Are You Operating in Your Strengths Zone?

One of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself is this, “What are my strengths?” Knowing the answer is the key to job satisfaction.

A Young Superhero - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #14444389

Photo courtesy of ©

It will determine how fast you advance in your career and, more importantly, how happy you are in your job—and perhaps your life.

Unfortunately, most of us have been trained to think first about our weaknesses. For example,

  • Teachers pointed out our errors and marked them with a red pen.
  • Parents scanned our report cards and focused on those subjects where we needed to improve.
  • Employers have noted our weaknesses and discussed them at our annual performance review, often under the heading, “Opportunities for Improvement.”

I used to do the same thing with my direct reports. I thought I was being helpful. As a leader, I thought that this was my role.

Then I read, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton’s bestseller, Now, Discover Your Strengths. At the time, both men worked for Gallup. The book was based on their research there.

They had a simple but powerful thesis. The best way to get ahead in your career and be satisfied in your job is to focus on developing your strengths. No matter how hard you try, you really can’t improve your weaknesses. You are wasting time and energy trying to do so. The best thing you can do is discover your strengths and then find a role that allows you to use them.

At the time I read this, it was revolutionary. It still is.

In their extensive research, Buckingham and Clifton identified 34 different strength themes. They also developed an online strengths assessment that identified your five top strengths.

Since the book originally came out, Buckingham left Gallup and went on to write several more bestsellers. Sadly, Clifton passed away.

However, Tom Rath, another Gallup employee, picked up the torch and refined the research. He used the results from the four million people who took the first test to develop an even more accurate, reliable, and faster assessment tool.

In 2007, he wrote a follow-up book called StrengthsFinder 2.0, documenting his research. Gallup then made the new assessment available online, renaming it “Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0” in honor of Donald Clifton.

The last time I took the test was more than four years ago. However, I review the results annually to make sure that I am still operating in “my strengths zone.”

I was especially interested in doing it this year in light of my transition from CEO of Thomas Nelson to my new role as a full-time writer and speaker. My top five strengths, along with the descriptions I received in the customized report are:

  1. Achiever: People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
  2. Intellection: People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
  3. Strategic: People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
  4. Futuristic: People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.
  5. Relator: People who are especially talented in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.

This was a good reminder for me. My goal is to stay focused on my strengths and say “no” to everything else or delegate it to someone else who is better equipped to handle it. The more I do this, the more productive and satisfied I will be.

After reviewing the list, I think I have more alignment between my strengths and my role than ever before.

But what about you? Do you know what your strengths are? Does your current job give you an opportunity to express them? If not, could this be why you feel so little satisfaction in your career?

You can start operating in your strengths zone by taking these five steps:

  1. Buy the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and take the test. Inside the book, you will find an “access key” that enables you to take the online assessment.
  2. Review your customized report and reflect on your strengths. Ask, “How well do these strengths describe me?” Now ask those who know you best the same question. What do they say?
  3. Evaluate your current job in light of your strengths. Objectively speaking, what strengths does your job require? Do you have these strengths? On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you in your role?
  4. Develop a strategy to align your strengths and your job. This will likely require you to start focusing on those aspects of your job where you can express your strengths and delegate, negotiate, or offload the rest. In some cases, it may mean looking for a new opportunity.
  5. Share your strengths with your colleagues. Tell them you want to focus on your strengths, so that you can make your greatest contribution to them and the team. If they know your strengths, they can help you find opportunities to express them.

If you really want to develop a strengths-based culture, have your entire team (even your family) take the test and then discuss how you can get everyone focused on their strengths. You can even use this as a basis for recruiting people with strengths you may be missing. In the end, you and your team will be more productive and more happy.

Questions: What would operating more out of your strengths make possible? If you have taken the test, what are your top five strengths? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • jonstolpe

    When a whole team of people are operating out of their strengths, they can do great things!  I work directly with two other operations managers.  Each of us has our own set of strengths.  One of us is a very detailed person.  He does great in handling the process requirements of our department.  One of us is a high level, vision oriented person.  He keeps us in tune with what’s coming next.  And one of us is keyed into the needs of our employees.  Obviously, we have many other strengths.  The point is we work better as a team when we’re working together out of our strength areas.

    • Jeremy Statton

      It sounds like you use your knowledge of your strengths to also decide what you don’t do so that someone who is better at that can do it instead.

    • Sundi Jo Graham

      Love that. It creates balance instead of competition. 

    • Brandon

      I totally agree with you!

  • Joe Abraham

    Thanks Michael for this timely post! This is something that I am working on in the initial days of this new year. As I am presently into some pioneering projects, the tendency is to put my hands into everything! But I found that it affects my productivity and quality of work. So I decided to focus on my top 3 strengths and delegate the rest to capable people though it demands more financial and human resources.

    I think one of the reasons why leaders tend to work hard on their weak areas is because they confuse ‘strength zone’ with ‘comfort zone’. I had that problem. I used to think that I was lazy because I didn’t work on my weak zone. And my strengths zone was kind of easy for me (because, after all, that is my strengths zone!) So I misunderstood my strength zone as my comfort zone. However, later the Lord gave me the wisdom to understand the difference. We should not be in a ‘lazy (comfort) zone’. But we should be operating in our ‘strengths zone’ for maximum effectiveness.

    • Jim Martin

      Joe, I like the contrast you make between “strength zone” and “comfort” zone.  This makes sense.  Thanks.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great insight, Joe. I think you are right.

    • Anonymous

      That’s really good Joe!  

    • Brandon Weldy

      Thanks for this Joe! I have fallen to that deception as well. You describe it so  clearly, this is very helpful.

    • AccuContrive

      Joe, this is a fundamental explanation. I’m going to use that! thanks a ton!

    • Brandon

      Delegation is something a leader must do. You can’t do it all!

    • Tim Peters

      Good thought on “comfort zone”.  I felt the same way when working at a large church in Houston. I believed the idea of “being great at everything”.  Which I realized is impossible.  

  • Patricia Zell

    (Just a little aside first–I’m a teacher, as you well know, and I never use a red pen. Most of my corrections are in blue or black ink or in pencil.) I think that those who are in positions of authority would do well to concentrate on their employee’s strengths because if they do focus on the weaknesses, they run the risk of not being able to see the successes. 

    • Jeremy Statton

      I hate the red pen.

      • Cheri Gregory

        I’ve tossed the red pen in favor of Track Changes in Word…now my students hate “the bubbles.”  

        Any alternative suggestions?

        • Michele Cushatt

          Haha! I’m a writer. I don’t like the bubbles either. ;-) Whether it’s a red pen, blue pen or track change bubbles, correction is difficult to take when it’s in mass. The key is choosing which thing to correct, and then tempering those with affirmation of strengths. We all need to learn to receive critique and correction well, too.

          • Cheri Gregory

            “The key is choosing which thing to correct, and then tempering those with affirmation of strengths. We all need to learn to receive critique and correction well, too.”

            So true, Michele. I’ve started asking my students what KIND of feedback they want from me: Positive Only, Top 3 Positives and Top 3 Negatives, or I Can Handle the “Truth” (which we all know is nothing more than my version!)Giving them the type and quantity of feedback that they’ve requested has had a HUGE impact on their receptivity…and revisions!

          • Michele Cushatt

            Wow. Allowing them input on the kind of feedback is so wise. Some days, I’m less able to receive negative criticism, whether due to exhaustion, overload, or whatever. To be given permission to say, “Not today, but maybe tomorrow!” is freeing. Great job, Cheri.

    • Michele Cushatt

      I’ve been thinking the same thing, Patricia. It seems that what we choose to speak (whether positive or negative) impacts what we eventually feel and believe about the person. We could easily become blind to their strengths if we’re always looking for weaknesses.

    • Burl Walker

      As a teacher, I do sometimes use a red pen, but have found that showing students what they are doing well and encouraging them often gets much better results than simply marking what they did wrong. Once upon a time, I had a Spanish teacher who said, “Burl, you are really good at this.” Those 7 words could possibly be the reason I am teaching Spanish today.

      • Brandon Weldy

        It is amazing how those encouraging words change the course of our lives. Growing up my preacher told me on several occasions that I was really great with people and I would be a great minister. I could not shake that from my mind and here I am in the ministry!

      • Brandon


      • Tim Peters

        Burl, great thought.  I will never forget when a Student Pastor told me as a 6th grader, “Tim, I believe you will be a leader in our student ministry.” Blew me away!  My wife and I remind our children of three things each night.  1)We love you. 2) We believe in you. 3) We are proud of you.  

  • Anonymous

    Over the past six months, I’ve executed all five of the recommended steps. This morning is a meeting I’ve hopefully designed to leverage my strengths and one of my peers–a culmination of the steps. So, this post was very timely.

    What I did with the book is use its descriptions to create an overall summary of what my strengths suggest of me. I did the same for one of my peers who shared his strengths with me. The net result suggests a winning combination for our mutual job goals. I order chaos to find a direction. He is good at building a team that can move in a direction. He has no strategic strengths, which is where I’m my strongest. Providence provides the overlap. Today’s meeting is my getting a bunch together to order chaos in a way that helps him figure out how to build the team.

    Overall, I think personality assessments appear to try to label and categorize. That’s why I like to take several of them. The resulting mosaic is more valuable than just one assessment.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree on taking many of these assessments. I also use Myers-Briggs and DiSC.

    • Jason Stambaugh

      May that meeting go well!

  • Paul Coughlin

    I wholeheartedly support this Michael – it has been shown to be true through many studies. There was a research study done a while back – with 197,000 individuals across 23 countries, over 7 years, 21 industries – the study was looking for a correlation between the best performers and particular skills/competencies.

    The only strong correlation – was that all the top performers had two acquired skills:

    1. A high degree of self-awareness (they knew what they were good at, and more importantly, what they sucked at).

    2. And they remained true to that awareness – i.e. they made sure that success in their role depended on them using their strengths, and they made sure they didn’t have to rely on any weakness or non-talent.

    The lower the performance, the less these two skills showed up.

    It was a ground-breaking study, and totally backs up this concept. Whatever tool we use, we must get to the stage where we know with absolute certainty what we are great at, and what we suck at, and then we have to focus on using only what we’re great at, and let go (outsource, delegate) of what we suck at.

    It’s the secret of the top performers – who are also the most engaged, the happiest, and it’s the ones who get the greatest returns with the least effort..

    • Joe Abraham

      Thanks Paul for sharing this. Very much helpful!

      • Jim Martin

        Paul, this is both insightful and helpful.  In fact, I have just placed your comment in Evernote.  Thanks.

        • Joe Abraham

          Jim, I think you directed this to Paul but has posted in my “Reply”! But I agree with you about what Paul said.

        • Brandon

          Go evernote!

    • John Richardson

      Great points, Paul. One thing I came up with the other day was a “failure checklist,” that I can use when things don’t go right. It asks four questions

      1. What can we learn from this?
      2. How could we have done things differently?
      3. Where do we go from here?
      4. What does this make possible?

