I finally got around to reading Strengths Finder 2.0, after seeing it in the top 5 books on Amazon overall, year after year. I bet hundreds of companies have purchased this book by the truckload.
It’s not actually a book. It’s an assessment test, packaged inside of a book. The first chapter points out the problem: we grow up being encouraged to focus on developing our weaknesses, rather than our strengths (“Never mind all of the A’s, why did you get a C?”) We also cheer people on for pursuing their weaknesses (e.g. Rudy). If only we nurtured our talents with the same energy that we spend shoring up our weaknesses, we would all develop powerful strengths… But what talents should we focus on? That’s what the test reveals.
This book struck a chord with me, and millions of others. It’s solid and practical, and felt harmonious with Play for a Living. Strangely enough, my results sounded eerily similar to online astrology tests I’ve taken… Not sure what to think of that. Anyway, the test took about 20 minutes and was well worth the price of admission.
I hear from so many people who are struggling to figure out what to do with their lives, and the advice I usually offer them is some variation of “Be who you are, have fun and be fulfilled by doing what you do best.” This book and its assessment does the reader a great service by showing them who they are, and giving them action steps to help them do more of what they do best.
In case you’re interested in how the test results look, here are my results:
My Top 5 Themes
People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena. Driven by your talents, you have been described as someone who reads a lot. You probably carry reading material with you just in case you have to wait in line, eat alone, or sit beside a stranger. Because the printed word feeds your mind, you frequently generate original plans, programs, designs, or activities. It’s very likely that you are ecstatic — that is, thrilled — when you read about a novel concept or an original theory. Probably, the hope of discovering a new way of thinking motivates you to read a lot. You enjoy collecting a variety of information. You sense that one day you will find a proper use for it. Instinctively, you often are the originator of fresh ideas for brand-new campaigns, business ventures, initiatives, or special events. Because of your strengths, you have a rich vocabulary upon which to draw. The words you choose often expand and challenge your listeners’ or readers’ thinking. Chances are good that you contribute many innovative ideas to the group during brainstorming sessions. You tend to be highly imaginative when proposals are fully heard and any criticism is reserved for a later time.
Ideas for Action:
- Seek a career in which you will be given credit for and paid for your ideas, such as marketing, advertising, journalism, design, or new product development.
- You are likely to get bored quickly, so make some small changes in your work or home life. Experiment. Play mental games with yourself. All of these will help keep you stimulated.
- Finish your thoughts and ideas before communicating them. Lacking your Ideation talents, others might not be able to “join the dots” of an interesting but incomplete idea and thus might dismiss it.
- Not all your ideas will be equally practical or serviceable. Learn to edit your ideas, or find a trusted friend or colleague who can “proof” your ideas and identify potential pitfalls.
- Understand the fuel for your Ideation talents: When do you get your best ideas? When you’re talking with people? When you’re reading? When you’re simply listening or observing? Take note of the circumstances that seem to produce your best ideas, and recreate them.
- Schedule time to read, because the ideas and experiences of others can become your raw material for new ideas. Schedule time to think, because thinking energizes you.
- You are a natural fit with research and development; you appreciate the mindset of visionaries and dreamers. Spend time with imaginative peers, and sit in on their brainstorming sessions.
- Partner with someone with strong Analytical talents. This person will question you and challenge you, therefore strengthening your ideas.
- Sometimes you lose others’ interest because they cannot follow your abstract and conceptual thinking style. Make your ideas more concrete by drawing pictures, using analogies or metaphors, or simply explaining your concepts step by step.
- Feed your Ideation talents by gathering knowledge. Study fields and industries different from your own. Apply ideas from outside, and link disparate ideas to generate new ones.
People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions. Instinctively, you greatly enjoy the written word. You often are found poring over — that is, studiously reading — a book to acquire simple facts or to deepen your understanding of a favorite topic. Because you are well-read, you routinely provide people with information they currently need. Because of your strengths, you are a well-read individual. People whom you have befriended turn to you for guidance. Often you help them see a situation or problem from a different perspective because of something you discovered while surveying a book, article, letter, or Internet site. For you, reading is the key that opens the door to a world of fresh ideas. You collect them, never knowing when something you read will benefit someone else. By nature, you are the ideal example of a person with an open and agile mind. Thinking consumes a great portion of your time. You like to exchange ideas with individuals who are as well-read as you are. Your passion for the written word fuels your thought processes and lays the groundwork for sophisticated conversations. When you are alone, you probably reflect upon the thoughts of brilliant writers or the findings of notable researchers. It’s very likely that you yearn to dedicate sufficient time and energy to all the important parts of your life, such as personal growth, professional responsibilities, family obligations, friends, health, and mental stimulation. Reading about topics that interest you or fiction that spellbinds — that is, fascinates — you is apt to be a factor in your quality-of-life equation. Chances are good that you yearn to increase your knowledge by being kept in the information loop. This explains why you gravitate to people who converse about ideas at a deeper and more thoughtful level than most individuals are capable of doing. “Making small talk” — that is, engaging in idle conversation — probably seems like a waste of time to you.
