How to Apply the StrengthsFinder Assessment

As one of the most prolific personality assessments in the world, StrengthFinder® is a tool that can help identify your decision-making process and unique perspective.

In this post, I will explain how to use this assessment for self-awareness, why the “Balcony and Basement” concept is important, and how often each talent occurs.

All About StrengthsFinder

StrengthsFinder, Tom Rath, NYT Bestseller, Wall Street Journal Bestseller Front cover of the book StrengthsFinder 2.0

The Clifton StrengthsFinder® (also known as StrengthsFinder®, StrengthsFinder® 2.0, and 34 Clifton StrengthsFinder®) is a personality assessment tool that has been taken by over 21 million people and explained in the eponymous book by Tom Rath. Read more about it at the official Gallup page.

The test consists of a series of 177 questions in which you rate yourself based on which of two statements describes you most accurately.

Questions can include statements like:

  • “I pick out just the perfect gifts for my friends.” as opposed to “I give gifts most people would enjoy.”
  • “I work quickly.” or “My work is slow and steady.”
  • “I like to win first place.” or “I like to play the game.”

Each question has five numbers [1 2 3 4 5], which you select to best describe your preference for one statement or the other. A “1” would indicate that the left-hand phrase is very accurate, whereas as “5” signifies that the right-hand phrase is more accurate. To get the best results, it’s important to avoid using the “3” score, since too many ambiguous answers will skew the scoring.

Once you complete the assessment, you will receive a detailed PDF report showing your results.

The lowest-cost version is $20 and includes your “top 5” results out of the 34 possible (see more here). Or you can opt for the $89 version, which tells you you rate in all 34 talents… including your bottom five, which is super helpful to know.

Why Take the StrengthsFinder?

There are many personality tests out there—Myers-Briggs, DiSC, Enneagram, Multiple Intelligences, and dozens of others.

So why consider taking StrengthsFinder?

I’ll answer this question in more depth in a future post, but the short version is this:

StrengthsFinder gives you a common language to express why you think the way you do, and how your perspective is different from those of other people.

As a female who likes to analyze and dissect problems (my Myers-Briggs type is INTP), growing up I felt really out of place. Although it was easy for me to make friends, spending too much time with people wore me out. I felt like there was a barrier between my natural way of thinking, and how others perceived the world. I couldn’t understand why this was happening: Was there something wrong with me?

Once I took the StrengthsFinder assessment and started to dig deeper into my top 5 talents, the world finally started to make sense. I started to appreciate my natural talents and realized that the situations where I felt unheard or unappreciated often came from my own perception of the situation.

I also started to look for situations where my strengths could shine, instead of trying to fit in a box where they weren’t wanted.

Here are my top 5 StrengthsFinder talents:

  1. Focus
  2. Activator
  3. Ideation
  4. Input
  5. Futuristic

As you will see later in this post, 3 of these top themes are in the Strategic Thinking category. Several of my Top 5 are quite uncommon (Focus is #29 most frequent out of 34, Activator is #28 out of 34, and Futuristic is #16 out of 34 in overall frequency).

As I continued to gather more information about how this resource could help me in my career (thanks to my Input strength), I met Andy Sokolovich, a Gallup certified StrengthsFinder coach who had just launched a podcast to interview people from around the world and talk about their strengths. He interviewed me (you can watch that episode here), and eventually invited me to join him as the co-host of his podcast.

We interviewed some amazing people from all over the world. Check out our episodes here.

Theme-Addicts by UnleashStrengths Theme-Addicts by UnleashStrengths

I also launched a very successful Meetup group in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that allowed business owners and entrepreneurs a chance to discuss our strengths and share ideas for how to collaborate more effectively as a community.

Strengths development Strengths development tools: StrengthsFinder 2.0 book, name card, meeting sign, and leadership strengths
Team building, group discussion, workshop, difficult people StrengthsFinder group discussing the topic “Difficult People”

Now that I am a business consultant, I use each of my talents every day to serve clients’ needs.

I also recommend that my clients take the StrengthsFinder assessment prior to beginning our work together.

This is for several reasons:

  • it increases their self-understanding and appreciation for what they are doing well,
  • it makes them aware of possible blind spots and areas of weakness,
  • it gives us a common language from which we can communicate, and
  • it helps me to understand their decision-making process.

 


Now that you understand the basics of the StrengthsFinder test, what can you to interpret the results?

Let’s look at the Leadership Domains, Balcony & Basement strengths, and the Frequency of each talent around the world.

1. The Leadership Domains

A “strength” starts out as a talent until it is developed. Out of the 34 talents, each can fit into one of four Leadership Domains.

There domains include:

  • Executing
  • Influencing
  • Relationship Building, and
  • Strategic Thinking.

If you’ve already taken the StrengthsFinder assessment (and I highly suggest you do!), you can get more out of your results by analyzing where they fall in these four categories.

Knowing which Leadership categories are most dominant can be really useful in understanding how you perceive the world.

Strengths, StrengthsFinder, Gallup, Leadership domains, leadership strengths, executing, influencing, relationship building, strategic thinking Gallup StrengthsFinder’s 4 Domains of Leadership Strengths

Here is a bit more about each category and which talents are included in each.