      In light of the strengths test, it may be good to look at our failures and see if they align with our strengths or not. If they don’t, it may be time to bring in some help, or outsource the task.

      • Joe Abraham

        I read your “Failure Checklist”, John. Interesting!

      • Paul Coughlin

        Awesome reflective questions John. I think that’s the beauty of strengths profiling, is we can then also ask similar questions from the point of view of how authentic we are being to our strengths. i.e. something like:

        1. How can my talent for strategic thinking have been used here to create high value.
        2. Do I differentiate between situations and tasks that require my talents, and those that require talents I don’t possess.

        Or perhaps even – what outcome do we want here – and what talents are going to play key roles in achieving that, and who has those talents..

        There’s a somewhat controversial idea, that strengths and weaknesses are manufactured, and we only actually possess talents and non-talents. What this idea does, is bring the role or context into the equation.

        When the situation requires empathic awareness, strategic thinking is not a strength in this particular context. However, when the situation requires long term vision, your talent for strategic thinking then becomes a strength.

        It’s not just a play on words – but rather a subtle although powerful way of connecting of people to their roles. If our talents don’t match the role requirements, those talents are not strengths, they might even be a weakness – i.e. we cannot benefit from them, and they might even hold us back. It’s impossible to talk about strengths outside of a role or task context..  Like I say – controversial :-)  but I quite like the idea.

        • John Richardson

          I really like the idea of talents being directed at outcomes and the result determing the actual strength. Very powerful concept.

          As a creative person my talents may be coming up with new ideas and outlining the process for completion. Actually completing the tedious details of the task may be best left to someone with different talents. My actual “strength” would need to be focused on one part of the project, not the whole procedure.

          • Paul Coughlin

            Absolutely John – and this is where I’ve found it also valuable to drill down beyond generic strength categories, down to individual competencies – which we can also measure accurately these days. Great conversation. Thanks John.

      • Tim Peters

        John, great list.  Failure is a huge growth opportunity.  I believe many people/organizations breeze pass failures and do not address the core issues of the failure.  

    • AccuContrive

      Thanks Paul.

  • Chris Patton

    Michael, I did the very same thing you are describing a couple of years ago and it has been very helpful.  I would add a couple of actions to your list – under your heading “Develop a Strategy…”

    First, I came up with a list of specific actions I could take during my weekly schedule that would put me in a position of operating in my strengths.  Second, I came up with a “Stop Doing” list of things I was then doing, but were clearly not in my area of strengths.

    Finally, I added these simple lists (along with the key descriptions of my top three strengths) to my one page LIFE plan summary.  I review this during my weekly review on Saturdays.  I found that keeping these thoughts and action items in front of me helps me to continuously move toward more alignment with my strengths.

    I would also add a slightly different perspective on operating in your strengths (or God-given gifts).  Though some may argue these are separate, I see some distinct similarities.  I posted about these thoughts here…

    Pursue The Gifts You Have, Not The Ones You Want!

    • Jim Martin

      Chris, your comment is really helpful.  I like the practical action steps that you took which have enabled you to to move toward more alignment with your strengths.  I like the way you have incorporated this into your weekly review.  Thanks!

  • Clara Rose

    According to Strengthfinder 2.0 (taken in 2010)


    Great post Michael, as always your insight inspires me!

  • Cyberquill

    I actually used to own that Strength Finder book by Rath. I took the test, but in the end, the results were generic descriptions bordering on uselessness. As goes for all these tests I’ve ever taken, the results merely summarize and paraphrase in essay form the answers I gave. Never any surprises. 

    In other words, the final analysis reflects exactly what one puts in. It isn’t like they ask your favorite ice cream flavor and conclude from your answer that your strength is constitutional law. It’s more like they ask whether you feel more comfortable alone or among people, and if you say “alone,” then the  analysis will reflect that you’re more of an introvert. 

    • Jason Stambaugh

      A negative review? I get the skepticism. I’ve taken the test several times and felt that I could have gone either way on many of the questions, depending on the day of the week. It is also easy to answer the questions as the person you want to be. Each time I take the assessment I’m seldom shocked by my top results.

      The real value I’ve gleaned from the assessment isn’t so much in myself but how it helps me to relate to members of a team. I’ve done the assessment in a group setting twice now, and each time it helped me to get to know people better and learn how we all can work best to get the job done.

      • Michael Hyatt

        One thought: I was actually going to take the test again yesterday. However, in reviewing the FAQs on the StrengthsFinder site, I found this:
        Can I retake the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment? Can taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder more than once affect my results?
        Your first completion of the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment will yield the purest and most revealing results. For this reason, each Clifton StrengthsFinder access code is valid for only one time through the assessment. Taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder more than once may actually skew the validity of the results. The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment measures the presence of talents by presenting you with pairs of statements, and by then challenging you to make a top-of-mind choice between the two. The 20-second time limit and your unfamiliarity with the statements ensure your assessment’s accuracy by making it difficult to over-think your responses.

        • Brent Pittman

          When I first took the assessment 10 years ago I learned that your top 10 strengths can show up in your top 5 results. I’ve taken it 3x over the years I have three that show up consistently. 

          • Joe Lalonde

            Interesting to hear those results Brent. It definitely reinforces their opinion that the results won’t change much.

      • Cyberquill

        Yeah, whatever you put in, the test then spits out as your analysis. (Question: “Where would you rather live, Florida or Alaska?” Answer: “Florida.” Analysis: “You’re a person who prefers warmer climate zones.” Reaction of test subject: “GEE-WHIZ!!!”)

        Of course, you may have a point about those team benefits. I wouldn’t know, as I’m not a team person. (I know I’m not, and every personality test I ever took told me I wasn’t.)

  • Joey Espinosa

    I am a huge Buckingham fan, ever since I read one of his books for the first time. Focusing on my strengths (and those of others) has helped me tremendously in work and ministry.

    I’ve taken test a couple of times, and Analyzer & Significance always show up.

    I would also highly recommend his latest book StandOut. (Michael — I think I won it via your blog. Thanks again!) It give more concise, but just as practical, results. I am a Connector / Stimulator blend.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Thanks for the book recommend, Joey.

    • Brandon Weldy

      I also just recently finished StandOut. It was a great book! I had not read a book on strengths in a while and I was very please. According to that I am a Creator/Equalizer.

      • Joey Espinosa

        Equalizer was my #3, and something I think I exhibit a lot of .

  • Chris Lautsbaugh

    I recently took the test. It has been a fantastic tool to focus my energies on these things. I have these as my top 5:
    HarmonyDisciplinedDeliberate ConsistantRelatorMy Consistant strength was becoming a weakness, because I would not allow myself to play by different rules for the new season of life God had me in. By giving myself “permission” to realize I am in a new season, I can be all that God wants and not limit the potentialThis tool has been a “God thing” for the stage in my leadership I am at. I highly recommend it.

  • Sundi Jo Graham

    Really excited to buy the book and learn my strengths. Though I know my basic strengths, I would love to learn more in detail. You’re always stretching me to go one step further. Thanks for being a mentor from afar. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      I didn’t mention this in the post, but once you have identified your strength’s, Buckingham’s book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work is excellent for applying what you’ve learned.

  • Joe Cox

    We used this last year to help get the right people in the right seats with our ministry teams. This is a a great resource and we challenge our college students to take it along with their Spiritual gifts inventory.

    Joe Cox

  • Ben Patterson

    Our church staff is hired upon strengths. One of the first questions a new hire will be asked is, “What are your spiritual gifts?”

    • Joe Abraham

      I like that, Ben!

    • Tim Peters

      I love that.  Which church? 

    • Brent Pittman

      It is interesting to view Spiritual gifts, Strength Finders, Disc…etc together. Ben, I wonder if as a Christ follower, spiritual gifts are in a separate category from our strengths (which people of all faiths have)? Thoughts? 

      • Rachel Lance

        Great thought, Brent. I would agree that strengths and gifts are different but I would stipulate that knowing both is crucial. Could the difference be loosely summarized (just thinking off the top of my head here) that gifts assessments will identify what you’re wired to do well and strengths assessments will highlight how you’re wired to operate? I think I could still be working against the tide if I’m in a role outside of my giftedness whether or not I’m applying my strengths of responsibility, intellection, input, deliberative, and relator. Similar to a previous comment, I really believe a person is wise to aggregate the knowledge given by several personal inventories – the results across ought to affirm and complement one another. 

        • Brent Pittman

          Rachel, I too agree that knowing both your strengths and
          spiritual giftings are important and can even have some overlap. Sorry if it seems I’m trying to split hairs. I think the discussion that I’m having in my head has to do with the correlation or non-correlation of gifts and strengths. I know not all gifts will be found on any personality and strengths assessment.

          I think someone also mentioned that being in community is important, so you can express and confirm your gifting and strengths; since the purpose of gifts is to build up and expand the body of believers. While I really geek out on assessments like Strength Finders, I believe Christ followers (me included) often de-spiritualize their gifts. Great discussion!

      • Ben Patterson

        Yes, I think spiritual gifts and strengths are different but along the same lines.

        Kinda how a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square.

  • Elizabeth Hill

    The company I work for introduced us to this book a few years ago and I found it enlightening.  While I recognized some of my strengths, I didn’t really think about how I could leverage those strengths for development.

    My top strengths are:


    • Michael Hyatt

      You might want to take a look at Buckingham’s book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work It is excellent for developing and implementing your strengths.

      • Elizabeth Hill

        I’ve been looking for some books to put on my list this year, I’ll definitely check that one out.  Thanks

    • Rachel Lance

      I think you’ve identified one huge potential pitfall to taking these personal inventories. Simply knowing the strengths is pointless unless you’re also equipped to employ that knowledge and turn it into wisdom that can actually impact your life. Buckingham’s work is excellent in terms of going deeper and applying your strengths. Check out the title Michael recommended and if you ever get the chance to hear Buckingham speak jump at it!

  • Ben Patterson

    This makes sense.

    The Bulls would not have been successful if Steve Kerr were trying to be MJ, or if Will Perdue played as if he were Pippen.

    That’s not to diminish their skills, rather leverage them for the team.

    • Brent Pittman

      Don’t forget the crazy rebounder Dennis Rodman! 

      • Ben Patterson

        Great call, Brent!

  • John Richardson

    I took the test a few years back and the results really helped me discover some things about myself and my job at the time.

    My top 5 are

    1. Ideation (Idea guy)
    2. Futuristic (looking to the future)
    3. Positivity (positive attitude)
    4. Learner (always learning)
    5. Individualization (bringing people together)

    At the time I was in a state mandated dot the I, cross the T, data collection job with absolutely no creativity, learning, or anything positive about it at all. The program was so badly implemented they had to shut it down for two months to try and fix it. I can remember looking at my strengths list at the time and I couldn’t find one match on the list. No wonder I disliked that job so much…

    Thankfully I’m in a different position now and I have been able to use my strengths with my blog and my writing. There is a lot to be said for this test. After receiving  the StandOut book from Michael a few months back, I took the new test that is included and my strengths on that one are Creator and Pioneer. 

