Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Using Strengths


This post is probably going to come off sounding a bit like an advertisement for Gallup's Strengths Quest program, so please understand that this is written purely from a place of loving the tools I've gotten from engaging with this tool multiple times and on multiple levels.

If you're unfamiliar, StrengthsQuest is kind of like a personality test, but it's a lot more involved than that. The general premise is that we can't be all things to all people, so working to our strengths is a good way to go. They've identified 34 strengths, and while everyone may display characteristics of each of the ones they've listed, you're going to have areas where you're strongest.

Here are mine (in order):
  1. Ideation: "People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena." p. 179
  2. Input: "People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information." p. 191
  3. Strategic: "People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues." p. 229
  4. Learner: "People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them." p. 199
  5. Communication: "People strong in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters."

I've taken it more than once, and my strengths did change from the first to the second. The literature around the test would have you believe that your strengths are the core of you, but my experience of some change was also reported by the few other people I know who have taken it more than once. I think it's still a useful tool, even though it's more a reflection of your circumstance than anything else. Regardless, both times 

Here's what this test has helped me do:
  • Reframes weaknesses as strengths. For instance, because I'm so good at noticing connections between seemingly unconnected thing, I used to think that I was going off topic. Now I know it can be a good thing that I notice those connections.
  • Gives a common vocabulary to people who have very different perspectives and/or strengths. Picking on myself again, my ability to find alternate ways to move forward, and talking about them in the planning process, used to strike people as me throwing up roadblocks. After taking that test, and sharing my results, I was able to further communicate that I was trying to warn people of possible future problems so they could avoid them.
  • Better support my staff and help them work to their strengths. This is why I realized I want to tell you all about StrengthsQuest - this month, as I sit down for the one-on-one meetings with everyone who works for me, I've been talking to them about their strengths and the advice from Gallup about how to manage someone with their particular strengths. 

I feel fortunate that where I am now, StrengthsQuest is part of the culture. When they asked about my management style, and I started talking about StrengthsQuest, their eyes lit up. Mine did in return once they explained why. Not only did we already have a shared perspective, we started off with a shared vocabulary. Starting a new job is fraught enough as it is, and StrengthsQuest helped me overcome one major hurdle before I even showed up on campus. I'm a big fan.

So, what about you? Have you taken this test? If so, what did you like about it?

(All quotes are taken from Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.)


  1. Hi Jessica,

    I did the test over 7 years ago during an all-management PedDay at our College. My strengths turned out to be: Restorative, Relator, Input, Ideation and Developer. I was initially surprised by when I studied the definition of each strenght, I saw that "yes" it was me. As a manager, the more you know about yourself, a better leader you can be.

    I also had the opportunity to have my staff do the test as well. I found that I was surrounded by staff members who were strong in areas where others were weak. Maybe this is why we work so well together as a team.

    Nicole Haché

  2. I took it once. I worked for a while at an institution that used it heavily. I loved it. I was initially surprised by my number one strength (I’m intellection, empThy, input, responsibility, deliberative) since it’s something I’ve historically considered more of a flaw. I feel like reframing the fact that I tend to think things through very carefully as a strength has been quite liberating.

    I’m curious how much your results changed from the first time you took the test to the second.