Executing

This is the Get-Things-Done category. If you have an Executing strength, you are likely to enjoy (or at least be really good at) solving problems, cleaning, sorting, arranging, tidying, and systematizing everything in sight.

The talents in this category include:

  • Achiever (busy and productive; want to “check things off the list”)
  • Arranger (know how to get maximum productivity with alignment and order)
  • Belief (have unchanging core values and a strong sense of purpose)
  • Consistency (define very clear rules; treat everyone equally)
  • Deliberative (very cautious in making decisions; anticipate roadblocks)
  • Discipline (enjoy routine, order, and structure)
  • Focus (mental toughness to stay on task; want to prioritize, then act)
  • Responsibility (take personal ownership and follow through on promises)
  • Restorative (are skilled at understanding and solving problems)

Influencing

Someone with talents in this category has the innate ability to rally others and convince them to do something. They are persuasive—either with a high level of enthusiasm and a “rah-rah” spirit, or using a quiet magnetism that makes people feel confident to follow their lead.

Influencing talents include:

  • Activator (eager to get people engaged and turn ideas into action)
  • Command (take charge of situations with decisiveness; have a strong presence)
  • Communication (effortlessly put thoughts into words; great conversationalists)
  • Competition (measure their performance by comparing their progress against others)
  • Maximizer (look for ways to improve the chances of success by stimulating growth)
  • Self-Assurance (have a level of confidence about their abilities and opinions)
  • Significance (are eager for their work to be acknowledged and appreciated)
  • Woo (enjoy meeting new people and “collect” them)

Relationship Building

A person who has Relationship Building talents is able to deeply understand and bond with others. She or he can feel deeply and express their emotions easily. Although females statistically have these talents in higher frequency than males (see more about this below), the ability to relate to others is important regardless of your gender or title. Individuals with high Relationship Building abilities can create strong interpersonal bonds. They are the “glue” that holds a group together.

Here are the Relationship Building talents:

  • Adaptability (able to quickly adjust to changes)
  • Developer (wants to help others reach their potential)
  • Connectedness (believes that nothing happens by chance, and all events are connected)
  • Empathy (can place themselves in the mindset and emotions of others and feel their pain)
  • Harmony (seeks to avoid conflict by creating a friction-free environment)
  • Includer (wants to accept those “outside the circle” to join their group)
  • Individualization (sees a person’s unique abilities and how they can work best with others)
  • Positivity (maintains a bright outlook despite the circumstances)
  • Relator (enjoy making deep, long-lasting friendships)

Strategic Thinking

The Strategic Thinking talents are distinguished by a more cerebral, logical approach to problem-solving. Someone with strengths in Strategic Thinking tends to think (and feel) quite deeply about everything, although the way she or he expresses their ideas is colored by the other talents in their Top 5.

Talents in this grouping include:

  • Analytical (consider which factors will affect the outcome of a situation)
  • Context (appreciate how prior historical events apply to the current situation)
  • Futuristic (inspires people with a vision of how the future could be)
  • Ideation (able to generate new ideas; interested in the possibilities)
  • Input (constantly collecting resources, books, materials, and information)
  • Intellection (desires deep and thought-provoking discussions)
  • Learner (continually hungry to and find opportunities for self-improvement)
  • Strategic (can recognize a variety of ways to achieve a goal)

Find detailed descriptions of each theme at Gallup’s website.

 

2. Balcony and Basement

The “Balcony and Basement” idea was first presented by some certified Gallup StrengthsFinder coaches while I was a co-host on the Theme-Addicts podcast.

Basically, the idea is that for each of our strengths, we can develop a functional and “best-foot-forward” version (the Balcony). But we can also regress into a destructive side of that strength (the Basement).

The key is to find a good balance by enhancing the useful output from each of your talents, and minimizing the negative effects and perceptions.

Read more about finding balance: Yin and Yang Approaches to Management

yin, yang, yin and yang, management, leadership

You can read the original document here: Balcony & Basement

 

3. Frequency of StrengthsFinder Talents

Gallup StrengthsFinder has provided a report of the frequency across all strengths around the world. It’s called the Frequency of CliftonStrengths™ Talents.

The study was published in December 2018 and is the most comprehensive comparison of StrengthsFinder results ever conducted. (View the entire Gallup StrengthsFinder Theme Frequency report here).

