Know Your Strengths, Harness Your Strengths

We were fortunate to have Paul Allen, Strengths Evangelist at Gallup, to speak as our welcome keynote at lunch. Allen has over 20 years of experience as a social entrepreneur, involved in the founding of 7 companies. Surprisingly, he has only known about Strengths Finder for about a year, which speaks to how quickly engaged he’s become in the strengths movement.

Some Background

Allen talked about Don Clifton, a brilliant psychologist who was passionate about the selection of individuals to positions, which best utilize their talents. Clifton continues to be regarded today as the “Father of Strengths Psychology” and known for his passion for bringing out the best in people to achieve the best impact.

Don Clifton’s son, Jim Clifton, also has a key area of expertise in the area of the futuristic. Jim Clifton is the current CEO of Gallup, which conducts polls in 162 countries. These polls are conducted in the diverse context of the world, ranging from online to door-to-do, and inform world leaders of population patterns and sentiments. In the current landscape of open government and increased democracy, these polls and resulting insights provide important knowledge.


Allen provided some telling insight regarding individual engagement over the lifetime, based on education and professional progression. According to Gallup polls:

  • About 67% of elementary school students are engaged.
  • By middle school, that number drops to 61%.
  • And by high school, only 41% of students are engaged.
  • Only 30% of workers in the US are engaged at their job.

The last point is from Gallup’s a 60-page report, State of the American Workplace.

So, is life less engaging over age?

Let’s hope not! Allen and other strength experts are working to combat this declining engagement through the mission of uncovering and empowering the best in people. The central idea, ignited by Don Clifton years ago, is that everyone has latent talents based on natural patterns of thinking and feeling and by harness those, we have the ability to engage our strengths to engage ourselves and our work.

A personal example

Allen is a strategic thinker and shared his personal example to us. Through Strengths Finder and reflection, he acknowledged that he is not the ideal type of person to serve as a manager. Those with their strongest points in strategic thinking are those who work best on hands-on project, not necessarily in facilitating between colleagues. Knowing his strengths led him to certain hiring decisions for the management of the companies he’d been involved in.

Management and workplace engagement

If you have a manager who ignores you – gives you no feedback – you’re 40% likely to be disengaged, emphasized Allen. And if a manager provides negative feedback, 22% of those employees are likely to be disengaged. So of course, managers make a huge difference at the intersection of employee engagement and strengths capacity. As exemplified by Allen’s personal example, not all people are cut out to be managers. Good managers are those who know and leverage their team’s individual strengths in their management style.

Make strengths part of the organizational culture

Don’t leave your strengths on the shelf. Apply them, grow them, and adapt them to at your workplace and goals. Nine million people have taken the Strengths Finder assessment to get to learn their top goals and key quality areas. Importantly, the assessment also provides reports to guide participants in developing their strengths. Allen highlighted that every employee at Facebook takes the Strengths Finder assessment because the company found value in the tool.

Check out the Strengths Movement here!

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