teaching StrengthsFinder, I more use Connectedness. Now, that doesn’t mean that the others don’t come into play every day, because our strengths actually drive how we think, how we feel, and how we act every day, whether we know it or not, whether we’re conscious of that or not, and whether we’re intentional about that or not. But I notice more my Connectedness in play, especially when I’m presenting to an audience. It’s extremely important to me to, one, make connections with the individuals in that audience, and then number two, to help them connect what they’re learning from me with their work life, but also with their personal life. So I feel like that it’s my job to show them how fruitful all of this information is, both professionally and personally.
Yeah, great. And I think it’s important to note, Denise, you know, as well, that our strengths, our signature themes, don’t really change over time. So although Denise articulated that she felt like in her last role, she used her Achiever and Arranger more, and now, Denise, you’re feeling that you’re using your Connectedness more, it doesn’t mean that that her top five signature themes have changed, just that she maybe has more opportunities to use one more now than she did, that is more important to you to use when more now than you did. So we can still pick and choose some of those and how we strategically use those.
Yes, I believe that Dr. Clifton says that in StrengthsFinder, your actual top 10, even though you receive your top five after the assessment, your top 10 really never change, but they can change in order depending on your situation in life. So because I’m no longer a director, but I work under someone and for someone and so my responsibilities are different, so I can kind of count on my Connectedness more because I don’t have to be the chief anymore, right? So possibly, if I took it today, Connectedness would be first and Arranger would be fourth, but pretty much your strengths are not going to change.
Good. Good clarification of that. And Denise, for some of our listeners who are maybe debating about taking the assessment or have taken it and are trying to figure out how to use it, what do you think are some of the most important aspects of StrengthsFinder that you want them to know?
Oh, that’s a great question. My favorite piece of information about StrengthsFinder is that Donald Clifton, when he was studying and coming up with the strengths assessment, what he really set out to determine exactly is what goes into attaining success, excellence, and world class performance. So what differentiates the person who has those goals from the person who simply is, let’s say, mediocre in their everyday performance – not that mediocre is all that bad. However, what is it that…that drives us to excellence? And what he found is that individuals who keep their main focus on their talents and strengths, rather than their weaknesses, are the ones who truly excel and stand out above the rest, which I think is an interesting bit of information. According to Dr. Clifton, weakness fixing is not a strategy for success. I love that statement. I think it’s a great statement for us to understand personally, but also in the business world, in our professional world, we can spend as much time as we want trying to shore up our weaknesses, but our energies are much better spent when they are concentrated on what we’re good at and how we can improve what we’re good at, rather than what we’re weak at, and how we can maybe improve that somewhat. But studies show that if it is really in the bottom half or below average, as far as our talents are concerned, they’re never really going to become above average. I always like to use the example of when I was a young adult, I decided to take singing lessons, because my whole family sang very well except me. And so for a year and a half, week after week, I went to a voice teacher to help me be able to sing every week, spent lots of money on this, lots of time practicing. I was very faithful to the program. And one day, after a year and a half, my voice teacher was playing a particular composition that I was supposed to practice all week, and I thought I was singing it very well. And all of a sudden, she stopped in the middle of the aria, and she looked at me and she said, “Denise, that wasn’t too bad! You were almost on key.” And I looked at her stunned and thought, what in heaven’s name is that supposed to mean? And I realized at that moment that singing was not my gift. It was not part of my DNA. No matter how long I took voice lessons and how much I practiced, I would always be below average in singing, because I did not have that in my makeup. So I love to write, JoDee. It’s one of my favorite things to do. So how much better would my energy have been put to taking writing class for a year and a half rather than singing lessons? How much further along would I have been after that year and a half? But I kind of wasted my time. Now, okay, I can sing a little better in church along with everybody else, but I am not a good singer. That’s all there is to it. So I should have spent my time improving my strength – writing – rather than my weakness – singing.
