One of my, ahem, great strengths is that when left to my own devices, I have the tendency of buying all the books. On good days, it means having reading material on hand for every topic imaginable.
On not-so-good days, it’s akin to being trapped in an episode of TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive. But over the break, I used my powers for good and bought myself the Clifton Strengths Finder 2.0.
The book, which you can find through any major book retailer, amassed literally millions of interviews over the course of forty years to generate 34 most common talents. Author Tom Rath argues that from cradle to cubicle, the vast majority of people are unfulfilled in their careers because they are not in positions that best leverage their strengths.
As it turns out, my borderline compulsive need to collect books could actually be considered a strength. According to the Clifton Strengths Finder, this strength is called Input and refers to people who “have a craving to know more,” that “often like to collect and archive all kinds of information.” I think I can live with that. In fact, I came back from the holidays pretty infected with the idea that the whole Jet Cooper team should put the Strengths Finder to work. As a team, we could be greater than the sum of our parts if we all worked more efficiently within our means. It’s a question of capacity – if everyone is fulfilled and challenged in their work, their capacity within the organization would be much more sustainable.
So we got our hands on a few copies of the book and all agreed to come together and share our results at Show & Tell.
A neat thing happened when we all crowded around the meeting table to review our results – nothing was out of left field. Every time someone read out their results, there was a resounding ‘ahh, that completely fits’ from the rest of the team. The consistency was a nice reinforcement of the fluency with which our team works together and definitely pointed to the test’s accuracy. The Clifton Strengths Finder researchers surveyed over 10 million workers in the past decade alone, with in-depth researching spanning over the past forty years, so I’d like to think that their research is fairly thorough.
While we often overlapped when it came to certain strengths, we all seemed to have one or two strengths that set us apart from the rest. I think that’s where the real benefits of the test kick in, because we can capitalize on those more unique strengths and create teams that are balanced and productive.
Like Andrew pointed out, “We have situations come up all the time that don’t call for full-blown roles, but are more initiatives or endeavours. It would be neat to see who might naturally gravitate to a specific one.” By identifying niche strengths, we can start to mold our projects around strengths that are best suited to them.
The matrix was helpful in that it allowed us to position the strengths relative to each other to reveal an alternate facet of the data. I also created a points system that would take into account the ranking of strengths, so that we could get an accurate idea of how prevalent strengths were among the team. Assigning value to the sequence of strengths (and not just the number of people who possess a certain strength) gave us the true concentration of each strength.
Like Nick realized in our team session, the Strengths Finder points out the seemingly obvious, but presents traits that you might not admit or see as strengths. He said that there was “one I was most surprised by, but at the same time, what it was describing was entirely true. It was always there, I could always see that in myself, but I wouldn’t have used that to describe myself.” It wasn’t a quality he had articulated or really saw as an advantage.
There’s an old maxim that goes something like “we dislike most in others what we see in ourselves,” which identifies exactly what makes it so hard to leverage what we’re good at – we unconsciously resent our own strengths. Kind of a society-wide inferiority complex that encourages a preoccupation with our have-nots instead of a healthy incubation of the things we’re good at.
Afshin mentioned that it sort of plays out ‘the way a horoscope would,’ in the specific-generalization kind of way. There are a lot of broad sweeping statements, but the combination of strengths and their sequence that paints a clearer picture. What the test really does is make sense of the roles we naturally fall into within a team and reveals a bigger-picture outlook of our work and play. It functions on the premise that teams should be well-rounded because individuals on their own are not.
The insights you gather from the test may be somewhat self-evident, but you still need to hear it. It’s sort of akin to your mom telling you you’re good at something – she may be absolutely right, but you’ll be way more likely to believe it if it comes from, well, a more objective source.
But really, as if my home library obsession really needed enabling. Thanks Clifton Strengths Finder, for being eternally optimistic about my need to hoard.