What are my strengths? How do I find out what they are? It’s probably safe to say that you already have your own ideas and impressions of where your strengths and weaknesses lie. On the other hand, you’ve probably heard that familiar phrase that sometimes other folks “know you better than you know yourself”.
But maybe there’s a more objective way to uncover your strengths without having to survey your family, friends, or colleagues who might even have differing or conflicting definitions of the strengths themselves. I think this is where StrengthsFinder 2.0 or SF2 seems to be leading the way in popularizing and addressing the issue of focusing efforts on your more-productive strengths, and not wasting time on your less-productive weaknesses.
Hi, my name is Jay, and I’m an IBM TRIRIGA information developer at IBM. Now that we’re well into autumn, it’s also the season for many businesses and organizations to conduct their annual performance reviews. IBM is no exception. With these thoughts of performance goals and personal strengths in mind, I stumbled across my old intranet blog post from April 2012 about StrengthsFinder 2.0. Guess what? I decided to take a free SF2 assessment test for the third time. If you want to know my results, you’ll have to continue reading. :)
What is StrengthsFinder 2.0? Have you ever heard of SF2?
Chances are good that you haven’t heard of it. In my case, I hadn’t heard of it until last year. Essentially, it’s a self-help guide by the Gallup organization for those who are having difficulties with discovering their true career talents. But it’s also a conceptual dictionary or vocabulary for communicating our talents to others in terms of 34 themes. I find the latter purpose more compelling.
Back in early April 2012, after stumbling upon an SF2 presentation in an IBM Connections community, then becoming thoroughly fascinated by SF2, I was restless enough and lucky enough to find a free but close approximation of the SF2 assessment test on the web. About 15 to 20 minutes later, I was pretty impressed by the results of my test. Regardless of how scientifically accurate or approximate the free test was, the results captured a snapshot of my top 3 talents pretty well!
- (1) Learner (YouTube: 1 minute) – “You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you.”
- (2) Ideation (YouTube: 1 minute) – “You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection.”
- (3) Self-Assurance (YouTube: 1 minute) – “Self-Assurance is similar to self-confidence. In the deepest part of you, you have faith in your strengths. You know that you are able — able to take risks, able to meet new challenges, able to stake claims, and, most important, able to deliver.”
In late April 2012, two weeks after the first test, I was curious enough to take the free SF2-like test again and see if anything changed. Although Gallup mysteriously and strongly discourages this practice by distributing a one-time-only access code with each SF2 book, I don’t treat the assessment so purely or too seriously. In fact, 15 to 20 minutes later, I noticed a few intriguing changes. But to smooth out the spikes from snapshot to snapshot, I averaged both results instead. I was still pretty impressed. My top 3 talents didn’t change after all. Not bad!
Then in early November 2013, more than 18 months after my last test, my curiosity returned and urged me to take the free SF2-like test for the third time. About 30 minutes later, I averaged all 3 test results. Once again, I noticed a few intriguing changes. For example, across the 3 snapshots, my Discipline talent stayed in the top 5, my Positivity talent fell out of the top 5, while my Activator talent rose into the top 5. In other words, my impulse to smile gave way to my impulse to act. In many ways, that’s true. So I was still very impressed. Otherwise, my top 3 talents didn’t change at all. Amazing!
- (4) Discipline (YouTube: 1 minute) – “Your world needs to be predictable. It needs to be ordered and planned. So you instinctively impose structure on your world. You set up routines. You focus on timelines and deadlines. You break long-term projects into a series of specific short-term plans, and you work through each plan diligently.”
- (5) Activator (YouTube: 1 minute) – “When can we start? This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance.”
- (8) Positivity (YouTube: 1 minute) – “You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation. Some call you lighthearted. Others just wish that their glass were as full as yours seems to be. But either way, people want to be around you.”
What are my final thoughts?
Yet, after reading my results and agreeing with them, there’s not much to do that I’m not already doing. As a snapshot of my talents, the SF2 assessment test can be compared to a blood test as a snapshot of my physical fitness. For example, if I’ve been following my daily P90X and P90X2 workouts consistently for almost 4 years, then chances are good that I’m pretty healthy, and I don’t necessarily need a blood test to improve my fitness. But it’s nice to confirm it.
Similarly, if I’ve been aggressively learning more, and pushing myself in the office, while also enjoying myself in the process, then chances are good that I’m fully engaging my talents as strengths, and I don’t necessarily need an SF2-like test to improve my direction. But it’s nice to confirm it. However, for others who constantly find themselves struggling at work, then an SF2 assessment might reveal overlooked talents and recommend a brand new direction.
Nevertheless, whether you’re excelling or wandering in your career, whether your colleagues adore or ignore the StrengthsFinder 2.0 philosophy, its vocabulary of 34 themes provides a shared vehicle for understanding and discussing our talents and strengths with others. For instance, if I tell you that my strongest talents are Learner and Ideation, and you’re already familiar with the themes, then you’ll more easily get the idea that I love the process of learning new things and connecting ideas together. Sharing that simple concept is powerful. Consequently, that clarity of communication is much more compelling than the snapshots alone.
So what are my next steps? What are my next action items? Well, I’m pretty lucky. Like I said, there’s not much to do that I’m not already doing. But I can look into doing more, right? Otherwise, if I keep doing what I’m doing and enjoy doing it, I should be fine. :)
Do I have an update?
Ten months after sharing my StrengthsFinder strengths, I found myself hacking the API Matrix!
Fourteen months after sharing my StrengthsFinder strengths, I was cracking the Korean language!
- Working In Your Strengths (ChrisLoCurto.com)
- Why Your Performance Review Sucks (thomaslarock.com)
- How Technology Changes The Skills We Need To Learn (forbes.com)