Right. Great analogy for it, too. Nice. Have you ever witnessed, or can you share an example with us of seeing an aha moment with a manager or an employee when they really gained some insight about one of their strengths?
Yes. Actually, all my answers are coming in twos at this point. I would love to share a personal experience and then an experience that I had recently with a company that I presented StrengthsFinder to and spent time coaching their particular employees in that company. So myself, in my last place of work, I brought StrengthsFinder into the place of work. We all took the assessment and I had an incredible aha experience. There was an individual in that particular place that I clashed with the most, especially when it came to our staff meetings, and I was personally convinced that he would do and say things at staff meetings to deliberately offend me and get under my skin, and I was just convinced that we had this personality clash that was never going to be resolved. Then, fortunately, I brought in StrengthsFinder to the organization. The entire staff took the strengths assessment. We had a few workshops, and we…within those workshops, it was revealed that this particular individual had a strength called Deliberative. And a person who is Deliberative, after something is introduced to them, needs time to stop, to think for quite a while, to kind of look at all of the factors involved, and to really weigh all of the circumstances before he or she comes up with a decision. Well, that’s fine. That’s not part of my makeup, I don’t have those in my top five strengths. But being a trainer, I had to get all 34 of my strengths ranked in order so that I would know my full ranking, and don’t you know that Deliberative is my number 34, so it is 34 out of 34 strengths in my makeup. Which basically means I just am not Deliberative. That is not part of my DNA. It’s not a weakness. I just was not born with that particular strength whatsoever. Once I realized that his Deliberative was so important to the process of our staff, whereas me, as what’s called an executer, which, let’s go into that soon, JoDee, I am a quick thinker and a quick actor. And basically, the way I act in staff meetings is before the meeting is over, I’m already sending out emails that are part of my action plan post staff meeting. So I came to realize that that was the strength he brought to the table and that the group needed that Deliberative to calm down and settle down a person like me, who wants to take action before all of the possibilities are weighed properly.
Yeah. So I love that reflection of not only understanding something about your own strengths, but about someone else as well, and how they interacted. Actually, one of my favorite StrengthsFinder stories is also…by the way, my Deliberative is number 33, Denise, so I’m pretty close to you. And one of the employees at Purple Ink, one of her top five is Deliberative, and…although we had had a great relationship, so it wasn’t that she was getting under my skin. As you said, I…she definitely was a thinker, and I move quickly, I make decisions, and I move forward. And it took me a while to figure out how I could use that beautiful strength of Deliberative by asking her to think about situations for me, or to say, instead of calling her up and asking her to think on the spur of the moment, I learned to say, now, I have a thought, I want you to think about this and get back with me in a few days. So it not only allowed her to utilize her Deliberative strength more, but it forced me to slow down a little bit without having to say to myself, I need to practice being more Deliberative, because that wasn’t going to work for me. So it was a way for both of us to accomplish some goals and…and still be able to utilize our strengths. So.
I completely agree with you. And that’s actually true about all of the strengths. For instance, JoDee, you and I sit together with an individual…actually, two individuals now, who have the strength of Ideation, right? So when we’re working on a situation and we need to brainstorm, we know that our faces need to turn to those two individuals at the table and say, okay, start cranking out those ideas for us now, because you’re the two who are going to come up with the best ones for us today. Not that everybody doesn’t have ideas, not that everyone doesn’t have a voice during that conversation. But the two are usually coming up with the most outstanding ideas are the two who have Ideation. So that pretty much works with all of our strengths. We look to the person who has that power, who has that strength and can exercise it when it’s called on in a group setting.
Right. Right. Now, you mentioned that you had two stories, Denise. What’s your other aha moment?
Yes. Recently, I coached a whole group of employees before I went in and also did a StrengthsFinder workshop for them. And there’s one employee who is extremely intelligent, yet – and I had never met someone like this before – all five of his strengths are in what’s called the strategic thinking domain, and he’s a very quiet individual. And he was perceived as a very good person, but he was misperceived as being rather obstinate when decisions had to be made. But this was an individual who had Input, who has Strategic thinking, who is Analytical.
