My top 5 StrengthsFinder 2.0 themes December 27, 2010 Charles So many “personality” exams focus on fixing our shortcomings instead of identifying and developing our strengths. Going against that trend, I recently took the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, and it identified the following five strengths or themes as my top five: Input, Intellection, Communication, Responsibility and Learner. It also created an action plan for me to follow for each of my top five strengths: Input People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information. By nature, you may be well-read in certain fields. Sometimes you gather information that benefits you personally and/or professionally. Perhaps you comprehend what you read, catalog it in your mind, and somehow document it. This might prevent specific individuals from saying you are ordinary, average, or plain. To some degree, you care about what particular people think of you. You might want them to regard you as knowledgeable, believable, and accomplished. Because of your strengths, you sometimes feast on the written word. Perhaps others find you poring over — that is, studiously reading — a book to acquire a few simple facts or to deepen your understanding of a favorite topic. Because you are well read, you might be able to provide people with certain kinds of information they need. Driven by your talents, you have acquired a sophisticated vocabulary, comprised of technical, subject-specific, or complicated words. Whenever you describe the intricate steps of procedures, you are likely to rely on this terminology. Your attention to detail works to your advantage when you are addressing experts. Because you comprehend the meanings of their words, you can talk about how things function in a language they understand. Instinctively, you periodically are comfortable having time to yourself. Perhaps these interludes provide you with an opportunity to read. Whether you are sitting on a quiet beach or in a crowded airport terminal, you might be able to create your own space with a book, magazine, newspaper, document, or correspondence. Gleaning certain kinds of information, inspiration, or insights from these sources might make your relaxation a bit more pleasurable or your delays a bit more tolerable. It’s very likely that you tend to express your doubts about various ideas, theories, or concepts. Using your brainpower, you put aside your emotions while calmly absorbing as much information as you can. Even though you may have never experienced a particular situation, event, opportunity, or dilemma, you exhibit the mental capacity to project yourself into it. Lively conversations with intelligent individuals stimulate your thinking about abstract or complex topics. Look for jobs in which you are charged with acquiring new information each day, such as teaching, research, or journalism. Devise a system to store and easily locate information. This can be as simple as a file for all the articles you have clipped or as sophisticated as a computer database. Partner with someone with dominant Focus or Discipline talents. This person will help you stay on track when your inquisitiveness leads you down intriguing but distracting avenues. Your mind is open and absorbent. You naturally soak up information in the same way that a sponge soaks up water. But just as the primary purpose of the sponge is not to permanently contain what it absorbs, neither should your mind simply store information. Input without output can lead to stagnation. As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them. You might naturally be an exceptional repository of facts, data, and ideas. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to position yourself as an expert. By simply following your Input talents, you could become known as the authority in your field. Remember that you must be more than just a collector of information. At some point, you’ll need to leverage this knowledge and turn it into action. Make a point of identifying the facts and data that would be most valuable to others, and use this information to their advantage. Identify your areas of specialization, and actively seek more information about them. Schedule time to read books and articles that stimulate you. Deliberately increase your vocabulary. Collect new words, and learn the meaning of each of them. Identify situations in which you can share the information you have collected with other people. Also make sure to let your friends and colleagues know that you enjoy answering their questions. Intellection People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions. It’s very likely that you have new ideas whirling around in your head much of the time. You are very interested in solving problems, conceiving new concepts, designing plans, or understanding everyday matters. Driven by your talents, you sometimes sit down with a book simply because you are eager to discover new ideas. Through the printed word, you have made the acquaintance of some very interesting fictional characters and real people. Because of your strengths, you are sometimes a critical reader. That is, you occasionally take apart writers’ ideas and examine them bit by bit. Afterward, you might be able to judge whether specific thoughts have merit. To some extent, your scrutiny of the printed word, rather than your emotions, guides your decision-making process. Instinctively, you may be fascinated by the printed word. Particular books, magazines, newspapers, correspondence, or Internet sites intrigue you. Whether you choose fiction or nonfiction, you might feast on facts and insights into human behavior. Ordinary and extraordinary experiences, philosophies of life, or research findings might captivate you. Guided by your interests, perhaps you can add a few ideas to your storehouse of knowledge when you take time to read. By nature, you might be well-read in particular subjects. Some people whom you have befriended may turn to you for guidance. By referring to something you have read, occasionally you can help a person see a specific situation or a particular problem from a different perspective. For you, reading might be a key that opens the door to a world of fresh ideas. Maybe you collect them; never knowing whether something you read will benefit someone else. Consider beginning or continuing your studies in philosophy, literature, or psychology. You will always enjoy subjects