Knowing what you are naturally good at is you best chance to tap in your potential at full speed.
In 2001, the book Now, Discover Your Strengths was written by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton was first published. Along with the book, Gallup® developped the StrengthsFinder® test.
Based on “positive psychology,” (in other words on what is “right” about people, not “wrong” with them) and on the notion that every person has certain strengths, StrengthsFinder® has broken these strengths into 34 categories, also called talents or themes.
To come up with the set of 34 strengths, the Gallup® Organization initially interviewed more than 1.7 million professions, across a variety of fields.The StrengthsFinder® test identifies a person’s top 5 strengths.
Before and if you decide to take the test (it’s not free – see more info at the bottom of the page), I recommend you try and do the following exercise.
Look at the talents you gave the best rate and try to take out a top 5 of Talents.
Find 3 people in your life, ideally from different spheres like family, friends and colleagues, and ask them to repeat this exercise (rating you obviously 😉 ).
Having someone else’s opinion allows you to have a new perspective on yourself. It always helps to see things from a different point of view. Plus it usually creates a deeper connection with the person you ask to do the exercise with!
People strong in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take immense satisfaction from being busy and productive.
- Lights: tireless, strong work ethic, leads by example, go-getter, hungry.
- Shadows: unbalanced, brownnoser, overcommitted, can’t say no, burns the candle at both ends, too concentrated on work.
People especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They may activate on thoughts, feelings, or decisions.
- Lights: self-starter, fire-starter, energy source, fearless.
- Shadows: ready-fire-aim, loose cannon, speaks before thinking, in left field(because others haven’t caught up).
People strong in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow”. They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.
- Lights: flexible, comfortable in times of change, easy to get along with, goes with the flow.
- Shadows: directionless, indecisive, sheep, inconclusive, whimsical.
People strong in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.
- Lights: Thinks things through, smart, logical, deep, thorough, comfortable with numbers, figures, and charts.
- Shadows: rude, short, tough, never satisfied with the answer, asks too many questions
People strong in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.
- Lights: flexible, organizer, juggler, aligns and realigns tasks to find the most productive configuration possible, efficient, conductor.
- Shadows: lacks structure, too flexible, doesn’t follow the existing rules or procedures, constantly changes priorities, lacks vision.
People strong in the Belief theme have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for their life.
- Lights: passionate, steadfast, knows where he or she stands, altruistic, family-oriented, ethical, responsible.
- Shadows: stubborn, set in his or her ways, elitist, unaccepting of other ideas, opinionated, goody-two-shoes.
People strong in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.
- Lights: charismatic, direct, driven, inspirational, easy to follow, clear, concise.
- Shadows: bossy, know-it-all, domineering, rude, abrupt, short, strong-willed, inflexible, stubborn.
People strong in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.
- Lights: storyteller, great presence, easy to talk to, energizer, entertaining, charismatic.
- Shadows: blabbermouth, poor listener, self-absorbed, show-off, always needs attention.
People strong in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.
- Lights: driven, motivated, No. 1, measurement-oriented, winner.
- Shadows: sore loser, not a team player, puts down others, self-centered, confrontational.
People strong in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.
- Lights: spiritual, “doesn’t sweat the small stuff”, strong faith, always looking at the big picture, helps others see purpose.
- Shadows: passive, naïve, too idealistic, wishy-washy.
People strong in the Consistency theme are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same. They try to treat everyone equality by setting up clear rules and adhering to them.
- Lights: just, problem-solver, policy-maker.
- Shadows: “by the book”, inflexible, unwilling to customize/ individualize.
People strong in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.
- Lights: has robust historical frame of reference, learns lessons from the past, knows how things came to be, can leverage knowledge of the past.
- Shadows: slow to move and react to change, closed-minded, lives in the past.
People strong in the Deliberative theme are best described by the serious care they take in making decisions or choices. They anticipate the obstacles.
- Lights: good judgment, identifies risk, makes solid decisions, can plan for the unexpected.
- Shadows: standoffish, aloof, cautious, slow, introverted, afraid to act.
People strong in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.
- Lights: grows talent in others, teacher, coach, enjoys helping others succeed, invests in others.