And so his strategic thinking strengths are so very strong that he can’t just come up with a solution or agree to a solution without having done all of the proper homework, getting the…enough input, thinking, analyzing, strategizing. And when everybody found that out, everyone else around the table who had more of a…for lack of a better terminology, “balanced” set of strengths, not all in one particular domain, they looked at him and all of a sudden, this grand amount of respect came over everyone, because he’s really the person who’s driving the truly good decisions that are sticking and are good for the long haul. And so all of a sudden, he went from, in their eyes, obstinate to superb in being the thinker of the group.
Right, fantastic. Now, you’ve mentioned this concept of domains a couple times, Denise, so I’ll take a minute and share with our listeners what that means. Gallup has defined the signature themes, but they’ve also grouped those signature themes into what they call the four domainsm and those four domains are executing, influencing, strategic, and relationships. So if you think about those four different styles as what might be most natural for people…so in your example, this individual had all five of his signature themes were in the strategic domain, meaning his first reaction, his first response to a situation would be to think it through. To think it through. What might be the best course of action here? Someone who had more of their strengths in the relationship skills, their most natural response would be to think…How will it affect someone else? How will it affect the people? How will it affect the group? Anything related to the relationship of individuals or the team. Obviously, execution, they’re thinking about, let’s go, let’s get it done, let’s make it happen. And then influencing is thinking about how can we influence others with our process, our thoughts, our ideas. I know you’ve heard me use the analogy before, if we were in a building and the building caught on fire, that…and this is a stereotype, very generally, but you think the executers might just jump out the window. They wouldn’t think about it, they wouldn’t strategize it, they might not care who else jumps out with them, they just jump out the window. Because their first response is to…is to execute something. People with…that are focused in the relationship domain would be most concerned about the other people in the room. It might be a particular person, it might be the group as a whole, worried about the group and the relationships. And as I sometimes say, they might be the ones that burn up in the building because they’re worried about everyone else. The people with influencing, their most natural thought would be to convince the group on what they think they should do. And maybe that is to jump out the window, to run out the door, to crawl on the floor, whatever their course of action is, or whatever…maybe the course of action was decided by someone else, but they would take it on to influence others to follow that. And then the strategic group might stop, think for a second or a minute or longer than others might wish them to, and think through the process. What is the best course of action? What are our options? What are the statistics? The analytical person might bring into the picture. What…you know, how do most people usually survive? What’s happened before? And think through that process. Now, remembering, again, that’s somewhat of a stereotype that we’re going to the core of those particular domains. It doesn’t mean we can’t do the other ones. It doesn’t mean that the guy you talked about with five of his signature themes in the strategic domain, it doesn’t mean he can’t execute, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have relationships, and it doesn’t mean he can’t influence others. But his most normal, natural course of action would always be to be strategic first.
And then think through the others. So sometimes people get concerned, and you described this individual…or, actually, you didn’t describe him, you compared him to others who might have a more balanced set of strengths. Denise, I would say there’s no right or wrong there, right? As to whether is it good to have all your strengths in the same domain or is it better to be more balanced. Tell us a little bit more about the theory behind that, about having all of them one domain or not.
