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The Individualization Theme: How You Can Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

The Individualization Theme: How You Can Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

by Albert L. Winseman, D.Min.

Gallup's StrengthsFinder Individualization description: People exceptionally talented in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how different people can work together productively.

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else.

--Judy Garland

"You would be perfect for this job. You should apply -- and here's why." "I really want you on my team. Here is what you bring that no one else on the team has." If you've ever heard words like these, they've likely made you feel encouraged, supported, understood and valued. The difference in how you feel is that the encouragement is not generic, but calls out how special you are and highlights what you have that no one else has. This is the power of Individualization.

Those with the Individualization CliftonStrengths theme among their Top 5 or Signature Themes are intuitive about, drawn to and fascinated with the uniqueness of each person, and they customize their approach to each person with whom they connect. They strongly believe that the best way to treat people fairly is to treat them differently.

For people with Individualization, the key to team success lies not in finding or developing the perfect process, but rather in finding and developing individual strengths so each team member can make their unique contribution. Individualization knows who you are and values you for your uniqueness -- and wants to draw out the best that already resides within you.

Individualization: Helps and Hinders

When you coach those with Individualization 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 the Individualization StrengthsFinder theme include:


  • You instinctively notice and appreciate the unique characteristics of each person. You find what they do well and help them contribute those strengths every day.
  • You are intuitive about people and notice slight shifts in body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. This allows you to tailor your message and individualize your delivery for maximum receptivity.
  • Because you treat each person you meet differently, depending on their unique perspectives and needs, others feel you understand and care about them.
  • You are a good partner at work; you know what your partners do best. This allows you to bring what you do best and mesh it with what your partners do best for a productive outcome.


  • Your need to customize your approach for every person and situation can slow things down. Sometimes a standardized approach can be more efficient, more productive and fairer in the long run.
  • Your intuition about the uniqueness of each individual you meet can cause you to make assumptions about who they really are. Don't assume; ask. Start a conversation and really listen.
  • The "dark side" of Individualization is often manipulation. Because you are attuned to the uniqueness of each person, you may also instinctively know which "buttons to push" to get what you want. Manipulation is one of the fastest ways to break trust. When people feel manipulated, they will rarely -- if ever -- trust you again.
  • With your strong need not only to treat people uniquely but also to be treated uniquely yourself, you may take the approach that the rules don't apply to you. This can make you difficult to work with and get you into trouble. Realize that most rules and regulations, no matter how personally inconvenient they may be, serve a purpose and prevent chaos and anarchy.

Individualization: Self-Awareness, Self-Expression, Self-Regulation

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


  • The Power and Edge of Individualization: Those with Individualization among their Signature Themes tune in to and appreciate the unique qualities of each individual. This creates in others a sense of belonging and being respected and valued.
  • The Vulnerabilities of Individualization: With their desire to ensure that each person and that they themselves are treated differently, they may resist norms and conventions -- thereby slowing down or even preventing effective decisions and outcomes.


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

  • Who is the best partner with whom you have worked? What makes them such a great partner?
  • Tell me about a time you saw something powerful in someone that others didn't see. What did you do about it?
  • What has been your greatest success -- either at work or in your personal life? How did your Individualization talents contribute to that success?
  • How do you spot the best in people, and how do you draw out that uniqueness?


Self-regulation occurs when individuals know which of their talents to use in particular situations, or know which talents to combine to amplify or accelerate a specific talent, or to soften or moderate that talent. For example, sometimes those with strong Individualization talents can inadvertently create chaos and confusion with their need to treat everyone differently, subsequently failing to establish common standards of performance and accompanying metrics. 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 accelerate or moderate Individualization:

Individualization: Five Powerful Questions for Productive Aiming

  • How would you describe a great day at work? How do your Individualization talents contribute to those best days? How can you have more of those days?
  • How do you balance treating people differently with the need to establish common processes and procedures?
  • What strategies do you employ to help the team get to know and appreciate the talents and strengths of new members -- and see the value they bring to the team?
  • Whom have you observed that would make a great partner for you? How will you approach creating this partnership?
  • What is the greatest value your Individualization 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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