skip to main content
The Context Theme: How You Can Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

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

by Albert L. Winseman, D.Min.

Gallup StrengthsFinder Context definition: People exceptionally talented in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.

Where have we been? What has worked before? What hasn't? How did we get here? Are there prior best practices we can implement? These are all questions individuals high in the CliftonStrengths Context theme are likely to ask.

Context focuses on understanding the past in order to make sense of the present and to chart a course forward. Those with strong Context talents are very likely to enjoy history, you may even call them a "history buff." They look to the "blueprints" and become wiser about the future because they understand the past. Individuals with Context as one of their Signature Themes tend to love stories; they like to talk about stories of past successes and how those have helped them in the present and into the future.

People with strong Context work best when they know the reason or history behind why they are asked to do something. Knowing what has been done before, or the people involved in past projects, helps individuals with high Context see how they can move forward. Context loves a good "lesson learned"; lessons learned from successes are just as important as lessons learned from mistakes -- if not more so.

Context: Helps and Hinders

When coaching those with Context in their Top 5, helping them claim the theme's "helps" and "hinders" is critical to productive aiming. Some common helps and hinders of Context include:


  • Because you look for cause and effect, in times of change you can help your team understand and appreciate the reasons for making changes.
  • You have the ability to focus on the past and learn from the past in order to succeed in the future. Having learned from past situations, you and your team will be equipped to avoid repeating mistakes.
  • In building team and organizational culture, you tend to be the keeper of enduring values -- the best of what we have been is what we will continue to be.
  • Your natural tendency to look back in order to understand "why" can, when focused intentionally, result in collecting best practices that can be applied to your current situation and ensure future success.


  • You might have a harder time than others when it comes to dealing with change. Avoid a "we've always done it that way" mentality, and instead look for ways to incorporate the best of what has been into the blueprint for future success.
  • You can be perceived as rigid or "stuck in the past." Sometimes you need a clear-eyed realism to recognize that the "good old days" might not have been so good.
  • Don't let your tendency to look for connections between past and present cause you to become blind to the opportunities that are in the here and now.
  • Longing and wishing for an earlier era to miraculously reappear is unrealistic and inhibiting. If you start feeling this way, remember that this is the time you have been given -- not some other era, but now.

Context: Self-Awareness, Self-Expression, Self-Regulation

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


  • The Power and Edge of Context: Those with Context among their Signature Themes enjoy thinking about the past and understanding the present by researching its history. They have great historical thinking skills. As such, they are likely to have relevant information that will help their teams avoid mistakes and make better decisions.
  • The Vulnerabilities of Context: Change can be exceptionally difficult for those with strong Context talents. In a rapidly changing environment where the path forward is in continual flux, they might retreat to a rigid, "we've always done it this way" attitude that inhibits growth.


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

  • Tell me about a challenge that you or your team is facing. When have you faced a similar challenge? What did you learn?
  • What lessons have you learned that you can apply to your current situation?
  • What is your favorite era of history? What have you learned from studying it?
  • How do you look back and recognize your achievements?


Self-Regulation occurs when individuals know which of their talents to use in particular situations, or which talents to combine to sharpen/accelerate a specific talent or to soften that talent. For example, sometimes those high in Context may tend to inordinately focus on the past -- glorifying it to the point of ignoring or denigrating improvements made and progress gained. This can alienate team members and cause them to feel their contributions are not appreciated. It is then that a coach can help the client employ other talents that might yield better results. Also, coaches can help clients explore different theme combinations. Below are some possible combinations that will either sharpen or soften Context:

Context: Five Powerful Questions for Productive Aiming

  • What are the enduring values of your organization? How can you make sure they are never lost?
  • How do you know you are achieving the right outcomes -- and are Context talents helping or hindering you in identifying and achieving those outcomes?
  • How do you measure your success? In what areas will learning from past successes help you be even more successful?
  • How will you create a process that will help you accept and successfully implement change?
  • As you look back at your life, what are the most important lessons you've learned? How will you share what you've learned with the people most important to 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.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030