Understand and Leverage Your Strengths

I like to know things about myself. Don’t you? I’ve taken personality tests and behavioral assessments to be more self-aware, to learn what I should focus on in my personal development efforts, and to better understand how I related to and communicate with other people. OK, and for fun. You’ve probably done the same, right?

Me with my StrengthsFinder book My strengths are: Command, Deliberative, Significance, Strategic, and Learner.

My favorite self-assessment is one that many people don’t know about: StrengthsFinder 2.0. StrengthsFinder is both a book and a test: the book includes an introduction to StrengthsFinder, a code for accessing an online assessment tool, and an explanation of the 34 strengths (or “themes”). The assessment results in a customized report which will help you understand your strengths and how you can use them to be more effective in both your work and your personal life.

Personally, StrengthsFinder has really helped me embrace my strengths. For example, I used to think of myself as “bossy” (because that’s how people described me) and I looked for ways of toning down this “weakness”. But learning that my number one strength was Command made me feel different — it helped me understand that being the boss is a natural position for me and that people look to me to lead them. It made me realize that having formal management and leadership responsibilities would make me a happier, more productive person, rather than a cranky and bossy individual contributor.

You may already see why, as a manager, I love StrengthsFinder. We can’t all verbalize what we’re good at or what kind of work we love to do. For a while, I’ve asked everyone on my teams to take the test and share their results with me. Once I know what strengths a person has, I can better leverage their skills to make them — and the team — more successful.

For example, in the software development community, most programmers have one of the rational temperaments (ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, or INTP). But if you manage a team of programmers, you can’t just look at them as a a bunch of INTJs (a very common type for programmers, though a very small percentage of the overall population) — you need to see them as individuals. INTJs are introverts and can be brutally honest, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be persuasive communicators to large groups. StrengthsFinder gives me far more specific information about a person than a behavior or personality test can tell me.

StrengthsFinder Team Top 5 Grid

Once a group of people complete their StrengthsFinder assessments, you can chart their results to determine overall group themes. I’ve done this with three teams of employees at different companies and the results are always enlightening. For example, about half of my present team has the “Adaptability” strength — this is perfect for our team because our product strategy has shifted around quite a bit in recent months, so we have people who can roll with those changes. We also have about 50% “Input” and “Learner”: both are crucial to the way we operate. Where we have only one or two people exhibiting a certain strength, I see how I can use those individuals to encourage the overall team, to ask important questions, or to sustain us when the sh*t hits the fan (a necessary evil).

Strengths Finder 2.0

What are you waiting for? Learn more or buy StrengthsFinder 2.0 now and take the test. Learn about yourself. Share the results with your family and team. Encourage others to take it and share their results. At the very least, it should confirm what you already know about yourself — but I’ll bet you’ll learn something new, too.

Have you already taken StrengthsFinder? What are your Top 5? What have you learned about yourself or others?


  1. My five are Strategic, Deliberative, Analytical, Restorative, Focus. My report seemed to have a lot of overlap with the description for the INTJ personality type, which pretty much tells me I’m hardcore.

  2. Would ya believe that I’m an ENFP? Corey mentioned to me this post and the book – I’ll buy it this weekend.

  3. @NemesisVex: Yes, you are! In one of the follow-up books to StrengthsFinder, Strengths-Based Leadership, the themes are distilled into four domains. You, my friend, are all about strategic thinking and execution.

    @Karl: Doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s good to know we have an idealist around the workplace! Can’t wait to hear about your strengths.

  4. Kimberly, I couldn’t agree with you more! Becoming aware of one’s strengths and the strengths of your team is very valuable. Learning how to successfully remember to use your strengths on a daily basis is sometimes more challenging.

    In working with my teams, I have found a physical reminder is helpful and I wrote a short book to complement and explain the technique.

    You can download the exercises for free at http://www.lifematchesbook.com and read a free exerpt.

    All the best in your strengths!

    Andrew W Dix
    “Life Matches: Fire Up Your Life!”

  5. My Top 5: Connectedness, Input, Individualization, Activator, and Strategic. Taken as a group, I can see the overlaps with being an ENFP.

  6. I ended up thinking about how the strengths indicated compliment or balance one another out.

    Being an Activator, being driven to make things happen, works well to balance out the Strategic strength, which is to anticipate and project. You can actually see how these two strenghts can be in conflict with one another too.

    Individualization, looking for the unique qualities in each person and finding a way to help people work together, assists with Connectedness, which is all about bridge building.

    As for Input, well Richelle calls me Number 5 (from Short Circuit) :)

    I’d bet that Adaptibility, Context and Learner were among my top 10, if there was access, I’d bet they were there.

    This was fun and worth it :)

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