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Upgrading to CliftonStrengths 34: Is it Worth it?

Upgrading to CliftonStrengths 34: Is it Worth it?

by Tiffany Kinloch

Developing Strengths, Managing Weaknesses

A person doesn't just have 5 themes of talent. In truth, we possess a combination of strengths, each with a different level of intensity. Completing the CliftonStrengths Assessment and examining your Top 5 is the best place to start, but each of us has additional dominant talents, behaviors that always describe our patterns of behavior. We can expand our understanding of ourselves (and help others do the same) by leveraging our full CliftonStrengths 34 results, a more complete roadmap of success. To answer the question whether unlocking all 34 CliftonStrengths themes is worth it, learn more about why you should consider it in the first place.

A Focus on Strengths

Strengths-based development embraces peaks of excellence in people -- points where a person is exceptionally brilliant. It is not about filing down the peaks, but accentuating the height and point of them.

It is based on the simple notion that a person's talents do more than make a person a unique individual. Our greatest talents -- the ways in which we most naturally think, feel, and behave -- have direction. They represent our innate power, our potential to perform. When we tap into this source of wisdom and power, we are more efficient. We act with more confidence, direction and hope. And, we are more productive.

Before You Dig In, Check Out These Key Considerations From a Strengths Based Perspective

Themes are neutral.

There is no single or set of CliftonStrengths themes that carries more potential to succeed than the others. CliftonStrengths themes don't make people great or terrible. People make themes great or terrible. Each one of us needs to understand each one of the 34 themes because we work with people, lead people, coach people and interact with people who have different combinations of the 34 themes. Understanding all 34 of our personal strengths helps us be better coworkers, managers, leaders and team players both personally and professionally.

Themes are not labels.

Understanding the 34 themes helps us unlock the full complexity within people. Human beings are much too complex to be defined or described by one word, be it a gender, an age, a race or a theme name. CliftonStrengths aims to help us understand and appreciate the tremendous complexity and diversity of humanity.

Differences are advantages.

Unlocking your 34 themes represents a way to see where your dominant talents emerge and where your lesser talents fall. The differences existing in humanity are not necessarily problems you need to solve. Instead, they may actually be resources that could create an advantage when developed and used wisely.

People need one another.

When we internalize a practice that focuses on excellence, no one person can be world-class at everything. Underscoring this philosophy is the reality that in order reach success, we need one another. Don Clifton, the Father of Strengths-Based Psychology and Grandfather of Positive Psychology, notes that "Strengths develop best in relation to one another." We each have unique themes and leveraging the best within each individual creates complimentary and higher performing partnerships and teams.

How to Approach Dominant Themes

Your dominant themes (those at the top of your report) are packed with the most potential. These are the talents that give you power -- the ones that separate you from the crowd. Your dominant themes are those that you lead with. No matter what the situation, they filter your world, forcing you to behave in certain recurring ways.

Your dominant talents carry the most potential for near-perfect performance, but if misused or misapplied, can also hinder your effectiveness and turn into a weakness. It is the combination of talent and investment that develops strength, so understanding how to proactively use your dominant talents is the key to performance excellence!

How to Approach Supporting Themes

You might notice your supporting themes (those in the middle of your report) in your behaviors and thoughts every now and then. You might use these talents in connection with one or more of your dominant ones. What's important is knowing that you have them to some degree and that they support your abilities and your relationships with others.

Think of supporting talents as the tools that you might not use every day but can easily leverage depending on the situation. In contrast to dominant themes, your supporting themes -- also sometimes referred to as responsive themes -- appear only occasionally, usually when a particular situation arises.

How to Approach Lesser Themes

Everyone has talents or strengths that don't show up often in their daily life. These are your lesser themes and show up at the bottom of your report. And that's fine.

Just as everyone has different dominant themes, it makes sense that we all have different ones that aren't as abundant. As you look at your CliftonStrengths 34 results, you may find yourself gravitating to the bottom of the list. Understand what you are seeing here in your lesser themes. These represent patterns of thought, feeling and behavior that you do not use.

It is not likely you will ever turn these patterns of talent into world-class strengths. It can be tempting to see these as shortcomings, but many people find value instead in viewing your lesser themes as an enhancement of the understanding of self. Just as your dominant themes illustrate who you are, your lesser themes echo who you are not.

How to Read Your CliftonStrengths 34 Results

This ranked list of themes can be a bit daunting. There's a lot to learn when unpacking your CliftonStrengths 34 results and you may be wondering where to begin.

Start at the top! Why? Because your best bet for success lies in building on the talents that come most naturally to you instead of trying to "fix" your lesser talents. The themes that best describe who you naturally are can be found at the top of your report. These are your dominant talents and show up in almost everything you do.

  1. Grab a pen. Read the definition of each theme, starting with the first one. As you read each description, ask yourself: "Is this always me?" When you come to a description and find yourself scratching your head, you've probably hit one that only sometimes shows up in your daily life. Draw a line immediately above that theme description. That line separates your dominant themes from your supporting themes. Label these as dominant (above the line) and supporting (below the line). Most people draw that line after their 10th or 12th theme description, but everyone is unique.
  2. Turn to the bottom of the report. Work backward, starting with number 34. This time, ask yourself: "How often does this describe me? How often does this show up in my daily life?" When you reach a description where you say, "this sometimes describes me" rather than "this rarely describes me," draw another line.
  3. That line separates your supporting themes from your lesser themes. You should have already labeled supporting (above the new line), but now label lesser (below the new line). Most people draw that line after their 27th or 29th theme description, but again, everyone is unique.

So, We Talk a Lot About Strengths, but What Is a Weakness?

A focus on strengths doesn't mean we should ignore weaknesses. A weakness is anything that gets in the way of success. Weaknesses can be lesser talents, but weaknesses can also be dominant talents. It all comes down to how you invest in and apply each of your talents productively.

As mentioned earlier, themes are neutral -- people are what make them positive or negative, and each theme can either help or hinder your effectiveness. For example, Activator can be a powerful strength, infusing energy and enthusiasm into decision-making and helping a team be more effective. But, Activator can also be a weakness and hinder a team's effectiveness if pushing the team to action before a major decision has been thoroughly vetted with stakeholders.

Start with your Top 5 themes. Learn their meaning, understand their value to your life, and use them to create a customized framework for the way you tackle specific projects or tasks every day.

Then, expand your understanding of yourself by analyzing and using the information from your complete theme profile. Expand your appreciation of your dominant talents and become aware of how to start managing potential weaknesses.

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


Tiffany Kinloch's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Responsibility, Competition, Woo and Activator.

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