Donald Clifton and the Gallup researchers, they believe that it’s really not so important to be balanced as an individual, but it’s very important for a team to be balanced. And I think that’s the way that theory goes, that as an individual, I, myself, I have three strengths in what are called the executing domain, and so I like to get things done really quickly and I like to start working on them right away, as I mentioned before, so I have what’s called a “fast pack,” when you have three in executing. But again, I may not think out everything well enough to come up with the best plan. So I could, if I were the one and the only one making a lot of decisions, is make a lot of bad decisions, because they require quick action, which is what I like, but I could lose money in the long run for the business if I’m not strategizing properly and getting enough input and thinking about how it’s going to affect people. But the important thing is, as far as those domains are concerned, is to have a nice, balanced team, to have people who are great strategists, to have people who know how it’s going to affect relationships, not just team relationships, but even in marketing your relationship with the public, how is it going to look out there. The influencers are the ones who who once the plan is set, they’re the ones who are able to sell people on the plan. They do make good sales persons, but so do strategists. So no particular domain is attributed to a particular profession. And…because there are more than one ways to get to a particular place or a particular goal, so it simply depends on what you’re strong in and how you can leverage your particular strengths to accomplish the goal that has to be accomplished by the team. On the other hand, I don’t have Communication real high in my my list of strengths, so if we’re doing something whereby Communication as a particular point is necessary, I am going to go to the person on our team who has Communication and say, hey, this is what I came up with, but because this is your particular strength, this is your particular gift, do you think this sounds all right? Usually, when you do that, the person who has that strength can take something that’s already very good, but then make it excellent. And that’s the beauty of StrengthsFinder. That’s how we achieve excellence and world class performance. Because we ask the best to fine tune our work so that it becomes the best that…so that it becomes excellent.
Right. I think it’s important to note, too, as you mentioned Donald Clifton a few times, that Donald Clifton really didn’t want individuals to know more than their top three strengths, because he felt like that’s about all we could focus on. And they…Gallup came out in the assessment with giving us our top five, so that’s…most of the 50 million plus people who have taken StrengthsFinder only know their list of top five signature themes. And we encourage that for most people, to…to only initially learn your top five so you can get comfortable with them, you can understand them, you can focus on them on a day to day basis, but after time, and once you’ve done that, many people are curious to obtain the whole list of 35 in order. Of course, our tendency is to go to the bottom, right, Denise? Because even though we…the whole concept is about doing what we do well, it’s more natural to look at what we don’t do well.
That’s precisely why Donald Clifton doesn’t want to give us all 34. According to him, all you need are the top five, because those top five predominantly, as I already said, drive how you think, how you act, how you feel. Those are your strongest drivers in your life, and they’re really the only ones you need to know. It’s human nature, when you receive a list of 34 ranked in order, that you go to the very bottom and say, oh, what am I not good at, those are the ones I’ll work on, because the ones at the top, I got those, I’m good at those already. But the theory is, yes, you’re good, but you want to go from good to excellent. Whereas if I go to the bottom, which I kind of did with my singing lessons, if you go to the bottom and try to work on those, you’re really, you know, it may be something where you enjoy doing it even if you’re not good at it, and if that’s true, go ahead and do it. But if you’re really trying to achieve excellence, you don’t go to the bottom, because you’re never going to become above average in exercising those strengths.
Right. And Gallup has research, too, that we really more naturally work out of our top 10 strengths on a daily basis. So even though most people only know the top five, it’s pretty natural for us to work out of our top 10. So if I can jump back to domains a bit, Denise, if I only look at my top five signature themes, my strongest domain is strategic, but when I look at my top 10, I have an overwhelming number in my top 10 in influencing. So I know, for me, when I first got my top five, I was a little confused about the domain concept, because I felt like it didn’t describe me as well as…although I felt very comfortable with my top five signature themes and thinking that that clearly were right for me, I felt like I was missing the way I had viewed myself over many years as more of an influencer. And that’s, later when I discovered my top 10 and realized that most of my top 10 are in the influencing theme, that’s where that was coming from.
Yes. And honestly, I have coached people either way on that reality, because there are some people who have said to me, “these are my top five, but I am positive that this particular strength,”…let’s use, “Communication is also one of my signature strengths.” And I always say to them, if you are so convinced, then it is. I am sure it’s in your top 10. And you don’t have to go back to Gallup and pay the extra fee to receive all 34 in their proper order as far as your makeup is concerned. If you’re sure of that, I’m sure of it when…when I’m coaching. But on the other hand, when I was at a coaching conference at Gallup this summer, they did recommend that if you’re in a long-term coaching relationship with an individual, then it’s good for them eventually to get all 34. It’s good for them eventually to see exactly where all their strengths lie on their particular report and which are the ones that they should be concentrating on and which are the ones that we need to compensate for because they don’t have.
