StrengthsFinder: Identifying Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
Time: 5:46 minutes
- Maslow's Hammer
- What CliftonStrengths Results Tell You
- Identifying Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
- Using the Right Tool in the Moment
- Choosing the Right Scenario for your Talents
- Possible to Use Different Tools
"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." This quote said by Abraham Maslow in 1966 is known as the Law of the Instrument or Maslow’s Hammer.
It refers to a cognitive bias to overly rely on a familiar tool. And if you think about it, it can refer to your Gallup StrengthsFinder (or CliftonStrengths) Results too.
What CliftonStrengths Results Tell You
See the CliftonStrengths Assessment identifies your predominant Talent Themes.
Gallup defines Talent as: "A naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied".
I emphasize the naturally recurring pattern part of the definition. You can think of these patterns as tools you can pick up any time.
These patterns are so natural to who you are that you probably haven’t fully grasped how specific they are to you, and that not everyone can do those things as easily as you can.
Someone comfortable with this drill may not feel as comfortable with paint and a paintbrush.
You probably undervalue these abilities within you, and you get frustrated when the people around you can’t do these things as easily.
For example, it’s easy for people with Relator or Empathy Talent Themes to naturally think of others or build relationships with others.
Or, it's easy for people with Strategic or Ideation Talent Themes to just come up with alternate approaches or Ideas to challenges.
But it’s not easy or natural for everyone.
Identifying Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
If we apply Maslow’s Hammer to your Talents, it’s likely that you’re applying your Talents on auto-pilot mode in all situations and at all times. Sometimes, this could actually be working against you.
I discovered this when I was working with a coach over 10 years ago in my previous career when I was a Product Manager. I had to go through a 360 degree evaluation where co-workers at all levels had to give feedback on me – team members, bosses, customers, colleagues at multiple levels.
What was interesting and confusing about some of the feedback was that the exact same thinking and behaviors that contributed to my Strengths were the same patterns that contributed to my Weaknesses.
For example, my Adaptability which was great to deal with emergencies or changes in strategies, plans or priorities, was not great for enforcing hard boundaries and saying a simple No upfront. My tendency was to be accommodating – some (depending on their role) felt too accommodating.
If you think about yourself, your Strengths, and your Weaknesses, can you start to see how your CliftonStrengths Results contribute to them?
Using the Right Tool for the Right Job
So going back to thinking of your Talents – those naturally recurring patterns as Tools that you can pick at any time.
- They become Strengths when you use the right Tool for the right situation.
- They become Weaknesses when they get in the way of success, and hurt either you or others
The problem is that we pick a few favorites and we try to use them all of the time.
This is a great opportunity to break out of auto pilot mode.
Take stock, are there patterns that work in one part of your life that are hurting you in another?
For example, you may be spectacular at planning a list of things to do. This works great for work, errands, or even getting things done at home.
- Do you need to have one when just casually hanging with friends on a day off?
- Does having a list of things to do interfere with connecting with the people in your life or just enjoying spontaneous moments?
Sometimes the difference between using your Talents as Strengths or Weaknesses is just a matter of choosing when and where to use them.
Choosing the right Scenario for your Talents
Think back to your Talents (or in this case: Tools).
Is it possible that you can apply those patterns in different scenarios?
You can turn up or dial back the intensity, but how can you stretch your talents constructively in new directions?
Thinking back to Maslow’s hammer… we don’t have to just think hammer and nail.
What about mallet, gavel, or even sledgehammer?
Possible to Use different Tools
Or, we can stretch our Talents in a different direction.
Familiar doesn’t necessarily mean better. There may be moments when your usual tools are worn and have lost their effectiveness in a particular circumstance.
How about leaning into your other Talent Themes to approach the topic?
For example, how do you eat? Do you use your hands, a fork, or chopsticks?
They all accomplish the same thing just using different tools.
You’re not just looking at your StrengthsFinder results at a surface level. You’re really thinking about when, where, and how you’re using your Talents.
Now you’re at a point where you can be more conscious of whether you’re using your Talents as Strengths or Weaknesses. You can say to yourself, YES, let me go forward, or NO, let me stand back this time.
You can even experiment with your Talents to grow your toolbag of Strengths.