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.

Sharp Pencil Above Peers

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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.

Question: What are your strengths? Share your answer on , , or .

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