exploring my signature themes

As I discussed last week, a co-worker in my office is leading our team in StrengthsFinder, an online assessment designed to help people discover their talents. In the next step of the program after taking the assessment and providing an initial reaction, we were asked to put our themes into our own words.

One thing we discovered was that the detailed descriptions for each of the themes changed for each person. A colleague of mine also had Input as her top theme, but it became apparent as she spoke that her report differed from my own in subtle and explicit ways. And of course, what it meant to her was also different.

Each of us took about 10 minutes to put something down on paper before sharing it with the rest of our group, and it was really fascinating to see how different or similar we were to each other. But now that I’ve had a little more time to sit on it, I’d like to try to elaborate a little more on each of the themes that emerged for me.

You can read the brief definitions here or in my last blog post.


What resonated most to me about the characteristic of accumulating information is what I perceived as not just an instinct of some unforeseen need or use, but a belief in it. While it tends to go too far because I’m a pack rat of information and can’t process everything, I do think that the potential of connecting the dots someday makes it all worth having.

But much of it does come, as my report indicated, from fear and anxiety about a new project or upcoming meeting. And it makes me think that I need to learn to be a little more comfortable with uncertainty in my work projects; ironically, the appreciation of uncertainty is something I try to build into my instruction.


This probably represents my greatest strength and weakness, and I still find myself surprised that it’s not my top theme. I’ve always loved creative ventures, whether it was writing short stories and poems as a young teen or arranging music in college.  As I’ve gotten older, that desire to create has never left me, but it’s evolved into aspirations to come up with new innovations, insights, or the “next big thing.”

At the same time, I sometimes get bored easily. If I’m not on the cutting edge or if I perceive that an idea has gotten stale (maybe because of how I take in new information), I want to jump to that next thing and forget about my current projects. But I do feel like I’ve been learning to be a little more patient. Deadlines help too.


I equate this theme with problem-solving, and while I can convince myself that it’s a trait I have, it still sticks out in my mind as the most surprising theme.  I don’t see myself as someone who is necessarily adept at solving problems, but I do like to make sure that the problem I’m tackling is the problem that needs solving.

This was one of those world-changing lessons I got out of graduate school: Am I working on a truly better solution, or a better version of just one kind (perhaps mediocre) of solution? It’s this contextualizing that I enjoy doing more than solving problems itself. But another aspect of this theme that I do agree with is that I am very aware of my shortcomings, and I am very eager to tackle them! I think that’s why things like StrengthsFinder end up being appealing to me.


Grudgingly, I’ve learned to accept that this is a part of me. I think it’s the evolution of my introspective self and an extension of Input Ideation. I like but need time to grapple with ideas that interest me or that I don’t understand. If I can engage others, even better! Not only do I try to keep aware of current events, but I also intentionally seek out a wide variety of ideas in order to spark new ones. Nothing more to be said about this though!


While I do have a “command” disposition, I’ve never felt this to be a natural theme or talent in my life (or work life). The outcomes of my roles in a position of authority have been a mixed bag. There have been times where I’ve been able to rally people, and there have also been times where I’m just another Dilbert’s boss. Apparently, this is a theme that can have negative connotations. And that makes perfect sense to me.

As an undergrad and in graduate school, I took several leadership and management classes. Some of the content from those courses have reemerged as I think about this. There are lots of areas that I think I can work on with this theme, but I do agree that I have the most success in motivating and encouraging others when I am able to have one-on-one interactions with people (a more tailored description in my report).


The question I wrote and have boxed in my notes is “How do I thoughtfully invest in each of these themes?” I haven’t quite figured that out. I can say though that I try to manage or deal with some of the elements in these themes by keeping this blog.

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