- Shadows: not an individual contributor, wastes time on low-potential people, spectator.
People strong in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure. Their world is best described by the order they create.
- Lights: highly productive and accurate because of ability to structure, breaks down complex into steps, great planner, promotes efficiency.
- Shadows: overbearing, rigid, mechanized, can’t handle change.
People strong in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or situations.
- Lights: creates trust, brings healing, knows just what to say/do, customizes approach to others.
- Shadows: “soft”, moody, over-involved.
People strong in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through, and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, and then act.
- Lights: point person, disciplined, purposeful, laser-like precision, identifies important areas quickly, goal setter and goal getter.
- Shadows: Absorbed, tough to relax, intense, stressed
People strong in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.
- Lights: imaginative, creative, visionary, even prophetic, inspiring.
- Shadows: dreamer, “Fantasy Island”, out in left field, lack pragmatism.
People strong in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.
- Lights: negotiator, can see both sides of a situation, great at asking questions, able to arrive at consensus, great facilitator.
- Shadows: weak, indecisive, not confrontational, avoids conflict.
People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
- Lights: improves on the existing, learns quickly, agile mind.
- Shadows: serendipitous, lack follow-through, creates more work.
People strong in the Includer theme are accepting of others. They show awareness of those who feel left out and make an effort to include them.
- Lights: invites others in, caring, engages others, sensitive, takes up for others.
- Shadows: indiscriminate, unable to decide, generous to a fault.
People strong in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.
- Lights: sees the uniqueness in all individuals, intuitively knows that “one size doesn’t fit all”, appreciates the differences in others.
- Shadows: unable to synthesize when it comes to people, has difficulty placing group above individual, difficulty in making people decisions.
People especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive information, ideas, history, or even relationships.
- Lights: great resource, knowledgeable, excellent memory, mind for detail, collects interesting things, excellent conversationalist.
- Shadows: knows a lot of worthless information, pack rat, cluttered house-cluttered mind, boring conversationalist.
People strong in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
- Lights: excellent thinker, enjoys musing, capable of deep and philosophical thought, able to work alone.
- Shadows: a loner, slow to act or wastes time thinking too much, isolated, doesn’t work well with others.
People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
- Lights: always learning, catches on quickly, interested in many things, finds life intriguing.
- Shadows: know-it-all, lacks focus on results, learns a lot – produces little, bookish.
People strong in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.
- Lights: mastery, success, excellence, enjoys working with the best.
- Shadows: perfectionist, picky, never good enough, always reworking.
People strong in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.
- Lights: enthusiastic, lighthearted, energetic, generous with praise, optimistic.
- Shadows: insincere, naïve, superficial, Pollyanna.
People who are strong in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.
- Lights: caring, trusting, a great friend, forgiving, generous.
- Shadows: lives in a clique, crony, has an inner circle, plays favorites.
People strong in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.
- Lights: committed, accountable, independent, trusted, conscientious.
- Shadows: micromanager, obsessive, can’t say “no”, takes on too much.
People strong in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
- Lights: problem solver, troubleshooter, finds improvements and solutions.
- Shadows: focuses on weaknesses, punitive, negative, critical.
People strong in the Self-Assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.
- Lights: self-confident, strong inner compass, risk-taker.
- Shadows: arrogant, self-righteous, overconfident, stubborn.
People strong in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.
- Lights: seeks outstanding performance, does things of importance, independent.
- Shadows: recognition-hungry, self-focused, needy.
People exceptionally talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
- Lights: ssees the way to go as well as alternatives and different paths, intuitive.
- Shadows: roverly quick decisions, doesn’t connect the dots for others, gets set on a solution (closed-minded)
People strong in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.
- Lights: outgoing, people-oriented, networker, rapport-builder.
- Shadows: fake, shallow, does not care about deep relationships
Clifton StrengthsFinder®, StrengthsFinder®, StrengthsQuest®, and each of the 34 Clifton StrengthsFinder theme names are trademarks of Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.
If you are considering taking the assessment on the Gallup website, my only advice is DO IT! I had the chance to do it early in my career as a team lead and it really helped me develop and grow both professionally and personally.
It costs 23€ (as of February 2022) but it is money well invested.