Some of the most meaningful moments I've had in the last three years came while I had the extreme privilege of co-leading Strengths Coaching courses with Gallup's Strengths Guru, the late Curt Liesveld. I always learned so much from Curt -- about strengths, about coaching, and about life. One of the many things I learned from Curt was the value of comparing and contrasting.
Curt would often say that one of the best ways of gaining clarity on themes was to do what your English teacher asked you to do in essays: "compare and contrast." Just as this process helped students better understand what were often times complex concepts, it can also help coaches better understand the intricacies of different themes.
Any theme, when paired with another, takes on the power and edge of its partner. So the beauty in understanding how two themes work together lies in the opportunity it provides as coaches. We can help people understand they are not either one theme or another, but the combination and of several themes altogether.
If you're ready to take your understanding of individual themes to the next level, this activity of compare and contrast will help you better coach around the themes of talent This installment compares and contrasts Input with Learner, Analytical, and Includer.
Input and Learner
Input and Learner are extremely close in nature. So close, in fact, that some of our strengths experts have suggested that if we were to shrink the number of CSF Themes from 34 to 33, Learner and Input could be combined. I would suggest that these two themes are different. Yes, they are similar in many aspects, but there are some important differences between them. Learner loves the process of learning -- taking a class, getting a certification, sequentially building a knowledge base. Input is more concerned about the collection of useful information, tools, and resources. Learner tends to be more systematic, considering the experience of acquiring knowledge and leading to mastery as a goal. Input can be more pragmatic, focusing on the information itself rather than the process. Learner is targeted, Input is broad and varied. Strong Learner loves mastery of a subject; strong Input loves to be useful and helpful. The inquisitiveness of Learner tends to be focused on deepening one's understanding of a certain subject, while the inquisitiveness of Input tends to desire broadening the variety of subjects one has access to knowing about.
Input and Analytical
Both of these are what I call "questioning themes." Both Input and Analytical ask a lot of questions. Both want to know more. Both are inquisitive. But it is the nature and intent of the questions and inquisitiveness that sets the questioning aspect of these themes apart. Input's questions are "tell me more, tell me more, tell me more" -- in an effort to gather more information that may or may not be useful. The information in and of itself is the prize, because as a collector of ideas or things (or both), information is golden. Input is about breadth of information. Analytical, on the other hand, has a more directed purpose for questioning. Analytical's questions are "prove it to me, prove it to me, prove it to me." It's not simply "tell me more," but "show me the data." Analytical wants more data, more proof, more evidence that you've done your homework. Analytical wants to know that the thought process is sound, that a credible case has been made for any position or idea. Partnering with someone with Input expands your thinking; partnering with someone with Analytical refines your thinking.
Input and Includer
Both Input and Includer are "gathering" themes: Input gathers information,ideas, and perhaps even tangible things. Includer gathers people. Includer goes out to bring more people into the circle, Input goes out to bring in more ideas, information or tools. Input asks, "What else do we need to know?" Includer asks, "Who else needs to know?" I often think of both Input and Includer are "diversity themes". Input is accepting of a diversity of ideas, Includer is accepting of a diversity of people. There can be a great depth of consideration for both themes, given Input's hunger for more information and Includer's ability to consider multiple viewpoints. Includer draws the circle wider to bring in more people; Input expands the circle of knowledge available for useful purposes.