    I guess you could say I love creating new things…

  • Alan Kay

    Our strengths are often under-utilized simply becasue we are not fully conscious of them. Our conscious mind grows up with the ‘red pen’ concept, so we focus on overcoming deficits. This isn’t a bad thing, just a limiting factor. I think the part we have to now refocus on is between our strengths and weaknesses, i.e., our resourcefulness and resilience in dealing with the change that’s rapidly reshaping our world at the individual, community and global levels.      

  • Daren Sirbough

    People always say to me I am a ‘Teacher’ when it comes to Preaching or Sharing the Gospel. I can naturally communicate music to kids as well. I need to be passionate about it though to be truly effective. I know that a strong part of my gifting is teaching so I need to find opportunities to operate in that.

    • Joe Abraham

      Daren, one easy way to confirm what we know as our gifting is to listen to what others say about us. This is especially true with those who know us for many years. 

  • Dale Melchin

    Significance, Focus, Learner, Restorative, Woo.  The book was very insightful, and helped me make some important changes to my career.  I will be taking the test again in light of the new year to ensure that I am on track.  Have a successful day, everyone!

    • Jason Stambaugh

      Care to share more of that story? It will be encouraging for others to see how you connected the dots between your strengths and the specific changes you made to your career. 

      • Dale Melchin

        I would love to but I think I broke wordpress, so I can’t see my original comments!

  • macbookandrew

    I’ve read some of your posts in the past on this topic and it makes a lot of sense. However, at some point in our life, we have to focus on improving our weaknesses—after all, walking is not a strong point with babies; spelling is not a strength of 5-year-old children. At what point do you stop focusing on your weaknesses and start focusing on your strengths?

    • Drew Tewell

      Once you have some experience and have the basics down. What you are talking about is fundamentals. Learning the fundamentals in life and in your field comes first. If you think about it, you have to have gained some experience before you can start to think about your strengths, whether in life or in your career. Without some experience, you couldn’t really evaluate your strengths, because there would be nothing to work with.

      And as far as improving your weaknesses, I do career coaching, and the first thing I look at with a new client is their strengths. We never get into weaknesses. Although, if you have a glaring weakness that is holding you back, you should fix it. The key is to overall keep your focus on your strengths because they give you the greatest opportunity to be successful

    • Jason Stambaugh

      You raise a great point and ask an interesting question. Thanks for the comment.

      I hope others chime in on this one, but I think the key is balance. There will always be tasks and weaknesses of character we will have to improve. Those things will never go away. But in terms of where we spend the majority of our time, it better be spent operating out of our strengths. If we spend all day at a job that locks our strengths in a closet until we return home, we are missing it. Not only will we not be productive team members, we will likely be living lives that collect piles of regret.

    • Jeremy Statton

      Great question. When you talk about children learning spelling, the issues are immaturity and ignorance. Understanding your weaknesses is not a reason to remain ignorant, it just means that you know what you are not as good at and you know that others are better at it. A  more effective team will be comprised of people with different strengths, and they play off of these. 

    • Bonnie Clark

      I think you have pointed out some tasks that people learn, however, I think the strengths identified are really character strengths, rather than tasks.  For example, someone may have a strength of ideation or creativity – and may be a writer or an engineer.  Different tasks, possibly the same strength areas.

      Maybe there is a task you have to do, but perhaps HOW you do it can differ according to your strengths…

    • Rachel Lance

      Great question. Similar to a couple other replies, I think the key here is balance. Buckingham would say that one way to know whether you’re operating from a position of strength is to ask if you feel stronger when you’re doing a given task. Does it fill you up? If yes, then I would think you’re in a better place to give some attention to working on a weakness. However, if you’re starting from a depleted place then focusing on your weaknesses will only bring you down that much more. 

  • Terri

    I agree whole heartedly.  Just took some classes to identify my strengths as they relate to my current life stage.  However, I must share with you what my 7 year old boy said when I read the quote “The best way to get ahead in your career and be satisfied in your job is to focus on developing your strengths” . His response was ” Of course thats what super heroes do.” Amazing how children are so naturally in tuned to these thoughts but as adults we allow others to direct us elsewhere. 

    • Jeremy Statton

      Kids are great. So simple.

    • Michele Cushatt

      LOVE this. Kids state simply what we make complicated. Unless you become like a little child …

    • Tim Peters

      Terri – That is great! I have a 6 year old boy as well.  I am pretty sure he would have a very similar response.  

    • Joey Espinosa

      Great analogy / insight: You don’t see Superman trying to talk to fish, and you don’t see Aquaman trying to use X-ray vision.

      Ahhh. . . .  Justice League memories….

      • Michele Cushatt

        Love me some Justice League awesomeness … ;-)

  • Drew Tewell

    I agree with your post Michael. I do career coaching and the first thing I look at with a new client is their strengths. It is even the first chapter in my book (which you can read on my website,, for free). Thanks for all the great content!

    • Brandon

      Thanks for sharing the link!

    • Tim Peters

      Drew, thanks for the free resource.  Looks good.  

  • Stephanie Kearns

    Communication, Activator, Positivity, Context and Woo!

    I was amazed at the description of each of these and how they described me to a tee. I wish I had a bit of discipline in there as well, but I’ll take Woo! Woo is fun :)

    • Jeremy Statton

      I know a guy whose strength is being whimsical. He is an incredible person to be around. Make sure you develop that Woo.

    • Michele Cushatt

      I secretly hope to be a Woo. It’s just fun to say. :)

      • Tim Peters

        Michele.  I was thinking the same exact thing.  Tim, what is your strength?  “Woo.” 

        • Michele Cushatt

          Just imagine it on a business card. :-)

    • Kelly Combs

      Just knowing there is a “Woo” category has influenced me to take the quiz. I must be a woo.

  • Brett

    Fun little story: I’ve not done the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment, but I did just finish the StandOut assessment.  My 1 and 2: Stimulator and Provider. My role was in sales. My Influencer was down at 8 out of 9. Miraculously, in the meantime, I was shifted into more of a sales management role within a week or two of taking the test.

    My question: What is the big difference between the StrenthsFinder and the StandOut? Do they both help encourage you in the same direction?

    • Rachel Lance

      Hi Brett, I’m curious to dig into StandOut as well, I’m a huge fan of Buckingham’s work. Did you notice the comment below from Kevin Mackesy? Sounds like StandOut is more action oriented. I’m anxious to see how the StandOut results complement my StrengthFinder.
      “Perfect timing on this post…I got Buckingham’s “StandOut” as a Christmas gift.  It defines your top two strength roles (out of 9).  He describes Strengthsfinder as descriptive while StandOut is prescriptive… “

  • OmarHamada

    Interestingly, my top 5 are the same as yours.   I didn’t realize it, but SF 2.0 actually ranks all 34 characteristics but only gives the top 5 through the book.  Gallup has coaches that will review all 34 and help you identify your true strengths and weaknesses even better than just reviewing your top 5 in a deeper and more integrated way.  I can link a website if you’d like.

    In addition, some other tools that I’ve used to get a better understanding are the Hermann Brain Dominance Inventory or HBDI, the Ennegram, Hogan, Kolbe, Myers-Briggs, DISC, and several others….  Helps get a better rounded picture of who you truly are and what it is that drives and energizes you.  Many of these assessments can be and, in my opinion, should be used in hiring decisions for specific roles to avoid placing people in areas of dysfunction and instead enable them to be humming on all 12 cylinders.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Wow. Fascinating.

      Yes, I am aware that Gallup offers all 34 themes, ranked in order. They charge $550 for the test and a one-hour consultation. I have really been tempted.
      I love the Enneagram test, too.


  • Rose McChesney

    I took the Strengths Finder 2.0 test when I worked at Compassion a couple of years ago, and it was really fascinating.  A couple of things we learned:
    1. When a team of people all learn their own strengths – and one another’s – they can communicate with one another better, and learn how to rely on one another more appropriately.  Productivity can increase without forcing activity or mistreating people!
    2. Strengths Finder writes descriptions for each person slightly differently, based on your results, I believe.  Let me put it this way:  because of the variety of answers I give on the test, “Relator” was one of my strengths, but it looked different for me than it does for you, based on your description above.  It is important when you are given the list of your strengths, that you don’t assume that you will be just like someone else or that they will be just like you.  There’s a delicate harmony in each set, and how you are put together is not the same as how someone else is put together. 
    3. It is freeing to learn that the way you tick actually makes sense when you put the puzzle pieces together.  It is also freeing to realize that your weaknesses don’t make you a failure, because you can see the many ways in which you are (or can be) a success!

    I highly recommend Strengths Finder to anyone – and their entire workplace, small group, or family.

    • Rose McChesney

      On another note… I had a review recently, and my boss didn’t mention weaknesses at all.  She focused entirely on strengths and positives.  I walked away almost feeling uncomfortable, because one would expect some critiquing.  But I also walked away fully committed to proving her right, and living up to the standard that she had set.  Her focus on my strengths made me want to chase them all the more.

    • Jeremy Statton

      Great points, Rose.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You’re second point is excellent. I wasn’t aware of that.

      • Rose McChesney

        Well, I also may have not said that quite right either… It was a couple of years ago.  I just remember doing group debriefings and we had to sit with people of the same strength, and our descriptions weren’t the same.  We were really confused at first, then we figured out the value in it and saw more beautiful complexity!

  • Terri

    My top 5 Clifton Strengths are Input, Positivity, Maximizer, Woo (i love the name), and Includer.  Although my day job does not use my strengths (secretary in an IT department) , I get to work in the middle school ministry at my church and frequently get to speak and motivate.  I love my strengths and they make me who I am!  I work with three other women in the middle school ministry and I have learned that when everyone operates within their strengths, we are a much richer group.

    • Jim Martin

      Terri, you make an important point regarding your day job and then your experience with middle school ministry at your church.  I suspect that what you describe is true for many people.  Sometimes, people are in jobs that do not really utilize some of their strengths.  At the same time, however, they find great fulfillment in community service, volunteer work, or a ministry in their church that does utilize these strengths.  Thanks!

    • Rachel Lance

      Terri, what a great example of deliberately searching for ways to operate from your strengths and be filled by them. It’s important for us to remember that perhaps we can’t change our jobs right now, but there are still plenty of opportunities to use those strengths. My husband began as a volunteer in his area of strength and has turned that into a career that he loves. 
      I also work in a ministry IT department, we laugh that woo is not represented in our team because if there was a spectrum of woo we’d probably all be on the opposite end of having any – your team is very blessed to have your woo, bring it! I bet there are ways you bring input, positivity and your other strengths to your IT department as well. I think there’s something to be said for incorporating your strengths into how you perform your role as IT secretary – I would challenge you to look for your strengths in tasks you’re already doing and expand on those tasks, also look for new tasks you’d like to take on because they would allow you to work from your strengths. The more you can be filled by working from your strengths the stronger you’ll be overall. 

