“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” - Marilyn vos Savant, an American magazine columnist, author, lecturer, and playwright. At one point before the category was retired, she was listed has having the highest recorded IQ in the Guinness Book of Records.
Last week we held our annual meeting at our headquarters in Midlothian, Virginia. All twelve employees of GAAP Dynamics were present. We had a lot to talk about this year and it was a productive meeting. However, according to everyone, the highlight of the meeting was a session facilitated by Emily Schindler regarding the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment. For me personally, it was a life changing experience and made me realize that my management style (and parenting) needed a change in course!
Prior to the meeting Emily sent us a link to take an online assessment consisting of 177 paired statements. For each statement we were required to choose the one that best described us. The assessment took about 35-45 minutes. Each question is timed as they want you to go with your “gut” and not spend too much time thinking about your answers. According to their website, the assessment measures your natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Once completed, we each received our personalized Strengths Insight Report and Signature Themes Report.
These reports present your five most dominant themes of talent, in rank order, revealed by your responses to CliftonStrengths. Of the 34 themes measured, these are your “top five.” These reports provide a shared theme description for each of them, as well as your personalized strengths insights (i.e. what makes you stand out?).
According to Gallup, your signature themes are very important in maximizing the talents that lead to your successes. By focusing on your Signature Themes, separately and in combination, you can identify your talents, build them into strengths, and enjoy personal and career success through consistent, near-perfect performance.
I can say that I found the reports to be “spot on.” My top 5 themes of talent (in order) were:
I finally realize why I love my job so much. It’s because as the Founder and CEO of GAAP Dynamics, I get to utilize these themes every day! However, as noted by Gallup, these are just my talents. I have to work to develop them into strengths. For example, I believe my communication theme is a strength in the classroom when I am teaching U.S. GAAP or IFRS courses. However, I have work to do as it relates to my communication with my colleagues, spouse, and children.
The author and creator of CliftonStrengths was former Gallup chairman Donald Clifton, Ph.D. The story goes that as he was walking down the hallways of his local library, Mr. Clifton noticed that all of the books in the Psychology section were focused on what’s wrong with people. So, he set out to study as many successful individuals as he could, in order to determine what is right with people. This is how they got to the top 34 talent themes.
Emily shared the following quote by Mr. Clifton which resonated with me:
“What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?”
Holy crap! This was my problem. I am always trying to “fix” people (employees, children, spouse) focusing on how they can improve their weaknesses, as opposed to focusing on their strengths. What if I changed my ways? Could I drive better performance from my employees? Kids? Spouse? (I better tread lightly here)!
According to Gallup, “helping people play to their CliftonStrengths is the most time-effective way to improve their performance and engagement at work. Period.”
Are companies using it? Yes! Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook notes, “At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.”
Does it work? Well, according to this post in Psychology Today, there is a growing body of research finding that people who use their strengths more at work:
- Are happier
- Experience less stress
- Feel healthier and have more energy
- Feel more satisfied with their lives
- Are more confident
- Experience faster growth and development
- Are more creative and agile at work
- Feel more satisfied and experience more meaning in their work
- Are more engaged in their work
The post concludes by noting “and managers that focus on people’s strengths experience improved team performance and greater success. Studies have found that leaders who focus on the strengths of employees benefit from lower levels of staff turnover, higher levels of productivity, more satisfied customers, and greater profitability.”
That all sounds pretty good to me. Sold! “Hey, honey, I have an assessment I want you to take…”
Want to maximize your potential with CliftonStrengths? It is available for purchase here.
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