What I've been chewing on lately...

May 7, 2011
On knowing yourself + the Clifton StrengthsFinder

Itsastich’s Bicep Embroidery

I love typologies.

I love how they help us get to know ourselves better and when we know ourselves better (our strengths, weaknesses, tendancies, and orientations) we become better citizens of the world in turn.

While no one typology can tell us all we need to know about ourselves (and some tell us nothing) I think that when you put them together, collectively, they help us begin to map our unique constellation.

I highly recommend finding out your Enneagram type, Myers-Briggs is a must, Numerology is nifty, and yes you should have your full astrological chart read. As of late, I’ve been really fascinated by the Clifton StrengthsFinder.

Named for “the Father of Strengths Psychology” Donold O. Clifton this assessment is based on the premise that we are better off developing and leading with our natural strengths than trying to improve our natural weaknesses.

With StrengthsFinder “the goal was to start a global conversation about what’s right with people.”

That’s a conversation I want to be a part of.

Some of the assessments I mentioned above are free to take, Clifton StrengthsFinder is not. While I think it’s money well spent, in order to take StrengthsFinder you’ll need to purchase the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 which includes an online access code. [Note: Don’t buy the book used because the one-time use access code will most certainly have been spent.]

When you take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment you are given your five strongest strengths from the 34 strength themes or common talents. Of course we each have many more than five strengths, but your results will be your strongest strengths and where it is encouraged you focus.

For full descriptions of all 34 strength themes you’ll have to get the book.

My strengths are connectedness, strategic, activator, ideation, and futuristic.

To give you a sense of what these mean here are excerpts of Gallup’s descriptions of my strengths [Oh and there’s some good stuff below these lengthy excerpts, so if you want to just scroll on down, you’ve got the green light to do just that]:

Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting. Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries.

The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?” This recurring question helps you see around the next corner. There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles. Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path — your strategy. Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. This is your Strategic theme at work: “What if?” Select. Strike.

“When can we start?” This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you cannot not act. Others may worry that “there are still some things we don’t know,” but this doesn’t seem to slow you. If the decision has been made to go across town, you know that the fastest way to get there is to go stoplight to stoplight. You are not going to sit around waiting until all the lights have turned green. Besides, in your view, action and thinking are not opposites. In fact, guided by your Activator theme, you believe that action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.

You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection. An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. You love all these ideas because they are profound, because they are novel, because they are clarifying, because they are contrary, because they are bizarre. For all these reasons you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual or even smart. Perhaps you are all of these. Who can be sure? What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days this is enough.

“Wouldn’t it be great if . . .” You are the kind of person who loves to peer over the horizon. The future fascinates you. As if it were projected on the wall, you see in detail what the future might hold, and this detailed picture keeps pulling you forward, into tomorrow. While the exact content of the picture will depend on your other strengths and interests — a better product, a better team, a better life, or a better world — it will always be inspirational to you. You are a dreamer who sees visions of what could be and who cherishes those visions. When the present proves too frustrating and the people around you too pragmatic, you conjure up your visions of the future and they energize you. They can energize others, too. In fact, very often people look to you to describe your visions of the future. They want a picture that can raise their sights and thereby their spirits. You can paint it for them. Practice. Choose your words carefully. Make the picture as vivid as possible. People will want to latch on to the hope you bring.


After I took the assessment I started to wonder what the strengths were of other people I knew and worked with. I wondered, if two coaches would share many of the same strengths? I wondered if I surrounded myself with people who brought the same strengths to the table or if I had diversified my tribe. I wondered if by looking at the results for someone I knew I’d say “Of course, that makes total sense!” or “Hmmm, that doesn’t seem like them at all.”

The following is a little round-up of some women I admire and in some cases, am lucky enough to get to work with. Perhaps you appreciate their work as well and will enjoy getting to see them from this new perspective.

Danielle Laporte: Achiever, Relator, Intellection, Futuristic, Strategic

Lianne Raymond: Woo, Ideation, Input, Strategic, Learner

Dyana Valentine: Activator, Futuristic, Ideation, Individualization, Relator

Alison Gresik: Empathy, Learner, Intellection, Developer, Connectedness

Molly Mahar: Positivity, Input, Empathy, Activator, Communication

Jennifer Lee: Maximizer, Futuristic, Strategic, Empathy, Developer

Andrea Scher: Empathy, Woo, Developer, Activator, Connectedness

big thanks to these incredible women for sharing their StrengthsFinder results with us.To learn more about what these strength themes mean and to take your own assessment you can purchase StrengthsFinder 2.0.


Have you taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment? If so, please share your strengths in the comments. Do you think it’s accurate? What other typologies do you use? What typologies do you think are total bunk?