  • OmarHamada

    BTW, my business coach (Dan Sullivan with The Strategic Coach out of Toronto) talks about operating out of your “Unique Ability” and delegating all the rest – or as much of it as you can.  He says he now works in his UA over 80% of the time.  Its doing all the other stuff that drains us, slows us down, and makes us less effective.  IF we could focus on our UA, we’d be truly amazed at how much and what we could do with the gifts that God has blessed us with while allowing others the same opportunity and surrounding ourselves with those who complement us by filling in each others gaps.

    • John Tiller

      That’s great advice, Omar!

  • Ed Hird

    I recently took the Strength Finder questionnaire and found it most helpful. Thanks, Michael, for recommending this useful tool.

    Ed Hird+

  • JohnJolley

    Nice article! Strategic, Connectedness, Communication, Responsibility, Woo.

  • Kelly Combs

    I can’t think of anything better than working with someone who realizes my strengths and focuses on them instead of my weaknesses.  Finding jobs that fit our temperament and abilities will make us more satisfied by definition.

    However, I disagree with the sentence, “No matter how hard you try, you really can’t improve your weaknesses. You are wasting time and energy trying to do so. ”  If you mean you can’t change your temperament (creatives fit better in marketing than accounting, for instance), I agree.  However, I think we can and should work to improve our weaknesses.  Otherwise we continue to be in bondage to them, and what a great excuse to continue operating at status-quo.  If the teacher never corrected us, how would we learn and improve?

    Maybe I am splitting hairs or taking the sentence out of context, and if so I apologize. But I believe we should not only focus on our strengths (and work in jobs that accentuate them) but also, with the help of God, improve on our weak areas.

    • John Tiller

      Great thoughts, Kelly!  I don’t think that you are splitting hairs.  When I read your comment I thought of how John Maxwell distinguishes between developing character and developing talent.  

      Developing character (positive attitude, integrity, eating healthy, exercising, treating people well, etc.) is simply a choice – a matter of discipline.  On a scale of one-to-ten, you can go from a “one” to a “ten” by simply deciding to do it.  Sure, you may have to consciously make that choice everyday, but it’s simply a choice.Developing talent, both temperamental (as you mentioned) and physical  (i.e. athletics) has constraints based on the way we were created.  I’m only a “three” on the basketball court.  No matter how hard I work, practice and want to be better, I’ll never be more than “four” or “five”.  However, I’m about an “eight” as a speaker and through hard work, focus and discipline, I can become a “ten”.  I think this also applies to spiritual gifts.  I also love your words about making excuses to operate at status-quo!  We must challenge each other to be better!  We were born to be exceptional, but we have been conditioned to be average.   That’s another topic though :).  Thanks for taking the time to share!

      • Kelly Combs

        Thank you, John. I appreciate the way you defined character versus talent, and I agree. 

        We can’t all be Michael Jordan (smile), but we can all improve our game. 

        • John Tiller

          “We can’t all be Michael Jordan, but we can all improve our game.”  – Kelly Combs.  That one’s going in my Evernote!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Buckingham, Clifton, and Rath’s thesis (based on tons of research) is that you can’t improve your weaknesses significantly. No matter how hard you work at them, you won’t be able to move the needle much. However, if you focus that same energy on your strengths, you can see hug improvement. You might want to read one of the books and see if you agree. They make the case much better than I.

      • Kelly Combs

        Thank you Michael.  I appreciate your response!

    • Joe Abraham

      Good question, Kelly! I know this is directed to Michael. But I like to share a thought here.

      When talking about weaknesses, I believe, it’s about some of those areas/skills that we are not good at and which don’t come in the purview of our primary or predominant strengths. So it is not about those areas or skills where we have to put our effort on for improvement. 

      For example, I have skill in the area of teaching while I have an interest in the area of gardening. I can try hard to perfect my gardening skills and end up with little or no improvement. Even if there does come a little improvement, since my primary skill and call is teaching, the little improvement I got with gardening doesn’t yield much benefit. So I must rather focus on improving my strengths and leave gardening to someone skilled at it if I really desire to enjoy a beautiful garden.

      Hope this thought helps!

      • Kelly Combs

        Thanks Joe! And it’s good to know I’m not the only one with a brown thumb. I can work to improve that, but the truth is I just don’t enjoy gardening. Better to focus on my skills.  

        Thanks again.

    • Cheri Gregory

      Kelly, I agree that we shouldn’t simply shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, these are my weaknesses — oh well!”

      John Maxwell says that pouring a lot of energy into a strengthening a weakness is a misappropriation of energy. We need to learn to compensate for weaknesses so they don’t hamper us or cause issues for others, but the majority of our energy should go toward excelling in our strengths.

      • Kelly Combs

        We have several John Maxwell books, he is a favorite of my husband. I guess I need to pull them off the shelf and have a look.   Thank you so much for your response Cheri!

        • Cheri Gregory

          Kelly —

          A quick caveat: Maxwell does say that weaknesses of character can’t be overlooked. I think that’s an important distinction.

          • Kelly Combs

            Thank you Cheri! That is exactly the point I was making.

      • Jeremy Statton

        There is minimal return on strengthening a weakness. The amount of time and energy that goes into produces very in results, certainly not as much as using a strength.

    • Kelly Combs

      Thanks everyone for your responses! 
      John Tiller helped me get a better understanding of this with talent versus character. I agree we cannot increase our talent weaknesses significantly. But I don’t think that in any circumstance, whether it be an employee, someone we were mentoring or our spouse, that we would accept from them, in an area of character, “That’s a weak area for me, I can’t improve it, so I’m not even going to try.”  

  • Anonymous

    If you have not taken this you should.  

    My top 5 theme are:



    Walt Petticrew

  • Clark

    An incredible tool. My mega-church uses “Stregthfinders” in the hiring process to determine if the strengths of the individual are compatible with the needs to meet the job description/responsibilities (ie: if the requirements are to interact a lot with people and the person is a great candidate but does not have relational strengths – not a win-win scenario). Also has proven to be a great tool in relationship with my wife as we discovered why/how we think differently….information now enhances our relationship further explaining how we think and process differently…..helped both of us to have patience with each other! Highly recommend!

  • Dave Sheets

    This is a great post. My wife and I were just going through this topic this week as I was reviewing my own strengths. I am looking forward to taking my son through this exercise this Spring too. My five: Activator/Strategic/Achiever/Significance/Command.

  • Cheri Gregory

    When I operate out of my strengths — Input, Communication, Ideation, Connectedness, & Learner — I am able to respond from a place of reflection rather than react in the moment. I am able to move toward a student as an individual rather than back away from him/her as a threat.

    I spent much of Christmas break reflecting over numerous difficulties I’ve had with a complaining student. I had the time to use my strengths by re-reading key books, reading some new ones, brainstorming with colleagues, journaling, and prayerfully meditating. 

    I slowly came to see that this student complains as a preemptive strike; he is terrified of failure, so he points an accusing finger at everyone else (especially me) as an offensive defense. This has become such an ingrained habit, he now confuses criticism with critical thinking. He’s going to be in a world of hurt if he arrives at college (not to mention the workplace!) with this mindset.

    Whereas I used to think I was just “too sensitive” to his negativity, I now realize how much he needs someone to help him “grow up” in this area of immaturity.

    • Jim Martin

      Cheri, your opening sentence is so valuable.  You are right.  Operating from one’s strengths can enable one to respond to another person or situation from reflection instead of reaction.  

  • Lori Ferguson

    I believe knowing your strengths will also be an asset in your family life. 

    My husband and I took the Strengths Finder (and we share 2 of the same strengths) – and our grown children also took the Strengths Finder.  It’s valuable to be able to encourage your spouse and children in their strengths.  (It’s also fun to compare and discuss.)

    As a side-note – our daughter has returned to university to study to be counselor.  After completing the Strengths Finder assessment, it was so clearly apparent why this profession will be perfect for her. 

    • Jim Martin

      Lori, thanks for your comment.  In thinking about this topic this morning, it had not occurred to me how helpful this might be for marriages and families.  Good to hear about your experience with your family.

  • Lucille Zimmerman

    I heard about Marcus and his strengths ideas about six years ago and I began focusing on the areas where I excel. It has really made a difference in my overall happiness. I took a different assessment than Strengths 2.0. My top three strengths were curiosity, love of learning, and zest. I am happiest when I am learning something or teaching it to others. Much happier than I would be if I bought a new couch. 

    Another important strength was appreciation of beauty, so now I make sure I find time to notice and install beauty in my life. I took up photography and today I’m headed up to the mountains with my husband to take photographs. We’ll listen to beautiful music as we drive…

    • Tim Peters

      Great to hear you are finding happiness by operating out of your strengths.  Have a good New Year. 

  • Rob Sorbo

    Analytical, Responsibility, Belief, Relator, Ideation

    I am a word processing specialist (basically I’m an editor who also does layout, design, and printing) for a Christian organization and I frequently work with clients, so I feel like my Analytical, Belief, and Relator skills are well used in my job and my Responsibility comes into play when I juggle projects. Overall I’d say my job fits my strengths well, which is good because I enjoy my job and I feel successful at it.

    Fortunately, I have a great manager who will often divvy up tasks based on the individual talents and strengths of our team (though we haven’t done StrengthsFinder as an office.

    • Tim Peters

      Rob, I really like leaders who understand strengths and allow their teams to operate out of strengths.  Where do you work? 

      • Rob Sorbo

        The national office of the Assemblies of God.

  • Eric S. Mueller

    I haven’t taken the Strengthsfinder 2.0. When I started a job in 2008, they handed me the “Now, Discover Your Strengths” book and told me to read it and take the test. They told me they were a “Strengths based organization”. Then for the next two years, I found myself working almost constantly in areas I’m weak in and bored with. That job ended in disaster. I always wondered if they actually believed what they claimed. They sure seemed to, but in my experience, I never saw it outside of lunch & learns and team meetings.

    I came out of the original with the strengths of Context, Communication, Activator, Learner, and Maximizer. The “Standout” book/test says I’m a “Connector/Advisor”. 

    I’m still learning how to apply these strengths.

    • Tim Peters

      Eric, those are the worst situations.  When test results present strengths, yet team members are not positioned to use those strengths.  No brainer on that situation turning bad.  

  • Rob Sorbo

    Michael, do you ever retake the strengths test? I had to retake it for a class I took last fall, and I was surprised to find that my top 5 were completely different (no overlaps at all) from when I took it ~3 years ago.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I did. I had two of them change. Gallup actually encourages you not to do this in their FAQs. Here’s what they say:
      Can I retake the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment? Can taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder more than once affect my results?
      Your first completion of the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment will yield the purest and most revealing results. For this reason, each Clifton StrengthsFinder access code is valid for only one time through the assessment. Taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder more than once may actually skew the validity of the results. The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment measures the presence of talents by presenting you with pairs of statements, and by then challenging you to make a top-of-mind choice between the two. The 20-second time limit and your unfamiliarity with the statements ensure your assessment’s accuracy by making it difficult to over-think your responses.