Right. I also think it’s fascinating to me to…it may be something that we’ve done for years, or we’ve developed habits, and it’s easy to label a strength as saying, “Oh, I’m sure I have this one,” or “I’m sure I’ve had that one.” For me, I’ve, many times, given the example of, for years and years, not so much lately, ironically, but I have gotten up very early in the morning and exercised, and so it might be easy to think, oh, I bet JoDee has Discipline high on her list, which, actually, it’s very low on my list. But then you think, well, why? Wouldn’t you have to have Discipline to, A.) get up very early and B.) exercise on a regular basis. But that’s what I’m doing, not why I’m doing it. And now that I understand my strengths, I understand why I’m doing it is because I’m Strategic, and I know it’s important for me to exercise. And I think I’m utilizing my Maximizer in thinking, I’ll get the best out of my day, I’ll get the most out of my day if I get up early to get my exercise done upfront. So even in your example of the individual who thinks they have a particular one, and very likely they do, but many times it’s not the action, it’s the why, and it’s that deeper meaning behind what’s driving us to do it and not necessarily the more obvious answer that it seems to be.
I think that’s a great point. And I’m also glad that you brought up the term “label,” because we can fall into kind of a rut of labeling people with a particular strength, almost from the point of view that it’s a negative thing to have that strength.
And Clifton StrengthsFinder emphasizes how important it is to realize that every one of the 34 strengths is a path to excellence. When they studied excellence, and they studied every talent and ability that could lead to excellence, they came up with these 34 themes under which all strengths fall. And so every one of the themes is a path to something that is great. So none of them has a negative connotation. There’s no value attributed to any of them. Now, our society oftentimes puts value or rates value of certain strengths. Even in other assessments, like, let’s talk about the Myers Briggs. We know that there’s a cultural bias for people who are outgoing, who are extroverts, whereas people who are introverts get sort of a negative rap. But we realize, in truth, that this world needs both extroverts and introverts, just like, back to my example of my former employment, we needed Denise who was an executer, and this other individual who was Deliberative in order for us to really get things done. So there’s no bias for or against any of these beautiful strengths. They’re all a path to excellence.
Right. I love that. I think, too, Denise, we’d be remiss if we didn’t reiterate what Susan and I talked about earlier, about thinking that our top five signature themes can also be our greatest weaknesses at times, too, if we’re not using them for a positive reason, or in a productive manner.
To fall back on misusing our strengths to make those happen.
Yes. And I think, honestly, one of the things we didn’t talk about, JoDee, is how effective knowing your strengths is in your personal life. And I always say when I’m presenting that if you want to see the immature side of my top five strengths, or you want to learn what they are, ask my children, because they will be very happy to tell you how I can manifest the dark side of a strength.
