Damian, a client of mine, started coaching with me when he was “stuck” in his career and struggling to get promotional opportunities. In order for him to take a more positive approach to his vision and goal setting, I had him take the CliftonStrengths Assessment. Through this tool, he understood that his natural leadership style is in the strategic thinking domain. He can brainstorm many ideas to a problem, analyze enormous amounts of data, and is able to conceptualize objective solutions.
Instead of trying to “fix” what he perceived were weaknesses, he leveraged his strengths to set clear goals for his path to promotion. The goals included 1) being involved in projects showcasing his strengths, and 2) engaging with leaders facing multiple challenges who needed innovative solutions. After a year of coaching, he was able to get the advancement he planned for in his career.
The Clifton Strength’s Assessment was an invaluable tool in Damian’s success, but what is it exactly?
Clifton Strengths Assessment
The CliftonStrengths assessment is a behavioral tool designed to identify an individual’s natural talents. Once completed, the individual can then utilize those talents to cultivate natural strengths they can use in the workplace, or beyond. With over 30 million assessments completed worldwide, it is the leading assessment among all other positive psychology tools.
Users complete a 177-question test in an average time of 30 minutes. From there, a series of personalized reports are generated and, dependent on the cost structure, an individual can determine their top 5 talent themes or an order of all 34 talent themes.
The questions in the assessment are all related to characteristics categorized into 34 talent themes. The 34 talent themes are further categorized into domains. Domains identify a pattern of themes and help to generally define an individual’s key strengths.
As defined by Gallup, the 4 Strengths Domains are:
No individual can be excellent at everything, but that is the beauty of the tool. Rather than focus on deficiencies, the Strength’s Finder identifies the individual’s unique set of strengths. Over 4 decades of Gallup research shows that the probability of having identical strengths as another is 1 in 33 million!
Benefits of the tool
The CliftonStrengths assessment focuses on an individual’s strengths and how to apply those strengths effectively. It also has other positive features, such as identifying where an individual gains energy from and what are strong motivators for peak performance.
There is a level of specificity that the CliftonStrengths assessment provides that is very individualized to the person taking the assessment, as it identifies key characteristics of someone’s strengths based on the order of the talent themes. For example, two individuals on a team may have competition as a top talent theme, but for each, in combination with their other unique talent themes, it will manifest differently. One individual may strive through external competition in measuring themselves against someone else’s performance whereas another individual may strive through internal competition and always wanting to achieve better for themselves.
Research shows that understanding our strengths works
Strengths tell us about what we do best. Aiming our strengths gets us to our goals faster rather than investing our energy into fixing our weaknesses. As shown in the schematic below, workplace research done by the Gallup organization shows measurable success by investing in strengths based development.
In the coaching example with Damian, he was able to learn from his reports, and then understand that he does not perform best when brainstorming solutions with a team but rather when he has time alone to think through a solution.
How is the tool different from others
Most behavioral assessments, especially those that are used in the workplace for the purposes of leadership development, identify an individual’s weaknesses. Research shows a strong correlation between high achieving leaders and the desire for perfection, so this focus on weakness seems “logical,” but this may actually hinder growth and professional development. So the challenge in using most personality and behavioral assessments is that a high achieving individual will focus on the weaknesses written in a report.
The tool is empowering, enlightening, and a morale booster. It helps not only individuals, but also teams on how to recognize their greatness and use that greatness to grow, develop, and fulfill goals. Use of the tool, analyzing and communicating the results, helps to promote a strengths-based culture – a culture where we value the contributions of individual members to create a positive, inclusive atmosphere to move forward. Accepting how different individuals are in the workplace, yet knowing their unique strengths, can aim individuals to collectively move the entire team forward.
Here are some ideas on when to use it:
Now that you know what the CliftonStrengths assessment is and how it can be helpful, let’s talk action. What will you do after you read this? When will you take the assessment? How will you have your team take it? And lastly, how will you analyze the results? Contact me and I can help you navigate the process.
Aashi Arora, MHA