    • John Tiller

      Rob, great question!!  Here’s how Michael replied to that question when asked in another comment a little earlier:
      One thought: I was actually going to take the test again yesterday. However, in reviewing the FAQs on the StrengthsFinder site, I found this: Can I retake the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment? Can taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder more than once affect my results? Your first completion of the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment will yield the purest and most revealing results. For this reason, each Clifton StrengthsFinder access code is valid for only one time through the assessment. Taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder more than once may actually skew the validity of the results. The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment measures the presence of talents by presenting you with pairs of statements, and by then challenging you to make a top-of-mind choice between the two. The 20-second time limit and your unfamiliarity with the statements ensure your assessment’s accuracy by making it difficult to over-think your responses. 

  • Curtis O Fletcher

    Strategic – Ideation – Maximizer – Relator – ActivatorI have had the conversation with everyone on my team about strengths and how we can position them in the organization to work in theirs. I’ve told them that my responsibility as management, once I know where their strengths lay, is to look for those opportunities on their behalf. Their responsibility is to be a rock star where they are so that when the new thing comes up I can endorse them wholeheartedly. Once a level of trust is built, and they know I’m looking out for them in terms of finding the perfect fit, the energy that used to go into looking around the organization for a right or better fit goes into being a rock star at their current job. The fun part is when we find the sweet-spot and get to move someone who is already a rock star into something where they shine even brighter.

  • Rob Sorbo

    I feel similarly about an office I worked in that tried to focus on strengths. 

    Currently I work for a manager who assigns us to projects according to our abilities, but I don’t think she’s familiar with the Strengthsfinder materials.

    • Justin Wise

      Maybe you could nonchalantly forward this post to her? Ha! That might make your point for you.

  • Rob Sorbo

    Sorry! This post and the previous one were supposed to be replies to Eric Mueller…I don’t know why they don’t show up under his.

    I feel similarly about an office I worked in that tried to focus on strengths. 

    Currently I work for a manager who assigns us to projects according to our abilities, but I don’t think she’s familiar with the Strengthsfinder materials.

  • Bryan Patrick

    Mike – Your timing in this post in uncanny, yet I’m not surprised as my #4 strength is Connectedness, meaning I tend to “have faith in the links between all things. They [people with connectedness theme] believer there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.”

    I was introduced to Strengths Finder 2.0 as part of a pilot coaching program initiated by a non-profit for which I volunteer. Finding my top 5 has been empowering. Knowing these has validated in a tangible way what I had been feeling in my heart and life. It has brought me clarity and focus in the many roles I have in life.

    My top 5 are:
    1. Strategic
    2. Responsibility
    3. Input
    4. Connectedness
    5. Relator

    Great post Mike! Thanks for sharing this with the world. Imagine if we all improved on our strengths and moved ahead. Wow!

    – BP

    • Justin Wise

      “Imagine if we all improved on our strengths and moved ahead.” One can dream, can’t they!

      What a great set of strengths!

      • Bryan Patrick

        Thank you, Justin

  • Brandon Weldy

    I took the strengthsfinder test 5 years ago when I went to Greenville College for a college day. They had all their prospective students do it. My top 5 were Developer, Empathy, Belief, Input, and Relator. For a while I kept those posted to remind myself of them but I have not done that in years. I really think that I am working a job that allows me to use my strengths. I’m sure I could find some tasks that I could delegate off though so I could focus on getting tasks done that I can do great. 

    • Justin Wise

      Brandon … Consider yourself one of the lucky ones! Far too few people actually operate in their strengths, unfortunately. It’s great to see someone who recognizes their gifting and excels in it! Well done.

  • Melissa Hager Leembruggen

    Our church has our own Christian/Bible based curriculum based on the Strengths Finder 2.0 and it has created a culture which allows servant leaders to communicate from their strengths and understand teams and each other more effectively. I would love to see more churches incorporate the idea of serving in our strengths rather than getting warm bodies to fill the roles.

    maximizer, responsibility, strategic, achiever, & self-assurance

    • Justin Wise

      Melissa … That’s interesting. What are the main differences between the adaption your church has done and the original Strengths Finder?

    • Michele Cushatt

      ME TOO! I’ve seen that happen too often ‹ a church filling an open position with a warm body before the due diligence of researching both the role and the applicants. Almost always it ends up with a firing and/or added tension on team because of a mismatch.

    • Brandon Weldy

      That would be an amazing program to have! Is it something you do with small groups or a program that volunteers are taken through?

  • Ronna-Renee

    I have been a fan of Strength Finders for years now.  When I was working in the Corporate world, we built an entire leadership development program around this material.  The change in employees and manager’s was unbelievable – so freeing to be able to be who you are at your very core.  I’ve incorporated concepts from this book and my experiences to build entire team development programs that I’ve delivered in all industries;  healthcare, law, education – it applies to all.  My top 5 themes of strength are:  WOO, Communication, Strategic, Positivity and Relator. 

    • Justin Wise

      Let me guess … You work with people in one, way, shape, or form? Those are CLASSIC people-person traits! ;)

  • Kyle Chowning

    Our company has gotten deep into the strengths finder book. It’s good, until people start using it as an excuse on why work isn’t done on time, done well, or why they shouldn’t do something at all. The temptation is to think that you should only operate in your strengths. For some, you don’t have a choice but to do projects and tasks that aren’t something you’re “strong” at, but because it’s your job. It’s a fine line.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree. When using your strengths moves from being an empowering thing to being a limiting thing—or an excuse—it is off base.

    • Brandon Weldy

      That’s a great point! Sometimes we just have to do things to get the job done even if we don’t want to. Using our strengths as an excuse for not getting things accomplished just does not cut it.

  • kimanzi constable

    It would help cut down on my fear of accomplishing certain things in my life (if I operated more on strength)

    • Joe Lalonde

      Kimanzi, what is holding you back from operating with more of your strengths?

      • kimanzi constable

        Joe, I think not really knowing myself well enough. If I did I think I could identify thye strengths that would help me fight my dobuts and fears!

  • Deb Ingino

    Great Post!  As an activator, commander, relator I have found without exception that staying in my strengths zone elevates my performance and result.  Whether using Strengthsfinder, MB or DISC, the real key is that we apply our strengths in our daily activity.

    Thanks for the great reminder!

    • Brandon Weldy

      Exactly! I recently read StandOut and that book helped me to get back on course. I have a post-it right above my computer that asks “How are you using your strengths today?”

      • Rachel Lance

        Love it, Brandon. I have my strengths posted on my monitor, but I think I need to refresh and add a challenging reminder like yours.

  • Marni Arnold

    “You really can’t improve your weaknesses.”

    From this alone…of which I agree (we, alone on our own strength can’t improve anything)…I have a question. How do you explain God utilizing our weaknesses (ie: weak faith), transforming them into strengths…in which many examples are given of such throughout scripture?

    • Rob Sorbo

      The cases I can think of in Scripture highlight weaknesses to emphasize God working through people. If God had worked through great leaders instead of people like Moses or Gideon, then those stories wouldn’t be as impressive as they are.

    • Jeremy Statton

      When God uses someone’s weak faith, he is using his strengths.  It can be the same idea in a company. The strengths of some makes up for the weaknesses in others. Just a thought.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is a great question. I think this is a case where it is both/and. Obviously, the best strategy is not to identify your weaknesses and then focus on those so you can experience God’s strength. Rather, I think it is the case where we ask, How has God wired me? How can I work in concert with His design? Then, in addition to that, expect Him to show up and work even when you fail and fall short.
      Just a thought …

      • Marni Arnold

        This makes a whole lot of sense. I firmly believe it is a balance of both/and. It almost is leading me to wonder if this is the formula of both/and, “Don’t pursue to ‘fix’ your weaknesses by seeking God’s strength in them, but let the “overabundance” of what God does in your strengths – as you grow in those – fill the holes of where you’re weak.”?

        This is going to take some definite examination on my part; something I honestly love to do. :)

  • Enrique Fiallo

    Thanks for this post Michael. My entire group is using this tool and we have seen a lot of value individually, and also collectively as we are able to see each other’s strengths (we publicly post them) and use that to better understand and interact with each other (No wonder you act like that! You are an Achiever!) . My 5 are:
    1) Intellection
    2) Input
    3) Relator
    4) Learner
    5) Achiever
    When I first read this book and took the test, it was like a light came on. Focus on your strengths! Of course! 
    A great article I read recently, was very complementary to this. The George Costanza Approach to Fixing Fatal Flaws.
    In short:
    1) Focus your limited valuable time and energy on your strengths
    2) Revisit them periodically to make sure they hold true and to keep focus
    3) If your flaws are not fatal, don’t spend time on them
    4) If you have fatal flaws, find out what they are, and do the opposite!
    I know it sounds simplistic, but, the key is, to do enough to improve fatal flaw areas so that they don’t get in the way and don’t detract from and overshadow your strengths

    I love Strength Finders! Thanks so much for posting this today.

    • Jim Martin

      Enrique, thanks for the resource that you cited.  I look forward to following up with it.

  • Kevin Mackesy

    Perfect timing on this post…I got Buckingham’s “StandOut” as a Christmas gift.  It defines your top two strength roles (out of 9).  He describes Strengthsfinder as descriptive while StandOut is prescriptive.  My top two strengths, in order, were Creator and Connector.  I agreed with Creator but Connector caught me by surprise.  I will have to work on developing that as I would not have described myself as such.

    I only wish you could take the StandOut test more than once.  So far that doesn’t appear to be the case.  Anybody know any differently?

    • Joe Lalonde

      Kevin, you can only take the StandOut test once with the code provided. You can purchase another book/code and retake the test. However, that is not recommended.

      • Kevin Mackesy

        Yeah I guess that is to stop me from buying one book and having everyone I know take the test through that one code.  Makes sense.  But when I saw my #2 I couldn’t help but think I misinterpreted some of the questions or the test misinterpreted some of my answers haha.  Maybe I’ll study my #3, which was advisor.  That seems a little more like me.  I certainly won’t be buying another book just to take it again!

        • Joe Lalonde

          I would suppose that is the reason too. It would be nice to be able to retake the test once or twice but StrengthsFinders believes, from their research, there won’t be much, if any, change.

    • Rob Sorbo

      I also took the StandOut test over the holidays. I disagreed with my #1, but agreed with #2 and #3. I realized, however, that my #1 is how I function in my marriage, but not in my career.

      I’m pretty sure Joe is right. These tests are only supposed to taken once, so you have to buy a new book to get a retake.

    • Brandon Weldy

      It’s awesome when we find a strength that catches us off guard. It gives us an opportunity to really do some searching into our lives and to see how it plays out. Taking the test only once allows for us to give honest answers without knowing the possible outcome and trying to sway it anyway. 

