More and more, managers are being encouraged to use positive reinforcement in their employee reviews, rather than focusing on weaknesses. The argument is that by doing this, employees are more productive and engaged in their work. Opponents of such a management technique say that discussing negatives, or ranking employees against each other, can actually encourage productivity and competition, both within the individual and between peers.
As the positive focus movement has grown, so has use of StrengthsFinder, a tool put out by the Gallup organization based on research conducted by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton to measure talents in one of 34 specific areas. The premise of the original Buckingham and Clifton book on the subject, Now, Discover Your Strengths, is that “The best way to get ahead in your career and be satisfied in your job is to focus on developing your strengths.” Their argument is that you can’t truly improve your weaknesses, so you are better off finding new ways to use your strengths. According to Gallup, teams that spend more time focusing on their strengths are 12.5% more productive.
The short version of the StrengthsFinder assessment offers your top five “talent themes” and a brief description of what each means. Some of these include:
- Achiever: A person who constantly drives to accomplish tasks
- Competition: Someone who uses comparison and competition to be successful
- Context: A person who uses the past to develop success at the present
- Futuristic: Someone who looks to the future to help drive current success
- Harmony: A person who tries to avoid conflict and find consensus
- Includer: Someone who works to include everyone in working toward success
- Learner: Someone who needs to be consistently challenged and learning new things to be successful
- Woo: Short for Winning Over Others, this person can easily persuade
Should you decide to take the StrengthsFinder assessment, here are a few tips:
- You’ll need to buy the book or the online assessment. The book comes with a code to complete the online assessment, or you can just go to the website and pay for the assessment outright. The book includes some additional information about your strengths, and how to use them to your advantage.
- After you take the test, look at your current areas of assignment (and even your job) and evaluate how it reflects your strengths.
- Figure out how to best align your career path to your strengths to ensure that you remain engaged in your work.
- Share your results with your boss and determine how you can be the best possible asset to your team using this new information. Are there different projects you can take on? Tasks on which you can seek assistance?
- If you are a manager, consider using the StrengthsFinder assessment to improve your team’s performance. After the assessment, realign your staff to focus on their areas of strength. Build trust by sharing test results with the entire team, and help your employees understand how these strengths impact the way each person works.
- Be aware that there are a number of arguments against focusing too heavily on strengths. Some say that our weaknesses are what cause us to fail, so continuously building your strengths will never prove beneficial for long-term success. Other psychologists argue that too much emphasis on a strength can turn it into a weakness. And, your strengths aren’t the only thing that make you effective in your job. Overall, the StrengthsFinder assessment (or any other similar test) must be used as one piece of a larger evaluation of your strengths, weaknesses, engagement, performance, and overall satisfaction in your current area of work.
If you don’t want to invest in the StrengthsFinder assessment, there are a variety of free, online assessments that aren’t as detailed, but do help you identify core strengths or personality traits, which you can use to improve your engagement at work. Some of these include:
- The Workuno Strengths Test
- DISC Personality Test (focused more on interpersonal communications)
- Open Extended Jungian Type Scales 1.2
- Big Five Factor Markers
Additionally, if you are interested in taking various personality and strengths tests that have been used throughout history, check out this website.
I haven’t taken a Strengths Finder assessment, but I like a both-sides approach–as an employee, I need to know my strengths, or how I can uniquely contribute to my team. I also need to be aware of my weaknesses, or opportunities for growth–this is where adaptation and resiliency in the workplace come into play. Honing your skills while addressing weak spots–or even learning a skill that no one else in the office knows–sets yourself up to be a valuable asset in your office.