All 34 talent themes are powerful sources of potential success and, as I learned from CliftonStrengths coach and educator Curt Liesveld, great coaches love all of them. It is thrilling to help clients unlock the reservoir of talent each of us possesses. But in the end, the client must aim each theme of talent productively and give it to their environment in the best way at work, on a sports team or at home.
Often when we don't offer up a particular talent in the best way, our themes can get in the way of our and/or others' success, resulting in a weakness. When this happens, we need to be aware of the issue, own the results and formulate a strengths-based plan to improve.
I am an internal coach with a bank where Responsibility is our most commonly occurring theme. Essential to this great theme is a person's ability to take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They can be trusted to get things done and they love being asked to do things. Stable values and loyalty are cornerstones for them as they carry out their work. They are serious owners -- dependable, keeping promises, hating to disappoint others, lovers of others' respect -- so who wouldn't want a million of these folks hanging around?
But many of them can be so serious about their work that they think they are the only ones who can do what they do best. They have a hard time handing off work to others, and they can be offended and tough teammates when this happens. Often they feel responsible for everything. This can create silos and isolation in their workplace, making them feel guilty and preventing the sort of collaboration that could alleviate that guilt.
Responsibility is a Top 5 theme for 47% of our team. To be aware of the power and edge as well as the vulnerabilities of this theme, I offered an illustration:
Imagine you are the best chef in the world and you have access to the five highest-quality ingredients on the planet. Your mission is to create the best appetizer possible. Because you and your ingredients are the best, of course you'll succeed, right? Now let's say you go to a party where your appetizers are being served. You offer them to each guest who wants to sample them. When they do, they realize it is the greatest appetizer they've ever had. But if they politely refuse, it does not diminish the quality of your food or your career as a chef.
If, instead of offering each guest your appetizer, you demand they sample it and throw it in their face, they're significantly more likely to reject it. How you choose to offer your appetizer doesn't change its quality, but the way you present it matters.
In this illustration, you are the very best and your product is also world-class. But it matters how you offer it to others. It was important for my team with high Responsibility to understand they have the chance to offer their ownership to a project. When the explicit agreement of ownership is made, then we all know that someone with Responsibility talents can be explicitly trusted to follow through. But taking this a step further to demanding ownership of every task and project that comes their way is not only a waste of their talent but also a drain on their efficiency. Once ownership is at stake, someone with Responsibility might be the very best. But the presentation -- the offer of ownership -- is really important.
This illustration has implications beyond the Responsibility theme. It's about knowing what you can control and what you can't, and dedicating your investment and energy to the former. Your "best appetizer" is the unique value you can create with your dominant themes. Understand your talents and how they might be of great benefit to others. Practice refining them and offering them in the spirit of collaboration. But continue to practice your presentation by understanding what other people need and when your talents might be especially appreciated.
Steve Allen's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Deliberative, Consistency, Belief and Individualization. Steve's Top 4 BP10 talents are Independence, Knowledge, Determination and Confidence.