Sometimes it’s easy to focus on our weaknesses: where do we not excel? How can we improve? While these can be valuable questions, I have grown a lot from learning more about my strengths. I’ve used the CliftonStrengths assessment to identify my strengths and to learn more about them.
What is CliftonStrengths (formerly Clifton StrengthsFinder)?
The CliftonStrengths online assessment consists of 177 paired statements. You choose the statement that best describes you. For example, you might have to choose between these two statements: I enjoy relaxing; I enjoy cleaning. If neither statement applies to you, then you click the “neutral” button in the middle and go on to the next question.
According to their website “The assessment measures your natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, so when you’re done you’ll have discovered your talents.” After you complete the assessment, you receive an online report with specific information about each of your strengths.
Why take CliftonStrengths?
The assessment measures your specific order of the 34 themes of talent. According to their website “The odds that someone has your same order of 34 CliftonStrengths themes are roughly 1 in 259,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.” So, good luck finding someone who is exactly like you. Knowing your strengths will help you understand how your talents work together. Each CliftonStrengths theme is sorted into one of four domains (Strategic Thinking, Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building).
I was first introduced to CliftonStrengths over 14 years ago by my financial advisor. I had just graduated from college, and he thought that it would be a good idea for me to take the assessment to learn more about myself at that point in my life. Honestly, I can’t remember or find my results, so clearly the assessment didn’t benefit me as much as it could have at that time.
I took the assessment again seven years ago when I was taking a class that the same financial advisor was offering. Here were my strengths at that time: Restorative, Belief, Consistency, Responsibility, Intellection. I was surprised that my top strength was restorative but not surprised that Belief landed in my top five.
My CliftonStrengths Results
I took the assessment for the third time recently, and here’s where I landed this time around:
- Restorative (Executing Domain) – “People exceptionally talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.”
- Harmony (Relationship Building Domain) – “People exceptionally talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.”
- Analytical (Strategic Thinking Domain) – “People exceptionally talented in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all of the factors that might affect a situation.”
- Consistency (Executing Domain) – “People exceptionally talented in the Consistency theme are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same. They crave stable routines and clear rules and procedures that everyone can follow.”
- Discipline (Executing Domain) – “People exceptionally talented in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure. Their world is best described by the order they create.”
Three of my strengths have changed since the last time I look the assessment 7 years ago, most likely because a lot has changed in my life since then: I met Anna, got married, and we’ve had two kids. Restorative and Consistency are still in my top five, though.
Getting authentic results
One piece of advice that I can give is this: be as authentic and honest with your answers as you possibly can. That should seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to mention. When taking the assessment, I’ve had the tendency in the past to answer the questions based on how I would like to be seen or how I think others view me rather than how I really feel about each question.
I have never liked taking tests at any point in my life, so when I took the assessment again, all of those feelings came rushing back. You have 20 seconds to answer each question before it moves on to the next question, so you really don’t have time to mull over your response to each question. You need to pick the best one that pops in your head and move on. You also can’t go back and change your answer. It seems so permanent and final.
According to their website, there is a reason for all of this. They claim that your first completion of the assessment yields the purest results, which is why you purchase a one-time access code. Next, the 20-second time limit (which is not visible to the user) makes it difficult to over-think your response. Lastly, if you are distracted and miss three responses in a row, the assessment will automatically stop. Don’t worry, though, because when you resume, it will pick up where you left off. Also, because the assessment has 177 paired statements, missing a few does not significantly affect your results.
Next steps with my CliftonStrengths Results
Now that I have this new information, what am I supposed to do with it? For Christmas, Anna bought me a session with one of the top Strengths coaches in the world, Kate Pintor, who lives and works in California. Anna learned about Kate from a good friend of ours who’s also a client of Kate’s. Anna met with her via Zoom last week and found the experience incredibly valuable. Anna thought that we both could benefit personally and professionally from working with Kate. I am looking forward to it.
What are your strengths? Have you ever taken the CliftonStrengths assessment? What did you think of your results? It’d be great to hear about your experiences in the comments below.