Especially when we’re getting ready for company and the house isn’t ready; then my Arranger turns into Miss Boss Lady, and don’t ask questions, just do what I say. Which really brings up another issue, which is that, in addition to presenting this to corporations, to businesses large and small, one of the things I have loved doing…doing is presenting it to institutions of education. JoDee, you and I have both presented on the master’s degree level and the doctoral degree level to groups that are in education, and it’s so nice to see the kind of blossoming and dawning of understanding that occurs in those particular venues. We do know that…I believe it’s Purdue University asked all of their freshmen to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment during their…I believe they call it their Gold Rush week. So now universities have caught on to the benefit of helping students understand their strengths before they even begin to choose what their careers are going to be, which I think is outstanding. I actually gave a formal workshop to my entire family, and it was, first of all, so much fun for all of us to learn. I have four daughters, each of them has a husband, and my husband came, and two other friends and their husbands. And it was just so much fun learning one another’s strengths as a family. And now my family is very strengths-based and we have strengths dialogues constantly. And a couple of my sons-in-law, as soon as they went back to work on – that was a Sunday – on Monday, they both asked their bosses to take the StrengthsFinder assessment and several of their employees, and now they have strengths conversations. So it’s applicable across the board, and it’s a wonderful thing. And another thing, JoDee, recently you asked me to give a StrengthsFinder presentation to a group of young women who are homeless and pregnant and had no place to go, so they live in what’s called The O’Connor House. And I had, honestly, the privilege of presenting to a group of…I think there were 30 people in the room. And it was just a wonderful opportunity to see the dawning on the faces of those young women who, when they arrived at The O’Connor House, felt like they had nothing to give, and then when they learned their strengths – and they have wonderful mentors – and then all of a sudden, they’re empowered to understand better who they are and what they can give to this world by understanding their strengths. So it’s a wonderful process, I think, on so many levels.
Right. I love ending on that note, Denise. And you have used the term…I’m not sure if I have today, but frequently do use the term “strengths” interchangeably with the word “gifts,” and I do believe our strengths are our gift. They’re our gift back to our families, to those important to us in our lives, to those we work with, to our organizations. And I think it’s a privilege for us to be given these gifts, that we need to take responsibility to share back from others. And in return, we then can find more joy in what we’re doing by utilizing them. So thank you so much for joining us today, Denise. I feel, and hope that our listeners have been, empowered by thinking about strengths. If you have taken StrengthsFinder, to consider thinking about them in a different way or getting them back out and gaining a better understanding of the definitions and the terms around your strengths. And if you haven’t taken the assessment, again, you can go to gallupstrengthscenter.com – the cost of the assessment is $19.99 – and find your strengths. So thanks, and make it a great day.
Thank you JoDee.
Thanks, Denise, again, and also for our listeners, if interested in finding out more about how you can utilize your strengths, how others have used theirs, on the Purple Ink website, purpleinkllc.com, we have many blogs and resources available to you on how to better understand your strengths.
JoDee, we have some listener email. In fact, one of them’s on StrengthsFinder.
Oh, excellent. What’s it say?
Well, it’s from Steven in Kansas City, and here’s what Steven says. “My strengths are Strategic, Focus, Restorative, Activator, and Belief. I’m an accountant and consider myself successful because I’ve been promoted many times in my company. Each year, though, I receive feedback that I need to work on my communication skills, both verbal and written. Since Communication is not one of my strengths, but I know I need to work on it, how do I incorporate the concept of StrengthsFinder to improve?
So Steven, if we play off of what Denise just said, your company, your organization might ask you to work on communication skills, and you could do that and have some improvement. We can ask you to practice your writing skills by writing better emails or by getting feedback on individual emails or presentations to help you be better. But your real power comes only when you focus on your strengths. So if you think of it, even…even if it’s just thinking of this concept via a different language or a mind game, almost, to think about it as a strategic area, for you to use your Strategic or your Focus to help you improve without concentrating on the fact that you’re working on your communication skills. Even though that might seem silly, it will energize you more to think of it. So let’s…let’s take Focus as an example, although we could do it with any of your five strengths. How might you better Focus on your communication skills? And let’s even think specifically about your written communication skills. So each time you are writing something, whether it’s an email, or a blog, or instructions, or giving someone written feedback on your organization, take more time to focus on what was written and to consider it not just from your viewpoint, but from the reader’s viewpoint, from the person that’s being directed towards, from other people who might be reading what it is you wrote. And if you think of it in terms of working on your Focus strength versus your communication skills, which might drain you and wear you down in thinking that that has to be your area of focus or that has to be your area of concentration. By thinking about it in terms of Focus and utilizing those skills, it’ll give you a better return on your investment in that area.
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