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The Responsibility Theme: How to Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

The Responsibility Theme: How to Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

by Albert L. Winseman, D.Min.

Gallup's CliftonStrengths Responsibility description: People exceptionally talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

In "The Empire Strikes Back," the second film of the original "Star Wars" trilogy, Luke Skywalker is learning the ways of the Jedi from Yoda. Luke is getting discouraged with his training, and at one point tells Yoda, "All right, I'll give it a try." Yoda responds, "No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no 'try.'" Those with Responsibility in their mix of Signature Themes understand: For them, there is only "do, or do not." When they take on a task, they don't say, "I'll try to get this done for you." They don't try -- they do. They are dependable, trustworthy, productive, reliable -- they own their commitments.

Responsibility is one of the themes most likely to show up in the Top 5 of the more than 20 million individuals who have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment, which means there are a lot of people out there for whom follow-through, getting it right and doing it on time are core values. Those with strong Responsibility talents have a reputation for keeping their commitments -- 100% of the time. Utterly dependable is the brand of Responsibility.

Responsibility: Helps and Hinders

When you coach those with Responsibility in their Top 5, helping them claim both the "helps" and the "hinders" of the CliftonStrengths Responsibility theme is critical to productive aiming. Some common helps and hinders of Responsibility include:


  • You do what you say you are going to do. Others can count on you to follow through.
  • Your psychological ownership of what you commit yourself to makes you a valuable partner when quality is on the line.
  • Your Responsibility talents foster a deep sense of trust, which enables you to build strong and lasting relationships.
  • If you lead a team, one advantage of Responsibility is it enables you to build a sense of loyalty and trust among those you lead. As a result, your team members feel comfortable coming to you for help because they know they can count on you.


  • Because committing to something you're asked to do gives you great satisfaction, you may find that you tend to say "yes" to everything -- and find yourself overcommitting. Being responsible is important, but before you take on a new commitment, take time to decide whether you can meet it. Nothing feels worse to you than not being able to keep a commitment.
  • By nature, you are not particularly good at delegating. Your Responsibility talents can cause you to keep work, projects, assignments on your plate rather than giving them to someone else. If you lead a team, this can cause your team members to miss important developmental opportunities. Remember, you are responsible not only for getting the work done but also for developing the talents and skills of your team members.
  • Your reliability can cause others to take you for granted and ask you to take on work for which you are not best suited -- but you take it on anyway because you can be counted on. Learn which projects would be best accomplished by others.
  • Your strong Responsibility talents may lead you to micromanage others' work. Learn to let go, advise when necessary, and let others learn and grow from the experience.

Responsibility: Self-Awareness, Self-Expression, Self-Regulation

In order to productively aim Responsibility -- or any -- talents at a particular goal, an individual must have: 1) self-awareness about the theme's power, edge and vulnerabilities; 2) an understanding of how the theme finds expression in day-to-day thinking, feeling and behaving; and 3) knowledge of how to regulate the theme to maximize the potential positive outcomes that can be realized through intentionally applying a strengths-based approach. Coaches can help clients with strong Responsibility talents by exploring the following:


  • The Power and Edge of Responsibility: Those with Responsibility among their Signature Themes take their commitments seriously, which makes them very productive. Because of their reliability, they can be great collaborators, enhancing the team's brand and boosting their accomplishments.
  • The Vulnerabilities of Responsibility: With their strong desire to own that to which they commit, individuals high in Responsibility can tend to take on too much and then not share the workload -- which can lead to isolation and, ultimately, a lower quality of work.


Coaches can assist clients in realizing and claiming the expression of Responsibility by helping them explore instances in the past when this theme was particularly useful. To facilitate this exploration, coaches can ask the following questions:

  • What makes a great day for you?
  • How do you deal with the rare times when you can't keep a commitment?
  • What has been your greatest success -- either at work or in your personal life? How did your Responsibility talents contribute to that success?
  • What is your personal brand in your organization? How can you enhance your brand?


Self-regulation occurs when individuals know which of their talents to use in particular situations, or know which talents to combine to amplify, accelerate, activate, soften, or moderate that talent. For example, sometimes those with strong Responsibility talents can be so focused on the tasks to which they have committed themselves that they lose sight of important relationships. In situations like these, a coach can help the client find other talents that might yield better results. Also, coaches can help clients explore different theme combinations. Below are some possible combinations that will either amplify or moderate Responsibility:

  • Themes that tend to amplify Responsibility: Relator, Achiever, Belief, Restorative, Consistency, Includer
  • Themes that tend to moderate Responsibility: Positivity, Command, Self-Assurance, Adaptability, Ideation, Strategic

Responsibility: Five Powerful Questions for Productive Aiming

  • How would you describe a great day at work? How do your Responsibility talents contribute to those best days? How can you have more of those days?
  • Which of your commitments give you the most satisfaction? How can you strategically make more of those kinds of commitments?
  • What is the greatest value your Responsibility talents contribute to your team? How have you communicated that to your manager or team leader?
  • Are there responsibilities you haven't taken on that you'd like to be asked about? How can you make this happen?
  • How can Responsibility help you in life? What areas of your life need improvement? Can you commit to making it happen? Who will you need to enlist to help you?

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:


Al Winseman's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Futuristic, Maximizer, Strategic and Command.

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