  • Susan Scott

    What a timely post. My son just finished a session with a math “tutor”. Traditionally  tutors help students who are falling behind. I used your post to explain to my son we are using a math “coach” who is helping him build on his strengths (my son is very good in math and we want to maximize his abilities in that area.) I wish public schools could grab a hold of this concept and adopt the attitude of building children’s strengths instead of focusing on their weaknesses.

    • Joe Lalonde

      I love how you explained it to your son. It encourages him to look at these experiences in a positive light.

    • Jim Martin

      Susan, what a creative way to explain this to your son!  

  • Jacque Watkins

    I learned so much from this assessment tool, several years ago. My 5 are:


    As a homeschooling mom and part-time labor & delivery RN, I feel satisfied to be utilizing most of my strengths in my jobs. Thank you for this post, it’s a great summary!

    • Joe Lalonde

      Jacque, I can see Communication, Harmony, and Relator playing a huge role in homeschooling.

  • Brandon

    Awesome! Operating in your strengths is necessary for success! I am learning this everyday as I prepare for medical school. There are so many requirements, but I know that I can do it because God wants me to. He will give me the necessary strengths to make it.

    • Joe Lalonde

      I wish you well in medical school Brandon. You will do great.

      Have you had a chance to take the StrengthsFinder assessment? If not, you should get the book and take the test. It will open your eyes to how you are bent.

      • Brandon

        Thanks! I haven’t had the chance to get the book yet, but I will check it out when I get the chance! Is amazon the best place to get it?


        • Joe Lalonde

          It looks like most places have it available for $15 or so. But Amazon is easy and quick to ship.

  • Willbrwn71

    Hi Michael, your site is very informative. I like that. I took the strengths test recently and discover the reason(s) as a leader I encourage others to always first identify the why(values) before the what (desires). Keeping the true you and true reason for why you do what you do in front of you makes life simple. I told a young man before don’t ever get mad that you are totally invested in what you are into and others are not as invested. That’s just evidence of who you are and who their not. Life is so much easier when you accept the truth. Getting to sleep is a bonus!

    Here’s my five…


  • Joe Lalonde

    I’ve yet to take the StrengthsFinder test but plan on doing it in the coming months.

    However, I recently took the new assessment from Marcus Buckingham, StandOut. I learned quite a bit about myself and where I need to focus. I ranked top in Pioneer and second in Stimulator. It reaffirmed why I ask Why? often and push into areas that are unknown.

    • Rob Sorbo

      I actually got Stimulator/Pioneer. My #3 was Advisor. Based on what I read, I truly think I should be Advisor/Pioneer. I agree that I am a Stimulator in my marriage, but not so much in my career.

      • Joe Lalonde

        Thanks for sharing your roles Rob. Have you looked for ways that you could be a Stimulator in your career? Doing so could help propel your success.

        • Rob Sorbo

          I actually just took the test a few days ago and haven’t had the chance to think it through very much. I have been intending on doing that.

    • Brandon Weldy

      I took that test and came up Creator and Equalizer which really answered a lot for me. I now have a post-it above my computer to remind me of these and to challenge me to use them daily.

  • Tim Peters

    Great post.  I am using segments of Strength Finder with my wife and kids.  I often fall into the trap of trying to “change” my wife. I “zero-in” on her weaknesses.  Instead I desire to celebrate her strengths.  

    • Brandon Weldy

      That is a great point. Finding my wife’s strengths allows for me to see how she operates and to encourage her in those ways. It can allow for us to work together even better!

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  • Uma Maheswaran S

    I have not taken this strengthfinder test. But, as we discuss about the topic of ‘playing our strengths’, I am remided of the classic story “The Blind Man and the Lame Man” from Aesop’s Fables.
    (ABLIND MAN, being stopped in a bad piece of road, met a Lame Man, and entreated him to help him out of the difficulty into which he had fallen. “How can I,” replied the Lame Man, “since I can scarcely drag myself along? I am lame, and you look very strong.” “I am strong enough,” said the other. “I could go if I could see the way.” [131] “Oh, then we may help each other,” said the Lame Man. “If you will take me on your shoulders, we will seek our fortunes together. I will be eyes for you, and you shall be feet for me.” “With all my heart,” said the Blind Man. “Let us render each other our mutual services.” So he took his lame companion upon his back, and they traveled on with safety and pleasure.)As the moral of this story pioints out, when we operate in our strength zone, we are bound to create matchless synergy in our team.
    “How can I,” replied the Lame Man, “since I can scarcely drag myself along? I am lame, and you look very strong.”
    “I am strong enough,” said the other. “I could go if I could see the way.”
    [131] “Oh, then we may help each other,” said the Lame Man. “If you will take me on your shoulders, we will seek our fortunes together. I will be eyes for you, and you shall be feet for me.”
    “With all my heart,” said the Blind Man. “Let us render each other our mutual services.” So he took his lame companion upon his back, and they traveled on with safety and pleasure.)

    As the moral of this story pioints out, when we operate in our strength zone, we are bound to create matchless synergy in our team.

  • Nathanael Small

    Hi Michael from Sydney, Australia.

    Thanks for getting the Strengths ‘gospel’ out there and sharing your current top 5.  I will explain what I mean as succinctly as I can.

    My current top 5 (as at Dec 2011) are Futuristic, Learner, Strategic, Input and Ideation, taken through Strengths-Based Leadership (SBL). 

    SBL is the best framework for Leaders to take the assessment through because it puts the strengths through two grids – aligning the your Strengths Themes with Four Domains of Leadership: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking.

    SBL also provides guidance around what Gallup Research says are the 4 Basic Needs of Followers: Building Trust, Showing Compassion, Providing Stability, and Demonstrating Hope. 

    Very powerful stuff – the report is excellent and very practical for mentoring or coaching others.

    However, when I did StrengthsFinder 2.0 in Dec 2007 for the first time in a Sales Leadership Role, my Top 5 were:
    Input, Strategic, Learner, Belief & Responsibility

    If you do the profile in a team based environment with a Gallup accredited advisor, they should have a report which shows for you:

    1. How the 34 Themes are ranked;

    2. Your current Top 5;

    3. Your current Bottom 2 (your areas of biggest weakness where you need someone else to complement you).

    My current understanding is that you live in your Top 10 Strengths and your current Top 5 depends a somewhat on your context as you adapt to your current role.

    There is a very cost effective Strengths Certification track for Faith and Education based practitioner available through StrengthsQuest: 
    I’m starting  certification in it this month and this will give me access to the toolset.

    I don’t know how closely you’ve the publishing of Strengths books since 2.0, but the other excellent ones are:
    1. Go, Put Your Strengths to Work (practical for your current role)
    2. Living Your Strengths (faith based, but still needing theological integration)
    3. Strengths Based Leadership (refer above)
    4. Strengths Based Selling (within a sales context)

    Marcus Buckingham (Clifton’s other key ‘disciple’) has also gone out on his own and published:
    1. The Truth About You
    2. Your Secret to Success (for 21st Century Women)

    I’m currently developing a model under what I call “Work2Live”, to help people become “Vocational Missional Disciples”.

    I’m going live in February / March once I finish my current role on Jan 31.

    If you’re interested, will keep you in touch with things as they develop.

    Thanks for all you do in encouraging personal growth in Leadership – love your work!


    • Jason Stambaugh

      Thank you for posting all of these helpful resources. Best of luck to you in your new endeavor!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Wow. Thanks for this content-rich comment! It’s a blog post in itself!

  • Jim Seybert

    Good stuff – It’s all about intentionality. I find that I usually do play to my strengths without thinking about it. Human beings like to do things that make them feel strong. The KEY lies in being pro-active and planning the activity, rather than merely going by instinct. 

    I make a “strong week plan” every Sunday evening.  Looking ahead at my week’s activities, I make note of which strengths will help maximize which activities. By pre-planning in this way, I can make adjustments in timing and other elements that will give me the greatest return on my effort.

    If the week is going to be heavier in activities that weaken me, I will create opportunities where I’m able to play to a strength. For example: I’m a communicator (I am energized by sharing ideas), and if any week doesn’t have enough opportunities for me to exercise that strengths muscle, I will pro-actively add appointments or tasks to the calendar that allow me to interact and share ideas with people.

    • Jim Martin

      Jim, I really like your practice of making a “strong week plan” every Sunday evening.  I like the way you intentionally connect particular strengths with upcoming activities.  I suspect this is a very helpful practice.

    • Jason Stambaugh

      Jim, thank you for sharing how you put the strengths to practice in your daily life. However, I must say, that kind of planning must also speak to one of your other strengths!

    • Jim Martin

      Jim, I really like your practice of making a “strong week plan” each Sunday evening.  I like the way you connect your strengths to the activities you anticipate.

    • Rachel Lance

      Jim, I love your “strong week plan” – sounds like just the tool I need as I set out to focus on new tasks and new strengths this year. Thanks!

  • Bruce Martin

    Great reminder! Did StrengthFinder  a couple of years ago. I am:

  • Gary V Carter

    You have it so right! This isn’t just another personality test. I recommend it to everyone. Sadly, I find it fascinating as to how many never get around to taking the test even though they say they want to find their strengths. People! Go figure.

    • Jason Stambaugh

      The price might screen out a few…

    • Rachel Lance

      I agree, Gary, StrengthsFinder is one of the best tools I’ve used in several contexts. But it’s not a quick, cheap survey a person can google and take away results within just a few minutes. This one takes investment of time and money to really reap the benefits. I think that might intimidate or otherwise put many people off. 

  • Anonymous

    The strengthsfinder is brilliant, accurate, and consistently helps each person see themselves for how God created them, not for how the world views them.  I took the test 2 times with about a 4 year gap between taking the tests and got the exact same results.  Each test revealed my strengths to be Futuristic, Belief, Maximizer, Strategic, and Individualization. 

    After recieving the customized report I took it one step further and personalized it with my own self talk.  For example, here’s what I did with the Futurisitic theme…

    Theme Description

    I am  inspired by the future and what could be. I
    inspire others with their visions of the future.

    makes me stand out?

    1. I invest
    considerable time creating the future of my own choosing.

    2. I frequently share
    ideas about what will be possible in the coming months, years, and decades.

    3. I capture people’s
    attention whenever I describe in vivid detail what I  imagine.

    4. I identify the
    steps and the order in which to perform them to improve the chances of reaching the
    intended goal.

    5. Many individuals
    lack my ability to envision what will be possible in the coming months, years,
    or decades.  As a result, they regularly
    rely on me to do this visioning for them. Instinctively, I may design
    forward-looking plans for a specific aspect of my life, such as investments,
    entrepreneurial ventures, education, vacations, or retirement.


    Others will want to
    put me in a position of leadership where I can help establish the future
    direction of their organization. 

  • Andrea

    Thanks for the post!
    I’ve just read Marcus Buckingham STANDOUT.
    Do you think the book you suggest in this post has a better approach?

