One of my co-workers is leading our department in StrengthsFinder, a program designed to help you discover your talents and turn them into strengths. Talents are thought of in terms of qualities that help a person achieve, and strengths defined as “the ability to provide consistent, near perfect performance in a given activity.”
Apparently, Gallup (the same famed organization that administers opinion polls) studied and identified over 400 “themes of talent” of top achievers over three decades. They then distilled them into 34 themes that are measured by their tool.
In the past, I’ve definitely been dismissive of these types of activities. With large groups, people will sometimes allow these artificial boundaries define and divide them rather than use them as an opportunity to grow–myself included. So, I generally don’t take them too seriously.
I mean, logic would follow that they’re just an exercise in confirmation bias, right? We don’t actively try to draw attention to things we might be doing wrong, and I would bet that most of us tend to get results that reflect how we want to think of ourselves as rather than who we actually are.
Growing up, I used to wish that other people saw me as I saw me (perhaps a result of kids’ shows telling me that I’m special all the time). And sometime late in college, I realized that I just needed to be the person I wanted to be viewed as rather than just think it (or pretend to be someone I wasn’t). I’m reminded of my favorite quote from Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins:
It’s not who we are underneath, but what we do that defines us.
This all being said, I’ve never taken any type of personal evaluation as part of comprehensive program, so this should be interesting.
The actual test is a 30-minute web-based assessment in which you’re given a choice between two options for each question and must decide which, if either, describes you best. These two options are sometimes diametrically opposed, and they sometimes seem unrelated. Oh, and you only have 20 seconds to answer before it moves on, recording whatever radio button you clicked (if you did). When you’re finished, you receive your top five themes.
When taking this taking this assessment, I tried to answer honestly and chose answer options that reflected what I actually do. It was difficult at times, especially when two options didn’t seem mutually exclusive and I felt equally torn between them. Fortunately, I only ran out of time once or twice.
Here were my results in order beginning with my top theme:
- INPUT – Crave to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
- IDEATION – Fascinated by ideas.They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
- RESTORATIVE – Adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
- INTELLECTION – Characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
- COMMAND – Have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.
My initial reaction was that these seem to ring true for me (after reading the more explicit report). While I still tend to be skeptical, I’m trying to give this a serious effort. But I also didn’t see them as wholly encompassing of my personality, and looking at a few of the other themes, I could see one of those being on my list instead.
The two I felt a little iffy about (or less likely to assert, at least) were Restorative and Command. While they are part of me to some extent, I don’t see them as talents as much as I can think of incidences where I was just forced to rise to the role. I also might have swapped the ranking of Restorative and Intellection. I’m good at coming up with problems, but I’m not sure I actually get around to solving all of them. It was a surprise to see Input at the top as well; I would have expected Ideation.
Anyway, my group is planning on discussing this further at our next meeting, and so I’m writing about it to prepare. It’s been several weeks now since I’ve actually taken it (the paragraph above was actually a reflective piece that the assessment required, so it hasn’t been too skewed by time), but I find that I think about this list a lot when I’m tackling projects or other work. I’ll report back when I get a chance, but I’d love to hear about any experiences with this type of program!