Identifying and leveraging your CliftonStrengths to be at your best as an individual, team contributor, and leader.

Achiever | Relator | Individualization | Developer | Discipline

There are a whole lot of “new year, new you” tropes out there every January (I’m guilty of using them myself). But this year, instead of looking for something “new” about ourselves, let’s look at leveraging something we’ve always had: our core strengths.

We don’t always recognize them. We don’t always use them. And we don’t always call them our strengths. (In fact, when they get a little bit out of control, they can become our hindrances. Too much of a good thing is sometimes just too much!)

No matter what you’ve called them, the truth is you have – and always have had and always will have – five natural, innate, core strengths. They are part of your being, of who you are, and they continuously guide your decisions and influence your actions.

A little background

The strengths I refer to here are based on the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment. There are many strength and personality tests – Myers-Briggs, the VIA Character Strengths Survey, DiSC, and others. But I’ve found I connect most with the CliftonStrengths assessment (which has also been taken by 24.4 million people).

CliftonStrengths was developed by Don Clifton after his experience in World War II. He wanted to understand how to “help people maximize their infinite potential.” He believed that focusing on a person’s strengths (rather than “fixating” on their weaknesses) was such an opportunity, and thus, strengths-based psychology was born.

Clifton identified 34 strength “themes,” which every person naturally possesses to varying degrees. Each strength theme falls into one of four “domains”: Executing, Influencing, Strategic Thinking, and Relationship Building.

Your top five strengths are determined by the degree to which you lead with them, and their specific order (first through fifth) influences how they may manifest and impact each other.

The likelihood that you have the same top five strengths as someone else is approximately one in 275,000. The likelihood that those five strengths are in the same order is approximately one in 33.4 million. So yes, we truly are each unique! (Exciting, right?!)

Applying strengths

We can look at strengths through myriad lenses – personal, career, family, volunteer, organizational, and many others. Looking through the professional lens, we can see how strengths affect both the individual and the organization. People who leverage their strengths often feel more productive, more fulfilled, and happier. It goes without saying that these are the types of people organizations want as employees.

Understanding your own top strengths helps you understand where you can perform best as an individual, team contributor, and leader. It also helps you recognize where you might need a hand (we all do!) from others who have their own complementary strengths.

From a team and leadership perspective, a solid foundation of strengths can help “depersonalize” perceived gaps in the abilities or work ethics of others. For example, Executing domain strengths will be good at checking the boxes and getting things done; whereas Strategic domain strengths will play pivotal roles in thinking things through, analyzing, and planning.

Sometimes, when not understood clearly, our own strengths can become at odds with those of others. For example, a clash could result when “always-on-the-go” meets “take-time-to-digest.” But, if we understand the strengths of others – perhaps one team member has the “Achiever” strength in their top five and another has the “Analytical” strength – we can better identify each person’s optimal role on the team, recognize differences in work styles, and respect and value the unique views and work products each person brings to the table.

Before you know it, you have understanding, respect, collaboration, and buy-in from all involved. A win-win all around – and that’s something we all could use a little more of these days.

As we move forward in the new year and look around for ways we can continue to grow and contribute to the world around us, I encourage you to look inward. Not at what you can change about yourself, but at what you’ve always had – your own unique, core strengths. Embrace your strengths!

Learn more:

Learn more about the CliftonStrengths assessment through Gallup. Or get connected locally to Strengths training through Leadership Rhode Island’s Make RI Stronger initiative.
(In full transparency, I have been through Strengths training and also serve as a Strengths Coach through Leadership Rhode Island. I am biased, but I highly recommend it for all individuals and organizations!)

Want to learn more about RDW or how we can help? Just give us a shout!