Ideas for Action:
- Consider beginning or continuing your studies in philosophy, literature, or psychology. You will always enjoy subjects that stimulate your thinking.
- List your ideas in a log or diary. These ideas will serve as grist for your mental mill, and they might yield valuable insights.
- Deliberately build relationships with people you consider to be “big thinkers.” Their example will inspire you to focus your own thinking.
- People may think you are aloof or disengaged when you close your door or spend time alone. Help them understand that this is simply a reflection of your thinking style, and that it results not from a disregard for relationships, but from a desire to bring the most you can to those relationships.
- You are at your best when you have the time to follow an intellectual trail and see where it leads. Get involved on the front end of projects and initiatives, rather than jumping in at the execution stage. If you join in the latter stages, you may derail what has already been decided, and your insights may come too late.
- Engaging people in intellectual and philosophical debate is one way that you make sense of things. This is not the case for everyone. Be sure to channel your provocative questions to those who similarly enjoy the give and take of debate.
- Schedule time for thinking; it can be energizing for you. Use these occasions to muse and reflect.
- Take time to write. Writing might be the best way for you to crystallize and integrate your thoughts.
- Find people who like to talk about the same issues you do. Organize a discussion group that addresses your subjects of interest.
- Encourage people around you to use their full intellectual capital by reframing questions for them and by engaging them in dialogue. At the same time, realize that there will be some who find this intimidating and who need time to reflect before being put on the spot.
People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information. Chances are good that you customarily figure out what makes each person special. You talk to, observe, or study individuals who produce nothing less than excellence to identify what inspires them. Unquestionably, you prefer to associate with those who share your passion for taking something good and making it better. Once you understand what drives a person, you can motivate him or her to transform whatever was made better into something utterly superb. By nature, you probably place your confidence in professionals, especially when you need instruction or realize you can benefit from their experiences. Asking specialists questions and respectfully paying attention to their responses are just two ways you keep the peace. You are apt to count on these individuals to help you handle sensitive problems, make appropriate choices, or design workable solutions that people can accept. Because of your strengths, you continually expand your sphere of knowledge by reading. A good book or a well-written magazine article can transport you to other cultures or centuries. The printed word — whether on paper or on a computer screen — is your passport to new destinations. Like world travelers, you pick up a variety of souvenirs from your reading, such as facts, data, characters, plots, insights, or tips. Driven by your talents, you employ your passion for reading to collect lots of good ideas for resolving issues, fixing mistakes, or overcoming obstacles. The act of reading allows you to generate options for dealing with all sorts of predicaments — that is, difficult, perplexing, or trying situations. It’s very likely that you eagerly welcome opportunities to think out loud about ideas, theories, or philosophies. You derive pleasure from conversations that force you to ponder matters that exist only in the realm of thought, not in reality.
Ideas for Action:
- Look for jobs in which you are charged with acquiring new information each day, such as teaching, research, or journalism.
- Devise a system to store and easily locate information. This can be as simple as a file for all the articles you have clipped or as sophisticated as a computer database.
- Partner with someone with dominant Focus or Discipline talents. This person will help you stay on track when your inquisitiveness leads you down intriguing but distracting avenues.
- Your mind is open and absorbent. You naturally soak up information in the same way that a sponge soaks up water. But just as the primary purpose of the sponge is not to permanently contain what it absorbs, neither should your mind simply store information. Input without output can lead to stagnation. As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them.
- You might naturally be an exceptional repository of facts, data, and ideas. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to position yourself as an expert. By simply following your Input talents, you could become known as the authority in your field.
- Remember that you must be more than just a collector of information. At some point, you’ll need to leverage this knowledge and turn it into action. Make a point of identifying the facts and data that would be most valuable to others, and use this information to their advantage.
- Identify your areas of specialization, and actively seek more information about them.
- Schedule time to read books and articles that stimulate you.
- Deliberately increase your vocabulary. Collect new words, and learn the meaning of each of them.
- Identify situations in which you can share the information you have collected with other people. Also make sure to let your friends and colleagues know that you enjoy answering their questions.
