It’s Time to Put Your Skills, Talents, Strengths (and even Weaknesses) to Work! (Once you figure out what they are).
Why should you be
interested in taking the CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder) assessment?
CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder) assessment reveals your Strengths’ profile,
providing you with your top five Strengths. Actually, the assessment reveals
your top five talents. That would be the top five talents out of 34 possible
So why isn’t it called
the CliftonTalents assessment? The assessment’s name uses the term Strengths
because that is what they can become. I know it seems kind of like calling an
egg, a chicken. However, the assessment is about you being the best you
And you might be thinking
that the assessment used to be called StrengthsFinder? Yes, it did. In fact,
almost everyone besides the company that owns the assessment still tends to
call it StrengthsFinder. And that company continues using the title, StrengthsFinder
2.0, for the 2007 book which remains extremely popular and is many people’s
introduction to the Strengths movement.
Gallup, which publishes StrengthsFinder 2.0, owns, and maintains the assessment formerly known as the StrengthsFinder assessment. Why the name change? It honors Donald O. Clifton, PhD, the father of the assessment and Strength’s psychology. However, the older name, StrengthsFinder, continues to be the name most commonly used. Call it StrengthsFinder or CliftonStrengths, either name works. The assessment is just as awesome, no matter which moniker you choose.
So, why does the
assessment, known by either Strengths’ name, reveal talents instead of
Strengths? Like the chicken or egg
mentioned earlier, it’s about the starting point versus the goal.
Gallup describes a talent
as: “A naturally recurring
pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied”. Think
of your talents as your hows, whys, and motivation. Or they can be described as
whatever it is that makes you tick. You get an inkling of talents when what you
are doing or thinking or feeling, energizes you. Not necessarily doing the
task, but by the method, process, or mode in which you approach the task.
How does a Strength
differ from a talent? It is a mostly a matter of raw versus refined. Gallup’s
description of Strength is “A trait which consistently produces a positive
outcome through near-perfect performance in a specific activity”. Another way
to look at it is that a Strength is a talent that you can work to develop, and that
effort repeatedly leads to amazing results!
Strength = talent +
So, talents are like
being able to play the guitar and Strengths is like being able to play the
guitar really well!?!? Not exactly.
Using the concepts as
they relate to Strengths, your ability to play guitar and play it well, is a skill.
It’s the why you want to play guitar that reveals your talents and Strengths.
The same is true if the thing you are good at is auto repair, genetic
laboratory work, marathon running or doing non-Euclidian geometry.
Skills are the stuff you
know how to do.
Talents are the reason
you choose to do them.
Strengths are why you do
Another way to look at
skills versus talents is to think of your skills as being appliances. A toaster
might equal auto mechanical skills, and a blender represents computer
programming skills. Each of these skills is a particular thing that can be
done. The talent is the electricity when you plug it into the outlet. The
electricity can make numerous things happen. And when you don’t have electricity, there is
unlikely to be toast or margaritas (or amazing results).
There is a similarity
between skills and talents. It is the fact that you can actually work on them.
Just like playing and practicing the guitar leads to better guitar playing, practicing,
and committing to your talents can lead to greater success.
Talents are about your hows,
whys and motivation. Skills are about doing or thinking about stuff. Talents
influence skills. For instance, working with realtors, I have found all sorts
of reasons why realtors want to sell houses. One realtor is successful because he
has a vision of families finding a home where they can thrive. Another realtor
grew up in nearly destitute circumstances. Her real estate success comes from a
commitment to solve that problem. Yet others love the give and take of
negotiation or the thrill they feel when they are competing to be the best
salesperson in their office. In each case, their skill is selling real estate.
Their talent is what makes them care about selling real estate.
Getting your best
performance comes from knowing why you do the stuff you do and why you think
and feel the way you do. Think of two marathon runners. Let’s say that one has
the Achiever® Strength, while the other has the Competition® Strength. Each one
approaches improving their results differently. The Achiever® likes to
accomplish things. An Achiever® tends to like lists and are thrilled to note
completed tasks. The runner with the Competition® Strength likes to win and
likes the thrill of competition. Competition® usually looks for worthy opponents
because success is about being tested.
So how does the Achiever®
improve her marathon? Probably by setting a goal, like shaving 10 seconds off
every mile. What about the high Competition®? Most likely, he sets his pace to
a runner who is a little better than he is and then passes that person and then
picks another and ultimately another. The Achiever® is unlikely to be motivated
by the runner half a block ahead of them and the high Competition® is unlikely
to consider that a goal of seconds off per mile is making a difference to
Both methods can lead to
better marathons. Neither system is likely to be effective to someone who does
not have that Strength. This is one of the reasons that most self-help books
are so unhelpful. They are usually written from the talents point of view of
the author, without understanding that the reader may not be wired the same
But what about weaknesses. Surely, you have to consider weaknesses. Yes, you do. That is what I will do in my next post.
Thank you for continuing to read these posts. I trust that you find them valuable.
Helping people find meaningful, purposeful, engaging employment is my goal. If you need help with a job search, creating a resume, deciding to make a career move or figuring out how to put your Strengths to work, please reach out to me.