Do You Know What You Are Especially Good At?

From a career standpoint, this is probably the most important question you could ever ask. The answer will determine how fast you advance in your career and, more importantly, how happy you are in your job. Many of us have had to figure it out the hard way—by trial and error. But fortunately, there is a better way.

A Row of Pencils with One Standing Out Photo courtesy of ©, Image #0849948142

Photo courtesy of ©

In 2001, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton wrote their blockbuster bestseller, Now, Discover Your Strengths. As part of the book, readers were given a special code to access an online strengths assessment. We’ve used the philosophy—and the assessment—extensively here at Thomas Nelson.

Buckingham and Clifton, who at the time worked for the Gallup Organization, had a simple 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.

In their extensive research, Buckingham and Clifton identified 34 different strength themes. Amazingly, over four million people worldwide have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment test.

Since writing the book, Buckingham has left Gallup and now heads his own company. I am reading his newest book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work. It is an amazing tome, picking up where Now, Discover Your Strengths left off. I plan to blog about it in more detail later.

A couple of days ago, I discovered that Tom Rath, another Gallup employee, has also written a new book called StrengthsFinder 2.0. Like Buckingham, Rath is a bestselling author. He also wrote a book with Donald Clifton called How Full Is Your Bucket? Sadly, Clifton passed away and Gallup has renamed their assessment “Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0” in his honor.

What’s different in version StrengthsFinder 2.0? In his introduction, Rath claims

The language of 34 themes remains the same, but the assessment is faster and even more reliable. And, the results yield a much more in-depth analysis of your strengths.

Since I was already reading Go Put Your Strengths to Work, I thought I might as well double-check my strengths and make sure I was putting the right strengths to work. So, I picked up the book yesterday and took the test last night at home. (I got it from Amazon for $12.57.)

Just like the previous test, you take the new test online. It consists of 177 different questions and takes about 30 minutes to complete. When you are done, they give you your top five themes and a whole raft of tools to help you understand what they mean and how to make the most of them. I found the ancillary content excellent and quite helpful.

I was encouraged to discover that three of my top five themes remained the same compared to my previous results. However, two had changed. Here are my version 1.0 and 2.0 results.

StrengthsFinder 1.0 StrengthsFinder 2.0
1. Achiever 1. Achiever
2. Intellection 2. Intellection
3. Connectedness 3. Strategic
4. Strategic 4. Futuristic
5. Input 5. Relator

My guess is that input and connectedness are still in my top ten, but I won’t know for sure unless I can figure out a way to get access to the list of all 34 themes. It would also be kind of cool to know my five biggest weaknesses, so I can stay away from activities that depend on my being good at these things!

Of course, knowing your strength themes is very important personally, but it is also important if you are a manager. You want to assign people to those roles and activities which draw upon their strengths and set them up to win. As the CEO of our company, I really want to build a strengths-based organization. I think this is the best way to optimize the company and give us our best chance of succeeding in our goals.

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  • Scott Schwertly

    I have a small team and have seen a tremendous benefit from using the StrengthsFinder results. It’s a great confirmation that I have the right team members in the right positions. Plus, it makes me happy as a manager to know that I have a nice balance of strengths on my team. I would definitely be concerned if I was too heavy in one area.

  • Linda Adams

    My co-writer gave out copies to this book to a lot of people, including me, so they could take the test.

    My top five wound up being: Maximizer, Adaptability, Strategic, Input, Responsibility. “Go with the flow,” seems to be one my biggest strengths–it turns up in my job again and again.

    The most interesting point of the book, though, was reading how management always tries to promote people into management jobs–and sometimes the strengths really don’t fit that kind of management job. Thus, a top achiever before, they’re either unhappy or a poor performer because they were promoted into a job that really doesn’t fit their strengths.

  • Cliff Goins IV

    I’m a huge fan of the self-assessment process (I’ve used spiritual gift tests, career assessments, and personality tests). I believe many people are miscast in their current roles and can’t figure out what’s wrong.

    When I shared my StrenghtsFinder results with my wife and my best friend they both chuckled. I am described by the test as Deliberative, Arranger, Relator, Learner, and Activator. That all adds up to having a keen ability to see problems/issues, research them, generate effective strategy, and implement solutions.

    This pattern has dominated my life. “Now, Discover…” helped me really capsulize what I do well.

  • Lindsay Terry


    A few thoughts come to mind:
    1. When YOU took the test you must have been totally honest with the answers because you wanted to find out, for YOURSELF, what the real result would be.

    2. If you have those who work under you take the test, they must be as totally honest as you were to get the correct result. That may be difficult for some who may think “This could mean a promotion for me.” They all want to impress you with their ability and their strengths. If their motivation is flawed the test result is worthless. They will all be aware that you will see their test results.

    3. Do you not think that your ability to “grade” the progress of your people, individually, is worth more than a test that you might suggest they take in order to place them in a certain position?

    I think the test may be great (I haven’t taken it yet but, I would like to), if an individual wants to see if others agree what his own strengths happen to be. Of course, I believe you knew what your strengths were before you took the test. The test probably confirmed some things in your mind.

    4. You said, “It would also be kind of cool to know my five biggest weaknesses, so I can stay away from activities that depend on my being good at these things!” Just list your five biggest weaknesses and you will have your answer. You know what they are. If you found out what “they” think your biggest weakness are, you probably would want to debate that. You would never have risen to be the CEO of the largest Christian publisher in the world without knowing those things about yourself. That’s my opinion.

    Thanks for the article.

    Lindsay Terry

  • SolShine7

    Interesting post. I’m going to check out that link and take the test.

  • Nathan Martin

    I'm a fan of Buckingham. Working through Now, Discover Your Strengths right now. A valuable exercise for anyone. Thanks for the post.

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  • Ted Hillison

    One of the best new CHRISTIAN MINISTRY RESOURCES, for this type of internatl self analysis is Blueprint for Life. Scripturally based Christian Life Planning. Discovered and living my calling because of this. Cool, thing, is that there is a group of Christian Life coaches to hold you accountable to execute your Blueprint. 90% of all failure occurs in the execution phase, and Blueprint for Life has addressed this. The last thing we need is more content and no accountabililty.

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  • Guest

    I can never figure out these tests. Am I a “relator” or “achievor” or…  well, it totally depends on context! Often the situation dictates my response so I have no idea how to answer these types of quizzes. It amazes me that anyone can answer this stuff! Some times I achieve, sometimes I sit back. Some times I relate, sometimes I don’t. These tests seem totally unrealistic to me.