    • Joe Lalonde

      Michael did a review on Standout a couple of months ago. You can find out what he thought about the book at

    • Michael Hyatt

      No, I just think they are different. Marcus thinks that StandOut is simpler to use. I think it is, too, but I would really recommend both.

  • Nathanael Small

    PS Michael, having just posted below, I’ve seen all your other links on Strengths and clearly you’re right up to date – apologies for chewing up space on your comments page.
    Just discovered that Marcus Buckingham has a great timeline of the Strengths Movement on his site: 
    I’ve just signed up to his very slick looking Ning Group and ordered StandOut based on your review.

  • Kari Scare

    Love this idea! I’ve taken many personality assessments before and know myself well with regard to personality type; however, I think this might be a more practical tool for applying what the personality tests have been telling me. Definitely going to work on focusing on my strengths more and not being so obsessed with improving my weaknesses.

    • Justin Wise

      Kari … It’s the only way to live! Think about it: You get to live in such a way that builds and doesn’t tear down! When we temper our faults with what we’re good at, it’s much easier to move forward in life. Thanks for the comment!

  • Spence Smith

    We did this with our team and i must say, it completely changed who we work with each other and we got a few laughs out of it when we realized it nailed everyone of us… spot on!

    • Jason Stambaugh

      I had a similar experience. It was great to confirm what we already knew about many of the folks in our church leadership.

  • Tyler Smith

    Achiever, belief, empathy, includer, positivity.

    I think I’m cut out to be Coach Bombay of the Mighty Ducks.

  • Steph Shackelford

    I am a strong believer in StrengthsFinder and use the assessment with the high school and college students I work with. They find it so helpful to know what they are good at and how their unique combination of strengths fit into career areas they are interested in going into. I wrote a blog post on this same topic last month and use a Marcus Buckingham video to illustrate my point:

    • Jason Stambaugh

      Great post! Thank you for the work that you do.

    • Barry Hill

      Yes! I gave each of my Student Leadership Team, comprised of High School Juniors and Seniors, a code to take a test and it has helped us tremendously in everything from understanding what we are good at as a team to areas that they want to pursue in college.

  • Michaeldonat74

    Thomas Nelson recently published StandOut by Buckingham. I found the strengths assessment to be both stronger and simpler than 2.0. Give it a look!

  • Doug Lange

    My strengths led me to a career that I was very good at.  But, I realized that even though I was very good at it and it aligned with my strengths, it sucked energy from me.  I wrote a question at the top of a piece of paper a while back that asked, “What am I really good at doing that I can never tire of doing?”  This helped me recognize my unique abilities, we all have them.  I am now on a different career path, one that aligns not only with my strengths but more importantly with unique abilities.

    • Brandon Weldy

      That is a great question. If more people asked this question to themselves there would be a lot of great change happening!

    • Jim Martin

      Doug, you have asked a great question!  Thanks for contributing this.  I need to reflect on this question as well.

  • Brandon Robbins

    My top 5 strengths are: futuristic, intellection, input, strategic, belief. Knowing these has helped me so much. It’s helped me understand why I am good at certain things & what types of tasks I will not be as good at, thus I should delegate them if possible.

    • Barry Hill

      We share a couple. I am Adaptability, Connectedness, Futuristic, Intellection and Empathy. And my take-away was the same… I was able to understand where my work/ministry emphasis should be and what I should give away of I can.

  • Paul Olson

    For the past several years I have been working through much of what is mentioned in this post.  What a difference!  I can say first hand that going through the steps mentioned has one of the most freeing and empowering experiences that I have ever had.  It is such a blessing to gain some insight into how God has wired me and understand how to leverage it for his name and renown.  

  • Mark Myles

    Love it. Did the test a couple years ago. Currently God has led me to be a church planter and I am loving it. My strengths: Focus, Belief, Futuristic, Relator, Significance.

  • Judy Nickelson

    Of all the Clifton – Buckingham – Rath books, Now, Discover Your Strengths has been the most helpful.  I use it to help me understand how to best work with my direct reports – after I have had them take the Strengthsfinder 2.0.  Another helpful book is Strengths-Based Leadership by Rath and Conchie.  It helps my direct reports understand my strengths and thus my leadership style.

  • Travis D Lathrop

    Question: How do you incorporate your Strenths into your life plan?

  • Travis D Lathrop

    How do you incorporte your Strenghts into your Life Plan?

  • Brian

    Belief, Responsibility, Strategic, Focus and Achiever.  I serve as a senior pastor and feel my strengths play into my role.  However, the achiever and responsibility often get in the way of the strategic and focus strengths.  I allow myself to get bogged down in “getting things done” and have to work at carving out time to think, plan and dream.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Daniel Lyle

    I took the 2.0 test back when I was working a job that I was not satisfied in.  It didn’t use any of my strengths.  I am now working a new job which regularly taps into my strengths.  I am way more satisfied then I used to be.  Incidentally, at the time I took 2.0 I also took the DISC profiler and the keirsey temperament sorter.  It was really freaky to compair all of them and to see how well they harmonized together.

  • Heather Trompke

    Operating in your strengths not only makes you make
    productive-but also more peaceful. From my own experience–when you are doing
    what God designed you to do, it flows. When you are not doing what he designed
    you to do-it’s like running into a brick wall-OVER & OVER & OVER again.

  • Ken Snyder

    Excellent Michael. A timely reminder as we are working through annual reviews and identifying areas on which to focus in the New Year.

    I have also completed Buckingham’s Stand Out assessment. What an eye opener! As I first read the findings, I thought there was a huge miss. However, as I shared the findings first with my wife and then my mentor, they both affirmed the results. Furthermore, so did my staff as I  shared the findings with them.

    As much as I thought I knew myself, I am learning a great deal more.

    I am well under way in the process of steps #3 and #4.

    Thanks again.

    • Jason Stambaugh

      Wives are great strengths finders…

  • Dalene Aylward

    Great post Michael!

    My top 5 strengths:

    My entire office took the assessment & went over our results together, learning each others’ strengths & discussing how we can operate differently & more productively,thereby promoting job satisfaction & happiness!

    I’ve taken many assessments over the years including MBTI (I am INTJ), DiSC (which,  I had to take twice at work because my first result was iSC – the second was SC; when I took this with my church I was a strong D), the Strong Interest Inventory & various spiritual gift assessments, both through work & my church.

    I think using multiple self-assessments, reading & researching further on the topic – with the help of experts when possible, & self-reflection can lead to humility, a better concept of the Body of Christ, a clarity in purpose, & probably most importantly, a truer love for Christ, self & others.

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  • Brent Pittman

    I love strength finders! Our church uses it for small groups and overseas team trainings. It really helps to know your team members and assign roles. It’s also great for getting to know your spouse better and helping them become the best person. 

    Also, I had the honor of learning from the late Dr. Chip Anderson author of ‘Strength Quest’ with co-author Don Clifton. So basically I’m a huge fan and routinely identify strengths in others when I meet them. 

    My Strengths: Context, Learner, Achiever, Developer, Adaptability. 

    • Jim Martin

      Brent, thanks for noting this resource by Chip Anderson and Don Clifton.  Some excellent resources come out in these comments.

  • Chad Lower

    I was able to take the assessment for free though an agreement my school has with the vendor through their alumni page. I still got the book at the library to interpret the results.

  • Brent Sprinkle

    I took the test a couple years ago, it was a gift from a good friend of mine.

    My top 5 are:
    – Individualization

    – Analytical

    – Learner

    – Relator

    – Arranger 
    I have them posted on my website to share with my colleagues and clients.

    The best description of leveraging your strengths I’ve heard was:

    – A duck can do three things – fly, swim, and walk. 
      Don’t put the duck in a seat where he has to walk for living…

    • Jason Stambaugh

      I love the quote. Just curious, are your strengths a conversation piece with your clients?

  • John S. Oliver

    Strengths Finder is a VERY useful tool. I have taken the online test several times over the years. And the results changed slightly in revealing ways.

    • Barry Hill

      I have always wondered if our personalities change over the years, or if they stay the same and we discover who we really are, as opposed to who we want people to think we are. It’s an interesting question! Thanks John!

  • Thomas Campbell

    Strengthsfinder 2.0 is great.  It helped me a lot.  Continuing to put it into practice can be hard….staying on track with my strengths.

  • J Loren Norris

    Top 5 Learner, Strategic, Futuristic, Communication, Connectedness.
    Only in 2011 did I discover that applying these strengths to my deepest passion (speaking and training) would lead me to a plan that would become a delightful career – self employed.

    It still takes a load of hard work to capture such an illusive dream. But I now know what I am chasing and that I have the gifts, talents and passions to catch it. W

    ithout Michael Hyatt’s blog leading me to a Minute With Maxwell, I would not have joined the John Maxwell-Martinelli-Maxwell Team to become what I was meant to be all along.

  • J Loren Norris

    Expand Top 5 Learner, Strategic, Futuristic, Communication, Connectedness. Only in 2011 did I discover that applying these strengths to my deepest passion (speaking and training) would lead me to a plan that would become a delightful career – self employed. It still takes a load of hard work to capture such an illusive dream. But I now know what I am chasing and that I have the gifts, talents and passions to catch it. Without Michael Hyatt’s blog leading me to a Minute With Maxwell, I would not have joined the John Maxwell-Martinelli-Maxwell Team to become what I was meant to be all along.

    • Barry Hill

      That is really cool that you have been able to find your “wheelhouse” and that it has lead to a great calling! Michael and John have had a big impact on a lot of people and I second your kind words! Keep up the great work!

  • E_strom

    I hadn’t even finished reading the whole post before I started linking to it in Twitter, LinkedIn and emailing to everyone I could think of. What a powerful concept if we would, and if those over us would focus on our strengths and help to develop them, rather than always pointing out our weaknesses and short comings. I am going to get the book right now! Thanks for this.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Great! Thanks for sharing the post.

      • E_strom

        I had a follow up question regarding this post. I know Michael can’t personally reply to every email and question, but I was wondering if he recommends reading Now, Discover Your Strengths, As well as the newer book, Strength Finder 2.0? I think I might have the first book stashed away already but never read it.

        • Joe Lalonde

          I’m unsure of that. I will see if I can get you the answer.

        • Joe Lalonde

          If you could only read one, he would recommend StrengthsFinder 2.0.

  • Alyssa Avant

    I love these types of tests they fascinate me as well as Spiritual gifts done a lot of study on both.  Found that I am an activator and a futuristic thinker I think and DREAM big. Now I just have to get past my fear and let God move!

    • Barry Hill

      Yeah, I love these types of tests too. Myers Briggs, Disc, Enneagram, and then then animal one with the otter… I was a Golden Retriever in that one. But, I think they do help confirm the way God has created us and, in a way, do help us get over fear and doubt!

  • Christian Ray

    I’ll definitely check out the book. I wonder this though. How do you not over intellectualize your ideas about your character? How do you take if from a mere understanding to experiential change? I read and discuss things extensively,  but implementation is my weakness, it is a slow process for me. 

