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The Intellection Theme: How to Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

The Intellection Theme: How to Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

by Albert L. Winseman, D.Min.

Gallup StrengthsFinder Intellection definition: People exceptionally talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

Descartes' famous phrase, "I think, therefore I am" succinctly sums up the point of view of Intellection: always thinking, always pondering -- always the internal hum of the turbines of the mind.

Individuals who have Intellection in their Top 5 CliftonStrengths are defined as introspective and need time for musing and reflection. "Let me think about it and get back to you" are words those high in Intellection utter on a regular basis. They love internal processing and think deeply about a subject. The nature of that subject depends on their other themes and interests, but whatever it is, they turn it over, examine it, explore it and carry it out to its logical conclusion.

Intellection can sniff out an impostor and values spending time with those whose plans are genuinely well thought out. They tend not to like surprises, and need time to think -- spontaneity is not a hallmark of Intellection. Intellection is comfortable with solitude, and indeed requires time alone to think. Profound thinking cannot be hurried; the best ideas take time to incubate.

Intellection: Helps and Hinders

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


  • You are a ponderer; you turn ideas over in your head, examining them from all perspectives. This gives you an ability to answer difficult questions about a particular subject you have explored -- provided you have enough time to do your requisite thinking.
  • Through your intellectual exploration, you build credibility and respect. People know you give considerable thought to decisions, and they are more likely to trust your perspective as a result.
  • Your Intellection can make you a credible and compelling public speaker, because you mentally rehearse your presentation. So when it's time to deliver in public, you've already "delivered" it multiple times in your mind.
  • There is a power in ideas -- you know that instinctively. When you communicate a powerful idea about which you've thought deeply, you can be very persuasive.


  • You can tend to get lost in your thoughts, and others may perceive you as disinterested or distracted. Let others know you are "just thinking."
  • You are not at your best with spur-of-the-moment brainstorming sessions. Let others know that if they want your best thinking, you need some advance notice so you have time to ponder and reflect.
  • When you do speak, remember to bring others along in your thought process. You play things out to their logical conclusion, and if you are to convince others, they need to know the route you took to get there.
  • You tend to like -- even need -- solitude. Remember, you can use your Intellection to build relationships by sharing and discussing ideas. You may find some partners who can help you turn your thinking into action.

Intellection: Self-Awareness, Self-Expression, Self-Regulation

In order to productively aim Intellection -- 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 Intellection talents by exploring the following:


  • The Power and Edge of Intellection: Those with Intellection among their Signature Themes think deeply and examine all sides of an idea or an argument. This makes them valuable resources for their coworkers as they provide logic and thoughtfulness that help the team make good decisions.
  • The Vulnerabilities of Intellection: With their propensity to think things through, one of the vulnerabilities of those with strong Intellection talents is an inability to make a decision -- because thinking things through to their logical conclusion creates more options that must be examined and explored.


Coaches can assist clients in realizing and claiming the expression of Intellection 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 are you thinking about at the moment?
  • When do you do your best thinking? Do you set aside time each day just to think?
  • What has been your greatest success -- either at work or in your personal life? How did your Intellection talents contribute to that success?
  • Whom do you share your thinking with? Who are your best partners to help you turn your thinking into action?


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 Intellection talents can slow a team down with their information gathering, resulting in inefficiency and missed deadlines. In situations like this, 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 activate Intellection:

Intellection: Five Powerful Questions for Productive Aiming

  • How would you describe a great day at work? How do your Intellection talents contribute to those best days? How can you have more of those days?
  • What big idea would most benefit your team or your organization? Whom do you need to partner with in order to have this idea be heard, considered and, eventually, implemented?
  • Who challenges your thinking? How has their challenging helped you refine and perfect your ideas? How can you call upon these individuals more often?
  • Who could benefit from your contemplative approach to problem solving -- and who can help you turn your thinking into action? How will you approach creating this partnership?
  • What is the greatest value your Intellection talents contribute to your team? How have you communicated that to your manager or team leader?

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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