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. Instinctively, you possess the physical and mental endurance to withstand hardships as well as stress. Characteristically you work harder and longer than most people are capable of doing. It’s very likely that you might toil for hours, days, weeks, or months to produce desired outcomes. Perhaps you impose demanding standards for excellence or productivity on yourself. You might not rest until each requirement is met. Driven by your talents, you might be particularly earnest about doing things right. Perhaps taking shortcuts strikes you as unprincipled, thoughtless, or careless. You might refuse to produce sloppy work or engage in unethical practices. Because of your strengths, you may be described as an industrious and no-nonsense person. When you have a goal, you try to reach it. When you have a problem to solve, you first try to break it into parts. When you have a major decision to make, you try to study the facts from a variety of angles. Chances are good that you might be known for your open personality. Perhaps the level of trust you have for a person dictates how much you reveal about your personal history, innermost thoughts, or deepest feelings.
Ideas for Action:
- Select jobs that allow you to have the leeway to work as hard as you want and in which you are encouraged to measure your own productivity. You will feel challenged and alive in these environments.
- As an achiever, you relish the feeling of being busy, yet you also need to know when you are “done.” Attach timelines and measurement to goals so that effort leads to defined progress and tangible outcomes.
- Remember to build celebration and recognition into your life. Achievers tend to move on to the next challenge without acknowledging their successes. Counter this impulse by creating regular opportunities to enjoy your progress and accomplishments.
- Your drive for action might cause you to find meetings a bit boring. If that’s the case, appeal to your Achiever talents by learning the objectives of each meeting ahead of time and by taking notes about progress toward those objectives during the meeting. You can help ensure that meetings are productive and efficient.
- Continue your education by attaining certifications in your area or specialty in addition to attending conferences and other programs. This will give you even more goals to achieve and will push your existing boundaries of accomplishment.
- You do not require much motivation from others. Take advantage of your self-motivation by setting challenging goals. Set a more demanding goal every time you finish a project.
- Partner with other hard workers. Share your goals with them so they can help you to get more done.
- Count personal achievements in your scoring “system.” This will help you direct your Achiever talents toward family and friends as well as toward work.
- More work excites you. The prospect of what lies ahead is infinitely more motivating than what has been completed. Launch initiatives and new projects. Your seemingly endless reserve of energy will create enthusiasm and momentum.
- Make sure that in your eagerness to do more at work, you do not skimp on quality. Create measurable outcome standards to guarantee that increased productivity is matched by enhanced quality.
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. It’s very likely that you might do your best training after you become well-acquainted with someone. Perhaps you want to discover each individual’s unique talents, work style, goals, motivations, or interests. Maybe these insights tell you what suggestions to make or what tips to offer during coaching sessions. Instinctively, you are someone to whom others turn for an honest perspective about a project, person, event, or idea. They trust you will share your viewpoints. Because of your strengths, you often are the person asked, “What do you think about . . .?” People are comfortable voicing to you their concerns and ideas about policies, projects, rules, plans, or proposed solutions. You genuinely enjoy assisting others. You are happy to express your thoughts and explain exactly where you stand on many topics. By nature, you offer guidance to friends who seek your assistance. While you enjoy being helpful, you probably avoid imposing your ideas on someone unless the person makes a special point of asking you to do so. Driven by your talents, you thoughtfully select your friends. You avoid rushing into relationships. Once you trust and care about someone, the individual probably seeks your counsel.
Ideas for Action:
- Find a workplace in which friendships are encouraged. You will not do well in an overly formal organization. In job interviews, ask about work styles and company culture.
- Deliberately learn as much as you can about the people you meet. You like knowing about people, and other people like being known. By doing this, you will act as a catalyst for trusting relationships.
- Let it be known that you are more interested in the character and personality of others than in their status or job title. This is one of your greatest talents and can serve as a model for others.
- Let your caring show. For example, find people in your company to mentor, help your colleagues get to know each other better, or extend your relationships beyond the office.
- No matter how busy you are, stay in contact with your friends. They are your fuel.
- Be honest with your friends. True caring means helping the other person be successful and fulfilled. Giving honest feedback or encouraging your friend to move out of a role in which he or she is struggling is a compassionate act.
- You probably prefer to be seen as a person, an equal, or a friend, rather than as a function, a superior, or a title. Let people know that they can address you by your first name, rather than formally.
- You might tend to withhold the most engaging aspects of your personality until you have sensed openness from another person. Remember, building relationships is not a one-way street. Proactively “put yourself out there.” Others will quickly see you for the genuine individual you are, and you will create many more opportunities to cultivate strong, longlasting connections.
- Make time for family and close friends. You need to spend quality moments with those you love in order to “feed” your Relator talents. Schedule activities that allow you to get even closer to the people who keep you grounded and happy.
- Make an effort to socialize with your colleagues and team members outside of work. It can be as simple as lunch or coffee together. This will help you forge more connected relationships at work, which in turn can facilitate more effective teamwork and cooperation.