  • tonychung

    Anyone who knows me quickly finds that I have no weaknesses, save for an inability to be humble. Google me. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Love that you posted about SQ! The University I last worked at used it extensively in work with students and in professional development. 

    I’m Input, Communication, Belief, Woo, Developer

    Most people don’t know what “Woo” is but when I tell they always chuckle … it’s accurate.

    • Barry Hill

      We have a couple of Woo (winning others over) on out staff at church and it definitely fits them too. I think Woo is the coolest sounding strength! ha.

  • Bob Tiede

    I also like the book, “Strength Based Leadership” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. (I understand that Tom Rath is actually Donald Clifton’s Grandson)  The thesis of their book is that there are no well rounded leaders, but there can be well rounded teams.  They state that the Four Domain of Leadership are:  Strategic Thinking, Team Building, Influencing and Executing and that StrengthsFinder–having studied more than two million world class leaders is yet to find a single one of them that has world class strength in all four domains.  So great leaders understand this–they know which Leadership Domain their Strengths are in and they surround themselves with Leaders who have strengths in the other Leadership Domains.

  • Rachel

    Thanks for sharing this resource! The past year or so has been a time of knowing I have a fantastic future but not knowing what it is or how to achieve it. Figuring out what I’m good at would be a great starting point.  

  • Bob Tiede

    Question:  Looking at your hand is the real strength of your hand collectively what each of your fingers does individually?  or is it how your five fingers work instinctively together?  Obviously the later!  Applying this same paradigm to your top five strengths–do you think the real strengths of a person is simply the collection of their top five strengths or is it how their top five strengths instinctively work together to accomplish great things?  It is a great question to contemplate:  How do your top five strengths work instinctively together to accomplish great things?  Your answer will allow you to take a giant leap forward in knowing how to leverage your strengths. 

    • Jason Stambaugh

      This is an interesting observation. I was pondering that yesterday as I reviewed my top 5 strengths (Strategic, Ideation, Achiever, Input, Activator).

  • Peter Huang

    Hi,I’m Peter from Indonesia. I think this is a very interesting article, unfortunately I have searched the bookstores in my country that are specialized in selling imported book and they don’t have this book. And to buy it from amazon will require a credit card, something i don’t have for now >.< 

  • Vanessa Tachenko

    Another thought provoking read! I have added the book you recommend to my “Need to Read” list! 

  • Sharon Gibson

    If more people would do this and more companies would focus on this, there would be a huge increase in productivity, creativity and job satisfaction.

    I decided that this year I’m going to focus more on my areas of strength and your post reinforced that. It’s a relief not to worry about my weaknesses and go with the strengths. The timing for the reinforcement is good for me. 

    Thank you!

    • Jim Martin

      Sharon, best wishes for the New Year as you focus on your areas of strength.  No doubt you are right.  If more of us would focus on this there would be greater productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction.

      • Sharon Gibson

        Thank you for your good wishes, encouragement and affirmation. I appreciate it!

  • PoulAndreassen

    There are certain
    things you do not realize until you read them, and through your article I have
    come to realize those few but interesting and effective way to leadership.

    My goal is to stay focused
    on my strengths yes this is true we as humans are always tend to stay focus on
    our weaknesses. The best way to get ahead in your career and
    be satisfied in your job is to focus on developing your strengths.

    Thanks once again!!

  • Pierre Muller

    Hi Michael,
    I appreciated this specific blog.
    I just want to mention to you that I used your link – to Amazon – to try and buy the book. I unfortunatly couldn’t find the Kindle version. I eventually had to re-login and search for it.
    Pierre Muller
    South Africa

    • Pierre Muller

      Maybe I must just add that I did find the Kindle version in the end. They e-mailed me my code and I did the on-line test this morning. Am planning to read through my feedback tonight.

      • Joe Lalonde

        We’re glad to hear you were able to find the Kindle version and take the test. If you feel like it, please share your results.

  • Christophe Pletschet

    I like the Strenghtfinder very much! My strengths are: Focus, Input, Learning, Restorative and Significance. I also have the christian spin-off on my bookshelf:
    “Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community”. Nice one too!

  • Jeff Randleman

    Excellent information!

    I’ve never used the Strength Finder system, but I have taken other types of strength inventories.  One church I worked with hired a consultant for each new staff member to see how they fit into the staff dynamics.  Some of the best information about myself I ever received!

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  • Ben Emerson

    Strategic, Ideation, Activator, Adaptability, Communication.

    I loved taking that test. my confidence in work jumped afterwards.

    Have you ever taken a look at Strengths Based Leadership? It is super helpful for learning how teams can function well.

    • Barry Hill

      I am with you! Discovering what you were created to do gives you a boost of energy, motivation and confidence!

  • Juan Romero

    My Too 5…

    Adaptability – People who are especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

    Connectedness – People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

    Woo – People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.

    Includer – People who are especially talented in the Includer theme are accepting of others. They show awareness of those who feel left out, and make an effort to include them.

    Ideation – People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

  • Anonymous

    This is great advice, and I look forward to buying the book. I’m a small business owner. After building our business four years ago, it crashed in 2010. In the process of rebuilding, I’ve learned the need to lean into my strengths. I’ve worked really hard over the past year to focus more on managing and growing a business without getting sidetracked by trying to do everything. But the hardest part of that is not having someone to delegate to. Either I can’t afford to hire the staff, or can’t find the right person to fill the need. How to others in a growing company do it? I think we’re on the right path, but always value the feedback of others, especially in this community.

    • John Tiller

      Allen, congratulations for having the courage to rebuild and recognizing that you needed to make some changes! Hiring staff on a minimal budget is one of the toughest issues that every entrepreneur faces when growing a company. Michael wrote a great article here about how to hire administrative help that you can afford. I used this method when rebuilding my small business after a crash and the business now runs without me. I hope this helps!

  • Mark Smith

    I became acquainted with this when a client listed his top five strengths in his e-mail signature, and thus dismissed it as yet another fad. However, a job loss led me to a career coach who had me take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment as part of the discovery process. My top five came in as: Context, Responsibility, Communication, Restorative and Ideation. The Personalized Insights for each strength described me so perfectly it was scary.

    My challenge is mapping these to a line of work; is there a tool for StrengthsFinder similar to the Career Match Report in DISC? The coaching process did a good job of identifying calling, but identifying specific companies and positions where I can operate in my strengths has been frustratingly elusive.

    • Mark Smith

      Sort of answered my own question by reading StandOut and taking the assessment, which includes some examples but not a bulleted list of occupations. The top two Strengths Roles came in as 1) Creator and 2) Influencer. I enjoyed answering the questions and some of the humor used; many of the questions were similar to what I encountered in the past. And while some of the suggested occupations seemed a bit of a stretch (sports agent? really??), this process bolstered my courage to lean into my dream more and start thinking on how to make it happen.

  • Ruby Brown

    Michael, your posts are very interesting and helpful.  Also, I enjoy reading the comments of other writers.  Thank you very much for your willingness to share. 

  • Chuck Harris

    My top 5 are 


    I’m just trying to find a position where I can truly operate in those strengths. Don’t know if teaching school is that, but it’s where God has me right now in this season.

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  • Keri Wyatt Kent

    Reading this book and taking the test helped me tremendously. My husband and I took it together and took a class at our church to learn more. It improved our understanding of one another, and helped us each to think about career direction. I’m blogging about it today in response to your post, hoping to direct people your way. This time of year, we all come up with self-improvement plans, and to often, these plans focus on our weaknesses instead of our strengths. Thanks for an important reminder!

    • Keri Wyatt Kent

      Oh, by the way, the link to my blog is:

    • Joe Lalonde

      Congratulations on taking the test and finding out your strengths. I’m glad to hear it has strengthened your marriage.

  • Melinda Doster

    I have taken the Strengthsfinder 2.0 test, and had the team I lead take it as well.  It is an excellent tool and with the help of an Organization Development Director in our company, I have implemented further training for my team.  We are learning not only how to focus on our strengths as individuals, but also how to focus on each other’s strengths and draw from those in our daily work.
    Your article was excellent.  I must admit, however, that there was one comment with which I disagree: “No matter how hard you try, you really can’t improve your weaknesses. You are wasting time and energy to do so.”   I have found just the opposite to be true in many cases.  But perhaps I’ve misunderstood what you mean.  Can you enlighten me a bit?

    Thanks so much!

  • Juan Romero


    • Barry Hill

      Juan! #1 Adaptability—me too! I am always interested in how the supporting strengths feed into adaptability people. thanks for sharing!

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  • Johan Murillo

    Does the Kindle version of StrenghtsFinder 2.0 include the access key too?

    • Joe Lalonde

      I researched the question and the key should be sent to your device shortly after downloading the book.

      • Johan Murillo

        Thank you so much Joe. Pura Vida! ;)

      • TNeal

        So is the access key available if you order a used book? I wasn’t even aware of the access key (although it makes sense as an added value).

        • Chris Patton

          Tom, I am pretty sure each key is for a one-time use. I would bet that you have to order a new book to get a working key. I could be wrong…

          • TNeal

            That’s helpful to know. Makes the full price worth it. Thanks, Chris.

        • Michael Hyatt

          I doubt it.

          • TNeal

            I ordered a new book. Almost went Kindle version but would like to have the hardcover so bought one new. Thanks for the link, Michael.

          • Joe Lalonde

            Great to hear you decided to go with the new book. If you ordered a used copy, you may or may not have received one with a valid code. It would all depend on whether or not the previous owner(s) had taken the assessment.

  • Stephan De Villiers

    Great Post, Thanks!  You make an important point about focusing on your strengths as opposed to your weaknesses.  By focusing on your weaknesses to try an improve them will only result in a neglect of your strengths causing you to become mediocre instead of excellent by strengthening your strengths.

  • TNeal

    I ordered the book so I’m curious to see the direction my strengths would suggest. Thanks, Mike, for sharing the information and the link.

    • Jason Stambaugh

      Great! I hope that the insights help you to reach new heights in 2012. 

  • Mark S. R. Peterson

    Thanks, Michael, I took the
    Strengthsfinder test about a year ago and it completely changed the way I looked
    at myself and how I operated. Oddly enough, you and I share three of the same
    strengths: futuristic, strategic, and achiever. My other two are Ideation and
    Focus. I highly recommend anyone who is looking to improve their skills to read
    this book and take the test.

  • Fernando Almeida

    I did my strengths test last year and found it quite helpful in better understanding the ways of my strengths. As I result I read another powerful book from the same authors “Strengths Based Leadership” and it was great to reflect on how the strengths can influence on our leadership and we can actually increase our effectiveness as leaders by operating within our strengths as much as possible.

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  • Aanuoluwapo Awosanmi

    inspiring piece!

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  • dave warner

    thanks Michael, I value your referrals. I did purchase strengthsfinders and your book on Kindle this morning. Goal is to finish both by next weekend. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great. Let us know what your strengths are and any insights you got.

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