that stimulate your thinking. List your ideas in a log or diary. These ideas will serve as grist for your mental mill, and they might yield valuable insights. Deliberately build relationships with people you consider to be “big thinkers.” Their example will inspire you to focus your own thinking. People may think you are aloof or disengaged when you close your door or spend time alone. Help them understand that this is simply a reflection of your thinking style, and that it results not from a disregard for relationships, but from a desire to bring the most you can to those relationships. You are at your best when you have the time to follow an intellectual trail and see where it leads. Get involved on the front end of projects and initiatives, rather than jumping in at the execution stage. If you join in the latter stages, you may derail what has already been decided, and your insights may come too late. Engaging people in intellectual and philosophical debate is one way that you make sense of things. This is not the case for everyone. Be sure to channel your provocative questions to those who similarly enjoy the give and take of debate. Schedule time for thinking; it can be energizing for you. Use these occasions to muse and reflect. Take time to write. Writing might be the best way for you to crystallize and integrate your thoughts. Find people who like to talk about the same issues you do. Organize a discussion group that addresses your subjects of interest. Encourage people around you to use their full intellectual capital by reframing questions for them and by engaging them in dialogue. At the same time, realize that there will be some who find this intimidating and who need time to reflect before being put on the spot. Communication People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters. Because of your strengths, you sometimes enjoy being the person who gets people talking. When outsiders or newcomers have little or nothing to say, you might find a way to involve some of them in the dialogue. Instinctively, you select the right combination of words to convey your ideas or feelings. In the middle of discussions, your vocabulary provides you with precise phrases and terminology. You probably express yourself with ease and grace. By nature, you may feel comfortable speaking to a variety of individuals or audiences. Chances are good that you may gravitate to groups whose members love to exchange information, ideas, opinions, stories, or jokes. Perhaps you have an easy time sharing your thoughts and feelings with people. Driven by your talents, you are comfortable telling others stories about your personal habits, qualities, experiences, or background. Your forthcoming nature probably enables others to share their thoughts and feelings with you. You will always do well in roles that require you to capture people’s attention. Think about a career in teaching, sales, marketing, ministry, or the media. Your Communication talents are likely to flourish in these areas. Start a collection of stories or phrases that resonate with you. For example, cut out magazine articles that move you, or write down powerful word combinations. Practice telling these stories or saying these words out loud, by yourself. Listen to yourself actually saying the words. Refine. When you are presenting, pay close attention to your audience. Watch their reactions to each part of your presentation. You will notice that some parts are especially engaging. Afterwards, take time to identify the moments that particularly caught the audience’s attention. Draft your next presentation around these highlights. Practice. Improvisation has a certain appeal, but in general, an audience will respond best to a presenter who knows where he or she is headed. Counter intuitively, the more prepared you are, the more natural your improvisations will appear. Identify your most beneficial sounding boards and audiences — the listeners who seem to bring out your best communication. Examine these individuals or groups to learn why you are so good when you speak with them or to them, and look for the same qualities in potential partners and audiences. Keep getting smarter about the words you use. They are a critical currency. Spend them wisely, and monitor their impact. Your Communication talents can be highly effective when your message has substance. Don’t rely on your talents alone; take your communication to the level of strength by developing your knowledge and expertise in specific areas. You are gifted in fostering dialogue among peers and colleagues. Use your Communication talents to summarize the various points in a meeting and to build consensus by helping others see what they have in common. If you enjoy writing (I do), consider publishing your work. If you enjoy public speaking, make a presentation at a professional meeting or convention. In either case, your Communication talents will serve to assist you in finding just the right way to frame your ideas and state your purpose. You delight in sharing your thoughts with others, so find the medium that best fits your voice and message. Volunteer for opportunities to present. You can become known as someone who helps people express their thoughts and ambitions in a captivating way. Responsibility People who are especially talented 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. Instinctively, you are occasionally willing to be vulnerable. Perhaps you claim your talents or admit your weaknesses. Your openness may help some people know you better as a person. Your straightforward style may convince others you are honest, dependable, and reliable. By nature, you sometimes do what you said you would do even when it means being inconvenienced. Although your pace may remain measured and easy, you might be determined to honor your promises to certain individuals. The quality of the relationship you have with someone might determine which commitments receive your full and prompt attention. It’s very likely that you sometimes ponder what you could do better. You may find some new ways to deliver on the commitments you have made to certain individuals. Perhaps keeping promises is one way you might enhance the quality of your work. Driven by your talents, you sometimes are honest with yourself about yourself. You might be candid about your limitations when you are talking with certain individuals. Perhaps you are comfortable admitting you need to do