StrengthsFinder Top 5 Results: My Experience 3 Times over 15 Years
Time: 9:07 minutes
I was thinking back on my experience taking Gallup’s StrengthsFinder Test (which has been renamed to CliftonStrengths), and how I’ve taken it 3 times over a 15-year period.
I was thinking about how old I was each time I took it and what was going on in my life at the time.
I often get questions on the reliability of the results, or whether the results are based on Nature vs. Nurture. I figured I’d share how my experience with StrengthsFinder has evolved over the last almost 20 years.
In this post, I discuss:
- The First Time I took the StrengthsFinder Test
- The Second Time
- The Third Time
- What I Learned from Taking StrengthsFinder 3 Times
- Nature vs. Nurture
The First Time I took the StrengthsFinder Test
The first time I took the assessment was in the early 2000s. I was in my mid-20s and just a couple of years into my career. After graduating with my degrees in engineering, I had moved to Boston and started working in Product Marketing and Product Management for a line of hardware and software products.
I was the techy on the team, wiring products, creating demos to take to tradeshows, customer visits, and conferences – and to use in Marketing Materials. I felt like I always had a screwdriver and wire strippers in my hand.
In my spare time, I read personal development books and I came across Marcus Buckingham and the StrengthsFinder assessment. I took it and found it interesting. I was drawn to the idea that my Individuality contributes to my success. But they were just words in a book. I didn’t really understand how to take my results and use them day-to-day.
I imagine that many of you watching this feel this way. “Great! Or Interesting… Now what?”
There’s a temptation to set the results aside and forget about them. If you’re serious about learning and investing in your own growth, don’t make the mistakes I did.
It took me two more times and more than 10 years to realize the power in the results.
The Second Time
The second time I took the assessment was about 2009. I was approaching my mid-30s and I was a Product Manager for a global product line.
The company was constantly in the midst of change – with acquisitions, and re-orgs at least once a year. This meant constant change of bosses, priorities, people, processes, and even locations.
But I was lucky. My company had invested in my development and gotten me a coach.
She had me take a series of assessments, including CliftonStrengths.
I was surprised by the results since they were different than the first time I took it.
Even though I was working with someone and there was the opportunity for interaction which is more likely to draw my attention. Again, I didn’t really know what to do with my results.
To be fair, this was before Gallup was certifying Strengths Coaches. So, using this tool wasn’t a focus for her in our time together.
It was the second time it had come up, but I didn’t know how to take action.
The Third Time
Apparently, three times is a charm. Fast forward to 40 years old. My father had been diagnosed with cancer and we were told he only had months to live.
Of course, there’s no way to really know, but it was important for me to spend time with my parents before he passed. I live about 1,500 miles from them, so I needed flexibility to be able to spend time with them in person.
I was also miserable at work. I had been in the same company for almost 15 years, and it had changed A LOT. I’m the type that tries to do what needs to be done to keep us moving forward, but I was burnt.
If I was honest with myself, I had been miserable for at least a few years (probably a lot longer, but I would get occasional band-aids that would convince me that circumstances were just temporary).
My sense of responsibility kept me there and I just hadn’t given myself permission to admit that I just didn’t want to be there anymore.
My Dad’s deteriorating health was the push I used to walk away from my career.
I didn’t have anything lined up next. I had no plan work-wise. But walking away gave me an opportunity to spend time with my parents before my Dad passed away.
I literally had conversations with my superiors about the choices I was making. I felt like it was a choice between staying at my job out of fear and the need for security or walking away and believing that a path would unfold.
I walked away, and unexpectedly, it’s been the choice I’m proudest of in my entire life.
Six months later and out of the blue, I got an email from Gallup announcing that they were offering a 5-day intensive CliftonStrengths training program in Boston.
I had the time. It was happening here locally for me. Why not? This time I could really understand what the tool could do for me.
For the training, I had to take the Assessment again. Guess what? My Top 5 varied again.
What I’ve learned from Taking the StrengthsFinder Test 3 Times
It took me three Times and 15 years to appreciate what was in my results, but I believe that that was mostly for 2 reasons:
1. When I was younger, I was overly focused on what was expected. I worked really hard – probably too hard to deliver.
And as a result, I didn’t take care of myself. I didn’t even really know what I wanted. From an outside perspective, you could say I took the safe, corporate job route.
Yeah, I could do the job. But for my personal satisfaction, I think the only reason I lasted as long as I did was because I focused on people – whether it was my team, my co-workers, customers – anyone who was impacted by what I did or didn’t do.
2. On the surface, CliftonStrengths looks like a professional or a corporate tool.
I did a good job. My annual reviews went well. And by my resume, title, global travel, and salary, it may have looked like I was succeeding.
I kept getting more and more work assigned to me. I must have been doing something right?
It wasn’t until I did the 5-day intensive training, that I realized the depth of the results and how my Talent Themes impact every aspect of my life – including my personal and home life. It made sense why I left my 15-year career the way I did.
Nature vs. Nurture
For those of you who wonder about Nature vs. Nurture, I wondered that too. Being the child of immigrants and the product of mixed cultures – I identify as Chinese-Cuban-American, I wondered how my growing up impacted my results.
Having taken the assessment three times, I saw that two of my Talent Themes: Connectedness and Relator were consistently in my Top 5 - though at what number varied.
The next Theme that most appeared but was later demoted out of my Top 5 was Achiever. It got pushed down the third time when I wasn’t working and was more pre-occupied with being on standby for my Dad’s health.
It made sense to me that Achiever would have gotten pushed down. I believe it was replaced by the Responsibility Talent Theme. I still like to get things done but am now more motivated by the WHY behind doing them.
So seeing two themes hold strong over 15 years and others come and go, I’ve come to the conclusion that the test results are a combination of Nature and Nurture.
The themes that shifted over the years were likely due to what was going on in my life.
The results aren’t meant to define me. They’re meant to give me insight. As I grow, mature, and as my life changes, it makes sense that my Talent Theme results evolve to reflect who I’ve become.
I highly encourage you to learn more about yourself and your Talent Themes. This is a powerful and insightful tool that can make a difference in your personal success and satisfaction.