This article explains the Clifton Strengths Test in a practical way. After reading this, you’ll understand what this method consists of and you can profit from this powerful development tool.
What is the Clifton Strengths Test?
The Clifton Strengths Test method helps people chart their talents. The method consists of taking a test, linking themes to personal strengths and an action plan to implement the strengths in daily activities.
The Clifton Strengths Test method was first introduced in 2001 by Gallup, an American research firm. The inventor and creator of the test is Donald O. Clifton (1924-2003). Together with fellow researcher Marcus Buckingham, he travelled around the world and, after extensive research, he concluded that a person experiences more success and satisfaction when they can use their talents in their daily activities. The revised version, Clifton StrengthsFinder / StrengthFinder 2.0, was released by Gallup and Tom Rath. It was named the best-selling book on Amazon in 2013.
The StrengthFinder 2.0 is an online personality test consisting of 177 items. Different questions or cases are presented and must be answered within twenty seconds. The questions relate to different qualities of the candidate. For example, it might ask how much something applies to them: ‘I read carefully’, or: ‘I immediately get started’.
A report is generated based on the provided answers after the test, which usually takes 30 minutes. The report clarifies the five strongest themes. There are a total of 34 themes in 4 domains. These domains describe how people and teams use their talents when processing information, performing tasks, influencing others and building relationships.
1. Strategic thinking
This domain describes how information is absorbed by the person taking the test, how they think about certain situations and how information is analysed. Some valuable themes described are: analytical, context, intellection, learner and futuristic. A roadmap can be created based on the test results, in order to ensure better decision making and better results in the future.
This domain explains how certain tasks are handled based on a number of descriptions. This important domain can help in realising ideas and increasing effectivity. Common themes in this domain are: discipline, focus, arranger, belief and responsibility.
The third domain of the test evaluation is influencing others. The way in which one person influences another says a lot about their personality. Taking the lead, taking control or sharing an opinion are examples of this. The ability to give less expressive people a voice also belongs to the influencing others domain. Examples of themes in this domain are: communication, competition, command, self-assurance and WOO (Wining Others Over).
The fourth and final stage of the test describes how relationships are formed and maintained. Forming and maintaining new relationships is an essential part in the networking strategy of many professionals. Working in teams is also included in this domain. Important themes in this domain are: empathy, harmony, individualisation, positivity and connectedness.
The use of the Clifton Strengths Test method in practice
Choosing the right career is more than just determining talents. It is, however, helpful in stimulating personal development and making the right decisions. Based on the test results, guidelines are created for career development. Research firm Gallup set some basic principles that can be used to find the right career.
Take control of your own development
Nothing is more frustrating than ‘waiting to be discovered’. Many people feel like they can do more than they are currently able to show. However, it’s not realistic to expect a random person to discover the talents of another, consider their interests and then simply presents them with the right career. Taking matters into your own hands when it comes to career demands determination, commitment and trust.
Success depends on who you are, not on who you are not
Sometimes it is difficult to determine how a talent-based approach to finding the right career will work out. Especially when something has never been tried or considered, human beings tend to choose the familiar. The focus on weaknesses does nothing to help the development, according to Gallup.
Successful people hold on the power to act and don’t give this power to an external force. By focussing on strengths, you can succeed and continue in situations that others have decided are impossible or extremely difficult.
Success is not achieved alone
When work is done individually, people can be limited by their talents, or better yet: by the talents they do not possess. When a partnership is made with others, the number of tools and talents they have access to increases.
The people you work with in a team can offer valuable insight by presenting their way of thinking to someone else. This way, they can discover someone’s talent – if they have a talent for this themselves – and help someone develop new chances within their network.
How to deal with weaknesses
Gallup emphasises that it doesn’t focus on weaknesses, but ignoring weaknesses is not an option either. Instead of ignoring weaknesses, it is a good idea to figure out the cause of the weaknesses. It might be caused by a lack of education, experience or opportunities and there’s almost always something that can be done about it.
The talents someone doesn’t have are irrelevant at work until the moment they are needed. At that time, it’s necessary to evaluate the situation; how does this shortcoming limit the performance of an employee and how can this shortcoming be compensated?
Choose a plan you can get behind, not the one you ought to do
Many successful people will agree that the development of a career plan is essential for the road to a successful career. Without a career plan there is no development, but a risk. Forming a career group is worth considering because of the benefits discussed in point 3: others can provide valuable insights into someone’s talents and offer them new opportunities.
It is of significant importance that the career choice is not based on monetary reward. When a career is fed by intrinsic motivation, the working party will be more committed to their company and it is more satisfying for them when they get good results.
Choosing the right career can be very frustrating if the right plan has not yet been made. Looking for that one perfect job feels like looking for a needle in a haystack. For that specific reason, Gallup developed StrengthFinder 2.0 and the test has now helped millions of people to make the right choice. Instead of focussing on the weaknesses, a more positive perspective is created by focussing on talents.
Now it’s your turn
What do you think? What is your experience with with the Clifton Strengths Test method? Are you also looking for your talents or are you still focusing on weaknesses? How do you take matters into your own hands and set-up a career plan?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Clifton, D. O., & Harter, J. K. (2003). Investing in strengths. Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, 111-121.
- Clifton, D. O., & Nelson, P. (1996). Soar with your strengths. Dell books.
- Sorensen, K, & Crabtree S. (2001). Building a career on your strengths. Gallup Journal.
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