some things better, more completely, or more perfectly. Chances are good that you try to finish the tasks you agreed to do. Perhaps you even overcome some unexpected problems. Occasionally you work longer hours when it is necessary. Maybe you do whatever you can to avoid breaking the promises you made to people. Emphasize your sense of responsibility when job hunting. During interviews, describe your desire to be held fully accountable for the success or failure of projects, your intense dislike of unfinished work, and your need to “make it right” if a commitment is not met. Keep volunteering for more responsibility than your experience seems to warrant. You thrive on responsibility, and you can deal with it very effectively. Align yourself with others who share your sense of responsibility. You will flourish when working with people who share your determination to get things done. Tell your manager that you work best when given the freedom to follow through on your commitments — that you don’t need to check in during a project, just at the end. You can be trusted to get it done. Push yourself to say no. Because you are instinctively responsible, it might sometimes be difficult to refuse opportunities. For this reason, you must be selective. Ask for more responsibility in only the areas that matter most to you. You naturally take ownership of every project you are involved in. Make sure that your capacity to own does not keep you from sharing responsibility. Allow others the opportunity to experience the challenges of ownership. In doing so, you will contribute to their growth and development. Learn to manage your Responsibility talents by considering whether you really are the person who should be handling a particular issue. Defer to your existing responsibilities and goals before undertaking additional burdens, as you may end up skimping on quality if you have too many tasks or competing demands. Partner with someone especially talented in Discipline or Focus. This person can help you stay on track and prevent you from becoming overloaded. Working with a like-minded, responsible colleague is satisfying for you. Be sure to clarify expectations and boundaries so that each person can feel ownership for his or her particular tasks — without stepping on each other’s toes. Responsible individuals like to know they have “delivered” on their commitments, so create metrics and goals to gauge how effectively you meet your obligations. Also, make sure you have explicit and concrete expectations so that there is no question regarding quality outcomes and so that you can hit the mark as promised. Learner People who are especially talented 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. Because of your strengths, you ponder your decisions rather than react without thinking through things. You weigh the possible ramifications, consequences, outcomes, and effects. You aim to understand the basic “whys” and “hows” of a situation, problem, or opportunity. People trust you to be cautious. They expect you to raise important issues that require further consideration. It’s very likely that you occasionally sign up for rigorous courses of study rather than enroll in easy classes. This might satisfy your need to master things that do not come naturally. Perhaps you trust you can handle unpleasant or difficult assignments. Maybe the struggle to expand your knowledge, broaden your skills, conquer your limitations, or fix problems motivates you to welcome academic challenges. By nature, you frequently examine the factors leading up to an event. Therein you discover the reasons why things happened the way they did. A number of individuals and/or groups probably appreciate your logical thinking style. Driven by your talents, you sometimes enroll in difficult or demanding classes. You might aim to expand your knowledge or challenge your thinking about certain things. Instinctively, you probably identify the traits or experiences that distinguish one person from the next. Once you familiarize yourself with someone, you can often predict with accuracy how the person will react in different situations. Refine how you learn. For example, you might learn best by teaching; if so, seek out opportunities to present to others. You might learn best through quiet reflection; if so, find this quiet time. Develop ways to track the progress of your learning. If there are distinct levels or stages of learning within a discipline or skill, take a moment to celebrate your progression from one level to the next. If no such levels exist, create them for yourself (e.g., reading five books on the subject or making three presentations on the subject). Be a catalyst for change. Others might be intimidated by new rules, new skills, or new circumstances. Your willingness to soak up this newness can calm their fears and spur them to action. Take this responsibility seriously. Seek roles that require some form of technical competence. You will enjoy the process of acquiring and maintaining this expertise. As far as possible, shift your career toward a field with constantly changing technologies or regulations. You will be energized by the challenge of keeping up. Because you are not threatened by unfamiliar information, you might excel in a consulting role (either internal or external) in which you are paid to go into new situations and pick up new competencies or languages quickly. Research supports the link between learning and performance. When people have the opportunity to learn and grow, they are more productive and loyal. Look for ways to measure the degree to which you and others feel that your learning needs are being met, to create individualized learning milestones, and to reward achievements in learning. At work, take advantage of programs that subsidize your learning. Your organization may be willing to pay for part or all of your instructional coursework or for certifications. Ask your manager for information about scholarships and other educational opportunities. Honor your desire to learn. Take advantage of adult educational opportunities in your community. Discipline yourself to sign up for at least one new academic or adult learning course each year. Time disappears and your attention intensifies when you are immersed in studying or learning. Allow yourself to “follow the trail” by scheduling learning sessions during periods of time that will not be interrupted by pressing engagements.