Gallup StrengthsFinder Frequency Data

Talent Frequency (All) Talent Frequency – Females Talent Frequency – Males
20,002,953 respondents 9,447,125 respondents 7,307,429 respondents
1. Achiever 6,244,621 1. Achiever 2,932,919 1. Achiever 2,223,721
2. Learner 5,596,555 2. Responsibility 2,831,336 2. Learner 2,015,151
3. Responsibility 5,564,207 3. Relator 2,536,900 3. Relator 1,865,458
4. Relator 5,451,508 4. Learner 2,514,564 4. Strategic 1,800,730
5. Strategic 4,370,628 5. Empathy 2,405,752 5. Responsibility 1,784,721
6. Harmony 3,914,293 6. Input 2,105,341 6. Analytical 1,522,894
7. Input 3,911,497 7. Harmony 2,065,124 7. Restorative 1,417,610
8. Restorative 3,806,585 8. Developer 2,020,352 8. Ideation 1,306,206
9. Empathy 3,749,011 9. Restorative 1,910,204 9. Harmony 1,287,654
10. Adaptability 3,348,616 10. Positivity 1,882,893 10. Adaptability 1,258,850
11. Positivity 3,309,151 11. Strategic 1,758,524 11. Competition 1,195,209
12. Developer 3,244,133 12. Individualization 1,628,116 12. Individualization 1,147,451
13. Individualization 3,186,769 13. Adaptability 1,613,170 13. Futuristic 1,137,326
14. Ideation 2,697,236 14. Communication 1,328,827 14. Input 1,111,475
15. Analytical 2,681,892 15. Consistency 1,255,684 15. Positivity 1,022,779
16. Futuristic 2,596,383 16. Connectedness 1,232,746 16. Deliberative 996,995
17. Communication 2,579,005 17. Intellection 1,218,907 17. Context 949,372
18. Arranger 2,575,242 18. Includer 1,200,682 18. Maximizer 940,349
19. Maximizer 2,566,792 19. Futuristic 1,184,744 19. Arranger 901,020
20. Intellection 2,470,907 20. Woo 1,165,737 20. Intellection 881,508
21. Includer 2,388,969 21. Arranger 1,132956 21. Empathy 879,233
22. Connectedness 2,357,052 22. Belief 1,084,739 22. Communication 865,549
23. Consistency 2,355,944 23. Maximizer 1,017,415 23. Includer 837,996
24. Woo 2,346,531 24. Discipline 934,741 24. Developer 827,941
25. Deliberative 2,255,727 25. Deliberative 921,997 25. Consistency 824,308
26. Belief 2,181,070 26. Ideation 910,107 26. Belief 823,705
27. Competition 2,142,122 27. Activator 846,373 27. Connectedness 739,056
28. Activator 1,920,953 28. Analytical 734,786 28. Woo 735,300
29. Focus 1,881,671 29. Focus 663,596 29. Focus 707,439
30. Context 1,772,255 30. Competition 614,690 30. Activator 695,311
31. Discipline 1,485,926 31. Context 568,518 31. Significance 564,504
32. Significance 1,239,377 32. Significance 471,378 32. Command 451,089
33. Command 917,303 33. Command 305,332 33. Self-Assurance 435,162
34. Self-Assurance 904,834 34. Self-Assurance 236,475 34. Discipline 384,073

 © 2000, 2006-2012 Gallup, Inc. Source: Gallup StrengthsFinder Theme Frequency report

Observations of the Frequency Report

Most Common Strengths

Among all 20 million times participants took the StrengthsFinder test, the top 10 most frequent talents were:

  1. Achiever
  2. Learner
  3. Responsibility
  4. Relator
  5. Strategic
  6. Harmony
  7. Input
  8. Restorative
  9. Empathy
  10. Adaptability
Females

For female respondents, the order is slightly different:

  1. Achiever
  2. Responsibility
  3. Relator
  4. Learner
  5. Empathy
  6. Input
  7. Harmony
  8. Developer
  9. Restorative
  10. Positivity
Males

The males who responded, their top talents were:

  1. Achiever
  2. Learner
  3. Relator
  4. Strategic
  5. Responsibility
  6. Analytical
  7. Restorative
  8. Ideation
  9. Harmony
  10. Adaptability

Observations About Top 10 Most Frequent

I noticed that:

  • Strategic,
  • Analytical,
  • Ideation, and
  • Adaptability

are very frequent for males, but not for females.

I also noticed that

  • Empathy,
  • Input,
  • Developer, and
  • Restorative

are very frequent for females, but not for males.

Least Common Strengths

The talents that were on the bottom 3 in frequency include:

  • Significance
  • Command
  • Self-Assurance

Observations About 3 Least Frequent

When looking at the 10 least frequent talents, I noticed that:

  • The 3 least-frequent talents (Significance, Command, and Self-Assurance) are in the Influence category of Leadership Domains.
  • Discipline is the least frequent talent for males, but it is #24 (in the middle) for females.
  • Context is the 4th least frequent talent for females, but it is #17 (in the middle) for males.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed finding out more about this incredible tool. I am not a certified Gallup StrengthsFinder coach and am not reimbursed in any way by promoting their products. However, I think the quality of their assessment is very high and recommend that you discover your top 5 talents.

If you want to deepen your understanding of the results, look for a Gallup certified coach (here is the official directory). And if you need help marketing yourself as a healthcare practice owner, check out my services.

 

In a future post, I’ll share 8 reasons why the StrengthsFinder assessment is especially helpful for business owners.

 

Grace LaConte is a Strategic Niche Marketing Expert who helps healthcare practice owners to develop a high-profit specialization in a crowded market. Using her experience as a Risk Officer and Marketing Director for hospitals and IT services, Grace shares a refreshingly honest approach to uncover hidden risks and opportunities. Learn more at laconteconsulting.com, or connect with her on Twitter @lacontestrategy.

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