Work from Your Strengths and Your Strengths Will Work for You

Yep, that’s the title I’m going with. So on with it then.

Several years ago, my wife, LeAnn, and I were members of a church that was just getting started. The pastor was looking for people who were wiling to volunteer for many different roles, and LeAnn and I were more than happy to do so. To his credit, the pastor wanted to ensure he placed volunteers into the right sort of opportunity to have the best shot at success – for the fledgling church’s growth and for the volunteers to feel they were contributing to that growth. The tool he used was StrengthsFinder.

StrengthsFinder is now known as CliftonStrengths. While there is a deep body of work around this, the basic thesis is understanding and using your strengths in life is more fulfilling and productive than focusing on fixing your weaknesses.

That most certainly is not to say we don’t all have weaknesses and blind spots we need to address. That is, also, not to say we don’t all need some input on what we do wrong. Further, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to learn new things. But, by and large, if we operate from our strengths, we can have a clearer understanding of our weaknesses, why they are our weaknesses, and a better chance of learning how to improve ourselves.

When LeAnn and I originally went through the process, we purchased a book which included a URL with a code to take the survey. Now, the CliftonStrengths team at Gallup has a fantastic online experience complete with dashboards and opportunities to go as deep as one wants in learning how to leverage and build upon their strengths.

Here’s a photo of my copy of the StrengthsFinder book. I’ve busted this thing out more times than I care to admit over the years in times where things didn’t make sense, I was having a bad day, or I just needed a reminder I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

Jerry’s beat up copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0, the original companion to the survey.

Not only is the idea of focusing on strengths a (cough cough) strong one, the model focuses on a person’s Top 5 (even though there are 34 strengths on the survey that are ranked top to bottom). As you can see, when I originally went through this process in 2009, my Top 5 Strengths in order were Context, Learner, Responsibility, Relator and Ideation.

Some 12 years later, 4 of those 5 remain with one new entrant – Individualization. While that may sound like I want to work alone, it is the exact opposite. This is a strength focused on understanding the value each individual brings to a team or organization and figuring out how to put them in a place to succeed.

Digging into it, while Ideation dropped from my Top 5, the combination of my other strengths and my Strengths Themes actually speak to my not being less interested in ideas. Rather as I lead with Strategic Thinking followed by Execution and Relationship Building, I am able to absorb and translate a large amount of disparate information, working with others to make sense and further build ideas, prioritize and then execute and pivot as new information comes in.

I could have grabbed a shot of my dashboard from Gallup and placed it here, but as I say about this blog, this is all pre-PowerPoint and Keynote stuff. And I think and absorb information best when I sketch on blank pieces of paper. So, behold, Jerry Courtney’s Top 5 Strengths and Strengths Themes.

Jerry’s Strengths and Strengths Themes

As you can probably guess, I am a very big believer in CliftonStrengths. I have seen it work in my life, in good times and in bad (especially helpful when going through a rough spot). I have used it informally over and over again in working with people who worked for and with me (whether they knew it or not:), and I have seen people exceed even their own expectations when they began to focus at what they are best.

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